Magazine article Psychology Today

The Unbearable Oddness of Being

Magazine article Psychology Today

The Unbearable Oddness of Being

Article excerpt

WHEN THE PHOTO of two brothers landed on my desk I was immediately struck by how sweet the 10-year-old schoolboy appeared: upturned eyes and tender smile at the ready, a parakeet on his slight shoulder.

On learning that the boy was Ted Kaczynski, who grew up to terrorize the nation as the Unabomber, I was jolted. I experienced the incongruence of knowing what no one in that photo could have possibly imagined: regret for a bright future that was not to be; wistfulness for the innocence that childhood forever inscribes in even the most tormented of adults, and, dare I say, a weird, ontological confusion as to whether that beautiful boy is or was the Unabomber.

I'm not the only one to be seized by a photo of someone whose life will take a tragic turn. It's a feeling so complicated that there is no easy term for it, yet elemental enough that to name it is to make a tad more sense of this business of being human.

To say that the brain consists of 86 billion neurons with several hundred trillion connections between them doesn't even begin to approximate its complexity, just as the number of words at our disposal doesn't guarantee that we can capture the full range of experience. …

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