A picture of me

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A picture of me

23 Jun, 2022


In 1987, two men were found to be wandering alone in the Brazilian Amazon. They were obviously tribal peoples, but they didn't seem to have a tribe. Neither modern Brazilians nor other local tribal people were able to understand or identify their language. For reasons I'm not quite clear on, they were taken forcefully to go live on a reservation, and subsequently were moved many times over the years. Their names were Aurê and Aurá (pronounced ow-rey and ow-rah). Their exact ages were unknown, but in 2018 Aurá was guessed to be around 65; Aurê died in 2012.

What happened to these two men's tribe? No one knows for sure. The most likely explanation is that they were either killed off by a rival tribe, or by ranchers/miners/loggers who had been moving into the area since around the time they were found. Only one man, a linguist who lived in the area, had ever managed to learn any of their language, and what he did learn was not enough to communicate fluently. Aurá would often ramble to himself about something terrible that happened in the past, likely the incident that killed off his tribe. When asked by the linguist where his people went, he would only reply that they were dead.

Try to put yourself in his place for a second. The world that this man knew is gone. He lives now in some kind of strange afterlife, spending most of his time sitting alone in a hut waiting to die. People who lose their job or their business after working there for so many years, or their house with all their possessions in it, or their spouse of fifty years, often say afterwards that it/they was “their whole world.” In some cases we wouldn't argue with them. But even when you lose the most important thing to you, the one thing you spend all your time and effort on, there still exists a world that you are familiar with to some extent. Roads, houses, TV shows, politicians, toothpaste, apple pie, people who speak the same language as you do- all of that remains. For Aurá, most of what remains is the forest itself, though he lives now within walking distance of many modern things which were never part of his world until he was captured, and is too old to live off the land like he used to.

It was only two days ago that I watched the documentary about these men, and I would have wanted to tell people the story even if everything was going great for me, because I find it fascinating, but as it is, I feel more like Aurá than I do the average American citizen- whatever that may mean. I feel, now more than ever, like I am the last of my kind. My social life dissolved over a period of years in my late thirties, to the point where, from October or November of 2020 until a few days after Christmas in 2021, I did not see a single person that I knew. Let me be clear about what I'm saying: I went over a year being entirely solitary, as if I were locked away in a tower by myself. I had, in that time, maybe three conversations on the phone, and exchanged a few words here and there with my neighbors or people I didn't know out in public. Since I wasn't working or otherwise involved in anything, and lived alone, this was entirely possible. People complained a lot about feeling isolated during covid lock-down even when they had room mates and jobs and school and friends and family. Of course when things suddenly change drastically, the difference is noticeable, and can be hard to adjust to. And I believe that what they felt was real; the world is a very isolating and dehumanizing place these days. But I don't know of anyone, save for maybe some of the older homeless people who've all but lost their will to live, and Aurá, who would understand what it feels like to have no one.

It is not just the physical isolation either. If it were only that, I'd still wake up in a good mood every day, knowing that I had friends who care about me, and who care about what I care about, and who thought of me as an integral part of their lives, even if we couldn't hang out regularly. Even if I didn't have close friends, but was still part of a community where I was listened to and respected, that would be something. But I have none of that. I haven't been close to anyone in years, and I hardly ever talk to any acquaintances either. Even in the more anonymous virtual world that people spend so much time in now, I am a nobody. I have found no groups there that I can be a part of. My ideas, my attitude, my life story, the difficulties I currently have in functioning- all of these things make me too different to fit in anywhere for more than a singular moment. By singular moment I mean when you and a stranger on the street both witness something worth mentioning/laughing at/etc and happen to be within talking distance to each other, and you share a moment. Beyond that though, I don't know of anyone I could get along with day after day. Nobody speaks my language. The world seems to run on endless positive-vibes-only small talk, and I can't do that anymore. A few minutes maybe, on a good day, but then I'm done. There is no possible way I could keep up a friendship based on that level of energy.

There's a movie that came out a couple years ago called I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, and that title pretty much sums it up. Most of the things- and I mean like 99.9%- that people do or talk about, I just have no interest in (or actively disagree with). Under vastly different circumstances, I certainly could or even would, but not in this world. I cannot take seriously all these fleeting pastimes and bucket lists and ultra-specific cultural critiques when the world is a horrible place that is going to implode soon if we don't do something about it. If I'm going to be involved in one of those conversations, it needs to be either with someone I'm really drawn to, or someone who already knows what I'm about. I can't talk just for the sake of talking anymore. I haven't had the energy for that in a long time.

You might think that since I've been so deprived of company and conversation I would be happy to get whatever I can, even if it's just surface level chatting, but it's not like that. I am often desperately looking inward to find the strength to go on, or the answer to some question, but I am no longer desperate for outward things, and certainly not for things of low quality. Accepting a constant stream of low quality things for most of my life, including interactions with other people, only contributed to the way my life has gone and the way I feel now. No, I am only interested in something real, whatever that may be. That's why I love writing- it feels like I'm talking to someone who gets me.

To be fair, and look at it from another direction, maybe I'm not nearly as unique as I think I am, and this is all just a reaction to not being loved or feeling appreciated or understood. And maybe someday in the future, I'll come to the conclusion that I had wasted all this time by thinking I was in some way separate from everyone else, when I just needed to love them even more. Maybe. But until then, I feel like I'm the last of my kind.

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