Meaning by Surprise

I think people are color-blind in the morning. When I wake up and look out the window, I can’t tell if the sky is blue or gray. Likewise, I can’t tell which way this day is going to take me. And sometimes a bit of grogginess is all it takes for a thought to take me by surprise.

When you are reading a book or having an intellectual conversation, your mind expects to be challenged by ideas that are unfamiliar. Your abstract thinking is fully en garde, acting as a filter and a shield. It foresees things, protecting you from surprise, and it tempers emotions like anger or exultation.

Daytime adult thinking provides a middleman (a proxy) between you and the world. This middleman is stronger than you (he will not cry in public if he can avoid it), and unlike you, he can see himself through the eyes of others. He is your personal ambassador to the world. You might be screaming inside, but he will keep his composure. You might be disgusted, but he will remain polite. You might be about to jump off a building or tell someone you love them — he will betray neither.

It is probably a good thing that we have this public persona at our service. Without it, the world would look too much like a kindergarten, or a madhouse. But while the middleman filters our thoughts and feelings, presenting to the world a watered-down, more acceptable version of ourselves, he also works the other way around. The trickster knows more about the world than he will let us see.

If a person you care about hurts you, your ambassador will not disclose the full implications of that until you safely lock yourself in your room. If the girl of your dreams has just agreed to a date, your ambassador will not let you jump with joy until she isn’t looking. If some epiphany is staring you in the face, your ambassador will pretend omniscience to avoid looking ignorant or surprised.

(Your ambassador is also a bullshit detector. That’s why dreams are so fascinating when you wake up and he is asleep. But come morning, he will promptly convince you they didn’t happen.)

The ambassador is not infallible. He will occasionally let things slip, especially when he is half-asleep, tired, or inattentive. This is why seeing seagulls in the morning can make you smile like a child. This is why you write some of your best poems when you haven’t slept in 20 hours. This is why some seek to tranquilize their ambassadors with weed.

The more interesting case, though, is when the ambassador lets something slip because he doesn’t think much of it. These are the things which make you do a double take and ask yourself, “How could I miss that before?” These are the truths that come to you out of left field, the insights that let you see the world obliquely, and find meaning by surprise.

A girl in an English class, pointing out the difference between being in love with love and being in love with someone. A remembered dream that allows you to acknowledge and contain your fear. Something you see, that brings up a vivid memory from childhood. A guy giving voice to thoughts you never thought anyone else could have.

There is meaning, connection, and truth everywhere, but we are often too caught up in everyday things to notice. Catch yourself off-guard sometime, and today might take you to surprising and wonderful places.

zatoka 2009

2 Responses to Meaning by Surprise

  1. Alex says:

    This reminds me of what I’ve learned about Freud’s views. According to him, our personality is made of three layers (names may not be correct, but the idea is there):
    – sub-ego
    – ego
    – super-ego

    The sub-ego is the part that is out of control and is driven by instincts (ex: I want to %!#@ that female; I want to beat the hell out of person X; I want to eat that pie; etc); the super-ego is the voice of reason (ex: you can’t, she may be someone’s wife OR you can’t, you’re married, remember?; No, because in our world violence is not the answer; No, not unless you pay for it first; etc)

    The result of the negotiations between the low-level module and the high-level module is our actual behaviour.

  2. Nemetz says:

    I think that this “ambassador” is a half consicious half subconsciuos extension of fear; fear to show your real nature. It could be more of a natural selection: if people know you ->you are predictable-> you are weak.Or, it could be a social mask? If so, then i’d say that it has a lot in common with hipocrisy.

    P.S.
    I agree with your observation about the inspiration coming after 20 hours of not-sleeping. When the brain is too tired it can play some tricks with the counsciousness, some are nice, some aren’t :)
    I heard that not sleeping for a long time has similar effect on the brain as smoking weed does. That is, the chemicals contained in weed are of similar nature as those which acumulate in the brain when you are tired.

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