by j-a

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July 2005

Losing Control

rambling fantasies

I go for long periods of time having postponed the ordinary daily schedule that I've determined will accomplish what I want to get accomplished, because once I establish that schedule, I get quickly bored with it and my attention turns to more interesting, less rigidly scheduled projects. But I maintain just enough of a semblance of scheduled order in the notes I make on my mini-clipboard so that, when I am able to sufficiently rouse myself to the task, I can backtrack and catch up on the highlights of my thought and experience. This is my therapy: I allow myself to freewheel, brainstorming insights into my life and life in general and potential solutions to my problems, I document that process in notes, transfer the notes to my journal, which I revisit a month or so later, and collate it with similar ideas I've had since then, adding to it the benefits of time passed. In this way I capture and (pretend to myself that I) control the ideas, fantasies, and dreams that otherwise run rampantly through my mind and out again, to be lost forever.

Fantasies are things we would do, if only... But we choose not to do them, held in check by the restrictions, conscious and unconscious, that we place upon ourselves, or ones that society and/or environment place upon us. That's present-time mode.

But fantasies can also exist in past-time mode, when we reconstruct our earlier lives (or construct fantasy lives of earlier times) to bring it into compliance with what we think, now, we should have or would like to have done.

This is all wasted time and energy, and I waste a lot of both. Yet my own personal fantasies are no different than the ones that manage [for whatever reason, whether via concordance with the zeitgeist, or via the personal charismatic influence of artists or whomever] to get made into popular books and movies (such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or whatever other fantasy format happens to be in vogue). The only real difference between my fantasies and the common ones is that mine play to an audience of one.

Love is another common form of fantasy: we choose, when we do, to love someone. We don't just happen to fall in love; we allow ourselves to fall. It may seem like it happens to us, but our unconscious minds knows quite well what they're up to.

I have loved a lot of people; but I've seldom allowed myself consciously to fall in love. It's a matter of control. Who was it anyway who made up our minds that falling in love was a desirable thing to do? Probably the same person who decided that there's life after death, when there is absolutely no evidence to support that fantastic theory ("near-death" experiences notwithstanding: if you "return from the dead," then you weren't dead to begin with; and reports of "post-death" experiences are identical to those of oxygen deprivation). It's all wishful thinking. We're so afraid of dying (understandably, especially if there is no afterlife) that we create fictive theologies to assure ourselves that all will be okay. And we're so afraid of being alone and/or not paid attention to, that we look for people to fall in love with, whether we are aware of the process or not.

And in the postmod world, the fantasies are getting worse, not better (typically, we trust that society will progress; but it's just not true): It's expected now that we should raise the phenomena of feeling up to the level of that of thought--in short, that we should undo The Enlightenment to some degree. It may be desirable from time to time to allow feeling its rein; but allowing it to predominate is simple selfishness. Feeling is an archaic form of experience. [Well, there. I've gone ahead and said written it aloud.] Yes, feeling is a more global human mechanism. But thinking is a specialization that has evolved out of feeling: first we felt; then we honed our feelings into words as the need to express them increased our chances of survival; then we "realized" that we could survive and prosper even better by thinking about what we do.

It's not an analogy, but the same damn thing, that just as the specialized male fetus develops out of a female proto-form, thought develops out of feeling. It's a universal law: specialization. Feeling is not inferior to thinking, but it does pre-date it and it is, generally, less adaptable--although if the postmod agenda succeeds, it may change the social environment enough that feeling becomes more adaptable, causing the species to revert to a more "pristine" state of existence. H.G. Wells' The Time Machine comes to mind.

Fantasizing is a mechanism that combines and harmonizes feeling and thought in (perhaps) a more efficient way that ordinary life can--because, after all, although we may be headed in a more feeling direction as a society, but we are still far from tipping the balance away from the thought-predominated, "male" agenda, so much so that we generally consider fantasy a waste of time.

I may waste a lot of time fantasizing, but it's no more of a waste of time than that of all of those people who spend their free time going to church and/or praying to a fictive god. And there are many other forms of (hidden) fantasy. Should we root them out and expose them to the light? I don't think so. I've debunked enough myths for one day.

wasting time

5 a.m.: The moon shows its thinnest sliver through the haze above the eastern ridge. I've given up trying to go to sleep and sit on the porch awaiting the dawn. The night before last I had a dream that was disturbing enough (in a repressed sort of way) that I had to let it stew awhile before writing about it:

I'm in a workplace I do not recognize, yet it feels familiar, like the recurrent workplace I typically dream about--and it's also my aunt's house, in vague sort of way. I am supposed to be working (hard), but I'm not. Instead, I'm fantasizing and generally allowing myself to drift, almost feeling like I have my head down on my desk, asleep. [I realize now that I'm very close to lucidity here, though in the dream, I'm unaware of it. When I awaken, I theorize that the recurrent symbol of a workplace is the dream state; i.e., when I dream, I'm working.] Jimmy Berlutti is a co-worker who's upset with me because I'm wasting time. As I sit in my chair, he stands in front of me in a confrontational pose and lectures me angrily. [I was watching an episode of "The Practice" before I went to bed, one where Jimmy lectures Eugene in this manner.] I disregard Jimmy's anger and continue to drift.

