by j-a

[main menu] [thoughthistory menu]

January 2005

The Ostensible Life I Lead

an autobiographical quasi-linear semi-narrative
an American shame

New Year's Day at my brother Jim's house. We watch football and talk about a lot of things. Then, after my sister-in-law Joyce comes home from work and we have a late dinner, after the Pitt game seems to be a washout and is no longer interesting, a conversation with nephews Jimmie and Jay turns into a lecture on science, because they begin to espouse ignorant conventional theories that I must disabuse them of. (I am amazed at how little real science they know, although Jay seems to know a lot more than older brother Jimmie does and is a lot quicker to grasp and intuit difficult concepts.)

I end up telling them about cosmic, earth, and human evolution. It takes about two hours, and as my lecture progresses, Jim, interrupting himself from his attention to the tv, becomes increasingly snarky about some of the things I'm saying, jokingly accusing me of making it all up, although at Thanksgiving when I told some of it to him alone, without the kids around, he appreciated the knowledge. But in this situation, he must feel that I am unduly impressing his kids with my knowledge and education and threatening his parental role in some way; or else he's simply envious of my education. Probably the latter.

Jay, early on, wants to object to my assertion that everything is physical. He wants to believe that (his) imagination cannot be explained by science. I tell him that there are several ways that I could explain to him how he is wrong, but I will choose the simplest one. So I try to explain "emergent properties" in terms of the ant colony analogy from Godel, Escher, Bach, and via a further analogy between brain neurons and transistor areas on computer chips. I don't think that I'll be successful in communicating the idea of emergence to him, but I'm surprised to see that he immediately comprehends the idea, that what previously seemed to him to be a kind of "magical" aspect of his psyche turns out to be understandable as a quite ordinary property of physical matter.

That idea, combined with the ideas of physical evolution (and perhaps the charisma that I manage to exude in my passion to educate them; they've always been big fans of mine) makes Jay and even Jimmie into "believers." Now all I've got to do is teach them how to convert their willingness to believe into a healthy skepticism that drives scientific hypotheses, and I can turn them into fledgling scientists. But I wonder now how Joyce is going to take this effort that I've embarked upon. She's increasingly becoming a "Christian" believer, which Jim had earlier pointed out in the kitchen via a not-so-subtle criticism of her to her face when she bristled at some importune negative remarks I made about Christianity.

[I have nothing against Christianity per se. In fact, by a certain esoteric (i.e., ancient) definition of it, I may even be a Christian. I'm a Christian if by Christian you mean that original set of beliefs that scholars have abstracted from the Dead Sea scrolls via textual analysis that has resulted in documents such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Book of Q, that set of cosmic consciousness attitudes and teachings that Jesus actually seems to have intended, which are quite a bit different from those that the later church modified into precepts designed to control the world via the "Holy" Roman Empire. (It all started with that renegade bastard Paul.)

But I do have something against the latter day Christianity that seems bent on ignoring the basic message "love thy neighbor" in favor of all of the silliness of virgin birth, resurrection, etc. that they added to the earlier Jewish silliness of stuff like the Earth having been made in six days, Eve having been made from the rib of Adam, and even the mere existence of Adam and Eve themselves. They may have been the first Jews (or rather Sumerians; much of the earliest mythology of the Bible is borrowed from an earlier culture), but they were certainly not the first humans, if they existed at all and were not instead a gradual manifestion over a very long period of time so that the actual first recognizable human would be more a matter of subjective interpretation than objective fact.]

When I went to the bathroom before I left, Jim, "behind my back," started to criticize me for being "smart" (which the kids must have been praising me for while I was gone); he brought up his old argument, maintaining that I may be well-educated, but I have no "common sense." I walk back into the room in the middle of his explanation to the kids, so he has no choice but to tell me what he was saying. I use my Einstein quote to attempt to defuse his criticism. ("Common sense is that body of prejudice acquired before the age of eighteen.") But Jim is intent upon trying to influence his sons into believing that there is something wrong with education, that educated people don't live in a real world and don't know how to deal with it in a common sense way. What's he's really doing is expressing his long-standing inferiority complex, that he feels threatened by education and the people who have it, that he must compensate by asserting himself in a way that puts down educated people. I want to educate him too, but it's so much easier to educate his kids; they have such absorbing, as-yet-uncalcified minds.

[Common sense: there's no such animal. It's a mythological beast. Each person has her or his own sense of what is common, based on how s/he has learned to define the world. What people believe to be behavior indicative of common understanding and intelligence is generalized from their own world-views. Different world-views enable different common senses; and we each have a different world-view, if you parse our contents deeply enough.]

It's interesting that my brother will, in certain social situations, pretend that he completed his Bachelor's Degree, rather than having dropped out of school in his junior year, after having transferred from the community college to The University of Pittsburgh and finding the engineering courses too difficult. I've found myself, out of sympathy and a sense of brotherhood, supporting him in this effort to deceive strangers we meet, so that I'm beginning to think that he believes he has fooled even me. And I'm starting to wonder if he has even fooled himself. In any case, this deception reveals his dual orientation toward education. On one hand, he wishes he were himself better educated, and he works on his own via the tv and the internet to increase his factual (but not conceptual; he avoids reading like a plague) knowledge; on the other hand, he seems to despise educated people. This all points to his envy of those who demonstrate an educated intelligence.

Just before I leave to come home, Jimmie says to his father, "You should invite Uncle Joe over here once a month so he can educate us." I tell him that he's welcome to come over to my place any time. During my lecture, Jimmie had said, "Why don't our teachers explain this all to us this way?" Good question. I would add, why haven't any (at least science) teachers told them the truth? They seemed to know nothing at all about any kind of evolution. I guess everyone is afraid these days of encounters with the Christian Right. But these kids attend the community college now. You'd think at least they'd have heard about this stuff there, but apparently no one is informing public school kids about cosmology in any form [except for the hairdresser variety in high school level trade schools. (That's a lame verbal joke. Don't call me on it. Also see this.)]. All they're learning are the most rudimentary concepts of Newtonian physics, which is what I learned when I was in high school. But science has come a long way since then, although you wouldn't know it via our current secondary educational system. It's an American shame, and one that is actually supported by the corporo-governmental complex so that our schools will turn out functional automatons who will readily become good little employees because they see no other alternative to survival and properity. Education is highly undervalued in our culture. It's easier and cheaper for companies to import educated workers who are intimidated by having to exist in a foreign culture than it is to educate our own citizens, who tend to expect more than greedy corporations are willing to bestow. It's all about the money. Why else do you think it costs so much to get an (inferior) education?

support corporate dismantlement

I'm in a park-like place that is sort of like a gigantic building with a high-domed roof, both like a mall and a huge armory. There are lots of young people, both college students and employees. I set up a portable guitar amp and begin to sing rock songs. Two other guys, members of my band, set up a bass and a drum set to play along. But instead, the scene transitions into a workplace where I walk down huge aisles of high shelving and espouse my science/philosophy. Others are doing this too, and we coalesce into a loose confederation that believes in freedom of expression. We've invented a technology that allows us to broadcast our voices to any nearby point from a distance of at least several hundred feet. At first we speak our minds directly to those around us, but as the "authorities" realize that we are attracting too much attention, we begin to use the technology to disguise our exact location. The authorities try unsuccessfully to track us down. Our voices can be heard anywhere we want them to. But one specific important government guy shows up and discovers that I am one of the speakers, and rather than disguise myself, I own up to the ideas, and his troops begin to close in on me. But the students, informed by my confederation as to what is about to happen to me, as I am finally put into handcuffs and being led off, begin to chant, "Free Jack Sun. Free Jack Sun." The attention called to what the authorities are doing is too much for them and they remove the handcuffs, and that settles the crowd, which begins to cheer and congratulate themselves. But the troops are still surrounding me and won't let me walk away. When my compatriots, again projecting their messages from afar, apprise the students as to what is happening, they begin to chant again, so that the authorities have no choice but to let me go.

The beginning of this dream is a symbolic replay of the science lecture that I gave to Jimmie and Jay on New Years' Day. I was performing for them, rapping on the theme of cosmic evolution and astro-particle physics in terms that they could understand, like in the dream when I was performing simplified rock songs on guitar. But there is a price to pay for this kind of behavior, not only in terms of negative reactions from people like my brother who are threatened by my relatively higher level of intelligence and education, but by society in general when it wants to repress any movement that exhibits freedom, for fear that it will destroy the social order, that citizens will not need the dominant form of government because they can do for themselves what the government purports to do for them so well, even as it does not, but instead acts in a paternalistic way to prevent freedom instead. [Remind you of anyone?]

American democracy is supposed to have been founded to free us from the tyranny of authority; but it was only a fledgling first step, which the autocrats quickly learned how to subvert (e.g., John Adams' Sedition Act; the ubiquitous licensing of corporations after the initial intent was to license them for short periods of time to achieve specific objectives; NAFTA; the Patriot Act; the attempts to dismantle, usurp, and/or water down the power and authority of regulating agencies like the SEC, the FDA, the FCC, the FAA; etc.)

Now we need to reassert the originally intended democracy, and technology is the way that we are doing it. Less "controversial" internet activities like chatrooms, IM, etc. connect people worldwide, mostly (so far) independent of governmental control. And "illegal" file trading may seem like a crime, but it is a disguised form of democracy, an attempt individuals make to relate "peer-to-peer" apart from the regulating mechanism, like we used to trade songs taped off the radio, but more efficiently. It's a strike at the laws orchestrated by the rich and corporate powers that have extended copyright law into entrenched strictures of status quo autocracy, when the original intent (promoted by Jefferson) was to protect original work for only three years--and that extension was a compromise against no copyright laws at all.

Like the copyright of written works, digital music (and all intellectual property) rights are attempts to capitalize on phenomena that are more immediate than enduring. Once you read a book, the knowledge is yours; songs are performance vehicles. Software... Well. Okay. I'll go along with a short-term advantage given to the inventors of unique technology and ideas; but enough is too much. The whole game is merely an attempt to keep the rich rich. In a democratic world, you should be required to remain inventive if you want to continue to succeed and accumulate money. Even as others begin to capitalize on your inventions, you move on to newer ones that make the older ones obsolete; or at least you remain commercially competitive in the field or area of your invention. Social structures that enable people to live off their past creativity inhibit future creativity as well as the freedom of less creative individuals to earn a living via mimicry.

The current system of laws is designed to enable anyone who has invented a product or idea to milk the advantage for a long, long time. Writers are protected for their lifetime plus seventy-five years. Inventors, I believe, get twenty-one years for a patent. (Okay. A bit long, but it protects research investment; but let's not start extending it any further, huh?) Musicians (and their corporate leeches) get richer and richer by performing once, in a studio, after they manage to wheedle a recording contract by proving their worth "on the road." Okay, they're reaping the reward of all that practice and obscurity. But again, that should only go so far. They're musicians, for Christsake. They're supposed to be performing. It's their chosen profession. They're not supposed to retire at the age of thirty and give a few "benefit" performances a year in order to advance their recording sales so that their patrons can increase their wealth and power.

