by j-a

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March 2005



I'm tempted to go back over the last few weeks and catch up on all of the reporting on my life that I haven't been doing, logging all of the boring details, like, for example, my nephew Danny's confirmation (presided over by the eminent Bishop Wuerl--big deal), an unexpected non-holiday invitation to Sunday dinner at my brother's so that I could help my sister-in-law compose her resume and a cover letter for a job promotion, yada, yada, yada... But I'm not going to write it all out, because I've (re-)discovered something about my life: writing long, drawn-out, moment-by-moment descriptions of it in my (home-bound) journal sometimes ends up taking hours and hours and involves even more hours in editing the journal entries, preparing them for posting on the website, thereby using up all of the best motivation I have and dissuading me from doing other things that I might want to do that I no longer have the desire to attempt. There's only so much energy to go around these days and inertia competes with entropy.

But having abandoned writing (temporarily? I guess so, seeing as how I'm writing again now), I find myself almost automatically, without even intending to do it, accomplishing long-standing goals that I'd planned out but never gotten around to doing: I fixed the back on my office chair so that I can now again lean back occasionally and thus mediate back pains that I get from sitting hunched forward so long at the computer; I planted a cold-hardy indoor windowsills garden (with Martha Steward seeds purchased at K-Mart) to weather the low, yet far above freezing overnight temperatures of the non-bedroom areas of my house; I made two batches (four cases) of beer; I built a wine rack and beer and winemaking storage area in the basement, I ordered $88 worth of plants and seeds for the gardens I'm going to plant if the weather ever finally breaks. (I feel we may have, without my knowing it, entered some kind of permanent sub-nuclear winter here, caused by the aberrant effects of global warming); I finally got off my ass and went to the bank, bit the bullet and transferred my IRA into CDs--because I'm fed up with watching their slowly declining share price eat away at the interest earnings; I've started again backing up all of the files on my computer and straightening up the office by working on papers that I've been accumulating in piles on my desks, to be done at a later time that never comes (well, actually. I guess it has come); I'm in the process of attacking my e-mail back-up; I'm getting ready for spring, when I'll start spring cleaning. (I started last year's spring cleaning last fall, but I gave it up halfway through.)

Well, it's a good thing I didn't intend to write out everything that I've been doing during my hiatus. Who knows how much I would have written? I might even have ended up reporting about the dream I had the other night where Courtney Cox (not yet Arquette) accused me of stalking her and the only way I could manage to defuse the negative effects of the situation was to turn myself into Chandler Bing.

Now, I think I'm going to backtrack and incorporate all of my paper notes into post-written past journal entries, so that if anyone reads this particular entry, it won't make any sense--since there will have been no large gap between this one and the last one I wrote several weeks ago. Thus, this explanation, which will have been rendered less true if I do not follow-up on this intent; but, then, I can always revise this statement to reflect the situation, whatever the case, because, like watching out-of-order reruns on tv, reporting on (my) life has its own inherent disconnect. And in the process of doing just this very thing, I discover that I never back-tracked to fill in this missing entry in my journal for 3-8-05. Always, if I wander away from documenting my life, I return to it a few days later and catch up, if only in brief. But now, because I inadvertently missed this day, the thoughts of it are lost through lack of retrospect. Real life is not like tv; there are no repeats.

incorrigibly schizoid

A woman on an Oprah repeat says that although she doesn't like it, at least her husband is cheating on her only for the sex, and not for emotional attachment. Hey, lady! Wake up! Most men cheat, when they do, for the sex. In fact, a majority of men marry for the sex. Emotional attachment, if it exists at all in men, comes much later--and sometimes never.

Some women (and many men) have a problem understanding that men and women are psychologically different. When men say they love women, most of the time they mean that they are sexually attracted to them. When men tell women the things they want to hear, and do all of the little "romantic" [code word for the things that get women sexually excited] things women want them to do, it's all an act. They do it because...well, you know why. But generation after generation, women continue to fall for that same game, and then get their hopes and desires dashed when the men prove to be the opposite of what they made themselves out to be, all so that they could get to the prize.

