Living In A Box

There is little that is new about container thinking.  Although I am not a particularly handsome person myself, I happen to know quite a few people whose approaches to their own physical attractiveness is highly ambivalent.  On the one hand, people like to be complimented on the gifts that they possess, but on the other hand, people want to be recognized as more than one thing and that does not always happen.  I know how much I like to be seen as more than a my-size encyclopedia for my fondness for book learning [1], and it is entirely unsurprising that other people would want to be viewed as more than just a pretty face, though that too.  This is not a new tendency.  So long as there have been people with complicated layers and arrays of talent and interest, there has been a natural pushback against the simplistic heuristics that we view other people with them.  Whether we call such things stereotypes or prejudices, they are as old as humanity is in our nearly universal desire to put things in boxes so that they can be dealt with as a category and not on a case-by-case basis for convenience.

As someone with an undue fondness for one-hit wonders [2], and the music of the decade in which I was born, I am fond of the music of the British band Living In A Box.  Their only top 40 hit in the United States was called “Living In A Box,” surprisingly enough.  I happen to like a lot of their music in general, and if I wanted to summarize their career in terms of its characteristic concerns I would say that questions of boundaries and space would have been ones they returned to over and over again.  Given the band’s name, this is not a surprise.  With singles like “Blow The House Down,” “Gatecrashing,” and the lovely romantic ballad “Room In Your Heart,” the band frequently dealt with concerns of the space of other people that matched the metaphorical concerns of feeling confined of their debut single.  Yet even if most of us are thankfully fortunate enough to have no experience with living in a literal cardboard box, some people have faced that grim fate and many of us have more experience living in metaphorical or even literal boxes than we may fully appreciate.

I spent a great deal of my childhood living in boxes.  I do not mean by this cardboard boxes or repurposed container units, but single-wide trailers at home and portable classrooms for many of my years of schooling.  There were some patterns that held true regardless of the specific dimensions of these buildings.  For one, they were either oppressively cold or overheated.  There was no middle ground–they never had enough air conditioning in them and so to keep it from being too hot one would have to put the air conditioning so high that it would have been comfortable for polar bears and penguins.  As soon as that was no longer sufficient, the lassitude resulting from insufficient fresh and cool air and the stench of body odor in the Florida heat would take over.  One generally preferred the cold.  This temperature problem was due primarily to two factors–the exceptions granted in such buildings to “intermittent occupancy” that led to less air being pumped in through overworked air conditioner units as well as the poor insulation that could not keep the buildings well-regulated.  That’s what happens when you live and study in a box, though.  Very early in life I learned that I was not particularly valued enough for people to build permanent construction and set down firm roots, and those are lessons unfortunately that have stayed for a long time.  Sometimes we learn lessons that no one is trying to teach.

We live in boxes in other ways as well.  We work in cubicles, and I think the less said about that the better.  When we study in school or on the job, we often study modules, where the information can theoretically be done in any order because no connection is intended between them except in the accidental way that happens thanks to the Kuleshov effect where there is more meaning in the combination of things placed together as opposed to being treated in isolation.  Yet so much of what educationally and technologically is done as modules requires as much effort as it would to create something that is cohesive.  When one creates large works out of smaller ones, something I do a fair amount of as a blogger, one has to have worked out the larger scope in which everything fits and then connect the parts together with transitions.  If one is creating modules that can stand on their own, one has to create enough structure and cohesion in those parts so that everything fits together, and make it neutral enough that it can mix inoffensively with other modules should someone decide to do things in different orders.  This is by no means as simple a task as others seem to act at times.  If we are going to live in boxes, we might as well live in the best boxes possible, lest we have to live in overpriced tiny houses built by people who want to get out of building codes for people who can’t afford the rest of our overpriced housing while people pigeonhole us based on the most obvious qualities we have.  Is it too much to ask to be thought of as a human being, and not a mere receptacle for brains or looks or whatever else people see in us?

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Music History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Living In A Box

  1. Pingback: If You Write It, They Will Come | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: And The Hits Keep Coming | Edge Induced Cohesion

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