Ask The Plant
By Julie Jacques
Excerpt from comic by Jeroom Snelders
How do I get people to stop perceiving me on a daily basis?
Dear No one,
Avoidance of this phenomenon is simpler than it seems. It only requires uprooting your entire world view and way of life in order to avoid all human contact. I’ll talk you through it:
First, forget about outside validation. This yearning will get you nowhere, since it is defined by allowing another to go through the steps of perceiving you.
Once you have banished any desire to be loved, praised, or worshipped, you are ready to further your quest on the path to imperceptibility.
You must swear off any technology which allows yourself or your thoughts to be tracked. This means no phone, no computer, no internet. You might want to dig the microchip out of your arm, too.
Find your official documents: destroy them. Presumably, people think of you when you aren’t around. Horrifying. Find a scientist willing to erase the memory of anyone who ever knew you. Steal their technology, and erase the scientist’s memory, too.
Now, find a way to the middle of nowhere. When you get there, don’t stop. Find a spot a little to the right of the middle of nowhere, so people don’t accidentally perceive you when they use the phrase “middle of nowhere.”
This is your new home.
In this, the not quite middle of nowhere, away from civilization, people will surely have to stop perceiving you.
Not comfortable with that idea?
I guess there are other, less extreme ways of limiting perceptions of yourself. You could destroy any semblance of individuality in your personality or appearance. So then, people would be unable to perceive an individual, seeing as you wouldn’t be one. Their perception of you would only be the perception of a shell of yourself.
Not good enough?
D.W. Winnicott said that “it is a joy to be hidden, and disaster not to be found.” I think he, like many others, understood what has since been defined, by Tim Kreider, as the mortifying ordeal of being known.
The thing about the mortifying ordeal of being known is that it is hard to escape. Most humans are incapable of the great uprooting I described above. We want others to perceive us, even though it may not be the best-case scenario.
Really, do you want people to stop perceiving you, or are you worried about how they will perceive you? Unfortunately, you have no control over the how. We are all blessed with the ability to interpret.
It may be productive to participate in a less extreme version of the emancipation I earlier described. Take the day off, when you can. Hide under the blankets, emerging only when you’re sure your housemates won’t notice. Banish any screens. Spend the day alone, and revert back to the primitive mindset. Really try to comprehend how a neanderthal would have lived.
Alternately, consider the colour of the sky. Wonder what it would be to be a cat, so easily unaffected by others, when they want to be. Maybe then, the mortifying ordeal of being known will be a little less mortifying.
That’s all I’ve got for you.
Goodbye, for now, No one.