Women look for their Prince Charmings, which in today's society translates into men who will spend their money on them. It's not pecuniary thing; it's a social instinct. They can't help it. Well...they can--if they would put their minds to it; but, typically, they don't. They feel that, if a man will freely spend his money on them, then he can be trusted to support a family should pregnancy occur. This is not so much a delusion, living blindly instinctually instead of consciously striving to understand what it is about life and love that causes us to act the way we do, as it is a matter of self-deception, when we want to believe that our lives correspond to archetypal patterns that are, yes, true--but not for the reasons we want to believe.

And while we're on the subject of social delusions, several recent theories propose that Ebonics and Gospel music were derived from Scottish-American culture. Blacks criticize these theories, claiming that they are attempts to steal their heritage. But the truth is the truth, no matter how distasteful or politically incorrect it may be. Women, generally, are not as good at math and science as men are, even when cultural differences in upbringing are accounted for. They're not hardwired for it. Sure, some women may be better than a lot of men at engaging in scientific pursuit; but that's not because they're as competent as a "sub-species," but because there are specific men who are not competent at all. Overall, the male brain is better equipped. Just because it happens to be the wrong social climate to announce these facts doesn't make them any less true. I know people who live deluded lives like this, insisting upon a reality based upon pre-programmed instinct that causes them to act unconsciously while they believe whatever silly thing that they've been culturally conditioned to believe.

Diane is sitting in front of a computer in a small room off (to the west) of a large living room, in a home I do not recognize (not hers). As she works at the computer, she talks to me in a kind of disguised seductive way. [She wants me to respond to her by approaching her and hitting on her, but I do not.] I'm leaning against the doorframe. She stands up and walks up to me, ostensibly to talk to me face-to-face. But instead, she kisses me. Very hot (and unlike Paris and Nicole, I don't use that word lightly). Her lips are warm and sensuous and I appreciate the intimacy; but when she sits back down, I do not walk up to her to continue it, which is what she wants me to do and why she got up in the first place, to entice me to chase after her. She becomes frustrated, gets up, walks past me out of the little room, and crosses the living room to the stairs. Her "message" is for me to follow her, but I do not. Instead, I turn and watch her walk away. I follow her up the open staircase with my eyes. [I "hit on" women with my sense of sight, i.e., with my eyes.] In order to get me to come up to her bedroom, she has to invite me verbally [my preferred mode of existence], which she doesn't appreciate having to do. But she resorts to it because she feels she has no choice. I follow her to her bedroom and we have sex, in the traditional missionary position. CUT TO:

Verona Rd. I'm walking toward Brinley Dr., heading home [toward my childhood home]. I meet Kathy Griffin, who is walking to her home on Brinley, along with two guys, friends of hers. [C.f., Diane, who always has several male friends living at her house.] She knows me casually and talks to me, but she secretly [she thinks; though it is not so secret after all, since I'm aware of how she feels; but it's a dream, and thus it is my secret, that I'm the one who is trying to hide my inner self from everybody else] wants me to be "friendlier" to her than I appear to be. [I feel totally friendly and open toward her (typical of my ordinary state of existence: inwardly friendly, but outwardly guarded), but exhibit my typical "reticent," non-verbal tendencies--the other half of the schizoid verbal/non-verbal pair, a compensatory reaction, when I will feel that I am being too verbally outgoing, revealing too much of my true (bumbling, ill-considered) self (which is the discovered motive for why I'm writing about non-conscious behavior of women in the first place--a projection of my own)]. When we get to Kathy's house, she wants to invite me in, but she doesn't, because I am too "distant" for her to dare to reveal her secret desire. [Since Kathy is a repressed aspect of my own self, then I want to invite my own self (my ego) into my larger self, but I do not, because I (the larger Self) don't trust my own limited ego awareness.]