And then there's the drug companies, the most extreme current example of how business and social policy often do not mix. Drug companies have a higher obligation to medicine than they have to profits. Their representatives, of course, will agree; but the corporations don't act to this end. They act to maximize profits at the expense of public health. How many other corporations are in this same situation, but to a lesser degree, or in a more obscure way, so that their public trust is more disguised? I would argue that all of them are.

Public utilities are the most obvious, and so we have structured them so as to remain responsible to state agencies. Drug companies have at least as much impact on public health as utilities. Other types of businesses have similar impacts. The time has come to regulate all businesses as if they were utilities--because they are. The government licenses (incorporates) them, so let's make them fully accountable.

We started out in that direction some half a century ago, but we dropped the ball when reactionaries conspired to take control of the "governmental" processes in order to dismantle the framework of accountability that was being established. Conservatives (and some token liberals) gutted environmental and financial laws and ushered in the corporate welfare practices from which society now suffers.

Corporations are licensed for the public good; but they act in their own self-interest, often against the public interest. They pollute with relative freedom and when they are caught, too many years and deaths later, public money is often used to clean up the pollution. They market products that harm citizens, with little regulatory oversight, or even with the aid of those who are supposed to be doing the regulating.

The abuses are obvious and obviously ignored. Capitalism is a great system--when it benefits the citizens, when real individuals (as opposed to paper ones) are competing in a free marketplace. But greedy executives who proctor power in order to disenfranchise citizens' rights have stolen our marketplace. It's time for a new revolution. Dismantle the corporate "entities." They're not people, after all.

It's an entrenched system, all of it, one which perverts democracy and prevents democratic reform; and the "theory" is generalized across postmod society: make money and protect it from people who want to "rip you off," when all they are really doing is exchanging information that is available within the culture. [It's one of those slick reversals of logic: it's the corporations who are doing the ripping, not the college kids decoding CDs.] Culture, which should be a universal phenomenon available to everyone, is increasingly for sale at higher and higher prices (or lower and lower prices across a broad mass marketing spectrum). And the corporate structure is responsible. Return democracy to individual citizens. Support corporate dismantlement. Return the power to the human individual, especially via free or cheap advanced education.

repressed arrogance

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
Al Pacino, Godfather Part 3
I've known of this aspect of "my" psychology for a while now: Ignorant people don't want me to demonstrate my intelligence and education, even if my only purpose is to educate (them) [which it isn't; there's a certain agenda I have that prompts me to show off my advancement, a compensation for a weak sense of self-esteem, I guess. But people don't know this--unless they happen to be intuitively picking up on it, which is, now that I think of it, entirely possible]; not only do they not want [as a result of whatever agenda of their own--maybe they don't want to feel that they are in a subordinate or inferior position; maybe they have issues with authority; maybe I am projecting, after all, although that doesn't negate others' own needs/agendas; whatever] to be educated [maybe they don't have the intelligence for it], but they don't want to admit that I am actually more advanced than they are, which is the definition of an educator. (But it's really nothing for me to become disturbed about, huh? Any disturbance I exhibit points to my own pathology.1)

But when they attack me (like my brother did, albeit in a "nice" way, on New Years' Day--see which), either directly, as some have done, or more likely in a passively aggressive way, then I can be secure in the knowledge that their behavior is born out of an unconscious feeling of inferiority. But if I let them bait me into responding in kind (which I've had a problem with in the past), then maybe I'm not so smart as I want to think I am. If, however, I take their nasty little games in stride and respond with benign understanding, then I further demonstrate that I possess a certain wisdom. I've been able to act this way lately because I've been stress-free and in control of my wayward, subverting backlash psychology. If I become stressed, I'm not so sure I can continue to remain so wise. So I conclude from this analysis that others also may be acting out their negative, unconscious, "automatic" agendas because they are also suffering the effects of stress, which should make me even more understanding and sympathetic.

But when I myself exhibit one of those nasty little personality quirks, I need to get away from people who might end up baiting me, before I end up losing it and strike back like the asshole I can sometimes be when I am not so much my calm and stress-free self. I can be as "good" if not "better" than anyone else at aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior. I've got to watch myself in order to avoid getting sucked into playing others' games. My own "game" (intelligence/education) is a much nicer one, one that I was so much better at (even if not nearly so informed as I am now) when I was younger and more psychologically intimidated into never counterattacking.

This is all a mutual interaction syndrome that I must learn how to avoid/overcome in a more permanent way. I avoided it for so long when I was young; but the pressure built until, as I learned how to open up to others (I was severely introverted as a kid), I "learned" (or unlearned; i.e., relinquished repression) how to "defend" myself from the nastiness of others, by responding in kind to attacks, negating their negation. This, ironically, is exactly what (certain) others wanted me to do, to open up that is; little did they know what they were asking for. Unfortunately, by acting in a less than gentle, understanding way, I unwittingly invited others to blame me for doing better what they did themselves, perhaps in a disguised way so that they could pretend to themselves that they were not doing it.

But I am better than all of this, I want to think; or at least I want to be. I can avoid this negative social syndrome by avoiding stress, and when I can't, I avoid it until the stress has passed by avoiding the society that will provoke it. I have this option now. I have attained a certain degree of freedom that allows me to remove myself in a way that I couldn't years ago, when I was stuck within a social structure that overly stressed me. This is my intelligent development: to better myself via withdrawal when necessary, meanwhile studying and learning even more, so that when I occasionally re-enter society, I have more to offer, at least to those who will take it and not resent me for what they cannot accept within themselves. And in this way, I also develop society, working to make it a better place, by learning how to act better within it, and by attempting to educate (certain) people, both directly and via my good example, as to how to live, learn, and develop their potential.

Does this all sound somewhat arrogant to you? Because, upon rereading it, I'm finding that it sounds a little bit that way to me. See? I recognize this strain in me, but what can I do? It's who I am. I'm intelligent and I know it. Should I pretend that I'm not so that you might think better (or worse) of me in order to protect your delicate inner workings that want to blame me for something you project, your own arrogance repressed? Give it up. I'm trying to. Meanwhile, until I succeed, at least on some extended temporary basis, I'll stay far enough away so that we won't hurt each other any more than absolutely necessary.

disembodied spirit

Playing solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one.
The Statler Brothers, "Flowers on the Wall"
I'm thinking again about all the people who have to go out to work in this nasty weather. Specifically, I'm thinking about how some people never quite manage to do it on a persistent basis, those marginal employees who are always ready to call off at the least provocation. When I was a supervisor, these were my least valuable employees, no matter how well they otherwise did their jobs, because you couldn't count on them to be there when you most needed them. You can't get the job done when people can't be counted on. I, myself, made it a point never to miss work no matter what. I missed only fifteen days in the last twelve years I worked, and that was because I was in the hospital, three times, with heart problems.

I'm reminded of all of this as I look out the window this morning at the rainy weather that is about to turn cold and snowy. A guy drives up the street, turns his car around, pulls up in front of a house, and beeps his horn. He does this every morning. My neighbor says that she counts on this guy, the father of her child, to show up every day to pick up their daughter and take her to her mother's house so that she can get to work on time. "It's the least he can do," she says. She says that she doesn't need any more of those kinds of men in her life who just come and go when they please and can't be counted on to help her with her life. Personally, I think she sets her sights too low. But, hey. I understand. It can be difficult, sometimes, in certain situations, to settle into a good relationship. She says the guy wants to move in with her, but she's wary. She's had too many live-ins who turned out to be shiftless burdens after she took them at their word that they could be counted on. She's firm in her mind about how this guy is going to have to prove himself.

That's just good management practice, I think. The simple fact of ordinary employee turnover is enough to disturb production. It's difficult enough under typical day-to-day circumstances to get the work done, but having to be training new people as well, just like training new life mates on a continuing basis (not that I agree with that philosophy; but as I said, I understand), is an extra burden. But good managers build that into the system. It's all part of the job, which is my point: the simple waste of time having to redo things you've already done is the bugaboo, not only of workplace procedures, but also of life in general. It's planned obsolescence at the DNA level. And I don't like it!

As individuals, we're each a time bomb waiting to explode, or the more calm and/or intimidated among us are machines wearing down, so that when we are replaced by younger (my neighbor's guy is a bit younger than she is), more virile organisms, the species may be better adapted to changes in the environment that have occurred between the time specific individuals are trained and the time they die. (I'm conveniently ignoring the whole idea of retraining here.) Effective organizations capitalize on this fact by mimicking nature, and they replace departing employees (and even fire less competent ones) with ones who are better adapted. Neighbors do the same thing, until they get wise and begin to think that maybe they should be doing it all themselves if they can't find dependable mates. But I may be projecting here again.

I get quickly bored with things I have to do repetitively. I always feel like I should be moving on to bigger and better things, learning more, advancing. Even taking a shower and brushing my teeth are burdens I'd like to be able to do without. And tasks like cutting the grass and trimming the hedges are ridiculous. Why can't I be a disembodied spirit that isn't required to participate in physical maintenance of any kind, let alone business and socialization? I'd be a much happier person if physical existence didn't drag me down. But since I don't really believe in an afterlife, since I hypothesize that this is all there is, then what can I do but go on? It's a stupid system. There must be other universes where this problem is surmounted; otherwise, why bother?

[But then, out of sheer frustrated winter ennui, I end up playing lame video games on the computer, the penultimate repetitive, mind-numbing activity, which prevents me from even planning, let alone accomplishing what little I otherwise might.]

a simple act of will

Since you put me down I been out doing in my head.
(with apologies to the Beach Boys)
In order to actually accomplish anything you have to decide to do it. It's a good thing to be able to plan and schedule what you need to or want to do, but unless you actually do it, forget about it, which is what I usually end up doing. Okay. Fine so far. Knowing your shortcomings is a good start.

I have trouble starting, anything. Once started, I tend to be okay. It's not for lack of motivation, at least not mental motivation. I want to do a whole lot of things; it's just that I don't actually want to be setting about physically to get them done. Things I do in my mind seem to get done without delay.

So, in order to progress, physically, I have to motivate myself in a more determined way. A physical discipline is essential. I must decide (a mental act) to act physically, despite any condition of ennui that may exist at any given time. I can do this, but I don't. Why? It hardly seems worth the trouble.

Usually, when I'm wallowing in an inward state, I have no impetus to externalize my behavior (of course). Unless some physical or social necessity compels me (e.g., I have to go shopping because I'm out of food, I have to pay bills to avoid late fees, I have an appointment I must keep), I'm stuck.

Apart from external compulsion, I vegetate. What I need to develop is an internal compulsion analogous to the external ones, but without the overlying authoritarianism of the superego, which every time I discover it in me, I despise, myself, because I am so much like my parents, or a boss.

My rebel self rebels, even against rebellion when I understand it to be a social movement. I cannot be a part of anything so concerted as a plan that involves cooperation--at least not for long periods of time. And the psychology generalizes to include my own scheduling efforts. I can plan, but...

But the time has come to overcome the self that contradicts itself, at least in this small arena of (in)action. If I can motivate myself to act, physically, to begin my simple step-by-step daily routine/plan, then I can accomplish a few things that will make me feel better about myself, as I have done.

Self-esteem is such an easy set of traits to master. You don't have to learn any difficult psychology or engage in any rigid training discipline. All you have to do is do. Decide, do, feel better for having taken control of a small segment of your life. One simple decision, one simple act of will, and it's done.

