What was shocking about this was the utter RESPECTABILITY of these people. They were yuppies. They had expensive haircuts and nice clothes. They did not fit the stereotype of people who are thrill-seekers or who can't afford breakfast.
But I'm happy that some people still manage to surprise me with their unpleasantness. If I hadn't been shocked by the deadbeat yuppies I'd be worried.
Psychology classes teach you all sorts of pithy factoids that stick with you through the years, and one of them is that people who suffer depression tend to have a more realistic view of things -- world events, future prognoses, the way they're percieved by others -- than do happy people. I've always believed this was true, but I realize now that I've looked at this issue from only one direction...the path to happiness MAY be ignorance (it's bliss, apprently)...
...or maybe the problem is that we have UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS for human behaviour? Maybe we expect too much? The first step may be seeing selfish unpleasantness in human nature, but the NEXT step could be to see this as NATURAL. This could lead to hedonism, but it could also lead to Kate Bush's "Rubberband Girl" philosophy: rather than get depressed and angry when somebody does something supid/annoying/cruel/selfish, just "bend" with it. Why SHOULD you get frustrated by something that's natural? The frustration may come from believing that people SHOULDN'T behave in this way, which is stupid if (like me) you believe that everybody does, now and then.
(An important part of this is to assume that you yourself are just as stupid/annoying/cruel/selfish as the average person, of course).
This all gets uncertain when I acknowledge that I can't be SURE that selfish unpleasantness is a basic human trait; I might just see it because I'm projecting my OWN selfish unpleasantness on others, or maybe I'm just selectively noticing the things that annoy me (see the earlier post about persection and Beelzebaby).
On Saturday night, on the bus home from Toronto, I practiced this theory by tolerating the guy sitting next to me, who smelled like a rotting gym towel. His odour was oppressive and almost made me gag. It washed over me in waves, depending on his posture.
I tried to look at him in two different ways:
- He's selfish/stupid/dirty. This is an actual character trait. It stems from him being clueless and not caring what other people think.
- He's a bit clueless, but just doesn't wash his clothes often enough. When he got caught in the rain the vaguely smelly bacteria in his sweatpants began to thrive and multiply, and now he smells far worse than he's ever smelled before, and he's acutely embarassed by this.
But then I get frustrated. I think, "what a stupid, selfish jerk! I shouldn't have to sit next to him for 90 minutes while people in other seats sniff around and wonder if it's ME who stinks. He doesn't deserve friends or pleasantness or positive reinforcement!"
And I admit my world philosophy is that people are, generally, selfish and annoying, including myself. But rather than get ANGRY and DEPRESSED about this, shouldn't I be RESIGNED? And I don't mean "resigned" in a bad way, I mean in the same way that I'm resigned to gravity and work and the fact that shoes don't last forever. Shouldn't we all just "bend?"
Caveat: People delight and amaze me, too. I have wonderful friends and I see people behave wonderfully every day. But I always assume that they, like me, have a gunky, nasty little imp sitting inside them. Can anybody say they don't? And can anybody who SAYS they don't be telling the truth or be even remotely self-aware? Hmmm.