My Psychic Nose Job

It was happening again.

Again I’d found myself in a group social setting and again was suffering from Overunder Syndrome (OUS).

For those of you unfamiliar with this condition (and for those of you who are, but in undiagnosed form), I’ll explain.

Whenever necessity or circumstance sequesters me together for any appreciable length of time with a group of acquaintances or semi-acquaintances, I begin to go on an involuntary conceptual elevator ride.

At times, the ‘elevator’ stops at one or more floors above my assembled compatriots, a vantage point from which I am able to clearly perceive my obvious superiority to them. (This is the ‘over’ phase of the syndrome.)

Other times (and to be honest, most often), the elevator goes down, leaving me looking up at them from a lower floor of inferiority. (The ‘under’ phase.)

Thus, I’m able to peer down at my peers, or peer up at them.  However, there is one floor at which my elevator virtually never stops – that is, the very floor upon which they and I stand together as equals. Which itself subsequently equals a constant sense of existential isolation.

Or as I once heard it rather colorfully put by a fellow sufferer: ‘People like us are incapable of just being another bozo on the bus. We’re always apart from – never a part of.’

While I have a long-term plan of action to gradually put my elevator (opposite of) joyriding to rest, I needed to find a way to level off on the spot, as I was going to be spending the next 48 hours with this cast of characters and had to find a way to effectively and comfortably exist.

Then the spiritual verity struck me – the outer reflects the inner.

Just as physically, we were all essentially the same – comprised of the same group of body parts, so too were we all essentially psychically the same.  (This happened to be an all-male group, so the analogy was all the closer, but it could still, in essence, be applied in a mixed gender setting as well.)

Sure, each individual had his variants; some taller, older, younger, heavier, etc., but (barring unfortunate birth circumstances or injuries) we all had two arms, two legs, ears, elbows, eyebrows, etc., etc., and – the part I chose to focus on – a nose.

For some reason, I took great comfort shooting glances around me, and duly noting that each of my erstwhile superiors/inferiors sported noses in the middle of their faces – just as did I.

Our common proboscises became a symbol to me of our essential physical camaraderie, which then blossomed into a palpable sense of our underlying psychic and spiritual kinship, and parity.

While it’s true that ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that just as no two individual’s faces are the same, neither are their personalities; nevertheless, each human face has much more in common with every other than does it differ.

I won’t say the event was a glass-smooth one for me; there erupted occasional hills and valleys of perceptual inveracity. However, all and all, I was able to live serenely in my skin – which for an OUS sufferer is next to miraculous.

And all because I was lucky enough to stop the elevator by getting my nose caught between its doors.

About the Author
Nesanel Yoel Safran, US born and a graduate of Brandeis, now living with his wife and family in the Judean Hills, is a writer, chef, and a teacher/student of Jewish spirituality. He blends these assorted vocations on his blog, Soul Foodie, where you can join him on mystical cooking adventures and glean practical wisdom for the kitchen — and for living.