We’re all getting too smart...
“Our brains are getting bigger and bigger, and the world dries up and dies when there’s too much thought and not enough heart.”
It was a blustery Sunday morning when I read these lines out of Aimee Bender’s The Remember. They were the last spoken words on the last human day of one of the characters. The character then proceeded to slowly and methodically transform, in a bizarre reverse evolution, from a man into an ape into a single-celled organism and eventually, into nothing at all.
All the while, his girlfriend mourned the loss of the man who no longer knew her like he used to. It goes without saying that it was the strangest break-up tale I’ve ever read. But I adored it. I considered this devolution as the pinnacle of all metaphors. “Man,” I’d thought, “this is deep.” Aren’t we all just too much thought and not enough heart? I mean, especially here.
Sunday afternoons are a prime instance of this. You go on Yik Yak at 1 p.m., and it’s a bevy of posts about how deserted and melancholic the quads are; you walk those aforementioned quads, and yep, there’s the rolling tumbleweeds. And there’s B level of the library, packed to the brim with focused faces and plugged-in headphones. Come on, guys, where’s the heart?
Though that’s not entirely what Aimee Bender’s introspective character was referring to, I think. This is a guy who interrupted sex with his girlfriend to sit down on the floor and have an hour-long conversation about poetry. I’m not kidding. And you might immediately be thinking, this guy has some serious psychological issues, but I think he’s more like us than we realize, or at least, he’s more like me.
These days I can barely do anything without taking a second to ponder the intense complexities of its manifestation. This weekend marked my first Hopkins theater performance, the Freshman One Acts, and I can tell you, I psyched myself out over these like I had an Olympic Medal in “Overthinking and Dwelling in Useless Anxiety.” It’s no achievement. You know those moments before you make a serious decision or a public display of some sort, when you mentally sift through every possible disastrous scenario that could unfold? Me too. I have mentally viewed, time and time again, the terrible scene that is an audience of blank, humorless stares; I have also seen the same audience, pointing and cackling because of some outrageous mistake, like me ripping my dress or tripping in my ridiculous heels.
Regardless of the unrealism, these scenes were on loop in my mind like a prepaid infomercial. Darnit, Mr. Shouting Salesman, I seriously don’t want this giant cupcake mold, give it up already. But — as I’m sure you’re aware — the brain does not simply give up.
Oh, no. The brain does not slow down for anybody. Instead, it goes on high alert, strumming through paranoid delusions and pre-decision pro/con lists. Maybe I’m an exception, as a self-proclaimed indecisive mess, but my thoughts run at a mile a minute. It’s more than just pre-theater nerves, which made me run over my lines so many times that I started integrating them naturally into casual conversations (“I need a big couch because I’m a BIG PERSONALITY!”). It also comes through in my highly debated internal monologue of what drink I should order at Brody cafe to maximize both pleasure and health (oh, the struggle), and even more than that, in social situations.
I’m going to make a broad assumption here and say that, despite the obvious variations in everyone’s social intelligence, we all know, to some level, this feeling: You want to approach somebody listening to the sort of music you like, or you want to knock on the door of someone on your floor, but you can’t. Instead of taking action, you take thoughts, and the anxious, terrible, will-they-won’t-they blurs your intentions into a self-conscious mush. Too much thought and not enough heart.
So yeah, I think Aimee Bender has a point. Maybe people are just overanalyzing. Maybe ideas and dwellings are preventing us from living in the moment, experiencing life as we please. But then I consider this dude, the guy who swapped sex for poetry, the pessimist who devolved from a man to a cell to a bunch of lifeless air, and I wonder whether lacking consciousness is really the answer. I mean, as a single cell, I doubt I would be able to act.
I doubt I would have the capacity to comprehend a script, let alone experiment with my lines on stage. I doubt I could approach anybody, as I’d lack the brain cells required to form a coherent sentence. And I seriously, seriously doubt I could have a nice, hour-long conversation about poetry. Although heart is lovely, and heart pushes me to act spontaneously when my thoughts get tongue-tied, I’m a sucker for a deep conversation. So even if they can be a bit much, even if they roll around in my mind like a pinball, I wouldn’t trade my thoughts for anything (especially not devolution).