It'd be different if I were just one of the herd, an ignorant peasant who doesn't understand how things get accomplished in life and blunders along oblivious to the personal power s/he possesses. But I know how to plan and schedule, and I know how to make my dreams come true; but I don't.

A simple act of will is all it takes. First thing in the morning (or the afternoon, or evening), do it! Step-by-step. It's all laid out for me, by my superior mind, which refuses to control the subconscious/body that rebels against the authority that it feels usurps its right to be free of the easiness it feels.

This is the real problem: I will not be disturbed, not even by the intelligence I admit that my superior brain possesses. If I feel like I'm dragging my heels against an inevitable pull of whatever origin, then pull me where it will, I will not exert the energy to cooperate. It's a body matter, not one of mind.

My mind is fine; this is why I always say that I am not depressed. Depression, I want to feel, is a mental condition. I am physically depressed, but mentally, I am as active as I could ever be. This is why caffeine works so well for me, for too short a period of time. And I can't increase my limit.

So I allow myself to wander on in ennui, subject to the whims of physiology, but consciously attentive to the mental manifestations that exhibit themselves when unconscious presences appear, as if they existed outside of me, even as I suspect, if I will but think of it, that I am probably projecting.

Emily Dickinson as a Postmodern Zen Prototype

According to Lacan, man's acknowledged center is nothing less than an otherness, an absence that inhabits him as if he were its home. "The unconscious," Lacan writes, following Freud closely, "is the discourse of the Other"; it is that language whose meaning we do not know, the page that is blank, the censored chapter. the Freudian universe consciousness is what displaces, stands instead of, the true subject. ...If a man is an otherness even to himself, an unknown from which he is distanced and by which he is more than partially defined, then the loss of an object-the world's otherness-is a secondary loss, only a mirror for the more immediate estrangement inside.
Shannon Cameron, Lyric Time
Emily Dickinson's identification of lost presence with pain (which resurrects the lost object in her mind/experience--or rather, that of the speaker in certain of her poems) illogically equates pain (loss) with its opposite (presence); and therefore she treasures pain as an extant remnant of the lost object--not a normal human reaction.

On the other hand, rather than evoking pain, loss of presence evokes ennui in me; that is, loss is a disconnection from excitement (of presence), or more generally, from life ("dead" people don't feel pain). Therefore, ennui is a form of death (of feeling).

Unlike Emily, I refuse to feel the pain; so I don't have to equate the pain of loss with presence in order to maintain a sense of the latter. Instead, I theorize the existence of presence rationally, knowing that it is always available if I will but find the way out of ennui to it. But the path to it requires motivation of some sort. It's a fine line, a tightrope, restoring "life" without calling up repressed negative feeling. I must arouse myself into a state whereby I "care," which can occur spontaneously upon the event of a perceived presence in a social situation or can be provoked by an act of (pre-)determined will when I finally decide that I have had enough of my moping around; or it can be a simple matter of physiology and/or biochemistry, a switchover of the ongoing bipolar mode.

So I find myself in an unfortunate existential state of opposition to Emily's, actually feeling more typical, more normal than she seemed to be. Yet the paradox of Emily's position is inviting. I often find myself uniting opposites in this way that she did with loss and presence. My search for unity is exactly this attempt; I just go about it in a different way, allowing the search to flag for weeks or months when a sense of presence eludes me, ending up settling into a deeper and deeper state of ennui, the loss forgotten, whereas Emily held the loss in consciousness by attending to the pain she allowed herself to feel.

In the absence of presence, I (perhaps) experience loss, but I cut off the pain (via repression?), which leaves me lost to myself. The loss I experience becomes me; that is, in refusing to attend to it consciously, I unwittingly act it out (the state of ennui). The pain is diffused to such an extent that it is unrecognizable as pain and becomes more of a "nothing matters" or an "I don't care" attitude. In doing this I may not be so abnormal as Emily, but I may not be so normal after all. Most people feel the pain of loss rather than repress it, I suspect; but unlike Emily, they do not value the experience and would rather be without it. Emily was more idealistic: she would have presence or some fragment of it always with her. If she could not have the real thing, then the pain would suffice.

And I have my rational, motivated mode that serves me well to occupy my time between periods of awareness of presence when I am not overwhelmed with ennui. It's ultimately a sterile period, a mediation between the two extremes (presence & ennui), filled with lots of (mostly mental) activity; but it preserves my interest in "life" and distracts my attention away from the fact that I'm not really living at all--if living is defined as presence, which I think it should be.

When alone, I sometimes spontaneously experience a sudden onset of presence, "in absentia" as it were, worthy of Emily's pain as presence in absentia, except that I do not feel the pain or invoke a state of ennui because the presence I experience is not a sense of loss. And always, if I happen to think of it, I can meditate myself into this experience of presence. This is possibly a delusion as powerful as Emily's delusion [if that is what it is; if it does not represent some real form of supernatural perception/experience, which is, I want to think, given my own experience of presence, entirely possible] of pain as presence; but it is experience nonetheless. And, of course, presence will occur in social situations, usually pleasantly surprising me, since I seldom consciously go looking for it, although it is a powerful unconscious motive. Feelings of contact and connection, whether experienced when alone or in the company of others, can be profound, especially when it is mutually felt. [This is not a syntactical error: I sometimes (think I) feel connection even when I am alone.]

But when I am with others, I tend to disappear. The self I am sees myself in others. This is mostly an unconscious process, but I am not totally unaware of it in the moment. It's as if I have an automatic empathy that allows me to be the other for as long as their image (presence) is in front of me (and maybe for some time thereafter, based on vivid memory, if my attention is not turned away by other people/things/ideas), not so much to feel what others are feeling, although that happens too (especially negatively, as when they will attack and so I feel I must respond in kind), as to feel and think what it is that I am feeling, but as if I am another instead. It's more a matter of self-image than of empathy per se. I "see" myself as another, as if I am doing my thinking and feeling as the person the other is, but inside my own body. My face is the other's face. The other's visage is my own, and the one that I truly own has disappeared. In a sense, I project my unconscious (and aspects of my consciousness) onto others, one person at a time; but more profoundly, I am mapping another's image onto me and partially introjecting the other's ideas/psychology (which, coincidentally, can convince others that I (have) know(n) exactly what they're talking about, even when I have no idea at all, but am just at that moment learning from them).

This phenomenon is not always lost on others; sometimes people, especially women, become attracted to me for this reason. They recognize an immediacy between us that they like, even more so than I myself do, since most of my recognition is taken over by my involvement in the interaction, thinking and/or feeling as if from their psychological point-of-view, seeing life as if from their vantage point, so that I overcome for the time being the difficulty of transcending myself and find the presence that will elude me, but unfortunately find it in a way that I cannot attend to it so well in the present (as I can when I find it alone by supra-relational means), being too caught up in the content of the experiential moment to focus on the phenomenon itself; yet these moments, when they are positive, I relive and cherish as pleasant memories, as pleasant as they are regretful when they are negative. This is not a process unique to me, though perhaps I have attained more awareness of it than most people have; it's a function of a self that has split off from its source of psychic nourishment.

Historically, the self splits itself off from the other because it had initially recognized the other as a part of itself, but then, due to the other's subsequent absence, the self realizes it is not an all-encompassing unity. Thereafter, until the time, if ever (and most likely it will be so), that the self makes the permanent split, it encounters the other as a missing part of itself. But inevitably it must make a full split, and when it does, it either becomes autistic or else it establishes as a primary agenda the attempt to reunite itself with the lost part of itself in what ever effective or ineffective way(s) that it can. This agenda can take many different forms--normal or perverted; sexual activity or desire; religious fervor or an obsession with theology, ritual, and/or dogma; science; philosophy; neuroses; psychoses...the list goes on and on and the items in it are not mutually exclusive. Through it all, the self wants the unity it lost when it first established itself as a fictive independent entity. If ever found again, by whatever means, presence (the absence of loss) can become the entire conscious purpose of the life--as it is the whole unconscious purpose before the re-discovery. Otherwise, the self may go through life feeling it has lost itself, and therefore feeling insecure--a common malady among people who, for whatever reason, decide that they have given in to life's travail and so accept their "fate," whatever it may be, with or without complaint. We either continue our search for the lost unity of our earliest moments or we abandon the search in favor of despair. (Of course, many, or most, of the search methods we develop are symbolic and have little to do with an actual search for presence. Typically, we substitute for it a search for money, or sex, or power...whatever. It's a common problem. No need to elaborate any further. Everyone knows what I'm talking about, if not rationally, then in the gut.)

getting ready to dump the tea

Power is a common displacement for the search for unity. It represents security, which everyone wants, all the more so the older we get. So I start to think that maybe there is a kind of logic to the Republican social security agenda that I might agree with; but when I hear King George proposing it, I bristle. First of all, in order to convince me, they need a different spokesperson. Anything the man says I automatically assume is a lie or a scheme to divert money to the rich, which the new proposal certainly will do. Okay, so the money will go to "the markets" (read: rich businessmen), not directly from the middle and working classes, but rather routed through the federal government; but the system will endanger working poor (and less so, the middle class) who will be tempted to invest in vehicles they know little or nothing about; and it will capitalize on more naive working young adults who tend always to think that they can make windfall profits without consequence. No amount of safeguards built into a system can prevent human ignorance and stupidity. Lots of people will lose money, have no doubt about that. There is no safe stock market investment. But as far as it goes so far, I can live with it. A fool and his money...

Social Security is an insurance system that guarantees that citizens who will otherwise not be able to survive after they retire will have a stopgap measure. In that sense, it doesn't have to be doled out ubiquitously to every contributor. People who have other retirement funds above a certain (relatively high) level can be excluded. That will save some money and extend the "'inevitable" bankruptcy. Social Security is not welfare; what I propose here would make it a welfare program by indexing benefits toward the working poor.

But Bush and his cronies are opposed to the system on principle. They don't like welfare (unless it's corporate), and they don't like the government enforcing a tax to maintain an insurance system--unless the money can be directed toward the wealthy. It's a libertarian principle: each citizen should provide for him or herself and family, and the government should stay out of it altogether. I don't disagree. It's a good point, in principle--except that we've been living with the promise and the expectation that the premiums we've been paying will provide us with certain old-age services, and to strip that away from us now is an injustice we should not have to tolerate. So, if conservative pols want to do away with the Social Security system, fine. Phase it out, and pay benefits to the people who are now in it with general funds until the last vested recipient dies. That's fair. But don't complicate the problem and further burden us with a system that can potentially rip us off, because if there is that potential, we will act on it, many of us. We're not as savvy as you are, Mr. President, when it comes to shady business deals.

But apart from extending the welfare system, if that is so onerous to the present government, reducing my promised benefits to create this proposed new system is totally unacceptable to me. This is the point at which it all goes too far. Fuck George Bush all his friends and constituents who propose and/or support this new system. Fuck them all with a big black rubber dildo. I am owed the money you contracted with me to supply, and when the time comes for me to collect, I intend to get it every penny of it, and not some reduced amount, even if it is only a few dollars. I'm getting ready to dump the tea. It's a mistake to think this way, I know; but I can't help it. It's my rebellious, unfocused mind running rampant again. Viva la revolution, again.

a nice neat bedroom

development and difficulties of a single individual2
organism toward a ubiquitous understanding
of the nature of the universe and/or reality

I'm gonna make a mistake.
I'm gonna do it on purpose.
Gonna waste my time.
Fiona Apple, "Mistake"
I struggle pretty much continually with trying to find a focus. And it seems natural at this time of year [i.e., on or around the winter solstice; I'm running a bit late this year, the result of being 'down' a bit more than usual this early in the season] to reformulate or at least restate the purpose of my life. Typically, I will do this in one way or another, motivated not by an arbitrarily determined calendar, but by the local cosmic event, yet along the same lines that less dedicated people will make New Year's resolutions.

