You are x, I am y. Period.

La follia in uno, nessuno e centomila, that is how one could resume Pirandello’s theory. Luigi Pirandello, who was an Italian dramatist and poet, won the Nobel prize in 1934. At the basis of his theory is the observation that nothing in the world is fixed, everything undergoes transformations all the time. We humans however tend to do exactly that: fix other people into a certain role and give them no space to move. A teacher is a teacher for his students, just as a student is nothing more than a student to his teacher – what that person thinks or how (s)he really is doesn’t matter. In many cases society forces us to put ourselves into these postions and regard others under a certain perspective, as in school for example, but most of the time we do it unconsciously or deliberately. We have prejudices and do nothing against them. The only thing we don’t realize most of the time is that, while we are busy fixing others into certain roles, we are fixed by these people, too. The escape is, following Pirandello, accepting the positions we are put in and some day suffer of folly (follia). So in that way, we are one person (uno), then become one hundred thousand (centomila) different people as everybody sees us differently, and in the end we are nodoby (nessuno), we have lost our individuality.
This might all be confusing if one hasn’t read any of Pirandello’s works (or even afterwards), but I won’t write a whole post about Pirandello, I just use his theory as an introduction to some thoughts on human relationships.

Let me begin with what I already gave as an example above: the relationship between teacher and pupils – and vice versa. Most students will never know their teacher in private, and in a way that is great, because it could undermine the teacher’s authority. I have however, now that I’ve finished high school, still some sporadic contact with some of my former teachers, with one I went to an Open Screen for example and I adress him informally – which still feels kind of weird I have to admit. He always was nothing more but another teacher to me and I fixed him in that role, without any interest in who he is in real life. So I was surprised when after the end of school I was asked if I wanted to join him and another one of his former pupils to go to an Open Screen. I actually got along well with him in private, he’s quite a nice guy. But what is it that prevented me from accepting him as a real person before? Was it too exhausting trying to accept him as someone who’s like any other human being? Or was it simply society that put us both into certain roles and us not being pupil and teacher anymore finally allowed us to break out of that rigidness?

There is another pupil-teacher relationship I want to explore. A week ago, I went to my old high school as every Friday to say hello to some friends and this time, I met my former English teacher. She asked me whether I’d already gotten offers from universities (as she wrote my letter of reference) and we had a quite superficial talk – basicly I just told her which colleges have already sent me an offer. When I left the school however, I ran across her again – I was expecting we’d both just pass, but she stopped and we had an agreeable chat for some minutes.

Most of the time teachers don’t recognize you anymore the following year, even if they still see you everyday passing by (and most of the time pupils ignore their teachers too I admit :)). But I find it astonishing that the teachers I had on premi?�re still recognize me, stop if they see me and ask how I’m doing, what I’m studying. I was already told this last year talking to a maths teacher (whom I never had as a teacher), and indeed teachers seem positively surprised if former pupils stop by to say hello. (Well, most of the time, my former German teacher seemed in fact a bit shocked. He most certainly feared I came back to get some more quotations by him to publish on the internet and seemed quite relieved when I told him I just stopped by to say hello. :D)

I’m not saying pupils should start becoming friends with their (former) teachers, all I’m saying is that too often, society forces us to play certain roles which might not reflect who we are. Not only in pupil-teacher relationships, but in every part of life. Are we the same people when we go out with friends and when we talk to our parents? Most certainly not. Is that a good or a bad thing? Well, at least it seems human. But when we take off our masks and realize that there are a bunch of people standing around us who are just as normal as we are ourselves, it’s kind of sad we don’t decide to leave the mask off forever. At least, we could keep in mind that behind the other masks are people just as human as we are. Perchance, we could get over our prejudices and see what’s really going on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *