The Lives of Others


Sometimes I wonder about the lives of other people. What do they do? Are they happy? How have their past experiences shaped who they are today? Are they waiting for luck to strike them, or a signal telling them they should do something about it? It seems a very large amount of people are like this; maybe because so much of life seems out of our control.

Perhaps that’s why you’re here reading this, you want to know as much as I do. I don’t know if I can really give a satisfying answer, all I can do is offer my own insight.

I work in an area called South Dunedin, home to probably the most visibly quirky people in town. I see them every work day going about their business from my window & many of them seem quite downtrodden. It’s one of the poorer, if not poorest, areas in town & seems to attract misfortune; just last year heavy rain caused flooding there. It’s not a bad place to work in but I don’t know if I’d choose to live there.

At least once a week at about 8am, a group of particularly ‘off’ people will wait outside a chemist across the road from my old office. I’ve been told they’re heroin addicts gathering to get their fix of Methadone. It seems to be the kind of thing everyone here knows about but doesn’t publicly acknowledge. I believe it’s condoned because it keeps them under control; who knows what a deprived heroin addict would do. I wonder what their stories are.

Adjacent to my old office is a service that helps the mentally challenged, many of whom can be found here as well. I’m not sure I can grasp what living that way is like, being so impaired that you need a service to help you. I guess as a stutterer I can relate in some way, but it feels like a big stretch.

It would be unfair to focus only on less fortunate lives, but trouble seems to be the prevailing theme of so many lives around me. That can’t be all existence is right?

Perhaps we’re curious about other lives because we know there are so many ways a life can be lived. We constantly make choices, conscious or otherwise, that define our lives, many of which are habitual. For the choices we are aware of, we can’t help but wonder how the alternative would go. What if I did something else? What if something else happened? What if I did this earlier? What if I made the ‘bad’ choice? What if my life was different? What if…

Maybe there’s another reason for it. Maybe we’re looking for an explanation to life that’s better than the truth we inherently know – we don’t know, & we don’t like that.

Most of us like to think we know, or at least appear to know so others would favour us, but really we don’t. Most of us in our failed search will adopt or invent explanations just to make ourselves content, even if it’s a blatant lie. No one has a real explanation of what life is, or at least what our own lives are, so we just make do as best as we want to.

I guess by accepting this fact you realize that life is whatever you decide it to be. Perhaps that will help bring some closure.


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