This year I seem to have a better grip, if not on my depressive psychology, then at least on my sense of where I want to (be) go(ing). Impressed while reading about Einstein's dedicated, if misguided [but maybe not; he disregarded quantum mechanics, but he was way ahead of the game in the search for a theory of everything and his dedication motivated more recent scientists to pursue the same] focus of his later years, I ask myself what is (or will be) my dedicated effort as I face (up to) my remaining years? (I resist stating the concern in this way because I've long since maintained a focus on youth in general and my own in particular, even if that attention is formulated in a present sort of way--i.e., I think of myself as youth embodied by age; or, in other words, I never really grew up and I don't know that I want so much to start doing it now. Though I age, still I (want to) retain as much of my youth as I am able to; and I always have.)

Will my focus continue to be, simply, writing? Or perhaps art? It certainly will involve both psychology and physics (i.e., cosmology), the two areas of study that have pursued me all my life. I'd like to expand my study to include a more organized system of approach, actually choosing topics and categories instead of happening across them as they present themselves to me; and I'd like to improve the way I document acquired knowledge, both to demonstrate (at least to myself) what I've learned and for use as guidelines to educate people I happen across who are deprived of and starved for a scientific understanding.

That's a big goal, worthy more of a whole life than a remainder of it. But I do have a bit of a head start. I want to know if this is how I really want to spend my time. I ask myself (transcribing notes from my mini-clipboard that I keep beside my bed): Is there some main focus I can apply myself to? Can I claim that I must chase a major breakthrough of some kind (like Einstein's theory of everything)? Can I devote the remaining years of my life to some super-focused idea or near-insight, desperately raging (though calmly, mixing metaphor with an aging wisdom) against time, running (jogging) a final race to determine what I can accomplish before I no longer am?

Or, if I actually do find this focus [Is it truly, after all, as I have stated it above? Is this the true purpose of my life?], will I be, like Einstein, considered to have headed down the wrong road and wasted my remaining years in futile exploration? Or am I already headed down the wrong road, chosen long ago? Did I make an unfortunate turn or two, or many? More likely, from others' points of view, I've been on the wrong road all my life. Did I make a strategic mistake when I was young that has resulted in my being here and now, a separated individual instead of a well-integrated gregarious citizen? But how could I have done anything other than what I have? I had to have been what I am. And if I did make a mistake, good for me. If I would have become aware of Fiona's idea early on, I probably would have done it on purpose. But I don't need to have tried to make mistakes. I have. Too bad.

But the implication of Fiona's song is that she needs to make a mistake in order to loosen up, take a few risks, take a chance, and I could have used that advice back when; but maybe not. It may not have felt like it at the time, I may have been an introspective, moody, careful, decided, cautious individual, but my life now is the result of one BIG risk and, before that one, several lesser big risks and a lot of other littler risks. I may have been occasionally (or frequently) uptight about who I was and what I was about, but I've always ultimately gone my own way despite any trepidation I've felt--or maybe because of it, as my personality steered me in the direction I have taken, because it is who I am, after all.

All water under the bridge. Irrelevant.
Here I am, now, moving on.

If there is a single idea that pulls closed the draw-strings of the cloth bag of my life, it is presence. I have known presence since the beginning, hardly ever having been apart from it for more than days at a time. I experience it in everyday life, I learn of it in psychological studies, I recognize it in cosmological theories and in quantum mechanics and particle physics. And, of course, it's the subject of much literary effort. It's a life theme of mine, the primary one, more primary than art (which is a secondary process, in any case). When I study in these areas, presence is what I'm studying, because it's who I am, and I have always wanted to know more about that subject.

And anyway, how else will I spend my time if I do not pursue the phantom of presence into the vast reaches of the cosmos and the quantum effects of my brain and body chemistry? What else can I do that will be so damned important? Certainly not striving to maintain a current tv programs schedule acquired from the internet, or working to make my home more livable and able to fetch a better resale price, or...I could create a long list here, but I won't. I'm tired. And I'm tired of trying to find a focus, every year at this time, every morning when I create a daily work schedule, every afternoon when I give it up and take a nap to escape the drudgery of it all. I'm focused now, for this year; and hopefully forever:

I write, as a means of clarifying in my own mind and documenting whatever I am focusing on at the time, the science and the difficulties I encounter while trying to acquire it, the intricacies I am made up of that inhibit my ability to see everything forever. I see now that it's more of a means than a purpose. I'm not a writer who is also interested in science; I'm a scientist who writes--and my "literary" efforts are those expressions of my self that cleverly disguise this fact. Art, the secondary (derivative) process is my re-creation. And my visual art is a form of relaxation, not to be taken too seriously, although I enjoy it quite a bit. It's a part of my work, a lesser part, but it is work. It's a good thing to have made up my mind in this way. It's like making my bed: I don't do it too often, but it sure feels good to see a nice neat bedroom for a change. I remember having made my bed a long time ago (on numerous occasions), and now I have to lie in it, whether it is made or not. [I feel a little funny about that metaphor. Does it work?]

real work

As the winter deepens, I become increasingly obsessed with my small bedroom with its sealed windows that exclude all but the tiniest amounts of light so that I am seldom aware when awakening, without going to a bit of trouble to observe or think, whether it is day or night. I like this feeling of disorientation, as if I am slightly lost; it appeals to my basic nature. The first thing I do each day when I awaken is reorient myself to a world in which I feel I do not quite belong, but must return to, to do the work I have to do.

I've been programmed by my previous life of business into thinking of my "work" as that collection of stuff that I do first thing each day, planning and scheduling, documentation, collection, and (re)processing of ideas accumulated from the day before, less important sub-routines, etc. And in a sense, it's true that this stuff is my work, in that it is essential to what I do and requires a certain discipline and dedication that is not easy consistently to maintain. ("That's why they call it 'work'.")

But in a different sense, in the sense of the above purpose, my real work is input, which is collected throughout the rest of the day, stored on various media (or in the mind; even dreamed at night), to be re-worked the next day. Doing "research" on the internet in this sense is a part of my work, and I have been considering it as such; but even merely idly surfing may be as important; and idly surfing my own mind (daydreaming and fantasizing) may be as important. But what I've tended to dismiss as less or unimportant is the "work" I do outside my home, within society (existing in others' presence and socializing, for lack of a better word, although the way that some others do it may not justify that label), and most importantly, in bed at night, reading, and even watching tv and gleaning facts and ideas from the depictions of real and fictive human behavior.

This simple realization has turned my whole idea of work around. It seems that I have a job that requires me to work twenty-four hours a day. That's not a complaint. In fact, it's an ideal, a kind of unity I've sought after for a long time, only to find that I've had it for a long time now. My life has become my work, which is the way it has always been, except that I never had all that much time to attend to it, having (felt that I) had to preoccupy myself with working at jobs to make money to assure my present/future, focusing the best of my time and energy elsewhere, toward purposes I cared little or nothing about. Now I am free, to pursue my real work full time, which I've been doing for more than ten years now. How wonderful.

But a substantial part of that real work turns out to be social criticism, despite the fact that I would have it otherwise. I don't like being critical (and I'm not so fond of the social part either), but it happens to me spontaneously, and I naturally follow my own lead, because that is ideally the best thing that I do. And the most prevalent form of social criticism these days seems to focus on the conservative agenda:

Conservatives believe that cream rises to the top; liberals believe in homogenization. Conservatives don't support (real) education, but only token programs that pretend to educate in order to appease the masses, because they know that education enables the poor in their attempt to improve themselves, which, if they do, divides the pie into thinner slices, leaving less for the richer (rich and poor are relative terms) folk among us. [This is the same reason that conservatives don't like unions (and a lot of other things). It's not about the power that unions wield over the management of businesses; it's about money. Reduced control leads to lower profits, which on the surface seems to be a negative result, except when you measure it (from a liberal perspective) against where the money is going, to the workers in the form of higher wages and better benefits. It's all about money. But that's a different issue.]

But cream rises to the top only if it is not inhibited from doing so. Conservatives inhibit the process while pretending to embody it; most of the rising is done by ancestors who managed to influence legislation and government so that their offspring could hang onto their money. Fair enough, except that most of it isn't fair at all. It's one thing to maximize your wealth; it's a whole different thing to do so at the expense of those who might otherwise rise up to become wealthy too. Let's give everyone a fair chance. Rich people may not accumulate so much wealth as they otherwise might, but society overall will be better off because it will have access to a far larger pool of brilliant minds.

Conservative politicians are a sleazy, slimy bunch; but liberals, though they may be blow-dried, are not all that much better. And the traditional split now extends itself (even more obviously) to journalists, who have joined the ranks of politicians, lawyers, and car salesmen to become one of the sleaziest professions in the world. Okay, sure; there are some good journalists. (Jim Lehrer comes to mind; but, interestingly, no one else.) But there are some good politicians, lawyers, and car salesmen too. (Well, maybe not politicians--or car salesmen either, now that I think of it.) It's no longer so prestigious to be a journalist. If you don't suspect a journalist's motives when you read or hear a news report, you're just being naive. Of course, journalists' motives have always been suspect. (The Spanish-American War didn't just happen.) But they used to have such good public relations. No more. I used to want to be a journalist and considered my "work" a step in that direction. No more. Now I dream of other things.

a brief interlude

I have oral sex and then, briefly, intercourse with Rhona Mitra in my bedroom of my teenage home. And she likes me, a lot! But she doesn't understand me. She expects me to be like a more typical man. Later, I join her marching band, an itinerate group of musicians who travel from gig to gig on a bus. But along the way, after I suspect it, gleaned from a conversation we all have concerning her apartment back home, when the subject comes up as to who is taking care of her plants, in order to avoid lying to me, which she does not want us to do with each other, she admits that she has a live-in boyfriend. I'm cool. I don't go crazy or anything. But she perceives my disappointment and asks if this changes anything between us. Of course it does, I say. Now it's her turn to be disappointed. She wants to know if we can still have a relationship. I say, sure we can. We just can't have sex. Now she is really disappointed. She asks why not? I ask her what does she think her boyfriend is doing while she's out on the road having sex with another guy. She says that he's probably with some girl. I explain that I don't think it's very safe for me to be exposing myself to that kind of STD threat. "But I love you," she says. "I know you do," I say. She asks me if I love her. I say, "You already know the answer to that." She doesn't say anything for a very long time, but just looks into my eyes. And then she digs her cell phone out of her purse and calls her boyfriend. She tells him that she wants him to be moved out of her apartment by the time she gets back home. He wants to know why. She tells him she's fallen in love with someone else. He wants to know if she loves him. She says that she'll always be his friend [ouch!], but she hasn't actually loved him for quite a while. He whines that he has nowhere else to go. She tells him to move in with that other girl. He says he didn't know she knew about her. She says, "Do you really think I'm that stupid?" And she looks at me as if to say that she didn't know until I suggested it, which prompted her to cleverly trick him into admitting it. The guys (and one girl) in the band have been looking on through this whole thing. One of them says, "This is better than watching 'The Days of our Lives." Everyone agrees. I carry the feeling of relationship, the "presence" of Rhona, with me for several days, happy that I've managed to capture it, if only temporarily; but unhappy that it is so uncommunicable. (I'm an expert at avoiding communicable "diseases.")

pure genius

Emily Dickinson's poetry is pure genius, not only because her structure and style was innovative and a century ahead of her time, but because the apparent simplicity of her content disguises a complexity and density of thought that most poets aspire to but seldom achieve. (You need to know the code, though, to appreciate the depth of her work. It can be quite obscure, even when you do understand what she was trying to accomplish.)

