The Theory of Visitors

“She leaned in. ‘Do you believe in the theory of visitors?’ She said this conspiratorially, as if she was sharing with me a secret.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘All relationships are transient,’ she said. ‘Friends who stab you in the back. People you network with at a fancy party. Relatives who die. The love of your life. Everything is temporary. People come into your life for a limited amount of time, and then they go away. So you welcome their arrival, and you surrender to their departure. Because they are all visitors. And when the visitors go home, they might take something from you. Something that you can’t ever get back. And that part sucks. But visitors always leave souvenirs. And you get to keep those forever.'”

—Sam Lansky, “The Theory of Visitors.” Medium.com. November 10, 2017.

Enjoyed the whole essay. It invites us to consider that the theory of visitors and the looking for the next swipe right encounter might be preventing us from interacting more deeply with people. Engaging with the projected personas that are reflected in the digital medium that can only be maintained at short intervals or at a distance, we make quick judgments about complicated, multi-faceted human beings. Perhaps everyone is a visitor, but the key point may be that relationships (at least some of them) are worth investing time in, irrespective of their duration.

Fewer Opinions

“We have a staggering arrogance in our own belief. That can be tempered by not being 100% certain; by being provisional. No matter what the debate is, very few people have the modesty to suspend judgement on a whole range of things; most intelligent people have an opinion and are expected to have an opinion by other people – but it always requires making a personal judgement that goes way-beyond your expertise. We do it all the time.

It would be good if we were encouraged to have fewer opinions. To be more willing to say ‘I just don’t know’. Sure, sometimes you have to come down one way or another for practical matters – but being aware that that’s the case is enough.

For example, let’s say I want to take a view about whether I need to lose weight or not. There’s conflicting advice on this. I can suspend judgement – but that would be burying my head in the sand. I come to a judgement based on my very imperfect knowledge of the science. I have to do that – but it doesn’t mean that, in doing so, I have the right answer. I just think: ‘it’s the way it seems; it’s the best judgement I can make; it could be wrong. Fingers crossed!’”

—Julian Baggini, “Baggini’s Consolations For A Post-Truth World.” 3:AM Magazine. November 11, 2017.

Bushman Money Magic

“Jackal [the Bushman trickster god] had been riding his donkey and grew tired. He decided to stop and cook some meat. When the meat was stewing in his pot, he saw some [cattle ranchers] coming toward him. Quickly he covered the fire with sand so they could not see it.

When the [cattle ranchers] arrived he said to them, ‘Look, you black people, this is a magic pot. It doesn’t need a fire to cook food. You must just hit it three times like this.’

Jackal grabbed his whip and hit the pot three times. Tca-tca-tca! Then he opened it and showed the [cattle ranchers] that the meat was still sizzling hot.

‘I will sell you this magic pot for one thousand dollars,’ said Jackal.

‘This is a wonderful pot,” the [cattle ranchers] conceded. So they gave Jackal a thousand dollars, took the pot and left.

When the [cattle ranchers] had walked for a while, they grew hungry. So they put some raw meat in the pot and hit it three times with a whip. But when they opened it, they saw that the meat was raw. So they hit the pot again. But the meat was still raw.

‘We have been tricked!” they shouted. ‘This Jackal, this Bushman, he is a crook.” So they went back to find the Jackal. When Jackal saw them coming, he was scared. So he quickly took the money they had given him for the pot and hid it in his donkey’s anus.

When they reached the Jackal, the [cattle ranchers] said, ‘Jackal, this pot is not magic. Take it and give us our money back!’

‘I can’t,’ replied Jackal. ‘This pot is yours now. Anyway, I have already spent the money.’

But just as he said this, the donkey farted and all the money tumbled from his backside. For a second Jackal was terrified, but then he smiled.

‘Look at this donkey,’ Jackal said to them. ‘It’s magic because you feed it grass and it will shit money. If you buy this donkey from me for a thousand dollars, it will shit more money for you!’

‘Ah, this is a magic donkey!’ agreed the [cattle ranchers]. So they gave Jackal another thousand dollars. And with the donkey in tow, they went away again. As soon as they were gone, Jackal fled with the money.'”

—/Engn!au quoted in James Suzman, Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushman (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017), 241-242.