Heard about the ff folks last February, but only found the urge to show up in one of the meetings last Sunday. Partly because I was desperate, for any reason, to see the “outside world” (i.e. a place other than home and hospital) and partly because I was tired of communicating with people through the internet, most of whom don’t even bother to reply. I really don’t mind it most of the time, but I really prefer they talk back–about anything. I want to exercise empathy with raw people (not just characters in a novel).
But I noticed people are more polite offline. Guess I’ve just been barking up the wrong tree. I am speaking mainly of my email recipients (a misappropriation to use correspondents) to whom I willingly write emails that would read like a blog–starting and ending with insights and hindsight about banal everyday things, amazing stories from trawling the internet, my dull life, and amazing people I’ve met. I reckoned they were too busy and didn’t know what to think in relation to what I had just shared or they didn’t have the time to let me know it made them think of some things. I still write as if I’m buying an expensive gadget. I’m in it for the emotional reward. Also write to correct bits of my past stupid selves. It feels good to say goodbye to them in writing–or to use Pat Condell’s words “to ridicule them out of existence.” I find it most effective, if publicly directed to oneself. But these self-realizations come slow when no one’s talking back or criticizing. Things just don’t feel right when nobody’s asking questions. I get desperately twitchy, so I look for new people. I find they are usually much less inhibited in what they want to say because they have the insurance of a new acquaintance, who is ready to leave when asked politely. With the ff folks, I think I had just hit the kitty. Not only are they never tongue-tied, they prefer that I reciprocate by talking back. Plus they are truly interesting, admirable folks. It’s so refreshing to meet people in the flesh who can talk more about other things other than themselves and make sense. I still like talking about the second but only happily when it is particularly embarrassing.
I am miffed. “I really don’t mind [that my email recipients don’t write back about anything] most of the time, but I really prefer they talk back–” Sounds to me like my childhood frustration about prayer. Who said bad habits die hard? This is insidious. When I prayed as a Catholic kid, the least I wanted was for the invisible spook in the sky to talk back. He didn’t even have to agree with me.
Honestly, I was wary to meet the ffff folks. Automatic thought should’ve gotten me stoked, being an atheist for 6 years with no close freethinking friends. But the word “thinkers” reminded me of “intellectuals”, which reminded me of genuine “snobs” and “elitists” (towards unfree-thinkers), and the worst association would be that of “horrible seriousness.” I am still wary. But I had an interesting time last Sunday afternoon. It was the first large group gathering I’ve been to, which really had me remember each individual person–not just for their names and faces. The most inspiring folks were the other newcomers (to freethinking)–something about their manner had a hint of uncertainty, which I find admirable. You can bet on it; I already emailed about this. I feel like I just started rehab from a debilitating habit of talking to a wall.