Emily's genius enabled her ability to render multiple meanings (double, triple, etc. entendre) and stitch them together via compromised grammar and syntax. James Joyce's genius enabled him to stitch multiple meanings together via words from multiple languages (as in Finnegan's Wake). Albert Einstein's genius enabled his insight into the multiplicity of physical processes and their mathematical definitions and relationships. Like Maxwell did with electricity and magnetism, combining them both into one force, the EMF, Einstein combined (among other concepts/phenomena) time and space, gravity and acceleration, matter and energy.

Genius (intelligence) is (or enables) the ability to relate events that are only apparently unrelated. [Everything is related, given a wide enough perspective.] The more true relationship you understand, the broader your scope of phenomenal inclusion, the more intelligent you are. (Or vice versa.) Each of the people mentioned above immersed themselves in their work full time (like I do; you may see ahead to where I am heading here). But I'll bet they took their work a lot more seriously than I do. Or should I say they approached it in a lot less of a distracted way? I don't know. Sometimes it seems like I waste a lot of time vegetating, moping around for long periods of time, pursuing trivia and fantasy; but maybe they did too. And on the other hand, much of the time while I'm vegetating, I'm thinking about my "work," scheming, relating ideas, allowing my mind to work on its own, unconsciously, without my more mundane and parochial interference. So maybe I'm not so different after all.

My genius is my ability to enmesh (especially personal) psychological and cosmological insights with a sense of presence that most often eludes description. Or else I'm just crazy and what I perceive is mere illusion--which it is in any case. I sometimes think I'd be more effective at communicating my ideal in poetry, like Emily--except that I always want to interpret the poetry I write, within the poem, which makes it kind of a self-defeating process.

at the barriers

Both crazy and intelligent people (the two categories are not mutually exclusive) are discriminated against in society. I'm every bit as much discriminated against as traditionally discriminated-against people are. In a way, I'm discriminated against for not being stupid. Social mechanisms themselves, apart from the actions of individuals, discriminate against me when they assume that, because I am not of a certain class of people, I do not require aid. And certain individuals, some in relatively high and/or influential places, when they discover that I am educated and intelligent, will make it a point to either disregard me out-of-hand or arbitrarily oppose the purpose I am seeing them about (e.g., my brother on New Years' Day).

And I am discriminated against because of my "disability." When I was younger and of necessity had to be out intensely interacting within society every day, I was extremely overwhelmed with it all and could barely function a lot of the time--especially way back when I was a kid. I shut down all but my most essential "social" self and reserved it for my time alone (in fantasy, etc. I've written of this many times before.) Through it all I've suffered with my lack of social wherewithal. Had I been born (or raised; but I suspect that a great deal of the problem is genetic) a different person, a more gregarious one, I would have been more readily accepted and rewarded.

Actually, I didn't do too badly in this last regard and so can't really complain so much on that basis--until now. Now, I suffer from the many years I had to suffer from being overly stressed to the point of exhaustion and yet still had to carry on, to devote myself to success, despite the physical toll it took on me. My back is ruined, I have little stamina remaining, and I parcel out my time alone in order to pace myself so as not to overwhelm myself again, which is what I should have been doing all along, except that society does not reward people for living a sane and sensible life when their specific circumstances limit their ability to perform. Either you work at a predefined peak and if necessary overachieve, or else you are left behind. I have been left behind after having overachieved for so long, and now society discriminates against me, because I have been mostly used up by it in its effort to make money for an elite minority.

So, once again, fuck you, George Bush, and all of you other supercilious politicians and businessmen who want to further curtail my ability to survive within a society that would care more about me if this were truly a kinder and gentler nation or if I had more money and so was able to invest it in capital-based enterprise. I'm a product of your culture, and I want some respect, and a bit of a helping hand, or at least my promised pension. And I've got my eyes open. I'm watching events. And when the time comes, if it comes, I'll be right there with the others at the barricades. This is a typical fantasy of mine, armed revolt; I even dream about it. I need this kind of a distraction away from the craziness and toward a reality of the confrontation in defense truly human values. But it never manifests itself within the scope of my immediate life--probably because I am cautious and have limited my scope in just this way. But I continue to dream, and one day at least a few of them will come true.

only human

I am Ben Stiller and Patricia Arquette is my wife. We're traveling as if on vacation, although we only go to nearby Monroeville. On the way, we pick up another couple who are stranded after an accident, their car inoperable. But as we talk to them as we travel, we begin to suspect how weird they are, as if they are hippie, druggie, Satan worshippers in ordinary, middle class disguise. (Nothing about their appearance or behavior tips us off as to their true nature, which in fact may be quite normal; but unidentified "hints" in the way they talk and the things they say, make us suspicious.) But on route 22 our car also breaks down [pointing to an identity between the two of us and the two of them] and we have to get out and walk a ways to the nearest place where we can get some help. But before we do, "Pattie" has to urinate, so we group around her, facing toward her as she squats beside the road. I switch characters and become the other guy, who is more like my own self. [I am the weird one.] As I watch Pattie I can see every detail of her nether anatomy. I fall instantly in love. We trek up to a kind of a combination motel/small town municipal "courthouse" and commercial tourist center at the beginning of the strip, where we begin to negotiate for rooms/car repairs/etc. But as a result of the stress of our travails, Ben dies. [He's my straight-laced, business self, the guy I used to (pretend to) be. Interestingly, I never liked Ben Stiller as an actor.] Pattie is disturbed about this, of course, but not so disturbed as I think she should be. [She's a conventional woman, that aspect of myself that thought I should be in business in the first place, a super-ego function that became predominant in order to assure my survival and prosperity--as opposed to the simple ego and/or id-based survival that I had relied on earlier in my life. In other words, I became a stick.] She's a bit sad, and I try to cheer her up. We end up getting a room and having sex (the woman who was with me has conveniently disappeared) [my Pattie function replaces a "weirder" and less developed form of anima? Or maybe, "I" become a fusion of both the guy and the girl who was with him, as a kind of healing of a previous split], after which, as I lie in bed holding her, she begins to cry, allowing herself to experience real grief. She says she must be a horrible person for having sex with someone she doesn't even know immediately after her husband died [an attitude of my more uptight self]. I tell her it's okay; it's normal. It's a way of relieving the stress that the situation creates. People do it all the time. She says, "You mean you knew that and you had sex with me anyway?" I know what's coming, so I tell her that I never really thought of it until just now (which is true), but had I remembered it, I probably wouldn't have allowed us to have sex (which I suspect is not the truth). Still, she's upset with me, but not as upset as if I wouldn't have tried to head it off. As I hold her, she tightens and resists me, but she doesn't make any attempt to pull away. Still crying and remorseful, she makes a few remarks about me in a bitter tone, how she doesn't know if she can trust me, how I may be just trying manipulate her, etc. I don't respond, but continue to hold her, thinking to help her despite herself. Then, a little while later, she begins to loosen up again, and she apologizes for the things she said about me. I tell her that it's okay. She begins to berate herself for being so nasty. I explain that it's normal, that she's just projecting her grief at Ben's death onto me. But this explanation, though she believes it, doesn't help; rather, it only makes her realize how terrible a person she must be. I tell her that she's not a terrible person at all, that everything she's done is completely understandable, perfectly normal, and totally human, and that if she needs to do continue to do it, that I am here for her, that she should take her best shot, fire away, I can take it. This makes her happy and appreciative and she melts into my arms.

This dream is actually (at least in part) about my recent (and recurring) concerns over past relationships with several women. This is the dynamic that I always resorted to when women projected their disturbance(s) onto me--although with far less of an explanatory component on my part, since most of them demonstrated that they didn't really understand me when I slipped into that mode, and since I wasn't so communicative back then in the first place. But now, this is all internalized. It's become a (dys)functional part of me--or it always was, but I projected it onto the relationships I was in. Pattie is a split off part of me who is remorseful for...whatever; for the death of Ben (my relationships; he was in a relationship with her); for all of the nasty things I've said to people as I projected my "grief" (pain) onto them, for the asshole I had been, stressed out and trying to do a difficult job under next to impossible conditions, or dealing with a similar condition in relationships. I am assuaging my guilty "Pattie" (what is left of Ben after he has died) telling it that it's okay to feel/have felt the way it does/did, that I am/have been acting normally in this regard, that I am only human after all. This is a healing dream, an attempt to resolve early personality difficulties.

intuitive research

Sometimes the complexity of personality overwhelms me, usually after awakening out of a dream when the content is still close to the surface. Then I can examine intricate details and/or grasp a global view of how I am, how I work, what my flaws are, how I relate to others, in ways in which I am typically oblivious, how I limit myself via a system of checks and balances that prevent me from heading too far off in any one direction; or how I do not at other times, allow that system to operate, heading toward extremes and getting myself into trouble. But the details of the insight fade away as I more fully awaken to a distracting and confusing world.

Several days ago I switched over into manic mode. I didn't expect it and I hardly realized I'd done it at the time. It was prompted by a book I received in the mail, The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene; but maybe I would have switched over anyway. Maybe it was time. [I wish I knew; I wish I could control it. When I shift into this mode, I get (need?) less sleep, I am motivated to work at...whatever, I am generally happy; but I can go too far. If I could control the state, I'd probably over-control it and remain in an eternal manic state and ruin my health or something.] I'm just now coming to a fuller awareness of my state change as I look back over the huge amount of cosmologically related material that I've produced (in off-line projects) and realize that I could be way off base with the theories and have ended up just wasting a lot of time (not that that is such a big deal; I have lots of time to waste, and do so frequently).

This is a preliminary, "rational" conclusion; it's possible that I am onto something here, out in the cosmos, researching intuitively. Time will tell, if it turns out that time is real after all, and not another cosmic illusion. Meanwhile, back in the jungle, I seem to be fighting a conflict between winter SAD and my developing manic state. Apparently, there's a difference between low light induced "depression" and one of a different sort, perhaps an independent physiological and/or mental condition. I'll have to watch how this develops to see if I can tease the two apparent states apart. Meanwhile, I occupy myself with more prosaic concerns.

just one of the dogs

I've become aware of a perceptual (or relational) difference I have between myself and (male v. female) dogs. A male dog can be my buddy. A female dog cannot. Female dogs lack a certain quality that I can't quite define. (But I'm going to try.) A female dog for me is just some kind of animate toy, something to be played with, sympathized with, and tolerated, whereas a male dog is a friend on a more equal footing (especially the breeds I favor, those that are relatively independent and self-minded, yet at the same time fiercely loyal).

