John Taylor (_johnboy) wrote,
John Taylor

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It's sometimes hard to remember that abilities are not all that a person is.

We are given rank, honor, status, and power according to our abilities. These things, however, are not all that we are. Sometimes when reputation precedes us, we lose the human element that goes hand in hand with the ability. Any person that others may respect or revere is still just a person, regardless of abilities. They have feelings, they have their own issues they must contend with, they have their own friends, their own relational dynamics, their own health, their own beliefs and parents and upbringing and standards and morals and opiniopns. Yet they are only known through the actions they do. Why is it that the reputation carries with it only a small fraction of what we are?

We can forget that a band is not comprised of rock gods, but is really made of people with musical talent (usually) that still have their own problems. We can think that teachers exist to grade papers or give lectures. We can see a person as only the sum of the parts that they do to affect us. Few people are going to stop for a moment and wonder what a world reknowned doctor's favorite drink or color is. They won't care what an Olympic athlete does in his or her free time. No, the popularity comes solely from their ability to do what others cannot, by being exceptionally good at their job (or being exceptionally good at promoting themselves).

People take on the status of the roles they serve or fulfill and become nothing else to us. They become objectified, they become un-people. They become replaceable parts in an organic machine. And they stay that way in our minds.

This approach becomes rather difficult to escape, even after having met a person and gotten to know some of the personal details of their life. If you befriend your mailman, you'll still refer to him as 'your mailman', not by his identity of an actual person, because other people (yourself included) need a frame of reference to remember him by. We're even possessive about it, calling him "my mailman, Ted" as though his life is to serve us. We'll refer to them either as "Ted, my mailman" or "my mailman, Ted", both of which are equally degrading to the life of a person as more than the job they perform, no matter the order in which the words are said.

Objectification is difficult to escape because it helps with memory and in observing patterns. It's hard to resist because it's useful. It's subtle. Objectification is the counter to intimacy, but they are not mutually exclusive - you can view a person as they are to you, in an intimate fashion, and you can also remove yourself from the equation and see the person independent of your own reaction to them, to see them as an interactive object, a part of the environment. There is no limit to this - you can see them subjectively or objectively regardless of whether you just met a person or have known them for years. "Ted" may always be your mailman, but he can perhaps become more than that if you take the time to find out details about him. His may be the advice or outlook on life that could shatter or change your own approach, to give you a new vantage point. Nature has created us uniquely, no matter how many similarities we might share. Simply do not limit yourself to classifying a person as only what they do - there is always more to the picture.

Because there is no word to describe the human existence.
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