I still remember — it must have been over a dozen years ago — the profoundness I felt when I first heard the condition of the elevator: people are there in close proximity, but psychically everyone is in their own world, trying their best not to make eye contact or interact with others. I also remember thinking while riding the bus in Berlin (also so many years ago) that this “loneliness in the crowd” was attenuated by the fact that at least I didn’t speak the same language as everyone else. There’s really no “excuse” for our quotidian interactions.

It’s a strange world that we live in, where physical distance doesn’t have much bearing on our associations and empathies with people. Of course, the internet and other technologies make this worse. I, of course, am very guilty of indulging in this trend: most of my best friends I rarely see or even talk (as in, on the phone) to, but we keep communication online. And outside of the college dorm community, which in some deep sense is not representative of any standard cross-sectional sampling of society, I have never really built rapport with neighbors.

There is something comfortingly defensive about this passive stance, however. Especially for the introverted like me, it is one of the only ways to manage to fact that there are so many people in this world. The number of people we superficially see or come in contact with each and every day is mindbogglingly larger than what our evolutionary social senses are adapted to comfortably accommodate. I have a hard enough time remember the names of people, a situation of which my sectionees are painfully aware; and I have little interest in getting to know or befriending thousands of people. Those people that I know are just fine, thanks. (Well, except for the, you know, girlfriend bit.)

Perhaps this is one reason why I like ballet class: this feeling of forced solitariness (loneliness?) in a crowd. Outsider, no talking, intense concentration on something that’s not the people right around you (tp girl ruins this, (un)fortunately [can’t blame her for being so cute and good at dancing, though {am I nesting parenthetical comments correctly?}]). Everyone is focused on what they’re doing, and their neighbors are present in mind but incidental. One gets lost in the moment, each building a similar world with obviously different precision.

There is, however, an unshakable difference between the “loneliness in the crowd” and the “loneliness in your room.” Namely, that despite efforts to deny it, the presence of people does have an effect on you, even if, for the large part, you choose to ignore them. I think it is one of my deep, Emersonian wishes to be somehow completely self reliant, able to do things by and for myself and without consideration of others, “an island unto myself” or such. Mostly, to convince myself that my actions would be based off some universal imperative (whatever that means), as opposed to peer pressure or the dictates of society — the crazy lives of secular humanists. I am more antisocial than most, but I can say that almost surely (that’s a probability joke, which I don’t get) this wish is bound to fail. We humans are just too intertwined to be able to give up societal interactions.

But the mind is a difficult thing to satisfy because it knows absence as well. That is why, e.g. I am dreading going to tomorrow’s party. The people there will be the nicest in the world, friends that I really do want to see, but at the end of the day, only that emptiness will be felt. “Every night I shiver alone before I sleep,” etc. Just like the “exercise high” dissipates after a few hours, so does the “social high.” This, along with the arbitrary artificiality of enforced social interaction, is why I dislike going to bars and clubs. But even after seeing good friends, there is still that lingering hollow aftereffect. At the end of the day, when all the fun is done, my only companion is myself, and everything fades.

That which we call love

But of course, on Sad Men’s Day, what would one expect from me but some rumination on the helplessness of my situation?

It’s not that I don’t believe that the rational, scientific efforts I use in every other part of my life won’t work for love. It is a rather naive view that somehow we humans aren’t predictable, that we can’t make (fake?) ourselves attractive to others. Everyone has buttons that can be pushed.

However, I don’t want to think of love in that way which would work easiest. Just because it is as much a matching problem as finding a job doesn’t mean that we must treating finding a girlfriend the same way. There is a fundamental desire to work in a different light, to not have one’s entire life conform to one strict philosophy, to keep some parts of this world left to wonder. So even if I as a rational agent don’t believe in true love, I desperately want to. I don’t want to prepare for dating as I would a job interview. And I am willing to give up that success in order to keep this belief alive. Perhaps this is undue stubbornness on my part. But we are made to compromise on everything else in life that I think maybe this is somewhere where I can take a stand. At least you know now how to be alone for 27 Valentine’s days.

Part of the problem is that I’m not even sure what I want, or what I could even offer. I don’t want someone to love me for material reasons, and so I do not pursue wealth. I also don’t think anyone will love me for my mind. I’m not dumb, but I’m no genius, either. Perhaps it’s because my cohort is so amazing, or maybe because I don’t like myself all that much, but if you’re my friend, chances are I think you’re stronger, smarter, and sexier than me. And no one will love me for my physical self, I can guarantee you that. So what else is there left for me to give? I can only offer my flawed self.

I do know, though, that there are three people in the world who would love me for as me. And the record shows that I could be a better son and a better brother.

But shouldn’t love be something simple? Life is complicated enough as it is without all these machinations, speaking obtusely, complicated societal rules of engagement. Surely someone else also sees through the masque; truth is simpler than fiction.

All of this is to say that I am confused and alone, as always. It is silly to think that we were put on this world to be happy. Most of us suffer, and it’s not hard for me to believe that love is only for the lucky and the strong. So until inspiration hits, I will wait until my grave, and I will wait.

SFB Balanchine Program

Saturday 2pm, 2/13. It’s really not that hard to understand why Balanchine is worshipped as a choreographic genius, and today’s program showed why.

“Serenade” started out the program, and I must say it was nice to see Elana Altman on the stage. Kristin Long and Yuan Yuan Tan also had soloist roles. I don’t remember if I’ve seen “Serenade” live before, but it is strikingly beautiful. KL seemed to be sprightlier than I remember; perhaps her injury (injuries?) have finally healed. YYT is elegant as always, although there was some sort of hairclip problem that was very conspicuous. From youtube, it looks like the hair was supposed to go down intentionally, but it sure looked a little awkward. One might say unballetic. Oh well.

I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I have a very hard time staying awake during “Stravinsky Violin Concerto,” despite not disliking either the music or the ballet itself. Maybe it’s just that I get really tired during the middle of the program, or that the complexity of it all tires my brain out. Nonetheless, it was a great show by Altman and Vanessa Zahorian.

But really it was Maria Kochetkova in “Theme and Variations” that stole the show. She’s a freakin’ dynamo of energy and effervescence. And despite being rather short, her lines are unbelievable — she inhabits so much more space and radiates so much confidence. It’s very hard to take your eyes off her when she’s dancing. Taras Domitro also had a clean, regally understated performance, but he didn’t show up for the curtain call. Hopefully he’s ok and not injured. There was one bit of partnering where maybe something didn’t go quite right.

I remember seeing an excerpt of “Theme and Variations” during Tina Leblanc’s farewell performance. Today’s performance seemed so much more infused with spirit. But then again, I think sitting up close gives a much different perspective than back in the standing room area. I really am beginning to think that distance mutes the effect of ballet. Going back up to the balcony section would probably be torture at this point.

Two pieces by Tchaikovsky in one show seemed a little repetitive, much as I like his music.

I have to find a way to see program 2, which ends next weekend. It will also be an exciting weekend next weekend, because we’re supposed to go see a company class of SFB right before the show on Sunday. One of the perks of being a Stanford student and having Muriel Maffre as a teacher, I suppose. I don’t know why going to see a class seems so exciting, but I’m excited. I’ll probably stay and see the program afterward, which is the Balanchine program again. Hopefully the cast is different, but to be honest I wouldn’t mind seeing the same dancers again.