Ghosts. Goblins. Pixies. Arseholes.

I don’t believe in any of them.

When I was young, nothing fascinated me more than tales of the fantastical or paranormal. I had a jumble sale edition of a St. Michael book (an old Marks and Spencer’s brand, since retired) that described all manner of impossibly enthralling oddities; crop circles, spontaneous combustion, psychic twins, alien abduction, cryptozoology.

I read that book over and over again, but I don’t remember believing any of it. I was bewitched, but not convinced.

Even as a young boy, playing with Transformers or Star Wars figures, at no point did I believe they had any independent life. They were just cool, y’know? I choose not to think this a failure of imagination on my part (quite a big chunk of the identity I have attempted to establish for myself involves being creative). I like to consider myself engaged in flights of fancy, but ultimately a man of pragmatism. I think I probably get at least the latter from my Dad.

So. I love all that supernatural stuff, but I don’t believe in any of it. With the exception of alien life forms, which surely must exist somewhere out there in an infinite universe, but probably an awful long way away.

There are no ghosts. There are no goblins. There are no pixies. There are no… arseholes?

Wait. Oh, yeah! The arsehole thing is actually what I wanted to talk about, but I got sidetracked.

In our day to day lives, we all encounter arseholes. Someone, most often a stranger, with whom we share a brief moment in time. They are noisy on a train. They cut you up on your drive to work. They ignore your e-mail for weeks.

What I have realised, over the years, is that there’s a reason for everything. Now, I emphatically do not mean to imply a divine purpose, or fate etched in eternity. That would be silly, because there is no god. Obviously.

What I mean is that, especially when it comes to human behaviour, there are patterns, and precedents, and complicated histories. Sure, there are also head injuries and conditions which can change a person’s personality, but aside from those edge cases, I believe that every arsehole you encounter has what they believe is a good reason to behave the way they are behaving.

Maybe they’re trying to make their presence felt to their friends, for fear of losing whatever social credit they have managed to scrape together in their awkward teenage existence. Maybe they’re late for something that they believe is critically important – more important than you being mildly inconvenienced. Maybe they are on holiday, or being slammed with seven different deadlines, and your e-mail is about funny pictures of corgis, so it can wait.

There are a million reasons why any one individual might place something in their own life (something that isn’t necessarily obvious to an outside observer) above the happiness or comfort of a total stranger.

I’m not trying to excuse rudeness. Just because I think there’s always an explanation, I don’t believe it’s always an objectively good explanation. I also don’t think anyone is obliged to take the time to find out what that explanation might be.

But that’s my theory. There are no arseholes. There are just people who, like you, have their own constantly shifting priority list. When the chaos of life threw you two together for a second, you happened to be lower than something else on their list.

This theory might well fall apart, the more you poke at it. I haven’t poked very hard. Again, that’s partly why I like this blog. It gives me a chance to think things through, and it gives you a chance to tell me I’m an idiot.

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