Protagonist Disease

Think about your life. Okay, that’s a bit broad. Think about the last time you were in the middle of a bunch of people. Maybe you were driving, or at the shopping mall, or on a plane. Now, take away all of the people that you know. People like your significant other, your parents, or any of your friends that might be around. Who does that leave? It just leaves people, right? Figures and representations of humans. But the thing is, we live our lives with those people being characters that represent one instant in time. We craft our lives with the thought that we’re the only one telling our story, and that everyone else are merely characters in our journey.

That concept has a name: protagonist disease. Most of you have heard of the term protagonist from literature. It’s defined as “the leading character or one of the major characters in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text.” But we have the tendency to interpret our lives like a drama, and we consider ourselves the main character.

That person clogging up the line at Starbucks? He’s just an example of an annoying and indecisive archetype. That person you see on the news doing those terrible things? She’s just a terrible force of evil. We just love to dehumanize people. But here’s the thing. Just because we don’t know a person’s story doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t have one.

There is, of course, a cure for protagonist disease, but it requires a bit of sacrifice. Basically, be nice to people. Give to others, or if you don’t have anything to give, talk to others. One of the greatest gifts you can give to others is your time. By learning about other people, you begin to realize the life does not follow quite the same dramatic structure of a book. You alone do not have direct control of the world, and that gives you a more realistic grasp on how you can actually change things for better.

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