ONE OF THE inexorable things about getting older is that even though our lives get narrower – and, often, our opportunities – is that our worlds actually get roomier, more elastic. Simply put: the notion of self is more self- ish.
When we are younger, we are, more often than not, bullet trains with room for one. Our experiences more vivid and our emotions more unregulated, we may move around with the phantasm of everything happening to us as if it being the first thing in the history of the world that has, like, ever happened. We may also give way too much authorship to our own lives, when in actuality so much of what happens to is due to happenstance and/or what we absorb from others. In the broader sense, it is as the great Oscar Wilde once tough-loved, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
There is relief in that Wildean conceit, not just minor tragedy. It is the knowledge – paired with the selfknowledge that hopefully comes with having experienced more pain and loss as you age and having been knocked around a little by life – that we are more connected than we may have ever thought. And influenced. That the Butterfly Effect, as it were, goes back to the rock formations set by all the lives that came before you, and those that came before them. That, in the trajectory of our own existences now, we are far from individual moated island-nations – politically, for example, on a macro scale, how the hand in one nation can influence the lives of many in another, as can the environmental reach in one corner of the world send ripples elsewhere.
Long before the term “going viral” was a thing, our lives inevitably always were.