Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Like an Englishman in New York

[I published this post in the spring of last year on my other blog. But I figured it fits in here, too.]

Lately I feel weirded out again. I have these phases when I get depressed and feel utterly lonely because no one around me is like me or understands me.

At work I often feel at the wrong place. I don't share the humour of my coworkers and sometimes I despise their dull jokes and rude behaviour. Especially one external coworker is annoying me to no end - but I seem to be the only one. Am I too sophisticated? Plus I think I did some really clever work, for example I guessed the cause of a bug where programmers were searching for days; but my idea was dismissed. Even after it turned out, hours later, that I was right, no one acknowledged it.
Is there an expression for feeling superior to your peers but instead of feeling good and proud, it just makes you sad and lonely?

There were also several events in the last few weeks to maybe trigger this feeling further.

The Death of Leonard Nimoy.
When I was a certain age and struggling with what maybe was the oncoming of a clinical depression, I wished I was a Vulcan. Superior in mind and especially in control of all emotions, not letting those get in the way. So of course Spock was my favourite character of the original Star Trek series.

Surprisingly Nimoys death was big news in mainstream media, too.
But when I searched for products, you know, fan merch, I mostly got those "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock" stuff from Big Bang Theory. And it made me wonder: how many people actually saw Star Trek, the original series? Most, it seems, just know him from Big Bang Theory or the new Star Trek movies, like some kind of second-hand geekism.

The Death of Terry Pratchett.
Even though of course I was aware it would happen sooner or later, this came as a shock, too. Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, and it was always a joy to hold a new Discworld book in your hands and be able to read it. It felt like not only Sir Terry died, but with him Susan Sto Helit, and Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching and Sam Vimes - they all died, too. Additionally I'm following his daughter Rhianna Pratchett on twitter and felt sorry for her. It also made me terrified of thinking about my parents dying.

Seeing how she dealt with this made me admire her more. I'm not a big gamer myself, so I'm not interested too much in her role in the gaming industry. But I read a piece on her and her relationship with her father and it made me feel like she's a kindred spirit. In a way, maybe, a better version of myself. And I thought: Wow, it would be great to have a friend like that. Someone who maybe not shares all of my exact interests, but someone who understands and listens.
Anyway, I did wear all black at work the next day. Since I always wear rather dark clothes, no one noticed. I did not mention it, I was afraid of condescending remarks and how I'd react to them.

I feel like a lot of the good ones go, musicians, too, and I'm not sure those who are still there are good enough to fill the gap. Music and books are very important to me, but what will the future hold?

The partial Solar Eclipse in Europe.
I badly screwed this one up myself. Since I'm following scientific accounts and a few astronomers on Twitter I knew about this beforehand. But I had other things on my mind, procrastinated, whatever - and I only remembered a few days before that I'd need special glasses to watch it. I also underestimated the demand and the supply of these glasses. Other than with the total eclipse in 1999 hardly anyone sold these glasses this time. And those places were sold out. So in the end I couldn't get any. I was rather angry with myself because it would have been no problem if I had just taken care of it a few days earlier.

No one around me was interested in watching the eclipse and most considered my quest a little peculiar. I actually built three different kinds of pinhole cameras the evening before and took them with me to work. Two or three coworkers got interested then. I got excited when I realized our shutters acted like pinhole cameras, too, and you could watch the eclipse right there, tenfold, in our office. I could not understand how people around me could be so indifferent. I just don't get it! This happens so rarely, who knows whether we'll have a chance this good ever again, the weather was wonderful. How can they get excited about a worldcup that happens every four years, but not about this?

I could hardly do any work during the morning and then went out around the time of the highest eclipse to try out my pinhole cameras. There were three others there. Three! Ok, it was just one door of many, but still... One of them had special glasses (old ones from 1999) and I could borrow them for a few glances. I was really happy about that. The others were curious about my equipment. Something as simple as a pinhole camera fascinated them so much, like a magic trick - and those were grown-ups, mostly working in IT. I felt like I came from another world.

After it was over I felt so happy that I could experience this. I wish I could have shared it with more people, shared my joy. I still can't get my head around most people being so indifferent and letting such a rare event pass without a single glance.

And even worse: lots of German schools locked their pupils inside. Yes, you read that right: school, responsible for educating children, locked them inside during this rare event. Media repeated again and again that you shouldn't look into the sun and the with the shortage of special glasses they just took the easy and safe way. Some schools even closed the shutters. I have no words for how appalled and disappointed I am. I understand the need to be safe, I myself refused to looks through a space blanket. But Pinhole cameras are perfectly safe, cheap and easy to make. Even a famous TV physicist posted a rant about how we live in a society of fear mongering.

So, additionally to feeling lonely and cut off, I'm also sad about what this world is coming to. There is so much fear in this world and freedom and equality and peace are eaten up by it. And many of the people pretending to protect freedom are sowing fear and feel like I can do nothing but watch helplessly.
But this issue probably is better of in another blog post.

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