I've been drifting slowly through California for the past three weeks at about 100 miles/week, and several times I've been asked an apparently simple question that has become nearly impossible for me to answer: "What are you here for?"
Unlike regular travelers, I am not here for anything. I am just here, like area residents. The only difference is that I'll drift on out of the Bay Area in a week. The true answer is "I am nomadic for the time being. I just move through places, the way you stay put in places. I am doing things that constant movement enables, just like you do things that staying put enables." That is of course too bizarre an answer to use in everyday conversation.
My temporary nomadic state is just one aspect of a broader fog of illegibility that is starting to descend on my social identity. And I am not alone. I seem to run into more illegible people every year. And we are not just illegible to the IRS and to regular people whose social identities can be accurately summarized on business cards. We are also illegible to each other. Unlike nomads from previous ages, who wandered in groups within which individuals at least enjoyed mutual legibility, we seem to wander through life as largely solitary creatures. Our scripts and situations are mostly incomprehensible to others.
(Read the rest at ribbonfarm.)