The identity between Diane and Kathy is obvious now, but not at all in the dream, where it felt similar, but "looked" quite different. Diane, I realize, is insecure and so must assemble an entourage of younger men who support her self-image as a postmod femme fatale. She's a svelte Farrah Fawcet look-alike, right down to the big blond hair un-do. Her insecurity is expressed physically, not in that typical way that many women will, by biting fingernails and acting out with nervous mannerisms, but in a compensatory fashion, by adopting an uber-confident demeanor, walking with perfect posture and an exaggerated confidence--and in her alternate lifestyle, hanging around with younger people (mostly guys) and staying out till dawn. She's in denial, refusing to see how needing to "do the right thing" (i.e., live a conventional lifestyle) is a form of self-image maintenance. Instead, she maintains herself via her perfected body and appearance: narrow hips, perfectly tousled hair, tight jeans, etc., all of which is a kind of appreciative criticism I maintain of her, but which is also a projection, as I live an analogous non-conventional, alternate lifestyle. I criticize society in general and people specifically for the same damn things I do myself. Very probably I have my own errant delusions akin to the ones that deny the theories that the Scots are responsible for Ebonics and Gospel music and women make less adequate scientists. It almost makes me want to shut the hell up forever, because I know that whatever I say, I will be at least half-wrong. But I won't shut myself up permanently, because I'm incorrigibly schizoid. [Notice the play on the words "shut myself up." It's a way I have of avoiding emotional attachment, by closing myself off to others. (Did I really have to point that out? But, after all, it's the whole point, isn't it?)]

the re-mythologicalization of America

If science (i.e., rational, considered thought based upon empirical evidence) is the bugaboo of ordinary (i.e., uneducated) people, and religion is the panacea that relieves the doubt that cannot be dispelled by concise and measured thinking, then it is understandable, maybe, that the wide gulf between science and religion persists, despite the progress we have made as an "intelligent" and "educated" species.

I myself find no discrepancy at all between Christianity and modern science (evolution, relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory, etc.); the true discrepancy is between the teachings of Jesus (a kind of cosmic consciousness) and the "false Christ" perversions of the early Church that has resulted in the Catholic, Fundamentalist, Gnostic, and/or other cultish social entities proposing crazy doctrines like virgin birth, the Resurrection, the Trinity (although I happen to like that one; it appeals to my classifying rational nature), etc.

It's tempting to dismiss the near-crazies who proselytize Creationism and all the rest of the pseudo-science they mythologize as being simple-minded reactionaries stuck in a past they can't get out of. But to classify them as such is to play the polarity game: why is my hypotheses right while theirs are wrong? I know I'm as close to being correct as the most modern scientific technology will allow; but then they "know" that they're right in the same damn way; that is, their certainty seems to them to be as profound as mine is to me. And yet, they're wrong in a way that I know I can never be. It's a dilemma, and the best you can do when confronted with it is to walk away, hoping that people will not be led astray by the Christian Right's lame but politically powerful rhetoric, the overall net effect of which enables the de-education and re-mythologicalization of America.

But, although I believe that intelligence and education are the keys to improving, and even saving our species from its preprogramming propensity, there are certain instinctual aspects of our psychologies that I would preserve: Some people are genetically smart enough (or cautious enough) to know how to protect themselves, thereby exemplifying the concept of survival of the fittest. When certain people do not survive, and their relatives and friends bemoan their unjust and/or untimely deaths, they should be aware of how the victims may have enabled their fates via ignorance or stupidity. For example, what was Natalee Holloway doing running around a foreign island late at night drinking and hobnobbing with native boys? She may have not had enough sense, or instinct, to survive. Anxiety and paranoia is usually thought of as an undesirable trait; but it can be adaptive. A little bit of fear can go a long way toward saving your life.

Fear and education (and/or intelligence) is the solution to most, if not all, of these postmodern problems we experience: If, instead of complaining about how our government cannot protect us, instead of demanding that we throw all of these half-assed legislative fixes at criminals and citizens, we spent our hard-earned tax money educating people, most of the problems would disappear--or at least the people would become aware that the true causes of their troubles lie in the choices they make, and not in the government that they believe they have no control over.

But legislators and other people of power do not want citizens to be too educated, lest they wake up to the hidden agendas that keep them in their places and enable the powerful to maintain theirs. Even if this is mostly an unconscious process, it is still true. People, even intelligent legislators (if that is not an oxymoron), remain mostly a system of unconscious processes. As one small example, via which you may infer the greater whole, when a man and a woman engage in the mindless, instinctual mating ritual, they resort to their dumb animal mode. Sex without a conscious awareness of what's really going on psychologically is animalistic. Humans are more like animals than they usually want to acknowledge.

