At a Party

At a party! A party with the empirical cluster in personspace! I used to treasure these nights, which seemed then to sparkle with the promise of another world, back during the golden age. The atmosphere feels different now. The same scene, with much of the same people and operating at what should be the same frequency, but I can't help but feel that what was once the promise of a grander mode of existence has decayed, in a decade, into the familiar rhythms of the human.

Has the promise been fulfilled? My disquieting sense of something missing to be attributed to one of the standard heuristics and biases?—hedonic adaptation. Have I grown—and then what am I to make of the exact relative ordering of the automatically returned question-completions old, up, and the empty word? But it stretches credulity to suggest that the true topography of the moral universe would put what I want to call "the golden age" in the past.

As always, I should have rehearsed. People's perceptions of party protocol are predictable, the popular precession of preambles and progress reports—excuse me. What I mean is that there is a limited selection of questions people ask new and old friends at a party, a finite and small repertoire of introductions and catching-ups, and if you know the questions in advance, you would think it would be a matter of the common courtesy of optimizing everyone's experience to prepare answers in advance. It's not just a matter of winning a greater share of the zero-sum component of the party. (Although there is that, which is why both members of the An Algorithmic Lucidity readership are presently gearing up their text editors for the inevitable Well-actually-it-should-be-constant-sum comment. Alright, guys, I was asking for that one—or I might as well have been, up to a positive affine transformation.) It's a matter of the commons. You want to impress at a party, but to parties worth impressing.

Only I never think to rehearse, and my social performance tonight is wild, all over the map, depending on where the bravery spinner is pointing at this particular moment and whether my cache is cold. I manipulate the flow of one conversation deftly with fine rudder movements ("I see my reputation has preceded me"); in another, beyond misplay, I'm a rock ("Um. Stuff").

Resting in a corner away from the crowd, it's these stretches of boredom and wistfulness in the night here at the center of the world that cannot be forgiven, each passing second of seeing marred with not wanting to see, the meaning of these past months' morning sloth and slovenliness, always to be forsworn and always to be repeated, when I meant, I meant—Amenta? I meant to do that, I could claim, but it's not clear that I would be in any way more redeemable if the wastefulness of my abyss had been entirely accidental—or at least not just a matter of simple cowardice.

Do I dare / Disturb the universe? Few remember the face of the man who answered "No"—and ceased to exist.

A woman of wisdom tells me: the thing-that-creates is smarter than the thing-than the thing-that-judges. And all I can do is hope that that's enough.

For science! At a party!

2 thoughts on “At a Party

  1. While those generic comments are the most common at a party that doesn't mean they are the most useful or the point of the party.

    Its quite possible these are merely filler questions that serve to avoid awkwardness and boredom while one waits for the points of interest or fun events. On this theory rushing through them might leave one worse off as everyone stands around awkwardly rendering it more difficult to think of the funny/insightful/etc.. comments that one cares about. Similarly you might think none of this is relevant and its just about the pleasure of standing somewhere with other people in a way that triggers the 'being social' levers without too much awkwardness.

    Also even if the above theory isn't true it is plausible practicing would make things worse insofar as it would make things feel weird and unnatural for those who hadn't practiced and give off a 'I'm not here to relax/have fun but to get stuff done' vibe. Again it may be more important to clearly indicate one is in fun mode than it is to get that fun done efficiently.

  2. In concrete terms, I'm not sure why anyone would expect to find lasting contentment in a community of socially dysfunctional, low-empathy losers.

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