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Here’s a thought.

Think about yourself.  The way you move, the way you talk.  If you’re like most people on the planet, you have a host of specific motor behaviors—gestures, in other words.  Some of these gestures are universal.  Smiles, laughs, etc.  Some are cultural—bows, curtseys, handshakes, salutes.

But some of them are very special, and here’s why.

Each time you spend time with someone, they imprint on you, just a little bit.  It might be a phrase, a way of sitting, or a gesture, a facial expression—or even something in the way they hold their head.  But regardless of what it is, we mimic people we interact with, and we tend to interact more with people who mimic us in turn.

These little mimicked gimmicks carry over past the conversation.  The more time you spend with someone, the more you pick up their little habits—and they more they pick up yours.  The more you build an emotional rapport with a person, the more you build a mutual language of shared gestures.

The same is true of ideas, to a limited extent.  We all know things our friends have taught us. We all wield the words of our mentors from time to time.

So next time you’re feeling a little lonely, or a little bored, just pay a little more attention to the way you talk, the way you move or fidget.  See if you can figure out what gestures in your arsenal were picked up from somewhere else.  It can be a telling way to compile a list of people who had an impact on your life—though it’s usually a list you already know by heart.

You’re never quite alone, not quite an individual.  You are accompanied by your culture, by the accumulated words and gestures of every person you’ve ever spoken to, slept with, learned from, or fought against.  The ideals of your favorite thinkers inform your inspiration to original thought.  And all of this—a host of words, ideas, verbal and physical habits, and the cultural and ancestral knowledge of an entire species—is placed at your fingertips, surrounding and insulating your individuality like a coat of armor.

So yeah.

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2 Comments

  1. GF and I have picked up a fair bit of each other’s speaking habits.

    And my blog is gradually coming to read more like yours when I’m in a more energetic mood.

    Dangit, Quevedo, you’re affecting my voice.


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