I’m grateful that we/I have acquired a whole bunch of fine humans to call friends. It’s easy sometimes to forget that they’re there. That sense of retreating from the world, in which the world also recedes in some kind of slow crash zoom expanding outwards, moving the self apart from all the touchstones and edges by which we bind and recognise ourselves. It’s a horrible sensation, it feels cold and empty. But it’s the sad brain playing its infernal games with time again. No one has really moved, but a barrier has been erected inside, blocking both the possibility of reaching out and all the memories which would reaffirm the presence of those other minds and remind us that they do indeed have reciprocal feelings.
This is all a little babbley – put it down to slightly too little sleep and minor fretting about where our big ginger cat might have spent the night. Fully freaked out by the sheer horror of other people in his house he danced around the door and window for an hour before dawn never quite coming in. Eventually we had to go to bed and leave him to it. It’s not like he can’t use the cat flap whenever he wants to. We have located him this morning (thanks GPS tracker), seized and carried him back home from his night-time shed excursion. His absence was felt and much lamented, though Pixie did enjoy the opportunity to sleep on the bed between my feet without being randomly menaced.
Those friends I’m grateful for fill up all sorts of oddly shaped spaces in my head. I always liked the idea that we never really know anyone, but instead we create a mental model of them in our minds, and that’s the entity we’re really talking to and interacting with. Everything the real person does is compared and cross-referenced against that ever-growing model of their behaviour. It’s why we can be surprised, shocked and horrified by even the people we feel we know very well indeed: we don’t know them, but because those models are so concrete and rarely contradicted (because we’re pretty good at building these models) for those we spend a fair amount of time with, their behaviour falls within our expectations.
Perhaps that explains the sheer joy of seeing friends and family I haven’t seen for far too long – months, years or decades – and learning that the models we maintained, which may have lain dormant, are (once reactivated for testing) still approximately accurate. That lovely sense of falling back into stride with someone, but also that disturbing sense of dislocation when the model turns out to be missing critical information, or has itself become warped and distorted over time. Corrupted by memory; an endlessly fragile and deteriorating source of information.
And if all these people exist in our heads, along with every fictional character we keep track of (being surprised by a character in a TV show is exactly the same thing – our model of that character is incomplete, perhaps purposely as part of the screenplay of course) then they really are just components of ourselves. We contain multitudes, and every one of them is a version of ourselves playing at being someone else. Each of them provides an outlet for a different faction within us, the one that desires silly nonsense chat, to show off (I’m still very much in the “show and tell” phase of having a library room stuffed with things – sorry all), to pontificate on deep matters of the self, to share hidden portions of ourselves. They all reveal details which expand all those others’ mental models of us, shaping how they see us and imagine that we are. We live in everyone else’s heads too, as partial and distorted reflections mediated by our choices and theirs. To exist is to be spread across a broad scattering of other minds. When we’re remembered all those pieces fit together to make a jigsaw without shape or form, perpetually incomplete and incorrectly assembled, yet entirely recognisable as us.
Right, time to find some coffee and breakfast and prepare to enjoy my last day of full drug dosage.