Thursday, 17 November 2016

Like a Bicycle

The best way to 'disappear' is to stay in as much as possible because then when you go out (as much as for the novelty as for the fresh air) it's easier to cope with the interactions you usually avoid. You might even be able to raise a smile or if called upon raise an interesting topic of conversation, or even, as the English do very often, remark on the weather. And of course there's always the standard formalities: How are you? No, how are you? and so on until it's been asked a sufficient number of times that someone has to give the required answer of Good or Fine. Veer from that response and people are dumbfounded, but stick to the script and it's useful. Nothing is given away that you don't want another to know and after you can go serenely on your way feeling a little lighter or at least pleased that you were polite and didn't dodge the encounter. It might be dialogue of no consequence, but it's still dialogue.
Of course, there are other ways you could 'disappear', which I should mention is in inverted commas because it's not really possible is it, not in the era of tracking devices, though if you don't have an online profile then technically your existence could be said to be null-and-void. But even then, someone somewhere would know where you were, just perhaps not what you were doing precisely unless you were one of those people to set a watch by.
Am I one of those? More or less. More or less. I have 'routines' (again with the inverted commas!) which if done differently or missed sends my heart into palpitations and my head and stomach into a spin, similar to that of a washing cycle. Why? I don't know. But the jitters come if I'm delayed or been unable that day to follow through, in spite of being aware my reasoning is faulty. Routines, those I set I myself and not set by others, are an anchor, very much like your first bike with stabilisers attached, which though I remember flying, the wind in my hair, when removed, I've never been quite ready for that same adventure, metaphorically speaking, in my adult years. Oh yes, there were attempts, but those extra stabilising cogs if they were ever off were never off for very long. Riding a bike, as I did manage that, in fact, gave me more freedom, albeit only in places which were cycle friendly i.e. no cars. For otherwise, minus the exhilaration of powering uphill and then whizzing down, your feet relaxed on the pedals as the bike gathers speed, what's the point?
I have at times tried (and failed) to apply that attitude to life but the same reasoning that works with a bike can't be applied here. That light pressure on the brakes doesn't cause life to respond in the same way. It's much easier to spiral out of control. All control. On a road that leads you don't know where in a place that's peopled and trafficked. And that's scary. Or it can be, excruciatingly so, for wallflower folk.
Routines, however, whilst safe and grounding, can in time become dictatorial whether they're new, in development stages, or more established. Something you HAVE to do that is non-adaptive to the events that surround you, even though life is essentially not like that and humans have, up until relatively recently, been designed to accommodate change. Why 'up until relatively recently'? Because I think our wiring, which until more recent times has been geared towards 'survival', is in a process of disarrangement, with rearranging yet to come. Primitive 'survival' has no relevance because the threats – to freedom, to security - just aren't the same; our existence threatened more often and easily by those we cannot see so keen have we been to partake in this New World. Our collusion is also, at times, blinding.
A few people then escape to Control, a private land where restrictions are placed in a bid to go off grid because frankly these days it's impossible to run: to run out on virtual reality in its entirety and all its messy configurations, where persons are not valued less but differently. For those who appreciate privacy and old-fashioned engagement this is just another social qualm to outmanoeuvre, and unfortunately it's not, as those of us dealing with this situation know only too well, like learning to ride a bike: the training wheels rarely, if ever, as I mentioned previously, get taken off altogether.

Picture credit: Balance Bike, The Guardian