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There is a very fine line between order and chaos in our society. Sometimes it is amazing that it all holds together as well as it does, as often as it does. Consider the following example:
Two middle-aged white businessmen, wearing olive-colored overcoats, scarves, shirts and ties, were standing on the street talking to each other. As I walked by them, suddenly I felt like I wanted to punch one of them in the mouth.
Not because they did anything to me. They were talking to each other, I was just passing by on my way to work, and they paid me no mind.
Not because of what they were talking about, either. I had my headphones on, and couldn't hear what they were saying. Even if I could, I'm sure it was just the usual innocuous and inoffensive things people talk about in the morning, like cars or coffee or a TV show. Nothing I was going to get worked up about, for sure.
I wasn't having a bad day, or even a bad week. Though I'd rather not have been going to work, I don't really hate my job. My life had been busy, but not stressed-out-busy. No bad breakups or anything like that going on.
Yet still, I was struck with an urge to just clock one of them, hard, right there in the street. For no reason - just to see what would happen.
I wondered what would they do. They certainly wouldn't have seen it coming. Would they try to fight me, or would they just stand there looking dumbfounded? What about the other people on the street? Would they stop and do something, or would they just keep walking? Would someone start laughing, and then I'd start laughing, and then we'd all be laughing at this middle-aged businessman who just got jacked in the mouth?
Of course, I didn't actually hit the guy. I've never hit anyone in my life, and I most certainly wasn't going to start by clocking innocent strangers who didn't do anything. The urge passed, and I just kept walking towards the office.
Why did the thought even enter my mind? Maybe it was just the last bit of animal instinct we humans have left popping its head up. You see that kind of random, violent craziness on nature shows, or Fox TV specials, all the time. Certainly not so much on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. We've managed to socialize ourselves enough that we conduct our daily lives in a generally orderly fashion, and this is probably for the best.
The thing is, I definitely could have done it. Anyone could have. And there have to be thousands of these little moments every single day, where someone could just commit some random and unprovoked act of violence. Something holds us back, though, and keeps us from acting upon our basest instincts.
We're lucky that it doesn't happen like that - all you have to do is remember the riots and looting in Los Angeles or Seattle to remember how quickly one violent act can bring the semblance of order and sanity and community crashing down. If I had actually hit that poor business guy, who knows - it could have sparked the great Chicago Riots of 2005. Our society, our sense of security, is a shockingly fragile thing.
Who knows exactly what it is that keeps us calm enough to not start running amok. Maybe it's societal programming, or conditioning, or having so many stimuli to constantly distract us. All I know is, I'm glad I was listening to a great song when this sudden violent impulse came upon me, so that the order we depend so much on would not get ruined by me.
Dan Filowitz is Toronto-born, New-Jersey-raised, Indiana-University-educated, and Chicago-residing. In addition to his Lost At Sea contributions, Dan is a senior staff writer for political humor site TalkStation.com and the president of ChicagoImprovAnarchy (The CIA) a Chicago-based improv theatre company. We are not mentioning the 9-5 corporate job. Apparently, Dan does not sleep much. Dan Filowitz is the perfect dinner party guest - fun, witty, intelligent, with wide-ranging interests, ecclectic tastes and a winning smile. Just make sure you have coffee available.
See other articles by Dan Filowitz.
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