None of Us Are Persons Anymore

“You’re my Person,” is a line I’ve said to three people in my life and meant it from the core of my being. While I can argue at length with anyone what being someone’s Person actually means I will also admit that it is obviously a borrowed idea from a TV show.

Newsflash: Nothing original about that.

The word ‘Person’ always meant something to me I couldn’t quite elucidate properly. The word in plural meant even more. Persons who knew how to use it in a sentence so as to effectively emphasize that we’re not just talking about Ordinary People always had my salute of respect. Metaphorically. We don’t salute anyone anymore nowadays.

Ultimately my concept of a Person was truly defined by a show and the way it was applied in the lives of fictional beings.

If I could ask for one wish for the betterment of everyday lives, it would be less pop culture influence on our minds and a more individualistic approach to the daily aspects of living. When I won’t be granted that one wish, I would ask for time travel to go back to the ’90s. The beautiful, ephemeral, subtle 1990s. The time when the world was on a precipice of change but not quite there yet. When pop culture was not something our lives depended on, and our face-to-face interactions comprised of inchoate words and sentences that we came up with. On our own. By thinking.

When I woke up this morning and decided to write, I paused and wondered if I was seriously doing this again. Another article to justify I’m different and very clever and a cut above the rest. But the truth is, I am not.

I’m just a nobody like everyone else searching for some kind of semblance and resemblance in a world of fiction and make-believe. I’ve realized that being your own Person is such an uphill task and we’d all rather use fiction to escape than head up that road of discovery about who we truly are.

Does it not terrify you when you meet someone new and you’re not sure if they are actually what they look and talk like? I always am. Because suddenly, we have all become sum totals of the sitcoms we devour every Friday night, the indie movies we binge-watch over the weekends and the young adult novels we bury our noses in. When did ‘you’re not alone’ somehow culminate into ‘let us all be the same’?

Ideas are borrowed from all of these media. Sometimes deliberately. Most of the time, subconsciously. We throw ourselves into these independent realms of escape hoping that we’ll come out new and refined and more knowledgeable, somehow. We come out not with new but simply borrowed, secondhand personalities.

What adds to this visceral way of life, is the kind of boost social media provides to our self-inflated egos. “What Game of Thrones Character are you? Click here to find out.” Why, of course, knowing that I have something in common with an on-screen persona would absolutely make my day. That’s not all. Maybe I should answer the quiz in a way that will ensure I’m most likely to be the Mother of Dragons. Swoon.

Then there are certain other kinds of motivators. “Ask yourself what would XYZ do?” I know more than a handful of naive people who are blind enough to worship these characters to a point that they dictate their every move. What they don’t realize is, that is the reel world. It has a definite ending which, in all likelihood, has already been thought of and anything the characters now do however morally right or wrong is only a step towards a pre-decided conclusion. Applying those things to your life (without considering these factors) is not an indication of how well you think you know and connect with the characters. Trust me, it’s far from that.

Let’s skip over to the part where we decide that reading listicles on Thought Catalog will guide us on how “How To Be A Great Girlfriend”. As ridiculous as it seems, we are all guilty of clicking on these links and mentally ticking check boxes to see how well we’re doing. The kind of validation that is expected in relationships these days simply seems to revolve around the one that social media and movies have imprinted on our minds. Suddenly, everyone’s definition of a perfect romance is a beautiful guy called Augustus Waters telling you that he loves you (in spite of your cancer, and all) and that he knows love is only a shout into the void and we will all be blown away into oblivion eventually. If someone were to profess their love to me like that I’m not sure I would be in a position to believe them. Much less hold myself back from barfing in their face.

I’m not an unhappy person. Nor am I any less of a romantic at heart, it’s just that my idea of love stems from a connection that is original and unique to the two people involved and not a by-product of a fictional story.

When I was younger I always took it upon myself to do things differently. Whether it was a simple assignment, a group effort or even a formal essay. My parents always told me that it was very easy to get swayed by the crowd and lose myself and they took it upon themselves to ingrain that in the very core of my bones. The obstacles you face along the way of being ‘different’ are never-ending. When I reached a stage where I had to adjust my personality to fit in I saw that all the lessons taught to me made no sense. I was very sharp in my mind but weak in my heart.  If I did what everyone else did, if I (pretended to) enjoy what they enjoyed, it was actually somewhat of a win-win. On the surface, at least.

When you strive your hardest to be someone you’re not, you will always find yourself unhappy and I stepped out of that disguise soon enough.

