I love watching people. Imagining who they could be and where they’ve come from and where they’re going is fascinating. And while it is really fun to pretend that I’m a detective and to try to deduce things about the people around me, I’m aware that I am probably not getting most of my deductions right. The things I come up with are too romantic for real life, but the beautiful part is that it’s okay to be completely wrong. It’s like I’m trying to tell a story about a person who just happens to be sitting in front of me. It’s just storytelling, and storytelling can be as romantic as the storyteller wants.
Maybe I do this because it helps me to pretend that real life can be fascinating and idealistic. If I can convince myself that the woman in front of me on BART is carrying a violin case because she just auditioned for the San Francisco symphony, and that maybe she’s listening to her iPod with her eyes shut because she can still hear every second of her audition and her mistakes repeat in her mind over and over again like a broken record, then I get to believe that the world is a romantic place for a little while. Maybe I try to convince myself that she was just busking out in Union Square under the gleaming city lights and the gargantuan shadows of Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s. There are so many maybes and so many stories, and they all stretch out ahead of my imagination like a thousand-forked road.
Storytelling is just another way of convincing ourselves that the world is something that it isn’t really. My stories tend to verge on the romantic and the idealistic because that’s how I wish the world worked. I want to believe that there is magic in everyday life, and I know that that’s incredibly cheesy, but I’m cheesy so often anyway that it doesn’t even matter by now.
There’s this thing that I like to call the human factor. The name isn’t mine because I borrowed it from an episode of Castle, but that’s another story. Basically, though, I see the human factor as the package of intuition and emotion that make us so changeable and unpredictable. It’s not always a good thing or a bad thing; just fascinating. The human factor is in the brave and ridiculous and selfless and selfish and beautiful and disgusting things that the seven or eight billion people living on this planet do every day.
The human factor is what keeps people telling stories. Without it, there wouldn’t even be a point to trying. Authors spend so much time and effort trying to capture that spark of unpredictability because that is what makes people so fascinating. Their take on the human factor reveals how they view the world. Like, I would love the human factor to be this beautiful thing that is only revealed in the absolutely amazing things that people do, because I’m a romanticist. I’m enough of a realist to realize that that wouldn’t do justice to the human factor or humanity in general, though. The horrible things that people do are part of the human factor too. It’s the potential for greatness that makes the human factor so fascinating.
While it’s really cool to pretend that I’m this outsider looking in and gaining knowledge on human nature, I know that it’s just another round of pretending. It’s fun to believe that I am insightful and capable of reading people’s behavior like so many words on paper, but the thing is, I already know that it’s just pretend. But pretending is just another part of the human factor. See? It’s everywhere.