Furthest Right


My wife came up with a breathtaking piece of insight the other day.

Like most breathtaking insights, it came, wholly unexpected, from a clear blue sky.
“When you say something unscripted, to people, around here,” she said, “they get uncomfortable and go running off.”
I blinked as I processed that. Dots connected with other dots, creating a smooth curve that made mysteries clear, and sense out of madness…

Unscripted words. The stuff of nightmares!

The usual fare, locally, is:
“Hi, how’s it goin’?” Or:
“How are you, today?” Or:
“Hey. What’s happenin’?”

Uttered with some crafted appearance of sincerity, without the actual sincerity, as the speaker hurries past with a parting:
“Have a nice day!” Or:
“Fine, thanks!” Or:
“You have a good one!”
End of sincere encounter.

I have always had a lot of trouble with this vacuous replacement for human contact.
When asked how I am, or how things are going, I usually consider, before reporting how I am, or how things are going.
When I do this, the non-listener begins behaving in ways that nonplus.
Often they will answer the question I didn’t ask, but was supposed to, with:
“Fine thanks!”
And while still wearing a facsimile of a smile that somehow looks more like a grimace: “You have a good one!”

I’ve experimented with several variations. One is to not respond at all. This gets me:
“Hi! How are you today? Fine thanks. You have a good one!”
End of sincere encounter.
“Hi! How are you today?… I said Hi, how are you today?…Oh! Gotta go!”
Agitated loathing sets in. Stomps off.
End of sincere encounter.

I used to suffer from the feeling that I was doing something terribly wrong, or bad, or ghastly, to have the effect I was obviously having upon people. I tend to be without guile, unguarded, honest and curious. People often respond to this with a look of shock, fear, extreme discomfort and body language that suggests fight or flight. I could never figure it out. Until those words from my wife…

Discomfort. When people feel any discomfort, they recoil from it as if it might be some horrendously venomous thing. Now why is this?
What is so threatening about discomfort?
And what produces this sense of discomfort, in the first place?

Society. It places comfort on a pedestal, and reviles whatever is not comfort.
The predictable is comfortable. The unpredictable is not.
Unpredictable is threatening. Dangerous. Scary!
And so mankind evolves into a jellyfish that lives in a softly padded box, safely glued to a world in which only the safe, the expected, the neutral ever occurs.
It follows a harmless script, that says nothing, enquires of nothing, learns nothing and offers nothing.
Woe betide he who does not utter the required shibboleth! The police will soon be called. This unscripted outsider is a threat and to be ostracized, attacked, or punished.

I like a bit of discomfort. I avoid too much comfort. Comfort can kill!
As surely as any poison.

Of course, it just may be that all of the above is delusion.
Possibly I really am some awful, threatening thing, best avoided by one and all.
It may, in fact, be reprehensible, to utter words that have any meaning, to enquire about anything, or to show genuine interest in whatever it is that is going on around me. Hard to say, unless one has that indispensable ally that every man should have:

A loving wife.

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