The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.
This seems to be a word created rather than an actual word, but who cares? If it gives you a profound concept there needs to be a word for, then add it to your vocabulary! In this age of unprecedented narcissism with social media, a realization and appreciation of the complexity facing others is a very good thing!
One of the stories Freakonomics is best known for is their research into whether your name has any positive or negative impact on your economic destiny, particularly if you had a rare name, or name associated with cultures discriminated against widely. The study was focused on African-Americans, as heard in the podcast below from some time back.
Data, though, doesn’t always tell the full story. In fact, it doesn’t tell anybody’s story, just a group’s outcomes. Freakonomics recently followed up this story with one where Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck successfully defended a PhD about what it’s like for African-Americans with almost unique names to go through life, to get the personal stories of real people and see if their names really mattered in their lives. Have a listen to hear how the stories differ from the data, even if they may end up in the same outcome, and why the how makes a huge difference!
Zoochosis is a word used to explain the stereotypical behavior of animals in captivity, which tends to be ones that show a creature going crazy since it is not in its natural environment, as I discussed in this post. But here’s an interesting question. As a nomadic species for tens of thousands of years, and a rural one at that as little as a few decades ago that is but a blink in our evolutionary history, are we suited to the urban lifestyle that is not unlike a zoo for us? And can we answer that by seeing if we suffer similar symptoms to zoochosis we diagnose in animals, when we live in dense urban areas lacking much nature?
This Hidden Brain podcast provides some pretty interesting, if not conclusive, answers, even though the research wasn’t quite framed like that. I’m actually surprised they didn’t make the connection. It would have made the story and research a lot more relatable as we all know the concept of zoos and what it must be like to be an animal trapped in there for people to see, pet, and such, in a place very different than the ones they belong in, despite our best efforts to make the zoo areas similar to their natural environment.