But then, who am I to talk? My life may be as much of a dysfunctional myth as anyone's:

hypersensitivity and its precursors

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
T.S. Elliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
I'm experiencing a confusing mix of (dys-)functional modes, two of which (always) predominate: manic, when I want to do all kinds of things; and depressive, when I wonder why I should bother when the results are not permanent, but rather cyclical, like gardening, house maintenance, or life? Nothing is permanent and things that appear to be are illusory. And yet, "permanence" itself is a relative phenomenon: although nothing is permanent, some things are more lasting than others. But when I sink into a depressive mode, that is, when I feel like nothing is worth doing because time and entropy will tear it down, I'm experiencing a movement too far toward one absolute mode of a polarity. An experience of mania, when I feel like doing everything, all at once, is the other pole; and this mode is okay--except that I can't sustain it, not only because it's half of a cyclical phenomenon, but because it wears me down when I don't get enough sleep and work all day and throughout the night. Yet even my dichotomous affective nature is okay; I can tolerate the down episodes and have developed (in)activities to "do" in bed while watching tapes or tv. But when the modes become mixed [as when, for example, I drink too much coffee and eat too much chocolate when I am in a depressive mode, or when I drink too much beer when I am manic (but at other times also, when these substances do not so much affect my psychology and it enters into this conflict on its own or for other reasons)], I become confused and don't know how to act: should I do things or should I lay around and waste my time? Confusion prevails. And self-medication with beer, coffee, and chocolate is not always so tame a practice as it may at first appear to be, when physiological circumstances conspire to disturb the equilibrium and substances further confuse the imbalance.

I go for long periods, waiting, for whatever, putting in the time, planning what I would do if only...pretty much oblivious to feeling, not that I don't feel, but feeling like a thing apart, divorced, living my own life, disenchanted, wishing I were more motivated to "make something of myself" (a fragment of an optimistic heritage), all of which is understandable in winter when the sun is low in the south, the days are short, and available light is at a premium (except that I'll sometimes behave this very same way in other seasons too, so winter is probably merely an excuse).

And then, out of this confusion, apparently all of a sudden, I'll feel a definitive shift toward hyper-sensitivity, usually after a long and gradual transition that I will hardly have been attending to, noting it in passing, but disallowing it to affect me until it has built to a certain critical mass where it comes crashing down on top of me like heavy clouds made of concrete instead of water vapor. It's a dangerous mode to be in, because if I am not very careful, it can send me off on tangents of paranoia or, at best, jags of doubt where I continually question my confidence and self-worth.

I spent a long Easter day at my brother's house and returned home late in the evening to enter this altered state of consciousness, worrying about a perceived slight that Joyce may have bestowed on me; or else it is merely a figment of my hypersensitive imagination: after dinner, I sat at the bar in the kitchen eating brownies she had made earlier that afternoon, when she asked me if I'd had enough to eat. I said that I'd had more than enough, enough for several normal days, whereupon she mentioned the pies she had for dessert later. I realized, or imagined, that she was telling me to stop eating the brownies, because she had made them for her kids because they said they didn't like the pie she had bought. But by the time I'd gotten home, the minor incident had been steeping in my subconscious and had produced a brew of fermenting mash.

I know that, from time to time, I abuse food, and the hospitality of people who provide it. When I go over to my brother's house, Joyce always has dishes of cheap candy or cookies sitting out, which I use to feed my sugar addiction. It's a substance that gets me going and keeps me "sociable" throughout the day, whereas otherwise I might drop back toward my innate state of hypoglycemic inactivity. I imagine that I am talked about behind my back for this overindulgence. But I always figure that, if people (Joyce, in this case) can't tolerate my behavior/addiction, they (she) wouldn't continue to invite me over at every holiday occasion--which many of them don't, but Joyce still does. (In fact, it's just occurring to me now that it could very well be that there is this unconscious motive at work that causes me to be invited, as I have been in other circumstances in my past, so that I may become the target for secretive sniping and subsequent judgment, set up for it, in fact, by the very act of hospitality. That kind of set up has not been absent in my life. But that's the hypersensitivity talking.)