This perception of my relationship with dogs is a generalization from human relationships, and so it sheds light on them. (We may not, due to repression, or whatever, be all that informed re our human interactions, especially when it comes to the opposite sex; but we carry a lot less baggage re animals; and so we may benefit by investigations into analogies of this sort.)

Men can be my buddies; but women, even though I very much like and appreciate them when they act the way buddies act, tend to sexually arouse me. When they don't, when they're simply downright unattractive, I tend to disregard them out-of-hand, thereby putting up a significant resistance against them relating to me in any other way, let alone that of buddy. The exception here is women who are out-and-out butch. I like butch women, and they can become my good buddies; and if a woman is both butch and attractive, look out. That situation sets up all kinds of conflicts in me. Not only do I want to know her and please her, I actually end up wanting to be her. [But that's all off the subject.]

When an attractive woman acts like she's just one of the guys, I begin to develop conflicting agendas toward her. Should I pal around with her or should I, in whatever indirect way I will choose to go about it, try to get her into bed? That is, should I cater to her in that "romantic" way that's necessary, for her benefit--which, if I do, usually ends up taking the form of a kind of quasi-romantic, semi-disguised "courtship" (for lack of a better word); or should I avoid any sexual motive altogether [but how can I? Isn't it ultimately all a matter of chemistry?], because, after all, she is my buddy.

I particularly like the passive/buddy approach. When a woman doesn't in any way actually require any kind of romantic behavior from me and will still have loving sex with me, I think it's great--although I will still want to act in my esoteric "romantic" manner, especially because I am allowed to work my approach on my own schedule and in my own peculiar way, in accordance with my state of mind, biorhythms, or whatever, and not according to some predetermined expectation that society/culture would impose.

I appreciate a woman all the more for allowing me the freedom to express my affection and attraction in my own idiosyncratic way. An indifference to social mores on her part fans a romantic flame in me: "Hey. This girl's okay. Let's treat her better than the rest." In an attempt to be exhaustive in explaining this affect, I posit that a girl being cute and/or petite, despite her behavior and/or expectations, will fan the same flame, although I'll be far less likely to act on it; and yet any attraction, however unlikely it is to become acted upon, may under the right circumstance become actualized.

But I could never be sexually attracted to an animal; I don't bend that way. Thus, the whole psychology I harbor that mediates between male bonding with females and sexual attraction is totally ruled out in my relationships with female dogs. They can become companions, but never really buddies like men, male dogs, and some few women can, because they lack the capacity to cater to me, however subtly or unconsciously, like humans will. They lack the guile, or the psychology, or whatever it is that prompts a woman to be (like) one of the guys. (A bitch, in either dog or woman form, does not, for any reason, want to be one of the guys.)

Is this correct behavior, this way that I relate to people, especially women? Maybe not. But explaining it all to myself is insightful. If I need to make a change (and I'm not sure that I do), then insight into what I truly am and how I relate to people is the first step. And that insight is most often prompted by my dreams.


I'm on the upper level of the Penn Hills Shopping Center doing something that has something to do with db, who is not present, some "relationship" concern that I'm dealing with alone. The parking lot is nearly empty of cars, as if it's Sunday morning or some other time when no shoppers are around. [A parking lot is a kind of social place, not where people "socialize" per se (unless they are at tailgate parties), but a place where they initially congregate, although one-by-one, in order to go somewhere else to socialize--even if that socialization is merely shopping "together." Thus, this is a multi-level (like the shopping center itself) symbol: shopping is a social activity that is not quite so social; a parking lot is a kind of preliminary social enterprise; the lot is empty, indicative of a non-social kind of socialization. I think the theme here is becoming quite evident.] Whatever I'm doing, which is not so much forgotten as it is unexpressed within the dream, which is not so much understood as felt, has something to do my (empty) relationship with db. (It's not her so much as a more generalized conception of women, with db as a convenient, yet very vague, almost unidentified non-person, which in fact she is in the dream, not really being there at all, but only "understood.") As I'm finishing up whatever it is I'm doing (half-wandering around the lot in a semi-purposeful mode, doing something important, yet, symbol-wise, doing nothing at all. [Hmm. This is interesting. This may be what I'm doing in my waking life, making progress, certainly, but at what? I'm wandering around in my mind with not much focus, yet I feel like I'm going somewhere, somewhere important; I feel like I'm doing the right thing, exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, but I'm not quite sure what it really is.] When I'm finishing up what it is that I'm doing, I look for my car, but I can't find it (recurrent). [What is the car a symbol of? Freedom? Maneuverability? I'm stuck in a place I can't easily get out of?] I walk around the lot looking at the few cars that are there, and I choose one that's sort of similar to mine and steal it, planning to get rid of it before its absence is noticed. In fact, it's not a car at all, but a huge white (the same color as my car) metal "folder" standing up on edge, one side of which is far shorter than the other, as if it's a flap. [What does this symbol mean? The folder could be a place where I keep my ideas for writing (and maybe ideas in a more general sense), but not in so organized a way, because there are only two pockets. This is a bit like what I'm experiencing right now, trying to separate out the content of several developing projects and having difficulty determining what belongs to which, with a lot of information that has to be included in too few formats.] I "stand" (more like hang) on the long side of the folder and steer it with the short flap, as if I were riding a motorized scooter, except that there's no room for an engine anywhere. I make my way down to the lower level of the shopping center where I come up to an area closed off with tall snow fencing that is the back of one of the fast food places. Inside, I see Cindy. I'm happy to see her, but I feel a little bit intimidated about meeting her. I notice on the ground ahead of me lots of very long, thin snakes, and before I can stop, I run over one of them with the folder, which cuts it in half like a thin bicycle wheel would. This is inside the fenced-in area, which I enter without any resistance, as if the fence weren't there, although once inside, the fencing surrounds me. I become fearful of going any farther, but Cindy comes over to me. [There is an obvious identity between the fear of the snakes and the intimidation I feel re Cindy, but I don't make that connection in the dream.] Cindy must recognize my fear because she talks about the snakes, which include now also several kinds of much larger lizard-like creatures that are about the size of alligators and that feel even more threatening. But Cindy assures me that they are harmless and, now outside the fence, she encourages me to pet one of them through it, which I do. I'm attracted to Cindy and want to have sex with her, but Rita shows up and my distraction allows Cindy to fade away. Rita wants to know why I'm here since I'm supposed to be on vacation. I'd lied to her about going on vacation [c.f., vacation in the previous dream], so I say that the departure was delayed and that we are leaving in the morning. (But I don't know who "we" are. Probably db and I.) Rita and I walk down to the end of the lot and on the way db joins us. Rita goes into a small, long, narrow building that sits along the road while db and I remain outside. She's not supposed to be in there; it's a private place, a kind of mini-office building that should be locked, but isn't. At first I don't realize that she, or someone else earlier, had broken in. Later, I go inside after her, but she has gone up to a loft-like second floor. She's poking around up there, looking for something, which I think [but not actually; that is, within the context of the dream I feel, but don't actually realize that I'm feeling instead of thinking until after I'm awake] is Valium, and that she is high and by virtue of this state of mind has been all but tuning out the experience of my presence, dealing with me in a distant and rote manner [which was a common experience with her when I knew her in real life.] She comes back downstairs, and I go over to her and put my hand down inside the front of her pants. Although she isn't offended in any way by this, she disallows it. I decide to leave, thinking that if I can't have sex with her, I'll go outside and have it with db; but as I'm leaving, a guy is approaching, about to enter the building. He looks at me blankly, and I at him. I feel like he belongs there and I do not, like he is the rightful occupant of the property and I am trespassing; but he doesn't say anything to me, although he continues to look at me in a questioning manner until I pass him by. Fearing he will soon realize or discover that we do not belong there, I hurry away. db is now inside the building with Rita. I get their attention by waving at them with a motion that indicates that they should quickly get out of there. db immediately grasps what's happening and leaves, but Rita remains, oblivious, despite the fact that she too saw me waving. (She's too high to take notice enough to act, or even to realize that there might be problems for her if she remains there.) I escape to behind the snow fence where I can't be seen and yet can watch the building. The guy goes about his work, ignoring Rita's presence. [The threat I felt for her (an aspect of myself) was unfounded?] I look for db, hoping she has followed me, but she is nowhere to be seen. I awaken wondering about my past relationships, feeling more disconcerted than ever about them, and feeling like I should spend some time in meditation; but I go back to sleep instead.

happy and content

I'm on Rockcliff Rd. in front of Ronnie's house, feeling like I need to be going somewhere. So I decide to take Ronnie's bike. I'm aware that I'm stealing it, but I have a semi-lucid rationalization that he doesn't live here any more anyway, so it doesn't matter. The bike is old, and is a kind of one-speed/ten-speed hybrid, with narrow tires, back-pedal brakes, and gears that have no shifter on the handlebars, which are a bit loose and crooked, making it hard to steer. I go down across Poketa Rd., braking occasionally to test the brakes, which are difficult to use, slow to react, and barely slow me down. I head on down the low road. Just past where the old stone quarry used to be, the road is blocked and I have to drag my feet to bring myself to a stop. There is a small pond in the middle of the road. (I'm walking now.) It contains a lot of large carp-like fish (but better looking than carp) and a few exotic smaller fish. But they're not crowded into the pond, as if there isn't any incongruity between the large number of fish and the smallness of the pond. I'm impressed by the pond and think that someone must have put these fish here intentionally, that this is not a naturally occurring situation, because the pond looks cared for and so many fish uncared for couldn't survive in such a small space. [I completely miss the idea that the pond with its concrete rectangular walls with rounded corners had to have been built by someone. Fish are one of my standard symbols for unconscious, especially creative, content, so I conclude that the care that has been taken is my own, that my daily attention to my unconscious processes has been beneficial.] I think that I should fish here, that catching these fish would be so easy; but then I think that it would be a shame to extract these fish from their happy home and disturb the equilibrium of the pond. I walk over to the edge of the hillside and look down into the valley. The whole area, including the roadway above, has been converted into a kind of park-like place, and traffic is excluded from this point on the road all the way down to the main road. The baseball field below has been landscaped and the woods east of it cleared of underbrush and the trees pruned and "domesticated." Then I notice that the gorge between the road and the woods has been deepened; or more correctly, a new, far deeper gorge has been added so that the old gorge (not really a gorge at all, but a narrow creek bed) is still there, on a shelf above the new gorge. I think that conditions could deteriorate and the shelf could erode away and allow the stream to empty into the deep gorge [the part of my unconscious mind that is not so deep, and thus most accessible, could become lost to me by dropping down into the deeper, inaccessible part]; but I dismiss the idea, coming to understand that everything is stable and okay. I'm standing on a huge rock with other rocks nearby. I have some of my "valuable possessions" with me, mostly trinket-like things that I cherish [material that I have retrieved from unconsciousness--mostly relatively superficial stuff; i.e., "trinket-like"]; but I have the idea that they will get away from me and drop into the gorge. I start to gather them up, but some of them are out of reach, lying on the nearby rocks. I have to reach out to get to the items, stretching precariously across an open expanse so that I feel as if I might fall down into the gorge. I manage to gather up the closer items and resolve to go back to get the farther ones. On the road, back in the direction I came from, I see what looks like a coin. It looks valuable, as if it's an artifact from an earlier time. I make a mental note to pick it up on my way back, but as I'm looking at it, I see a guy walking down the road toward me, and I think that, although he probably won't see the coin, I better go and get it now, just in case he does. I go and pick it up and discover that it's not a coin at all, but a kind of "token." [I will conclude later, awake, that it's a gift from the approaching guy, (symbolic) information about my past, that he, via his presence, enables me to find.] The item, I discover, is much thicker than a coin and is almost like a miniature version of one of those hand-held games with balls inside that you have to roll into indentations--except that it's also an electronic device, as if it's a miniature Game Boy. As the guy comes up on me, I look at him and we say hello to each other. I think that that's all we'll say, that I'll allow him to pass on by while I gather the rest of my possessions together. But he says something else to me and despite my unwillingness to talk further with him, I find myself caught up in an interesting conversation. He's an ordinary-looking guy, wearing an ordinary, though 'compact' hat; he's of average build, not thin, not fat, a kind of toned-way-down version of Tom Arnold, friendly, but not at all manic. But I become a bit wary when our introductory conversation hints at turning toward religion. I suspect that he's going to start to proselytize. But instead, he allows me to lead the conversation by asking me if I pray. I tell him that I meditate. He says that he's heard of that and always wondered what it meant. He asks if it's like praying. I tell him that in a way it is, except that it makes no petition to God, nor does it worship or praise God in any way, except that, perhaps, the state of mind that you enter could be interpreted as a kind of laid-back praise. He wants me to teach him how to meditate. I say that the first thing you do is relax your entire body and stop all of your thoughts, which is not an easy thing to do; but with a lot of practice (it took me years to finally learn to do it) it comes to you immediately. He asks what meditating does for me. I tell him that, first of all, it calms me down and reduces my stress; that's its main physical benefit. But if I persist beyond a few minutes, I can develop a peaceful acceptance of life and not be so expectant and demanding of it, to let it lead the way. "Sort of like 'Let go and let God,' he says." "Yeah," I say. "That's exactly it." And, I continue, if I stretch my meditation out to more than half an hour, I can get to state of mind (or non-mind) where I begin to give up my sense of "I-ness" and start to disappear, and all that's left is the rest of reality, without me, that it's kind of like the world seeing itself through me, but not from my point of view, but from its own. He says that this is very interesting, that it sounds like something he'd like to try. I awaken feeling very happy and content and spend the rest of the day in a productive mood, despite having felt inklings of my physiology starting to wind down again toward depressive mode.

