Departments

Sociality

Social interaction is not a skill. Even the least socially capable human beings handle themselves well with animals. In truth anyone who can manage a dog can manage any social necessity. We imagine that there must be something more to social interaction – some difference that raises human sociality as far above animal sociality as human beings themselves are above animals. But there is no such difference. Body language and tone of voice speak louder than any words said. We know there is something more to be had from the company of human beings than can be had from the company of animals; but when we try to reach for it, we grasp nothing. Still, we are not wrong. There is such a difference, but it lies not in social interaction, but beyond it. The mechanism of sociality is not how we connect, but how we avoid and regulate connection. In all human beings there is something so tender, so piteous, so kind, so sympathetic and so generous that it would sooner have us, like the heraldic pelican, wound ourselves to issue blood and give it, than see another go thirsty – something more than vulnerable, self-vulning. To survive we must armor and bar this something; so we place it in the same protected center of our instincts where the animal keeps its throat and belly. It will not be exposed to you until you have proved trustworthy, well-intentioned, and undemanding. That you are human does not give you the right to expect others to undress for you, even if you undress for them; to expect this deeper unveiling, even if you go about so deeply unveiled, is deeper folly.