A World of Effigies

Allow me to begin with an excerpt from a six pack of beer:

“…You ever notice how everything has to be today’s version of yesterday’s whatever… Sometimes we wonder what the world would be like if everything was perceived for what it is, and not what it reminds you of.  The sun would rise everyday as if for the first time, you’d wake as if newly born, you’d see your lover next to you anew, the air would smell like flowers, work would be like the first day back in school, a beer would make your eyes roll back in your head in ecstasy…”

– Lagunitas, re: Little Sumpin’ Ale

I’ve recently come to know a person by sight who strongly resembles an important woman from my past.  I’ve never talked to her and I don’t know her name, and honestly I’m afraid to find out because I fear that any sort of acquaintanceship would disassociate the two women in my mind.  As it is, the superficial resemblances are so uncanny that I get some sort of sick, masochistic pleasure in preserving them, as if I enjoy having around an effigy of bygone dreams.

The woman from my past (let’s call her A–) once occupied so much of my emotional energy it’s hard to ignore the lasting influences she has left on my present psyche.  I think of her often, and those thoughts are painted with a wide spectrum of emotional reactions – joy, loathing, deceit, gratitude, triumph, compassion, dejection… I speak in vague terms because who she is isn’t important; that she is important is all that needs to be known.

The stranger of my present (let’s call her B–) unknowingly faces the consequences of her fabricated association with A–.  I see B– and my cheeks flush.  I feel indignation.  I feel sympathy.  I feel desire.  I feel fear.  I enter into a state of complete and deliberate self-awareness.  I refuse to talk to her – perhaps as a result of feeling something akin to a crush – perhaps out of a reluctance to discover she is not in fact A–.

Although, maybe a resemblance doesn’t exist at all… perhaps I merely want to perceive a resemblance because I can’t yet admit that A– will live out the remainder of her life in my past.

But let’s step back for a second – maybe Lagunitas is onto something.  I speak of A– and B– because they inhabit a large part of my current emotional existence.  But is it not true that everyone you meet reminds you of someone you have already met?  For instance, I am frequently told by people I look like Kevin Bacon in Footloose.  From that point of acknowledgement, are they unable to divorce me from the image of Kevin Bacon?  Do they look at me and wonder why I don’t dance?  Even if associations don’t readily jump out from the visage, when we describe people, we often bring to mind similar people.  How does this consciously or subconsciously inform our interactions?

When someone tells you that you remind them of somebody else (or somebody else reminds them of you), do you feel a little less like an individual and a little more like the product of an assembly line?

It would be interesting to discover that all of our present interactions are based on arbitrary associations with past characters.  Perhaps every friendship and every rivalry sprouts from the seeds of fallacy and the roots of deception.  Are we really unable to experience people and things for the first time, from a clean slate?

Are we forever doomed to subject the innocent to the whimsical associations of our past?

About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
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16 Responses to A World of Effigies

  1. larissa says:

    I for one strongly believe that’s true, as I usually develop crushes on people who resemble the most recent person I dated, in one way or another. For example, your writing reminds me of my ex-boyfriend’s writing–his favorite book also is uncannily Immortality. Awkward! hahaha. No but really, interesting blog post.

    • Doctor Quack says:

      Have you read it yet? It’s pretty darn good. Let me know when you do, and we’ll chat about it.

      On a related note though, I dated two people consecutively who (according to my friends) looked identical. Of course I championed their differences though.

      • larissa says:

        I haven’t read it yet but I will in the next two weeks! That, I promise, because honestly, it’s ridiculous that I haven’t read it yet and the quote you posted from it in your previous post really makes me want to read it!

  2. Having a little bit of an existential crisis today,Doc? Great post.

  3. Kat says:

    Apparently I have “one of those faces” that makes me seem awfully familiar to people. It seems like every time I travel, at least one person comes up to me thinking that they know me. Truth be told, it does make me feel less of an individual. But I try to take solace in the idea that my personality and set of experiences and life conditions makes me somewhat unique.

    You’re not alone in the transference of past friendships/loves to lookalike strangers. I’m pretty sure we all do it to an extent.

    Also, all this book-talk over the past few posts is twitching my bookworm senses. I’m going to the the library later–I’ll have to see if they have any Kundera novels.

    • Doctor Quack says:

      I really do like them all, but if I were to recommend any, I think “Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “Immortality” are probably his most universal and enlightening.

      “The Joke” is probably my favorite, but it requires a small amount of background in Czechoslovak history.

      “The Farewell Waltz” is by far the funniest, but also the least philosophically entrenched. It’s also horribly irreverent in delightfully non-“Look at me! I’m being irreverent!” ways (which is a folly of most irreverent comedy, I do believe).

      • Kat says:

        Mmm, to be honest, I’ve been contemplating the Kundera novels for a while now. Since you’ve been speaking so highly of them and all. They sound like they’ll be actual work to read, which will be an abrupt change from the last novel I finished.

        I normally perch in the “I’m a really well written story, and I won’t hurt your brain!” section, with occasional meanderings in tougher fiction (Like Austen or Twain….and maybe Tolkien if I’m feeling ambitious) and national trends (I don’t even want to talk about the time I read the Twilight books. It is a dark spot in my literary past.)

        I just finished “Ready Player One” for the second time. That book is one of my favorites–it’s jam-packed with nerdy 80’s references to bands, subculture, and video games. It’s a ridiculously easy read to boot. No brain stress here.

        Also, since I live in the boondocks, the local library only has two Kundera books: “Identity” and “Slowness.” The less local library has “Unbearable Lightness of Being.” But I’m sure they’re all available online as free e-books or something.

      • Doctor Quack says:

        I haven’t read Identity. Slowness is sort of like Unbearable Lightness – Lite. I like it, but I’d recommend the others before I recommend Slowness.

      • Doctor Quack says:

        Also, you can buy most of his books for like 50 cents on amazon.

  4. John S says:

    Perception based on previous experience? Great blog.

  5. Very interesting observation. Slap in some expectations in there and you’ve got yourself a disaster sandwich (speaking of relationships, of course). 🙂

  6. Bryan says:

    I find that many of the people I’ve dated have had many of the same personality flaws. They have all been pretty varied as far as appearance goes, though. When I played a show in Philadelphia there was a girl in the crowd who looked almost exactly like my most recent ex. That was weird.

    P.S. I always think of Kevin Bacon when I see you.

    Ok, not really, but the resemblance is rather uncanny.

  7. Brilliant post!! I am always biased toward men who show signs of my Uncle, who died when I was 11. First man I fell in love with. It is scary how much of ourselves is dictated by our subconscious feelings. We just don’t know the half of it do we!

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