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The Human Delusion

Numbering the cock-ups I have made in my life would be like counting pebbles on a beach or the reneged upon campaign promises of politicians.

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There are, however, mistakes which, despite clear common sense and countless vows to avoid in future, I have, I suppose, foolishly, repeated.

One these recurring bouts of foolishness is what I describe as the expectation that people share, on a fundamental level, the same values when it comes to basic human interaction.

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This expectation is the assumption that, given the exact, same stimulus, people/animals/things will behave and/or react in a relatively similar way.

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Witnessing an accident, don’t all people feel a compulsion to help?

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Seeing a child in distress, don’t all people feel a need to comfort them and discover the source of the upset?

Cumulative events in my life have, by degrees, disabused me of such naïve expectations.

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I try to hold to what I believe are a set of good values, (and here, I am aware that I run the risk of portraying myself as some kind of saint. Oh, I am far from that. The inclusion of ‘try to’ in the first sentence was very deliberate, believe me).

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I try not to judge strangers. As for shortcomings or faults that could be attributed to people I do know, I try to see behind them to understand where they originate and make allowances. Condemn the behaviour, not the person, as it were.

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In all encounters and interactions, I try to begin from a place of honesty, friendliness, generosity and understanding. If I am asked to help with anything and am in a position to do so, I will.

In this way, I practice what might be described as ‘paying forward’.

It is usually not too difficult to do this. In a given circumstance or encounter, I ask myself, if I were in this person’s shoes, what would I view as a nice outcome? Can I provide that without diminishing my own spirit or capacity to continue helping others?

I suppose it comes down to something like: “Don’t walk by an opportunity to perform a kindness; it may be you needing kindness one day.”

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Believe it or not, I was an average-to-good-looking chap in my youth. I had a vibrant social life and many friends. I was actually popular, invited to all the parties and sought out for my fun company. This is just a matter of historical record.

This was also a time when, to interact with friends, one had to actually leave the house and actively meet up in ‘4d’ real time. A drag, I know, but at least, back then, you knew they were your friends rather than someone who just ticked a digital box hoping you’d reciprocate.

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Well, as time passed, the cunning Black Dog of depression bit chunks out of my get-up-and-go.

Bad experiences slapped the carefree-ness out of me.

Poor choices left the sound of cruel, self-critical jeering forever echoing around the back of my skull.

Accumulated betrayals added block after granite block to the walls of my fortress of emotional protection.

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We are all damaged goods, in one way or another. One can’t navigate the jungle of life and come out without some bites, scratches and, perhaps, the odd bout of fever.

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Just a handful of years ago, I went through one of the darkest periods of my current existence, culminating in me attempting a Ctrl-Alt-Del x2 on this challenging game we call Life.

Perhaps mercifully, my memory is very patchy when it comes to this event but, clearly something snapped and I came within a gnat’s pube of sending myself, prematurely, to the ultimate Truth.

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The process of recovery has been long. Then again, recovery implies re-finding something – a return to a ‘before’.

Do I really want that? Not if it means having to relearn those painfully sobering lessons.

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Before that last stumble, one of the things that made much of the stress bearable was the belief that I had a truly significant group of friends. Friends who shared my passion for music and lyric, who felt as I did about life and the world in general, whose default stance was mutual love, respect and support for each other. Friends forever.

This was what human interaction should be. This was the example of creative, supportive coexistence the world should adopt.

I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

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For two bittersweet years at that music college, while the rest of my life was going to hell, I had what I called an Island of Sanity, a reference point for what might be possible.

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As the course came to an end, sincere oaths never to lose touch and keep the music going were solemnly sworn.

But, I had lost my Island of Sanity and was left vulnerable and all at sea. So I sank and very nearly propelled myself, voluntarily, into to the unseen depths forever.

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When I finally clawed my way back to daylight, I felt ashamed and unsure. Those faithful brothers and sisters of a couple of months before, swearing undying friendship and love, had gone on their ways not, as far as I know, even wondering where I, one of their own, had disappeared to so suddenly.

To be fair, one or two did reconnect briefly with me and made sympathetic gestures but, as hope rose in me that bonds could be reforged, I was casually dropped again, ignored in that special, unequivocal way only electronic media can do. Emails, calls and texts simply went unanswered until I gave up making a fool of myself by trying.

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And this has become a trend of sorts. So much so, that I developed a test which, I think, saves both parties a lot of wasted time.

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Whenever someone, after a pleasant bout of socialising, exclaims: ‘We must stay in touch!’ – or plans are discussed for future meetings or mutual projects, I make it clear that that would, indeed, be very nice (and I genuinely mean it). Then, when we have exchanged contact details, I explain that I generally have a fairly moveable schedule and suggest that they, having, probably, a tighter timetable, give me a call or drop me an email to let me know when it would be convenient for us to meet up again, stressing that I look forward to it very much. Often, I will send a thank you message the next day and confirm that they can get in touch anytime they are ready. The implied message being: “I’m game – but the ball is in your court.”

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By this method, I establish one of two things.

If they are genuine, honest human beings, then they will make contact again.

If not, they won’t, AND, furthermore, I won’t waste my time making a dick of myself by chasing up or effectively cyber-stalking someone who feels they have better things to do than associate with the likes of me.

Time, and faces, saved all round.

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Here’s the thing:

Only a very small percentage ever do get in touch again.

Furthermore, this test works, not only with newly-made ‘friends’ but also with ‘friendships’ one may have thought already firmly established – leading to the clear conclusion that it was, in fact, only you who was keeping the contact going.

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What does this all mean?

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I don’t know for sure.

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Perhaps their lives are so horrendously complicated and busy that they have to let some things, (including me), fall by the wayside.

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Perhaps, because I don’t indulge (in) social media, my existence, as a flesh and blood person, fades away from lack of constant pics of my meals/pets/kids/drunken escapades on peoples’ feeds. (Twittero, ergo sum?)

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Perhaps I am actually suffering from a profound delusion that I am an intelligent, creative, generous-spirited, kind and likeable person who people might like to associate with, when, in reality, I’m a stinky, grumpy, old git who people are nice to simply out of pity and whose pathetic attempts to kindle friendships are indulged, solely in the hope that I might fuck off sooner and leave them all alone.

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Perhaps, as most of the people I associate with are generally musical/artistic/creative types (who are, by and large, distractable and flaky), I shouldn’t expect anything else and ought not to take it personally.

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Perhaps, being a self-confessed social-phobe, I should just enjoy all the extra time I get to myself and put it to good use writing about the lack of social skills in others…

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