My defense against this mode of existence is to mount a good, if private, offense, the first step of which I've already mentioned: Don't invite me over if you don't like the way I act. I extend this counter-attitude with the idea that I have every right to be exactly who and what I am; and if you don't like it, tough shit. So I have a few minor (and some major) flaws. So what? Big deal. So have you--everyone. You (whoever you are, when you choose, if you do, to find fault with me) are not so perfect as you want to make yourself out to be by denying your faults and criticizing me. This is a standard defense of mine that I'm quite comfortable with. It allows me to go on living with the knowledge that I am a flawed human being, to deflect some of the self-criticism that I project onto others when I see (or think I see) that they are being critical of me.

Why should I, right now, or at any other time, feel anything but happiness and contentment? Why should I choose (because that is what it truly is, a choice) to feel anything but total bliss? I am, and have been for quite some time now, doing exactly what I want to do, compromising my ideals less than I have ever done in my entire life.

Yet there is still the hypersensitivity that I will feel from time to time. It's been with me for as long as I can remember. It had been for the most part unconscious through the first half of my life, yet caused me to withdraw as I've felt others' critical attitudes pointed against me. But I no longer have to feel that way--except when the mode catches me off-guard. When I was young, I early on developed a hard shell that excluded others' criticisms--because they hurt too much, so that I had to disregard them. The defense drove me into a more or less permanent withdrawal. But as I learned to dredge up and investigate the material I previously repressed, the hypersensitivity became more conscious and I felt the desire to hide away. I'm not sure which state is worse (or better), being oblivious to the hurt/repression and "allowing" it to act unconsciously, or understanding it and feeling it consciously. But in either case, defusing the hypersensitivity via asserting my right to exist exactly as I am is beneficial. I'm a person too.

toward a more perfect communion

You wouldn't worry so much about how people thought about you if you realized how seldom they did.
Dr. Phil McGraw
I monitor certain people's lives, hardly knowing them, people I take an interest in, for whatever reason. I watch them, check up on their progress when the opportunity to observe them without their realizing it occurs. Other people, those I have no interest in at all (the majority), I ignore--as I have often myself felt ignored, which is probably more a function of my withdrawn psychology than simple human nature. Always having assumed that I am invisible, except during periods of hypersensitivity when I assume that I am totally revealed (a schizoid orientation when taken as a whole), I begin to wonder who, if anyone, is monitoring me. There must be people who take an interest in me and observe me without my knowing it. Or maybe there is no one and I am truly all alone. Wouldn't that be something? (But I don't believe it's true.) I conjecture that, if nowhere else, I am observed within my dreams. I want to believe that this is true, that we communicate/commune in dreams; but at least half of me tells me that dreams are totally isolated phenomena.

I'm in bed in my first-floor bedroom at 6023. It's very early in the morning, just after dawn. My sister and a girlfriend who's been staying with her enter the room. I'm only half-awake2 and so do not speak or respond in any way to them. My sister tells her friend that I have a heated waterbed, which is the reason she brought her down to my room in the first place, to demonstrate this fact--because overnight, although it's mid-summer, it has gotten unseasonably cold and the girls (there are several more of them upstairs because my sister has hosted a pajama party) are wearing flimsy summer nightclothes and all of the blankets have been stored away; and so, they are cold and can't manage to get warm enough to sleep. They leave, and the knowledge spreads among the girls upstairs that I have a heated waterbed. Soon, two more girls, Dee and Cecelia, have come down to investigate. My sister has left the door open, so they walk right into the room. This time I am more awake, and so I ask them if they want to share the bed, which they do, enthusiastically, because they are so cold. Cecelia, who settles on my right, is wearing baby-doll pajamas, but Dee, on my left, is wearing only a bra and panties, which she removes shortly after cuddling up to me. Each girl lays her head on one of my shoulders and I wrap my arms around them. Now that's communion. CUT TO:

640, but at the same time, at the intersection of Rodi Rd. and Rt. 22: Dee is lying in bed with another, younger girl and me; but they are lying at the top of the bed and I am at the bottom. But at the same time that we are in bed, we are also lying among large round boulders, as if we're settling in to sleep late in the evening out in the wild. There is the sense that we are in Australia (recurrent, almost as if this is becoming a dream-metaphor for "romance"), although this is not an overt awareness. While we're "supposed" to be drifting off to sleep, I am caressing Dee's leg. My hand moves from her calf, up her thigh, toward the inevitable. But just before I get there, she checks to see if the younger girl is asleep, and when she discovers that she is, she whispers to me to meet her somewhere, that she'll be right back. It's a definite promise, and I realize that her intent is for us to go somewhere where we will be out of the presence of a father-like figure who is nearby in the kitchen that the small room we're in is off of, with no door, but only an open doorway. She sneaks out of the house, and I get up shortly to follow her. Although I'm supposed to rendezvous with her at our "predesignated" place, instead I secretly follow her, wanting to know what she's up to. She walks along the bank of a creek and meets first one, then several guys, friends of hers. She tells the first guy to meet her somewhere among the rocks, and she tries unsuccessfully to dissuade the rest of the guys from taking an interest in her. At this point, I half-awaken, but determined to finish the dream to see what she's up to, I force myself back into sleep, yet with a kind of semi-lucid awareness of intentionally creating the dream, although it is yet happening to me. She meets several girls who are more "experienced" than she is and, at first, the dream-plot dictates that they're preparing her to be "gang-raped" by the guys as a kind of initiation into their clique; but I see where this is going and I don't like it and I head it off just before she is about to go into a room among the rocks where the guys are waiting. Instead, she travels on up the creek, where she meets the first guy again. She tells him that she's met someone that she likes a lot (meaning me; and this makes me momentarily happy), but she's afraid that she'll disappoint me, and so she needs "experience." Again, she agrees to meet him among the rocks. She walks up a tree-covered hillside into the rocks, but instead of meeting the first guy, she meets another, younger, one, who tells her he'll give her five dollars to do it with him, because he's a desperate little virgin twerp who can't get laid any other way. So they go off into the rocks and, hidden down between huge boulders, she on top (the reason she "chose" to meet the little guy instead of the first guy was because he was inexperienced and so could be controlled, whereas with the first guy, although he was her friend, she felt almost as intimidated as she felt initially with me), as I watch from the rocks above, she has sex with him. It's over quickly, and she takes the five dollars, intending to buy me a nice present with it, something I had said earlier (before the beginning of the dream narrative) that I really wanted. But unknown to her, but known to me, young friends of the guy, who are even more nerdy than he is, have been watching from the rocks, and one by one they approach her and offer her five dollars and she accepts, reasoning that, since she has done it once, she might as well get more money and buy me an even nicer present. Each time she has sex (each time very quickly, with her sitting on top), she comments that it's not so big a deal as she had imagined it to be, that she had had nothing to worry about and wondered why she was so afraid. She forms no emotional attachment at all to any of the boys (whereas she might have formed one with the first guy) and so doesn't understand the full significance of sex. [Throughout the entire dream, she is doing all of this for me; that is, despite her reprehensible acts, her intent was good, though misguided and naive.] After the last kid, I hurry back to our "home," which has become a kind of mini-station that the father figure presides over, a place where orphans and wayward kids can find refuge and food and a place to call home. I secretly gather my few belongings together and leave without anyone seeing me. [Here I awaken momentarily to "edit" the "story," changing the ongoing POV from mine (though 3rd person) to that of the girl.] The girl returns, can't find me, and asks the "father" where I am. In his typically callous way he says he doesn't know, "probably off among the rocks where he usually is." She looks all over for me and finally goes back to bed disappointed. Over the next few days, she becomes increasingly anxious about where I am. But subsequently she begins to accept the fact that I am not going to return. Her mood alternates between sadness at missing me and a lot of anger at my having abandoned her. She can't comprehend why I have gone, thinking at times that one of the kids might have told me about her sexual exploits, at other times that I never really liked her at all but was just teasing her. She never resolves how she feels about this situation and lives her entire life confused about it. The multiple early sexual encounters act on her psychology to turn her into a slut. And it affects the way she relates to every man she subsequently has any kind of relationship with. [Change back to original POV.] The situation affects me in the same way with women. I adopt a bittersweet motive that I am never able to overcome and keep all women (and any male with whom I might share any kind of feeling) at a distance, using them only for sex.