While we can all fuel our addictions and interests, what I believe is that moderation is the key. When you step out of the world that is inhabited by the characters you so adore, learn to leave it behind and move on with your life. Realize that just twenty six letters of the English alphabet when arranged and rearranged into words and sentences and the permutations-combinations of writing something original are actually infinite. Maybe you won’t have to complain anymore that all good writing has already been written and done for. That statement in itself should prove how powerful originality can be and the scope of it is unbounded.

All of these facets have the usual pros and cons, two sides to every coin and every other possible adage that you can conjure. You can tell me that the pop culture influence has only brought the world closer, that it is one of the shining victories of globalization and that it unites us when we discover similar interests with another human from another part of the world, it provides fodder for a conversation and is so much better than small talk. But when you’re liked or disliked depending upon the kind of media you’re interested in, when you are basically judged because of the views you uphold about a story that is most often far from reality, when you decide that indulging in a particular activity is for the sole reason of not being left behind, whether globalization or any other heavy term, not being a Person anymore is not a price I’m willing to pay.

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7 responses

  1. People have always been included or ostracised based on whether or not they thought (or expressed) the same as the ‘in-crowd’. Perhaps not on such a global basis, nor with the potential to connect and encourage or malign across countries with such ease, but it’s happened ever since the first person looked at the sky, looked at the human across from him and realised that they were ‘other’.

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    1. I am so inclined to nod vigorously at what you said. I honestly couldn’t have worded it better myself. My problem is that people I personally know who always strove to be themselves no matter the kind of pressures are now victims of such influences. I want them to be their own Persons again and writing this blog may have been a feeble attempt to reach out to them, but we must never stop trying.

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      1. They will learn, when they realise that the most valuable and most wonderful person they can be is precisely themselves. I hope your endeavour works.

        But for the record, with thinking the same thing as others…when reading such things as Homer, knowing that through MILLENNIA, others have read these words and felt the same things I’ve felt and had those same reactions – kings and emperors and caesars and beggars and normal, everyday people…all being brought to the same thought patterns through the power of words…that gives me deep chills, in a good way.

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        1. Oh yes, by no means was I being critical of the good works and their all-pervading impacts.

          I simply contend that the recent pop culture developments, the superficial personas that are being imprinted on young minds, the various clichés that we are invariably picking up because of this exposure is something we should be very concerned about.

          When I meet someone who enjoys the same books and authors as I do, my heart soars into the sky. If we didn’t have these small connections, I’m not sure we could seemingly be bound to another person, at all.

          (You bring out such wonderful afterthoughts to my writing and most importantly take time to read and absorb what I write. Thank you for that.)

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      2. I think you’re right. Hey, there’s a FB group I just got joined to, about changing the game for teens (in particular) – to get them UNhooked from the pop culture, shallow-surface-crap, and INVOLVED in their lives, their world; engaged and working together to make things better. It’s all new and shiny, but the thoughts seem to be in the right place – want to join? https://www.facebook.com/groups/empoweringgamechangers/

        Otherwise, though, yes – there is a distinct thinning to the levels of connection these days. Sometimes. And sometimes not. Because with social media and all the glitz and dross, there are also wonderful opportunities to connect, to do Real, soul-deep stuff; to make changes; to bring revolutions; to alter mindsets and do GOOD. And there is art and poetry and storytelling and all the other things which make life worth living, all made accessible by the wonder of the internet and the way it’s blasted the world wide open…

        That connection with someone who likes the same books – that’s huge (and now I want to know your favourites)

        And you’re welcome – your thoughts are worth reading. I enjoy them. They invite considered response 🙂

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        1. I’ve mostly been struggling with a poor Internet connection but as soon as I can I will join that page. I’m already bought by the description of it.

          My favourite book list would be too long and personal a list to share here but Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is one among them and I think it is so relevant to this article because of Howard Roark’s character and his non-conformist and individualistic ways which got him little success only because his ways and thinking were so radical and he believed that men who didn’t think on their own were as good as dead men. Even in the most dire circumstances of life, Roark remained true to his ideologies and was never ready to beat down to the normal and rote ways of architecture. Although arguably one of the most idealistic fictional characters, I like to imagine that someone like that exists somewhere and just the thought of that makes me want to strive to be a better person myself.

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      3. Awesome. I look forward to you joining…so far I’m not sure what’s happening, but I know that it’s a good cause and one I want to be involved in – it’s only just setting up at the moment and needs all the support it can get.

        Your favourite book (of many, and I get that, about the list being long and personal) is one I’ve never heard of, but you describe it compellingly. I may just have to go and look it up to see what it’s all about.

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