we'll have a gay old time

It's 10:15 p.m. I'm lying in bed, working, and taping an episode of Boston Legal. The power goes out, comes back on briefly, then goes out again and doesn't come back on. This is one of God's little jokes, preventing me from seeing one of the two remaining tv shows to which I'm addicted. Shit! Now I have to wait until next year's reruns to see what happened. Un-fucking-reliable power companies. You'd think we were living in the Stone Age instead of in Bush's brave new world. (Wait a minute. There weren't any power companies in the Stone Age.)

I get out of bed, get out the candles, light up the living room, and fire up the wood stove. I turn the living room chair around to take best advantage of the stove's heat, and I begin to read, figuring that if I must stay up to keep the house warm--because the gas furnace will not work without electric and it's two degrees outside--and I can't work (no electricity for the laptop, and the battery is all but useless, holding only about an hour's worth of charge), I might as well pursue new knowledge.

Like the last time the power went out for an extended period (then it was for twenty-four hours), reading by candlelight, I go into my Abe Lincoln mode. But that means something else now that he's been "outed," doesn't it? Abe was gay! I believe it. I mean, what was all that Walt Whitman stuff about anyway? Now, when I say I'm going into my Abe Lincoln mode, people are going to think I'm running around doing gay things. I'm not. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Meanwhile, I'm aware that I'm rapidly losing my manic edge. Well, that didn't last very long, did it? But it never does; and now I'm teetering between productivity and sloth.

I tend to settle where circumstances place me. Forces acting on me move me into place. I resist, but often enough it's futile. But when it's not, I put down roots and vegetate.

This is as much a condition of personal history as of my present, not so much true of the short manic periods, but otherwise accurate. I feel contented to adapt to current conditions, despite motivations to the contrary.

Hints of doubt and worry seem to be increasing. If I don't take some kind of action soon, anxiety will follow and begin to escalate into paranoia. I know myself well enough by now to understand when I need physical activity.

the dark force

If you're distracted by the fear around you,
it distracts you from the actions of those above.
Agent Muldar, "The X-Files"
In other words, those "above" you intentionally create the fear around you so that you don't see what they're really up to. Remind you of anyone? When I was a kid, I knew the fear; but it was an internal component, a vestige of early personal history, and society did what it could to assuage it, much too late, but genuinely attempted anyway. For example, I was overtly taught, by both parents and schools, that I could say anything I pleased, with the exception of "shouting fire in a crowded theater," which as I grew in sophistication, I understood in its expanded metaphorical context. It was my definite and pre-defined heritage, free speech.

But in a practical sense, I intuitively knew better than to say certain things in certain kinds of company; my idealism did not outdistance my street-smarts. But I also understood that, if I misspoke among the wrong kinds of people and they took it upon themselves to physically chastise me for it, I could depend on law enforcement and the judicial system to back me up in my right to free speech, to support me as a citizen, and to redress my grievances. It's what I was taught, it's what I grew up believing, and for me, being a white male, to a large extent it was true. God bless America.

But times changed and the definitions of a "crowded theater" and "the wrong kinds of people" grew broader and broader, until today I feel that I no longer have the support I once had (and not because I'm aging; if anything, age discrimination works slightly in my favor; but then again I'm not that old). If I speak out against (for example) the current administration (as I often do), the very real possibilty exists that I may be visited and intimidated, or worse, even illegally imprisoned and (quasi-legally) tortured by government agents/agencies bent upon determining the identity and activity of "terrorists" by trial-of-fire, a process not unlike witches of old. (Arthur Miller, where are you now?3) If it's (pre-)determined that I am a detriment to a regime that feels threatened by people who will speak their minds against it, I may be censured to the degree necessary to abate my influence from spreading. Certain aspects and divisions of the government have become populated by the "wrong kinds of people."

America has changed. The world has changed. But I don't care. America, once the bastion of freedom, in its zeal to root out terrorism and spread "liberty and democracy," is curtailing the very principles at home that it would establish abroad. I know, it's all been said before, by the liberal press and left-wing political factions; mine is just another voice. But no one is taking heed, no one who might do something about it, that is. The Democrats, who are supposed to be the ones that protect our freedoms against the tyranny of the corporo-governmental complex are lame and ineffective. The dark forces have taken over the country and have ushered in a New World Order; and it's not the one we were promised. In fact, it's the one we've been warned about by writers and filmmakers over the whole of the last century. Be very, very scared.

a dream film scenario

I'm Russell Crowe in Australia, serving as a soldier in a huge army that is about to go into an enormous battle or series of battles, and since I know history (ahead of time) and understand that a high percentage of soldiers were killed in this campaign, I know that the odds are very much against me. So I take advantage of circumstances at home, the death of my mother and brother, to arrange for a temporarily leave; and while back home in my small town, I conspire with a clever old man, the town doctor, coroner, and only local member of the intelligentsia (an Ed Azner-type character) to fake my death. [Either I have to fake my death or I will be killed = isolate myself, or else.] On the first evening back, I sneak out of a party given for me and, happily pursued by my girlfriend, Nicole Kidman, I walk out to the edge of town, where she "tackles" me against a hillside and begins kissing me passionately while lying atop me. I tell her about my plans, because I can't not tell her, despite the old guy's advice against it, he having warned me that the success of the scheme depends on no one else knowing. But I know the effect that not telling her would have on her, how it would cause her to suffer needlessly, and subsequently to be angry with me for having done that to her. It's not something I'm prepared to put her through, or myself either. At first, she's against the plan, but I impress her when I tell her that I confided in her against the advice. She asks me what I will do if she isn't willing to go along. I tell her that if what she wants is for me to go back to the war and get killed, then that is what I'll do, because if she abandons me here, then I might as well be dead. This wins her over. I don't tell her that I'm worried that if she doesn't go along, then I suspect that she might reveal our plot to others. I impress upon her the fact that she can tell no one, no one!, about our plans, and that she must act out the grieving girlfriend role perfectly. She agrees. The fake death plan: after the death of my mother, my grieving brother, who was totally dependent on her (they were both a little bit "off" and one of reasons for my joining the army was to get the hell away from them), killed himself by throwing himself off a cliff onto the rocky coast of the sea. He is actually my twin brother, but no one knows this because he was born with birth defects that made him look a bit different from me, and my mother conspired with the doctor (the same guy that's conspiring with me now) to post date his birth certificate to make him legally a year younger than me, hiding his birth from everyone else and faking a second pregnancy. The reason she did this (in addition to the fact that she was always just a little bit crazy) was... [the dream left this to be filled in later, almost lucidly]. Instead of burying my brother's body, the doctor/coroner placed another body in its place at the funeral, which was a closed casket because of the damage to the head that the fall onto the rocks had caused. My brother's body is buried as me, after I supposedly kill myself in the same way as my brother had. An investigator sent by the army orders the corpse to be dug up. Enough of the face remains to assure him that it is in fact me and, since no one else knows that he was my twin, we get away with the deception, and I save my body, if not my soul.

saving souls

Who will save your soul, if you won't save your own?
Whoever I am, whatever I am about, it is decidedly not all of the daily matters of life I will become concerned with, and it is not the ordinary social interactions I will engage in, at least not on the surface, which always appears to me to be a mundane involvement with life and living. And a lot goes on beneath the surface that is equally mundane, or at best distractive or distorting--until you get very near to the core experience, which is the unity of presence, which is my essential nature. Essence is most often a hidden attribute, of anything.

This is why the Church [I'm thinking here of the Catholic Church, but the same arguments probably apply in some way to any organization that purports to be religious--and perhaps to others organizations as well] has strayed so far from its central role in society, not because science has taken over, not because society has liberalized itself, but because the Church in its everyday manifestation at the parish level has lost site of its central purpose: communion. It has unwittingly adopted the divisiveness of the larger society.

A good example of this is the Church's reaction to the pedophile priests phenomenon. It's one thing to sanction, submit for treatment, and even kick out and excommunicate the bastards (although it's supposed to be the role of Mother-Church to provide them sanctuary as well as spiritual therapy and salvation; another point that proves the church has lost its way); it's a different thing altogether however for the Church to absolve itself of financial responsibility by declaring bankruptcy. By resorting to the more local, secular law to protect itself from having to pay out money, the Church devolves into individual churches. Dioceses set themselves apart from the Mother-Church, which is certainly rich enough to absorb the costs and settle the issues once and for all (assuming it has solved the pedophile problem itself). It may be a sound and even a fair (though I doubt it) tactic for the local church to avail itself of the more local law and declare bankruptcy, but it splits the church off from its ultimate responsibility. How can it save souls when it won't save its own?

