You ever stand close enough to a highway to see each car going by? They go by so fast and we spare only a passing thought for each one. Each one is a person in a car, not worth any more thought.
But when I’m driving on the highway, I know there’s a lot more in my car. There’s my past, my present, and my future. My joys and my anxieties. My friends and my role models. My plans and my existential dread. But anyone seeing my car pass sees me as only a person in a car. That’s it.
I find it funny that, as reductive as that is, we need it. Humans can’t wrap their heads around how complex everyone’s lives are. It’d be like trying to memorize everything on the internet. We need to simplify the people around us to better care for our own needs and complexities. It’s a mental shortcut that lets us keep going but dehumanizes everyone we see. It’s essential yet fatal to humankind all at once.
When we’re by a busy highway, we should at least try to see the scope of every drivers’ life. Even if we can only do it for a moment. Mental shortcuts like this don’t need to hold humans back. As long as we try to understand them better.