From time to time I ponder on the perks of being an outsider , but I suppose it is not that I am an outsider so much as I tend to exist on the peripheries, somehow ending up both inside and outside at the same time. I do not find this to be a comfortable existence, but one has to make the best of it. History is full of people, for example, who found themselves to be both inside and outside at the same time, and that experience is certainly one that requires that one maintain the best of the skills and attributes that both insiders and outsiders face. It is a good thing, for example, to have a sense of distance from power while also having access to it, good to be informed but not to be corrupted. While it can be somewhat isolated being in the middle of things, it can also be a place of great fertility of creativity and insight, and so as long as one can endure the tension it is probably best to do so for a certain type of person who is as complicated as I am.
Whether you are an insider or an outsider in a particular situation, though, it is often better if you don’t know the reasons why other people consider one to be an insider or an outsider for them. Whether one is told in an e-mail that one’s presence is not wanted a particular event, as happens to me from time to time, or whether one’s social calendar is filled to overflowing, as is the case for me this time of year, it is often better if we do not know the reasons why. Often the reasons are so innocent or straightforward that it is not worth worrying about them in the first place. Sometimes people just enjoy our company because we tell funny stories and are good listeners to the stories of others, in which case to know the reasons why would only be to provide an opportunity for us to feel too proud about ourselves and our social skills, to the point where our pride about our good qualities may hinder the demonstration of those good qualities in the future. At other times it is better not to know because to know would only make one irate and/or suspicious about the motives of the people one is with, and under those conditions one does not want to know what dark motives other people have.
It might be worthwhile at this point to provide at least some potential situations where knowing the motives of someone would be a bad thing when it comes to socializing. Let us say, for example, that someone has matchmaking ideas in mind with socializing. In that case, if one of the parties does not have an interest in that, it is probably best if one does not know such a motive, as it would greatly hinder one’s enjoyment of time spent on a friendly basis. I have found in my own personal life that this is a motive of considerable difficulty and one that few people, myself included, like to talk about openly. It is a subject of considerable awkwardness at all, and few people are comfortable in dealing with the uncomfortable. Not being a person who tends to have plans and designs on people, I find it somewhat distressing how people tend to impute such motives on me, and read into friendly conversations all kinds of implications that they do not wish to openly address. And since they do not wish to openly address it, it is better not to pry or to speculate.
If one does not necessarily want to know, though, what is one to do? Perhaps it is best if one simply enjoys. This is a hard thing for me to do sometimes, since for me the enjoyment in the moment is almost always followed by the analysis and critique after the moment is done. In that case every moment worth enjoying is also analyzed for what went down, what should have gone down and how things could have gone down better or how they should in the future. In this world the critic, and I include myself among their number, tend to seek a sort of cultural power as a tastemaker and gatekeeper. Likewise, others are often very hostile toward the critic for not having created but merely for having evaluated and labeled. Yet when it comes to matters of life and of enjoying it, perhaps the critic is to be viewed with compassion. A great deal of the joy of life is robbed when one cannot simply enjoy it but one feels the burden of understanding it and critiquing it. To keep matters in mind may be good when it comes to becoming better people, but it is not ideal when it comes to living the sort of life that anyone considers to be fun or lighthearted.
 See, for example:
Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.
Thanks as always for the re-blog. Did you ever catch my review of the Buchanan book on Churchill?
No, but I will look for it right now.
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