Alone in a crowd

Against_the_flow_by_bracketing_life_flickrEveryone remembers the strangers that stopped to point you in the right direction, offer a tip on where to eat or practice a bit of English, but what about the hundreds that passed you by?

Tom Swick has a thoughtful essay over at World Hum, musing on the crowds of indifferent strangers that we pass everyday in our travels. Those who are, as Swick writes, “shy, or running late, or lost in their music, or just not interested… They are too busy living their lives to notice needy travelers.”

Much of the time these are precisely the people that are most interesting when you’re traveling… to stand in the middle of a great crowd far from home is, to me anyway, to feel bit like you really are in the middle of the great river of life.

I have to say that I disagree with some of with Swick writes, particularly the idea that such people are indifferent. To me what’s amazing about crowds of strangers is that it’s impossible to know whether they are curious or indifferent; it’s a reminder that you can come and you can look but you will never be one of them. Which isn’t to say we are isolated from strangers, in fact it’s the opposite we’re connected — we are all outsiders somewhere.

Swick’s essay reminds me of something Proust writes, that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” In this case, looking at ourselves through eyes that hardly see us at all.

Or, to borrow a popular saying from my hometown, we’re all bit actors in everyone else’s movie and they in ours.

[Photo credit: Bracketing Life, Flickr]

Posted by | Comments Off on Alone in a crowd  | November 24, 2009
Category: General

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