That guy. Yeah, you know that guy.
He’s an impossible man to miss. He wears his glasses like airplane goggles. I like to think that he drives one of those motorcycles with a sidecar. Such would be the perfect combination of ruefulness and fondness for the past that so seem to make up his rather posterior existence. He has an awkward voice; it’s off pitch and the tone seems to change not mid-sentence, but mid-word. All of this makes him sound like quite the awkward conversationalist. He is, I imagine, the human incarnation of Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. I’m sure there are times when he sits down and quotes Boethius right before going to the movies to mock the pretentious notions of the Hollywood elite. I understand his need for mockery though I loathe the fact that he does so with such mindlessness.
When he does not speak (which is rarely) I do not know that he is in the room with me unless he is typing. When he types he does not merely type rather he attacks the keyboard with the full weight of his fingers punching each key. It doesn’t sound like typing. It sounds like someone has been personally attacked by the keyboard and they are just now getting their retribution. In fact, it sounds more like a typewriter than a keyboard if every time his finger typed a letter a car backfired along with it. He is everywhere and nowhere all at once like one of those Eastern European central committees served with spying on its citizens in search of dissidents and enemies of the party. In fact it makes just as much sense to picture him in a 1940’s Cadillac as it does to picture him riding a 1939 or 1942 NSU motorcycle.
There’s something odd about him. It never bothered me before, but it does now. It’s not merely the fact that he’s different; that much I can accept. Heck, I’m pretty different myself. What gets me is that he reminds me of myself a few years ago if I had never had the good sense to walk around with a filter. My social skills are notoriously poor, but his are unreasonably good. He fits in among the elites in class and in the department because his interests in the field of English are considered normal at this point in time. He loves fantasy books and plays video games. Though he denounces the status quo in media he only does so when it will win him acclaim and this is why I detest him. He is a poser. He does not dislike the mainstream in any real or honest way, he says he dislikes things because it will win him acclaim and help his reputation. When he speaks out against things in class or around campus I can’t help feeling like he’s the modern-day incantation of Marla Singer from Fight Club.
Someone needs to stop him and scream at him: “stop it, you fraud, you poser!” Certainly there must be a better use for one’s time than to pretend to have honest opinions when in reality their opinions are calculated for the best possible positive effect among his posse. Then there’s his smug almost coy demeanor that he demonstrates around campus. It’s almost like he thinks he’s a rockstar of some sort of bizarre Elvish horde that only his followers know about. He very well may be some hybrid of Jim Jones and David Koresh. One would not be surprised if he had his own unique following of Branch Dividians living within his “church” designed to survive the apocalypse that he swears modernity will unleash among his followers lest they follow him to the promised land. No one will understand the irony of this promised land being located somewhere in Guyana, but you and I, we will understand.
You may be thinking to yourself: man, this guy really feels threatened by this dude. Perhaps. It’s not so much that I feel threatened as much as I dislike posers. I like people that are authentic and real because that’s how I am. We live in a culture where it is very easy to be fake. In fact, it’s easier to live your life if you follow this guy’s example than if you try to be yourself and be your true self. The problem with being fake though is that you’ll never realize the value that lies within you. We all have something unique and special to offer the world. When we get into the mindset that we are not different or that we do not want to be different either because we are lazy or because we simply don’t know better we do a disservice not only to ourselves but every person that we will interact with over the course of our lives. There is a principle that Daniel Kahneman lays out in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. He says that: “all we see is all there is.” He’s talking about how our brain functions in a constant state of relativity. The brain doesn’t know what the brain doesn’t know. That’s why so many people search for knowledge and spend their lives finding their purpose and doing things that accentuate that purpose in the lives of others.
We are also unable to see people as they truly are or truly understand their perspective because we will always have our own internal bias guiding our narrative. How you look at the world is just that. You can try and change how you look at things. You can change what you know and try to be a better person. You cannot however totally understand the world from another person’s perspective. It is not possible because bias will always exist. I mention this because I will never know what is guiding this man. I will never completely understand his perspective because I am not him. It’s not for a lack of empathy or anything it is because we all lack the ability to live our lives as someone else. Even if we had the ability to change bodies we would never have the ability to change minds. Our memories shape who we are and how we live. Those thoughts, ideas, and perspectives can no more be divorced from our minds than our feelings can be erased from our decisions. The heart and the brain function together.