One of the more characteristically Nathanish things I like to do is observe the patterns and habits and behaviors of other people around me. Being someone who is more than usually habitual and regular in my habits, it is by no means a surprise that other people are like myself creatures of habit, and being an observer in the patterns of others–even when knowing that I am subject to observation from others with a similar interest as myself in that regard–I can develop quite a rooting interest in others based on what I observe to be similarities in the patterns of others with my own.
In watching a football game without a rooting interest it is curious to note what you see. Tonight, for example, I watched a football that was not particularly competitive between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears. One of the things that I noticed as someone who is not a fan of either teams, but is a fan of generally good and clean football, was the tendency of the Minnesota defensive players to engage in rather thuggish behavior. Twice in a row, on a punt and on a would-be sack and safety, I saw Vikings defensive players body slam the ball-carriers into the turf, and on a separate occasion I saw a quarterback who already had given himself up and slid be speared by a defensive player. In two of those three plays I saw (deserved) personal fouls being given, and after the second penalty, I saw people on the bench of the Vikings cheering up the player who had been penalized, as if he was doing something that was appropriate to try to decapitate the opposing quarterback rather than being chewed out for being undisciplined and in subjecting a player (albeit on the other team) to an excessive risk of injury. Perhaps such a discussion will happen later behind closed doors.
One of the things that one notices as patterns is something I discussed with the bartender as I was done with one of my books, my meal, and the game. As someone who has been involved in reporting and talking to someone who freelances in graphic design besides being a bartender, we both mused about the tendency for people who do not know about a given field to be both terrible at communicating what they want to someone who does such work and also to be incredibly demanding towards those technically minded people. It really is the worst of both worlds–to be ignorant of the language used in a given field as well as what is possible and feasible and unable and unwilling to communicate one’s own vision while demanding others to essentially read others’ minds. This is something I have always found intensely bothersome and distressing. I have never professed any mind-reading abilities personally, and have always resented those who demanded much but communicated little about what was being demanded. If I possessed mind-reading abilities, I would surely find a more lucrative and rewarding way of using such talents than to serve such unworthy people as themselves.
What is it that gives us a rooting interest in others and in others for ourselves? There are at least two sorts of people whom I find it easy to have a rooting interest in. The first such group of people are those I judge as being like myself. This is admittedly a somewhat selfish criterion, but being a person who wishes success and well-being for myself, I find it very easy to wish the same for others who are like me. I do not tend to think of those who are like me in basic and fundamental ways (such as being creative or quantitative people or being given to service or in possessing similar personalities to myself) as being competition for a limited amount of happiness or success or anything of the like, and I tend to think that if life works out better for those like me, it will probably be a better place for me. Whether such a feeling is a generous or a selfish one is something I leave to be decided by people less biased and prejudiced in the matter than myself. The other group are those who I have a strong degree of fondness or compassion for. It is fairly easy to see success for the downtrodden–so long as I do not view them as being responsible for their own difficulties–as a way for things to move to a better balance. Even so, rooting after people one likes or feels some degree of fondness for may seem to be some to be fairly self-interested as well. It is hard to root for someone or something without being at least somewhat biased in their favor. After all, we all like to think well of ourselves, and that includes our judgment in supporting the right things.