I feel most alone when I’m in groups of people. I’ve always known that — and I’ve talked to others who feel the same — but I might have figured out tonight why I feel this way.
I grew up expecting an idealized version of humanity. Maybe it was the futuristic utopias that I saw in much of the science fiction I read and watched. Maybe it was the idealistic spirit of the age in which I grew up — a time when there seemed to be a widespread belief that an amazing future was right around the corner.
Or maybe it was just something about my own personality. I wanted the world to be amazing — and I wanted to be the one to make it amazing. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to lead the world. I wanted to be at the forefront of creating an amazing, loving and humane world.
Everything I imagined seemed so right and good — and so achievable.
I expected gleaming, futuristic cities where people voluntarily worked together to improve life for everyone. I expected almost everyone to be educated and thoughtful and kind. I expected that most humans would choose to be what I consider to be moral and just and compassionate.
I knew there would still be evil. I knew that “bad people” would still exist. But I expected the future that I saw to be so compelling — that the values of that ideal world would be so exciting and honorable — that few people would fail to be swept up in a desire for self-improvement and for making the world a better place.
Over the years, I’ve come to be attracted to cynical satire of various kinds, because I feel a need to viciously lampoon the cruel and ugly human society which we tolerate. I’m aware of much beauty and goodness and dignity in many people, but I’m so hurt by the “spirit of the world” that I can’t help but want to hold it up for ridicule.
For a long time, that didn’t make sense to me. How could I be so idealistic yet have the desire to make vicious and cynical satire attacking the stupidity and cruelty of the world around me? I’ve slowly come to understand that satire is the refuge for a disappointed idealist. Only someone who truly expected people to behave in more ideal ways could feel the need to lash out at the world — because only an idealist is truly hurt by it in this deep way.
Even today, I’m torn between what I know the world is and what I believe it can and should be. My mind still chooses to live in that world of idealism. Something in me still believes the world can and will change. Something in me believes — against all the evidence seen by my analytical brain — that people will change.
And so I mislead myself by expecting too much from human beings.
I have a terrible habit of believing that people mean what they say.
I have the frustrating habit of expecting people to be honorable and decent — just because that’s who they want to be.
I have the ridiculous habit of believing that people will do the right thing if you give them enough time and if you love them unconditionally.
I have the absurd habit of believing that we can be kind and loving to each other — and that the only way to get to that point is by loving other people and hoping they will voluntarily make the right choice.
When I’m alone — or when I’m with one of the astonishingly rare people who can reflect my idealism — I feel hopeful, because everything I want the world to be seems so obvious and so possible.
But when I’m with groups of people, I’m forced to confront the ugly reality that the world isn’t yet ready to become my ideal. When I’m among groups of people, I fear that they never will be ready. And my fear and loathing for what they are drives me to judge myself as a hypocrite — preaching love and rejecting people for not meeting my idealistic standard.
That makes me feel alone. And that makes me desperate for connection with those few who have the heart and the vision to see the idealistic utopia I’d like to live in.
I know the world will never be perfect. I know that even if I build my little corner of the world to be the utopia I would like it to be, we humans are fallible enough that we would stumble along the way. We would find ways to mess it up. We would disappoint me.
But the fact we are terribly imperfect doesn’t mean we can’t do better than what we’re doing today — and it doesn’t mean the distant future can’t be just as radically different (in better ways) from 2017 as the present day is from the world of the year 1017.
I will never see this radically better world, but I want to hold onto the dream. I want to teach my children these idealized values to pass along to their own children. I want to teach these values to anyone who will listen. I want to teach people to have faith that humanity can change.
If we do the right things today, the future can be different. I will never see it, but if we put the right plans in place today, the future a thousand years from now might finally resemble this idealized world that I so desperately want today.
For now, I’ll continue to be reminded of what we humans really are every time I’m in groups of people. I’ll continue to hate what I see. I’ll continue to seek the few who can share my dreams and my values. I’ll continue to feel guilty about hating what I see.
Mostly, though, I’ll continue to seek a home with a wife and children who can share my values — even if most of the world believes that doing the right thing is for suckers.