Urban Lucubration

Observations on misanthropy, anonymity, and the value of silence.

September 7, 2009

On Life as a Ghost




For some individuals, life is a vivacious, extraordinary phenomenon whose novelty will never wane, never so much as falter until the day they die. I never believed my childrens' pastor when she told me that for every child the Lord has a plan, that for every youth the Lord has a path, and that all I had to do was follow his banner.

I do not believe in a god anymore, because more wretched than urban despair is an urban despair that is by necessity, bestowed by god through his inaction. I could never compromise, never make peace with such a cruel master.

I awoke this morning to the sound of youthful cries and shouts that typify mornings at a university dormitory. As I sit here and listen to the same sounds an hour to midnight - my roommates thoroughly inebriated in the next room over - I come to the realization that there is little that is able to move me anymore. Life has become little more than a state, a static moment of existence held aloft and burning only through inertia.

I never possessed a zest for life even as a child, and this apathy trails my every passing day like a lovestruck hound. I compare myself to my peers, to the specimens of humanity I see everyday and I feel as an alien. Their drunken pounding on my dormitory walls, their exclamations of hilarity, their music vibrating the walls - it irritates me, sends an itch down my stomach but also provokes a shameful thrill of sadism.

I am a loner.

It is difficult to explain this to those who are familiar with me at school or at work, because in these contexts I am always outgoing, always quick and talkative, always amiable and eager. This facade is both necessary and expected, and because of its necessity I bear it no ill will. It is simply another duty I perform.

My relationships are superficial at best; I am careful to maintain my distance. There is nothing I fear more in this comprehensible universe than to find myself involved in an interpersonal affair from which I cannot extract myself immediately at will. This perspective, naturally, is not mutual and I am aware that I have alienated many acquaintances as a result.

Contrary to popular belief, this does bother me. I am, in all facets of my life, a ghost, and being the subject of malcontent does not lend itself well to invisibility. Through such collateral affronts, I find that those who remain in my social circle are those who do not place demands upon me which I am unable to perform.

I do have one such friend in mind as I write this, and it is her that this post concerns. She is a year younger than I, but we have been friends since highschool and such trivial differences disappear upon entering post-secondary education. She is kind, and very patient but more importantly she understands that even though I do not actively seek her company, I enjoy her company. This unspoken implication hangs in the air, and it is well met.

Tonight, she hosted a house-warming party to which she invited every friend she holds dear, including myself. The date has been set in advance, and she is aware that I know of its occurrence. She showed up halfway through her party as I sat in the darkness of my room, knocking on my door to update me of its progress and to bring me small confectioneries.

I value this friend because she understands that I am incapable of maintaining any real sort of intimate, human relationship, but that I do regret it, and it is this effort that she tends. She does not fault me for my inadequacies, and does not take offense at my isolation. She made the invitation with open arms and warm smiles, fully knowing that I would not attend.

I am a ghost. I spend the bulk of my life in isolation and silence. I am alone but not lonely, for it is in such invisibility that I find comfort and peace. I am incapable of responding rigorously to the demands of social life - this is a deep inadequacy that I have long come to terms with. I have tried for years to find some measure of peace and purpose in the modern world, in the average existence of a western individual, but I have found nothing in such study. The quietness of resignment is the only solace I have, and I cling to it like a drowning sailor cast adrift into the vastness.

I am the hermit at the foot of the mountain, having shouted and hollered words of early wisdom to the marketplace, but was not heard and so now is silent. I am the quiet gaze that follows anonymous strangers as they make their noisy rounds in the metropolitan rain. I am the friend who fails to ever become more than an acquaintance, out of reach because my phone is off and I do not attend gatherings. I am the conversationalist that enthralls hordes of colleagues, but never seek to reach beyond the intellectual connection - the lecturer, the educator, the entertainer but never the friend.

From an archival perspective, this tendency to leave nothing behind means that I transfer from clique to clique, school to school, and workplace to workplace leaving nothing behind but records of work well done or nameless grades. It may sound inadequate to the average observer, but I view it as a positive quality. Because I am invisible and spiritually homeless, my home is everywhere.

There is a beauty to wandering the urban streets at night, the lights flickering overhead, cars blaring by, adolescents giggling with their schoolmates, a couple enthralled with each other - lost in a world of vibrant possibility and connections yet to be made.  There is a beauty in the urban landscape that I will never be able to articulate sufficiently. As the Gregorian chants register quietly through my earphones - a black figure dwarfed amongst buildings of human grandeur and monstrosity, I feel small as my boots walk the streets that have been walked by hundreds of thousands of unnamed feet.



I am humbled by such grace, and slip back into the city.




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