The Church could claim, as I do, that it must deal with daily life in a "real" world, that communion in the face of the practical matters of existence must take a second seat; but it would be as wrong as I am. My ostensible life as an independent individual in no way absolves me from participation in the presence of communion. I know this even though I may often find presence an impractical or even an impossible agenda. But I am not the Church, which is supposed to be infallible in the personage of the Pope, who is probably off somewhere in one of his back rooms, drooling down his chest. I know that's not fair, but it points up his very human nature. But the Church is supposed to exist far beyond that level of life. And when it remands its responsibility to local bankruptcy law, it reneges on its promise of sanctuary and salvation via communion and becomes a thing no better than I am, just another ostensible lifeform living in a practical world apart from the presence I most desire. The Christian religion has taken on the trappings and practices of modern retail merchandising; but then, it has that history, selling indulgences.

a house in the hills

1) I'm standing in the checkout line at Big Lots. Terry is working there. The store is about to close. A Janeanne Garafalo-like checkout girl is waiting for information on an item being purchased by the girl "ahead" of me in line. (Paradoxically, she is behind me; i.e., I am at extreme front of the line, all the way at the end of the counter, beyond the register; yet I am the "next" in line, the next person to be waited on; but I'm anxious because I think that due to our "reversed" order we'll be checked out out of order and I will be last, which implies that, since the store is closing, I will be unable to buy the things I'm buying. [Check out, a recurrent dream event = being "checked out"; being examined, evaluated, etc.] The anxiety I feel in this situation leads to righteous indignation as the very thing I fear actually happens. [My anxiety about relating to others in social situations actually causes the phenomenon of being overlooked, ignored, etc. to occur; i.e., people subliminally perceive the anxiety and consequent indignation and avoid me, either out of a sense of fear or of retribution. Being "checked out" in this sense is a fear of being an object of attention (when I am not, no more than anybody else, which is often not at all); but the fear causes me to call attention to myself, if not unconsciously as in being avoided because of it, then intentionally when demanding my "rights" (including the right to be paid attention to, even though I set up the conditions that cause avoidance in the first place).] I speak up for myself, saying that I am the next to be waited on, demanding my rightful turn. I feel like I'm acting like an asshole, but I know I'm right.
2) I go "home" with a poor family (as if we came from Big Lots, but without any dream imagery, as if there is a complete disconnect between the two sections of the dream): home is in the hills somewhere in Plum Township between CCAC and Rte. 286. The mother of the family is named Frances. She has seven kids ranging in age from infant to about sixteen. They live in a creaky, almost lean-to-type house (a house built on a steep hillside that is partially collapsing) [my house is partially collapsing; not really, but the roof leaks and the wood is rotting in several places; the basement leaks; secondary concrete structures (walls, steps) are shifting in several places; etc. All of which, dream and reality symbols, stand for my mental condition, which is still standing and functional, but (always has been) on shaky ground] with snow inside the kitchen, hanging from ceiling. In the small, half-collapsed kitchen, Frances writes her name on a piece of paper and scribbles on it absently; when she's done, I take the paper and write her name on it, as if I were practicing forging it. [She is me? I am becoming her, a destitute hillbilly housewife?] The 'f' of her handwritten name is unique--large, lower case, half-cursive; and the rest of the name is in bold cursive, very neatly rendered. We (it seems I am in the process of being adopted as a surrogate father or much older brother) have no money for anything. The heat is about to be shut off. We have very little food. I think we should all be positive and spend every moment of our time working and conserving every cent of our little remaining money. Everyone else is either totally dejected or else hopelessly cavalier and "trusting" that all will be okay. I decide, aloud, that if I can't pull the family together to all work to one purpose to insure our survival, then I'd be better off going out on my own. Two of the older girls agree, which surprises me. I kind of thought that everyone would want me to stay and help out. It's a tactic on my part intended to petition for unity via reverse psychology, a way to stir up and bolster confidence (akin in a way to the attention-getting tactic at the checkout earlier); so the girls' agreement kind of hurts. There's a calf in a small room to the west. It's too young to give milk and it eats "Purina Calf Chow." I see how much of a waste this is, not only in money to buy the feed and in the uselessness of the calf, but also in the fact that it's taking up the best room in the house, the one with a solid roof and four square walls. But then again, it will one day in the far future be quite useful and thus represents a planning ahead motive that otherwise seems to be lacking. (But they keep the calf less for that purpose than because they like it, and it likes them; it's a kind of pet. When I go to the doorway, it runs over to greet me and likes it when I stroke it). Anyway, whatever relatively small amount of money we'd get for selling it (for meat) would hardly be worth the loss of a good future asset, except perhaps for the continued cost of feeding it. I awaken to the realization that this place represents my house and my psychology, and the conflicting attitudes of the family represent my attitude, groups of which I keep sectioned off from each other so as to reduce conscious conflict.

hypocritical idealism

Various combinations of people/places: Conville's house/my teenage home; Mom/Betty Hartzell; Dad/Jim/Bob. I'm showing Mom/Betty how to create an html and a web page like my intro page and, at the same time, as if it's the same activity, I'm straightening out my previous [undreamed, but as if it happened earlier in the dream] recycling effort, taking back stuff that I accidentally threw out that M/B took from my trash to recycle herself. Later, I begin to show db how to plant a turf garden indoors like a carpet (combination indoor/outdoor), and I advise her, contrary to her belief, that it is not to be torn up shortly to be sold wholesale to Foodland and thus needs a deep layer of soil beneath it to keep it alive.

I awaken aware of partitions, like Emily's spaces, in my mind/life that keep contents separated, a function that this (and all dreams?) negates, by allowing crossovers and blends of real life people and locales into dream characters and places. I don't like what this dream was doing, not so much in the combining of different people/places as in the way it questioned my basic waking assumptions about the discrete phenomena of reality. And I don't quite understand my discontent, because I think that this would be knowledge I'd welcome, considering my goal/purpose of breaking down barriers and establishing a communal presence. But it's the particular nature of this content that disturbs me, not the dissolving barriers per se. But if I am to lower barriers between others and myself, I'm going to have to first lower them within myself. No room for hypocrisy in idealism.

the ones with the problem

And speaking of idealism, let's return to the subject of religion for a moment. There are those people within "mainstream" society who believe it is their duty to interpret "God's word" and to tell everyone else what it means. They've taken over the FCC, which has become the morality police. And they've insinuated themselves into other government agencies with the intention of using the political and bureaucratic mechanisms to determine what is morally and spiritually correct. But who made them the arbiters of our morality? No one. They've taken it upon themselves, and my knee-jerk reaction is to push back, to get in their faces and confront them with my personal form of "immorality," which is nothing more, at worst, than a bit of posing, various kinds of coarse language and acceptance or tolerance of deviant sexual practices, things that have nothing to do with morality at all, except that uptight, neurotic people have erroneously defined them that way. True morality, if it exists as an absolute (which I don't believe it does), has more to do with the indiscriminate dropping of heavy ordinance that kills innocent men, women, and children than it has to do with any form of language or sexual practice. So, once again, fuck you "religious" bastards, you "Christians" who, out of your own pathology, pervert Jesus' message. You're the ones with the problem.

Although a certain percentage of the founding fathers were religious people, their collective will manifested itself to create a secular country, specifically so that the right to worship in a religion of one's choice would be protected from undue influence by the government. But today citizens are barraged by the Christian Right through government institutions, which flagrantly violates the principle of the separation of church and state, thus denying the principle that we are a secular society that allows all religions equal footing. Christian Rightists want their religion to predominate, and they act within government to attempt to bring this condition about; and to a certain extent, they are succeeding. They're establishing a fundamentalist-based, non-diverse, Christian government not unlike that of the intolerant Southern Massa's during this country's slavery era or that of the mullahs of certain Mideastern countries. And they even (erroneously) appeal to the intent of the founding fathers to support their beliefs. But here, they have gone way wrong.

America was created to be governed by the will of the governed, and so appeals to what the founding fathers intended are misguided at best. As long as we, the people, have the power to determine what it is that the government should and will do, we are the democracy that the founding fathers created, despite the fact that we, due to our changing culture or for whatever other reason, choose to pass laws that seem to otherwise violate the original intent of the framers of the Constitution.

The Constitution is a living document, interpreted and modified by law and adjudication to reflect (ideally) the changing country. For example, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights nowhere mentions our legal principle that all men are created equal [and even if they did, it still presumes a lot to include women in that equality, especially if we want to conform to the intent of the founding fathers], so that Abraham Lincoln, when he set out to free the slaves, had to resort to the language of the Declaration of Independence, which was not a legal document, to support his position--which became the law of the land after the Civil War. If we would use the intent of the founding fathers as our guide for how we should interpret the Constitution, we should never have abolished slavery, and lots of other practices that have long since been abandoned.

So, now, the Christian Right, acting despite their wrong-headed claim to replicate the intent of the founding fathers, are modifying our government so as to (re-)introduce religious prejudice and intolerance into the system, after we have gone to so much trouble to mediate against it. Okay. They have the "right" to do that, if their opinions reflect the majority of citizens' opinions. But they do not. The techniques they use (media manipulation, gerrymandering, uneducated and neurotic people's fears of sexuality and disgust with profanity and pornography, etc.) unfairly influence the majority into supporting them, when it would never tolerate such shenanigans if it were not so unduly influenced by their token allegiances to values that the Christian Right appropriate, even as they violate those principles in numerous ways, distorting the true Christian message (transforming tolerance into intolerance, cosmic consciousness into religious dogma, metaphorical literary poetry and prose into literally-interpreted tracts, communion into ritual practices, etc.) in their drive to dominate the culture and exclude other religions from their rightful place within it.

Wake up, people of the common genre. These elitists are representing neither your true beliefs nor your best interests. They're determined to crowd out individual effort, repress the lower class, eliminate the middle class, and secure for themselves and their whitebread buddies (no matter their actual color) the bounty that belongs to everyone. They should be called the Christian Wrong. And, as the working poor struggling to get by, as non-white peoples who, although you may be somewhat affluent yourselves, maintain an allegiance to your less fortunate brothers and sisters, as anyone who believes in the values the Christian Right vocalize without at all offering to share the opulence they are privileged to possess, when you include yourselves among the elite in spirit, you are misguided and acting against your own best interests. And guess what? There are a whole lot more of you than there are them. If you would withdraw your support, they would be the powerless minority that their real numbers dictate they should be in a democracy. Support real Christian values, the ones that Jesus taught, not the ones that these latter days false prophets propagate. Allow everyone to participate in the American Dream. Isolate the aristocracy of the Christian Wrong movement, before it's too late and they change the country into an autocracy that will isolate and exclude you. Make no mistake. They will do it. It's their secret agenda. It's what they're all about. Don't let the false front deceive you. They will do it if you don't stop them.

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. I'm defending myself against my brother here. Why? What is my pathology that insists on this defense? If it were no big deal, I'd have allowed it all to pass by unnoticed.
2. Is this redundant? An individual is single. But no. Individual modifies organism to mean, not single, but independent. Single then further qualifies it as one independent organism. I could use the word independent instead of individual (it has an even better alliteration of the letter d), but it has the connotation of too much separation from its goal of ubiquity. The process is partially completed and too much implied separation is counterintuitive.
3. I wrote this before he died.