Saturday, August 21, 2004

No Man is An Island?

Ever notice how some folks seem oblivious to the presence of others, as if they live, breathe, and blur through the days of their lives all alone? Some examples:

At Wal-Mart yesterday, I was pushing my buggy along, minding my own business, when a woman pushed her cart directly in front of me, blocking my path. Then she just stood there, looking around. I had to stop and detour around her. Often, I see people move down high-traffic aisles, and stand in the center, blocking all access. And they look around, seemingly unaware that other people also are shopping and needing to pass through. I see this sort of thing all the time.

About a year ago, I went walking down my street, enjoying the exercise and weather. I passed a neighbor's house, and received an earful. The lady of the house had just pulled up and gotten out of her car, and her husband came out to meet her. When she discovered that he'd lain around and had done no housework all day--while she worked--she became angry. An argument ensued. My focus is not on the argument or its worthiness. The point is, these folks had a rather loud spat in their front yard, in front of the whole neighborhood, in plain sight. They saw me walking, I know, so I thought it was bizarre that they didn't take the issue indoors. Instead, they acted as if I didn't exist, hashing it out right there on the lawn. I'm positive they knew I both saw and heard them. Admittedly, this doesn't happen often, but it's not the first time I've seen a spectacle like this.

On many occasions, I've seen people enter restaurants and converse in very loud tones. Once, my wife and I stopped for a bite to eat. We were sitting at our table, when in walked three people, talking at a high volume. Two of them stopped at the door, while the third made her way across the restaurant, still carrying on her conversation with the others. Everyone in the building clearly saw and heard them. In fact, I couldn't help but follow their whole conversation. The point is, these folks acted as if no one else was there. Just them. I've seen this many times.

I could give other examples, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying. Many live their lives seemingly in a daze, as if they live in their own little world. What causes such behavior? Have Americans become more narcissistic? Or has society's nature--with its long distances separating people--created a disconnect and a dissolution of the spirit of community? I think both are true.

It's a fascinating trend that I've noticed, and it seems to be growing worse.

People have become islands unto themselves.

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