“We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our own concept—our own selves—that we love.”
― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of possessing a conscience. The frailty of the human spirit, and the fragility of the relationships we hold. It takes a lot to procure a relationship, a bond with a person as dynamic and unpredictable as you. We get to know so many people throughout our fleeting years and to think that you possess a place among their thoughts is a burden. Their expectations and their opinion you, what space they occupy in their limited capacity. Who are you to them? Does it mirror the perception of the self? How often do they think about you? Are you worthy of their time? It’s impossible to decipher, the limitations of the brain so many people before us have tried to understand.
I’m not even sure if I know myself. Times have been rough lately, and for me, things have taken a dark turn. I’ve begun to see a new doctor, and they’ve postulated on what’s been bothering me. They assume that the depression I’ve had for some time now might be manic depression or bipolar disorder. Both labels are intimidating, and dare I say, frightening, and have pushed me to question my ideals and what compromises my being. I’ve always tried to maintain consistency as a virtue, as I think reliability is a key element in trust. With this new label, I can’t even trust myself to do that. My emotions, what compromises my external and internal being, have been illuminated by a light that casts dual shadows. Which one should I trust? Which one is dominant at which time? My state of mind is fickle. At least, that’s what ran through my head when the doctor said those words. It could be possible that I’m just gaslighting myself into an identity crisis. I get worried that I have diabetes when my feet get cold, after all. I can’t be sure, and that’s what scares me the most.
I visited the synagogue I used to attend as a kid after the appointment. The clinic is only a short drive away. My parents never really tried to impose their religious beliefs upon me or my sister, save for the rare Christmas mass or Passover seder, but my dad had some of his loved ones engraved upon the memorial outside of the temple as something to maintain the connection and honor the fallen. My mom was Roman Catholic, but her name is up there nevertheless. I hope I don’t sound sappy or self-indulgent when you’re reading this, but when I go through the names I recognize on that wall, I always am taken aback. There’s more than just the names engraved, too. It spurred some reflection. The feeling of sonder is not alien to me, but the severance of human life is a lot to think about no matter how much you’re acclimated to it. I loved my mother, even if I never got the chance to fully digest her “personhood” as much as I did my father. But even then, I find that I don’t think about her as much as I should. I just go about my day, living my meager existence in spite of losing someone who gave me more than I could ever give back. And all the other people, my grandparents, uncle, my dad’s brother, all of these people, had their stories end in ultimate finality. People go on to live their lives. They mourn, they cope, and they move on.
What’s the point, then? As much as you try to cement your legacy, the impact you’ve had upon other people, everything about you, it will all fade away. If I can’t even be bothered to remember the woman who gave me life, then what does that mean for me? If I just died one day, would anyone really remember me after the funeral? This isn’t an original thought, by any means, but the thought has been something that I’ve been grappling with especially lately. The nature of this postmodern era dictates that your 15 minutes of fame come and go in the blink of an eye. Fame on TikTok can’t even be trusted to last more than a week. Memes come and go in a fashion never seen before, cultural institutions rising and falling in a myopic pointlessness.
I don’t really have a moral to tell here. It’s mostly venting. But talking about this subject, a memory comes to mind. I was a senior in high school talking to one of my teachers who I adored, Mrs. Nayak. I remember dropping into her class, as seniors do, and striking up a conversation. This was about the time we were receiving our decisions from college, and I went off on my usual spiel about consequentiality and how if I don’t get into the school I want I’d have a stroke. Instead of feeding my strange case of megalomania, she offered a rebuttal. “Is it better to mean something to the masses and be forgotten, or be remembered by the people that matter to you?”. I dismissed it at the time in my bout of mania, but I come back thinking about it more often now than ever before. I think we can all get a little wrapped up in ourselves. Especially as a college student, who’s been primed their entire life to go to an institution and “make something of yourself” without any real direction. I don’t want to be the guy who’s sitting around in his mid 50s questioning where he went wrong, y’know? But there’s two sides to that coin. Lamenting lost potential on heads, and lamenting lost human connection on tails. Nobody really “wins” this damned game of life, and you can be sure as hell you have no stake in what happens after “GAME OVER”. But you might as well appreciate what we have here and now, right? Make sure they remember you, at least a little bit.