“When a hundred men stand together, each of them loses his mind and gets another one.”
The necessity to distinguish oneself amongst the crowd is an urge as natural as blinking one’s eyes.
Human beings are tribal creatures by nature. I say “tribal” in an attempt to differentiate us from our fellow creatures inhabiting this spinning blue pearl stuck in the Mojave Desert area of the cosmos. Like those other creatures, we form groups based on smaller-to-greater levels of similarities. We call them packs, schools, prides, flocks, herds, quorums, colonies, stocks, and swarms – all labels definitive of animals that sleep in the wild and refuse to wear socks.
Still, all of those aforementioned group forms have proven hierarchies, as we do. It’s only when we move onto those of us with opposable thumbs and the ability for abstract thought, then the pretense of more distinguished titles follows. Now we hairless apes are clans, broods, crowds, bevies, mass populi, fraternities, fellowships and the like. Most pretentious of all, we’ll use the terms society and community – all in a vain attempt to distinguish us from the meerkat.
And yet Mother Nature is nothing if not ironic: no sooner do we mature to the point memorising ourselves all of our established societal tropes than we feel the urge to break them in an attempt to stand out from the crowd. You’ve spent every day having routine so set into your very molecules that you could do it blindfolded; now you feel the urge to just make a sudden left turn. Oh sure, there’s a great safety in dancing the steps rehearsed, but sometimes you just want to give in to your inner Isadora Duncan and move your body the way you feel the music moving you. (Or – if that’s too effete an analogy – sometimes you want to give in to your inner Bruce Lee: break free of any one established style so that you can wipe the floor with Chuck Norris and his damn chest hair.)
Dependent on the given circumstances, distinguishing oneself can be more difficult than you would imagine. Sure it may seem as easy as brushing your teeth with your left hand after a lifetime of using your right, but not when you’re surrounded by southpaws all day long. I find myself in such a dilemma with the creation of this blog.
I believe it will come as no surprise that adolescent attempts at distinguishing myself lead me to the arts (Theatre in particular). What other industry is so open-armed in its embrace of outcasts, iconoclasts, and all manner of square pegs? Conformity is the norm in all other fields of business – there’s a reason why most doctors don’t act like Patch Adams – but the arts are where an idiosyncrasy is a skill. For a kid whose “loner” status strangely translated into “conformist” to his peers, the arts were a natural outlet for me to let loose in full view of all.
Yet even there, I’ve always found myself acting as black sheep amongst my colleagues. That pun was inadvertent, but the fact remains: I’ve always felt out of place in my chosen field. I went schools primarily full of Philipino kids and their attitudes towards Black people were… varied. It didn’t help that all the Black kids thought I acted “too White” to hang out with. These days I’m still in the ethnic minority, but my individuality is more defined by my lack of experience: I haven’t the extensive education, the valuable connections, the well-traveled passport, or even the appealing personality as most of the folks I tend to be around. While I know that I should own the characteristics that set me apart, it’s sucks to tell people that all of your friends are The Munsters, but you’re the Marilyn.
Very few of my colleagues have expressed a disdain at these factors to my face (I said “very few”, I didn’t say “none”). That doesn’t change the fact that each and every time I speak to one of them, I can’t help but think that they’re just waiting for me to shut up so they can say something smarter; that every word from my mouth is regarded as an extensive stream of white noise. As a guy whose mind is constantly wracked with insecurity, it makes me wonder why I bother speaking at all?
How many blogs are there by actors/directors/writers/art-critics/pop-culture-commentators/job-hunters-in-major-cities-post-recession/straight-guys-over-30-looking for-dates? Let me put it this way, a Google search might just crash your browser. I’m surprised Tyler Durden hasn’t appeared to tell me that I’m not special.
It’s at this point that I’m reminded of a passage from David Mamet’s On Directing Film. He recalls stepping into the director’s chair for his first film, House of Games, and having a bit of a mental crisis in an attempt to find the “perfect” shot. His mind is put at ease once he comes to the he doesn’t need to “be Kurosawa with every shot” – just that which is most effective and move on (I’ll save my criticism of Mamet’s often lifeless directorial style for another time). So too was my mind put at ease when beginning to create the blog you see before you. Mine will be neither the first nor last to comment on books, videogames, films, plays, food, dating in San Francisco, racial politics of the local art scene, or why a durian smoothie is liquid heaven. What’s more, my opinions might not differ from those said before or after me. So what? The fact that my opinion conforms or defers from the zeitgeist has no bearing on that fact that said opinion is still mine, and my opinion will be nothing if not sincere.
I am both of and against the crowd. I go with the flow just as easily as I swim upstream. I walk in tandem as simply as I dance to my own beat. Such is the way of humanity.
I make no promises that this blog will be anything ground-breaking or revolutionary (nor do I guarantee the contrary); I promise only to treat my corner of the interwebs as I do my tangible property in the real world: as my own. Love it, hate it, print it out and use it at the bottom of a birdcage. The only “wrong” thing would be letting it go to waste.