I understand more wholly now the little insights and accidental glimpses I have into people’s lives.
I must have been too submerged into myself to notice before, too busy exploring my own depths to contemplate others’. It must be that you miss these sorts of things when you jump headlong onto a moving train — the bullet train of a 9 to 5 fueled by your days, months and years.
Every other life flashed by as minuscule dots of colour; blinking lights in the darkness. Only I was in focus. Only I was real. Everything else was mist: the buildings, the people, the rhythm of life.
Other people were…ideas, intangible concepts. They entered my life too rapidly for me to seize them, to feel the weight of their words in my hands, to connect to their stories.
I caught a flash of colour.
When I opened my eyes, it was already gone.
I would shake myself off, clearing the last of these micro-second mysteries from my mind.
“That was strange.”
And on my way I would be again, drowning in my loneliness, surrounded by millions of unraveling stories, wheezing past them.
I couldn’t exist outside of myself. It was impossible for me to imagine someone not being the way I was. Life was the same for everybody, with no more or less enjoyment for one or the other. It was a tacit piece of knowledge, understood through the narrowing lens of my perceptions, the shriveling of my imagination, the drying out of once abundant streams of consciousness.
That’s what happens, I guess. Your mind is cut and dried, uniformised, squared off until it becomes one-track only — the track designed by those that came before you, a path well-trodden.
Only vaguely could I acknowledge the idea that people were different. Of course, it was just surface knowledge. Statements you have to agree to, like terms and conditions you sign without paying attention. A distracted agreement, a “Yes, yes, alright.” you dismiss a child with.
But the bullet train has slowed down.
All these unknown lives are blooming in a million scents and textures: the mother who smells of baby oil, the couple that walks closely but doesn’t hold hands, the fastfood joint run by two bickering brothers, the papercuts on the newspaper vendor’s fingers, the spicy, taste-bud-burning noodle soup in China town, the dizzy children who fly kites come evening, the white-haired ladies bent at the waist to catch a glimpse of the life taking place beyond their doors.
The train has stopped at an intersection, a cross-hatching of stories and identities, names and worldviews.
The world is large when viewed in its numbers, the summary of all it is: 195 countries, 7.5 billion people and counting, 6,500 languages — it’s impressive, awe-inspiring. But when you get into the details, when you stop to contemplate even a hundred of those 7.5 billion lives, well, the world becomes infinite.