It's obvious from the way that the dream presents the situations that all of the guys (we are all among the rocks) in this dream are aspects of myself. Some of them are nerdy and lame; others are cool and effective. I have internalized both a romantic, intimate self and a distant, "unfeeling" one. (He's not really unfeeling; that's a pose, a defense against being hurt.) I embody remnants of the naive, innocent nerd I was when I was very young and the cool, detached, self-involved rebel I later became. Actually, I think I've always been self-involved. And now that I think about it, so has everyone else. The only difference between me and others who appear not to be is the way that we disguise our self-involvement. Communion is the result of (temporarily) overcoming self-involvement. This dream points out one kind of reason why this process is so difficult. Forgetting yourself in order to appreciate another person is like a dream: where do we go, when our attention is not turned inward? In dreams, we turn our attention so far in that we (seem to--and maybe it's true) come out again, even more poignantly. The same may be true when we are awake.

presque vu

I'm walking into the bank and this man says to me, "Can you spare some change." I said, "Why don't you get a job?" He said, "I have Alzheimer's." I felt bad. I said, "Okay. Remind me on the way out."
Emo Phillips
What if life were like dreams, when you can't rely on remembering them unless you go to the effort of writing them down. Incidents of experience would then be (much more) subject to conscious attention, sort of like cram studying for a college course in order to retain enough knowledge to pass a test.

I'm in a history class at a college in Oakland--but it's not the University of Pittsburgh; more like an advanced high school. The material we're studying has something to do a world map that hangs at the front of the room, and each student has to present a short speech in front of the class. But I've either forgotten to bring my presentation with me, or I never prepared it in the first place; and I'm feeling anxious about it and vulnerable. I decide that I will have to leave before I'm called upon, so that I don't have to suffer the embarrassment of bolting out of the room instead of walking up to the front of the class when the time comes. I don't want to leave, because I need these credits for graduation, but I feel I have no choice.

I had this dream three days ago, and had almost forgotten it, except that I typed the first line into my journal. But when I went to finish writing it out, I'd forgotten how it went. But as I wrote, bits of it began to return, although at first I'd completely lost the entire context and feeling, as if it had been a place I'd been to in real life, but cannot remember.

This must be how someone with Alzheimer's feels, disoriented, without memories, or with only the vaguest recollections that come and go and are almost available, sometimes. If everyone felt like this every single day, we'd all be strangers--unless we went to the effort of trying to remember what we believe to be important to us.

I realized yesterday that there are wide gaps in my past that I have all but forgotten about, because along the way I'd shifted focus, and what was important long ago ceased to be so important. The necessity to survive and the impetus to prosper have left a lot of my idle past far behind me. But it's a past that I miss and maybe wish to reconstruct--like the time I spent in several colleges, roaming semi-seriously through subjects, more for the knowledge than the discipline.

And then there's all of that gardening I did way back when--growing things to eat, cultivating plants, maintaining soil. It's all coming back to me as I get ready for the spring planting, the first time I've done this sort of thing in years. It feels so familiar, but I can't remember any specific instances of it, just like I can't seem to remember many real incidents of past friendships, even though I know there were a lot of them. This is the way I am, too ready to forget the past when it passes away. I let it go, ready to face what's coming up head on. But it's all back there somewhere, begging to be remembered. Some little bit of it is in my past journals, when I step out of the stream of ongoing thought to reconstruct (re-collect) my most recent past. But, of course, the process always interferes with present existence, because you can't maintain your awareness in two places at once, except perhaps in dreams--and when you empathize with another person. But, typically, for long periods of time, when my attention is turned inward, I forget this. Remind me on the way out; or wake me up, if you can.

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. This word was a vocabulary word that I looked up before I fell asleep.
2. Freudian typo: "half-aware," which just can't have been a simple mistake; the "r" and the "k" are too far apart on the keyboard and hit with opposite hands.