Thursday, May 10, 2012

Boxes, borders and extra puzzle pieces

Society expects people to make sense. In fact, it generally tries to force the issue, squeezing us all into convenient little boxes it can use to label and categorize. The vagaries of the need for solitude are forcibly paired up with those unable to reach out and are called “loners,” while those who love to talk, those who love to have people to talk to, and those who are desperate to keep talking so no one sees inside their hearts are all called “social.” It looks better on a spreadsheet, true, but it crushes the wonder of human complexity into a series of bullet points.

When society can’t find the box to stuff you in, it doesn’t know how to handle you. Where do you put the extroverted introverts, who love talking but only to a very small and select group of people? Or the quiet rabble-rousers, who don’t shout or speechify but are secretly full of righteous fury and desperate to change the world from behind the scenes? Do they move between the boxes, or do they exist outside them somewhere?

If it’s the latter, what happens to those who don’t force the world to see them? Are they free, or do they disappear? Are the boxes cages, or are they tribes?

Sigh. If this is what it’s like for an English Lit major in a quiet moment, I can’t imagine what poor Philosophy majors have to go through when they start thinking too hard. For their sakes, I hope they have an off switch of some kind.

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