November 12, 2012

The Human Experience

It is 1:30 in the morning on a Sunday night, and I am in bed, so to speak, although not quite attempting sleep yet. I am thinking about running and life and the trajectory of both, already worrying about a 50K that is months away. I am still wearing my running tights, somewhat due to their warmth, but also because I simply like the association. If I do enough runner-y things, then perhaps that rubs off, and I get as good as I want to be. Maybe.

Tomorrow is Monday, of course, which means work, and also that I really should be asleep. But I am doing this instead, and not only because of the running trepidation.

I've been thinking about people, our nature, and work. I am neither a biologist nor an anthropologist, but I do read quite a bit on both, albeit recreationally, and feel somewhat that this statement is well informed and safe.

Humans are, for all of our dissociation from nature, still a product of it, still somewhat captive to our ancestry and biology. We are unique in some regards, but not unique in being unique. We are animals with features that other animals don't have, in precisely the same way that other animals are distinct.

We can then surmise, quite easily, that we, being animals still, might be driven by similar primary motivators. And furthermore, that in our current environment, we have a severely skewed perception and interaction with said motivators. We are, to borrow a somewhat trendy and oft-used phrase, zoo humans. This does not refer exclusively to a lack of exposure to dirt and rocks (though it does refer to that, certainly, and I do love those things), but to a lack of less tangible things, and an excess of others.

This is not a call to abandon modern society and all of its trappings, or even to damn it. I've just finished two magazines and a book, and am using a laptop computer to compose this. Tomorrow, I will use an espresso machine to make coffee drinks. I am not looking to give any of these things up.

Not merely because I'm an indulgent hypocrite (though, you know, perhaps), but because all of those things, I would argue, have the power to satisfy some of the base desires of the human animal. We are often referred to as social creatures, and that's true. We need people, but not merely a swarm of then surrounding us - we need to interact with them. We need to read about their experiences and their adventures, share in the beauty of their lives through the beauty of their language. And we need a gathering place, somewhere to retreat from our numbing tasks and engage with one another, face to face, to share our days, every day, crafting a collective narrative.

I would argue that, ultimately, that is the coffee bar's calling. It is to be a watering hole of sorts, a place to meet, exhale, tell stories, and simply build familiarity. It is a fluid and fractal tribe, but about the best we can do these days. That, to me, is what work is. It's a chance to stand on my feet and use my hands, to make drinks that I love and sip on delicious coffee from an adorable little demitasse throughout the day. But mostly it's a chance to be a part of a community, to be a person amongst people, a human amongst humans, doing what is is that makes us happy, since the beginning of this infinite present.

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