I attended a climate change demonstration today, along with the fractionally older of my two daughters, both because I believe strongly in the need for action and to show solidarity for her burgeoning political conscience.
Frankly, the number of attendees, of all ages and degrees of hemp ownership, was heartening. Particularly in my adopted country, that level of passion, on open display, tends to attract disdain. You could sense it radiating from the far, outer circle – cynics rubbernecking and tutting to themselves.
From the inner circle moving out, the pure, unsullied intensity of youth. Fury and hope flirting like drunks.
It was… an experience. And I’m glad my daughter was motivated to go.
The placard game was a bit weak, I’m afraid, but that’s a writer’s kvetch, to which you should pay no mind.
But the demonstration itself is not actually what I wanted to talk about. It simply brought home to me something that I’ve been noticing a lot lately: I respond increasingly poorly to crowds.
I always have, to an extent. An aptly-named crush of people has always triggered mild claustrophobia and my erratic sense of self has always dropped a double album’s worth of loneliness and panic mash-ups when confronted by humanity en masse.
But lately, it’s not the numbers or the concentration that have been giving me pause. It’s simply the existence of them all. At some point recently, the reality of people has swum from the back to the front of my mind, and when out in the world, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of lives out there – fumbling, broken, gleeful, despairing, loved-up, roughed-up, messy lives. I can feel the waves of emotion – positive, negative and unreadable – rolling off of them, and it makes me feel like I’m drowning.
I don’t know if it’s symptomatic – I have been struggling with depression recently – or a function of age, but it’s bone-deep terrifying. With many of the odd or complex thoughts that plague me, the articulation of same tends to mitigate their horrors, but the more I write, the less clear it becomes.
You’re nodding in agreement at this point, I’m sure.
I simply don’t know what to do with this unwanted global empathy. I feel as though there must be a way to use it in the service of others, but it’s buffeting me so hard, I’m barely standing. It would be a route to perspective if there weren’t so damned many of them, but cut the numbers and it rapidly begins to dilute the point.
I can’t tell if my mind is slipping its moorings again, or I’m just experiencing a flash-growth of further maturity. I may also be hungry, in need of a nap, sickening for something or simply overwhelmed by the selfish, prosaic concerns that currently lurk closer to home.
I’m sure I’ll figure it out, or a distraction will hove into view, and this will all seem like a blip. I collect blips, like stamps or heartbreaks.
In the meantime, could you all stop thinking for a bit? I’m struggling to hear myself talk.
Bisection – which is far less convoluted than the above is available now.