This is what I do. This is my life. I have no focus; or, more correctly, my focus shifts from project to project and discipline to discipline in no organized manner, but merely according to the mood I'm in. I have no real life's work. (I can't say that I am so unique in this regard; it's a common problem. But most others who are like me in this way have a job they have to go to and a family they must support and are thereby forced to maintain a focus.) I'm dreaming (day and night) my life away, and I'm not so unhappy about that fact, to the point that I actually consider the dreaming process a kind of "work" I do: my unconscious mind acts to sort things out, pointing out conflicts and repressions, sifting through material, even as I "do nothing" but sleep and "drift." But the real work (if work is defined as that which we do that is difficult) is remembering and typing this stuff out later, in retrospect--because it requires me to focus, if only for a bit. It may be a lame displine, but it's discipline nonetheless.

a natural discipline

And gardening is a kind of discipline too; it grounds me in a way that few other activities do. (Working at a job used to ground me, in a negative sort of way; but that phase of my life is over.) Plants, unlike people, need care when they require it, no matter how you feel; you can't put off the maintenance for too long and catch up later, like you can with people. Plants require water during a drought; you must inspect them daily and do whatever is necessary to assure that they survive and prosper. Thus, you can't allow yourself to wallow away for days on end; the wallowing must be interrupted daily. It's good discipline, gardening--especially during a drought.

This morning at four a.m., I awoke after three hours sleep to the sound of rain. Somehow I knew it had just begun and woke myself to attend to it. I lay awake for awhile, happy to know that the rain barrels were filling, not wanting to fall back asleep because, if it rained hard enough and filled the barrels, I wanted to get up and divert the excess run-off into the pool. After about fifteen minutes, the rain stopped. I went out to see how much water had accumulated: only a few inches--hardly enough to matter, except that the ground would be wet again. When I planted the second crop of Kohlrabi yesterday, the soil was friable and I had to soak it with water from the pool to work it back into planting shape.

Back inside, still a bit groggy from sleep, I remember that I'd awoken earlier with an idea of the limitations of my garden vision that is far more relevant than the limited amount of space I have available: the amount of time I'm willing to devote to working outdoors to ralize the vision. I can go for days and even weeks full bore, but eventually I wear down or my attention drifts as I want to move on to other tihngs. Discipline is difficult. As I lay back in bed, I ponder the nature of reality. It always amazes me, when I happen to think about it when I awaken, how very far away I've been when asleep, even when I'm not aware of having dreamed. Sleep is such a funny thing: we power down daily in order to allow basic maintenance functions fuller access to the computer. And when we awaken, it can be (at least it is with me) disconcerting, not only re where we have been (nowhere, really; and yet...), but also re where we are again, here and now, yet aware that time has passed without us. Awareness is awesome, when we attend to it; but usually we take it for granted. It's continuous, and yet it is not. It's composed of apparently discrete incidents and events, and yet they blend together to form an integral whole. It transitions smoothly and yet shifts as if abruptly. No wonder we sometimes have trouble understanding what we're all about.

an image to maintain

Short version:
Life took one of those unexpected turns today and I got a new computer.

Long version:
For a while now I've been thinking of the seasons in exactly the wrong way: it's true that each season [summer and winter, that is; spring and fall are not seasons for me, but rather transitions] has its negative characteristics: winter is cold and causes withdrawal into interiors; summer requires a lot of extra (yard, etc.) work. Instead, I should be focusing on the positive: how congenial and carefree summer is, and how winter is closeted and relatively work-free. Actually, this has less to do with the seasons than with my own psychology. When I'm worrisome, insecure, and purposeless, it doesn't matter what the season is; I focus on the wrong things. And when I find my easy-going self again, it doesn't matter if I'm cold or hot.

It's all a matter of attitude. (So what isn't, huh?) Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of a proper attitude specific to the time and place; all the rest of the time I'm consciously or unconsciously searching for it. When I find it, it imparts a purpose to my life--or a satisfaction of living without one. For example, I'll be riding along in the car, out doing errands, when that old "surfer dude" attitude will hit me, and I'll sit back in the seat and relax, and go where circumstances will take me, "just passing thru." Or if daylight is receding and darkness is coming on, I'll suddenly key into the "mystery of summer nights," that feeling that warm evening air is the only nutrient that's necessary. Or if I'm outside on an overcast day, I'll give in to the moodiness and let it dwell on me, that artistic mode d'etre of Chagall or Van Gogh.

When these moods strike me, the world comes into focus. It's like suddenly there's a purpose to life, even if I don't know what it is, like a force beyond me knows that everything is okay. Having a feeling of purpose in life, whether real or delusional, is more (or maybe entirely) a matter of body chemistry, and not something you (erroneously) decide for yourself, or feel that it has been decided for you. When I am "up," I have no doubt about my purpose, and when I am "down"...

Whatever I was about to say when I was writing this twelve hours ago is lost: the computer froze, after showing a few minor symptoms of a pending problem; and then it refused to operate when I tried to reboot it. The fans came on, the hard disk, floppy, and CD-RW made their usual noises, but no data transferred, no signal to the monitor, nothing. The emergency boot disk could not be accessed. Probably the CPU or motherboard is fried. Or maybe just a deviation in the power supply.

So... instead of going through a lot of hair-pulling trying to repair it, since the machine is five years old anyway and I've been having to replace devices more and more frequently, I went out, not to actually buy a new one, but "just to look," and... I bought one. I mean, I knew they were getting cheaper, but I had no idea. I stayed in the store for a long time debating whether to significantly upgrade or go for the cheapest model and upgrade only slightly--which is still far more than I really need; all I really use the computer for is word processing and for scanning and storing the few odd pics. So I went for the best deal I could get. I got a Celeron D, 2.8 GHz, 256 RAM, 80G HD, with DVD/CD-RW, plus a 15" monitor and a Lexmark printer for $329. Incredible! I went out thinking that maybe I could pick up just the tower for around three or four hundred. And, in fact, I could have; this same model that I got, if I had bought the tower alone, would have cost me $369; but with the peripherals added, they knocked off $40. Is Best Buy going out of business? It seems to me that just before Phar-Mor went bankrupt, they were offering these kinds of unbelievable deals. Best Buy is actually paying me to take this equipment off their hands. I know they need to get rid of their outdated stock, but this is ridiculous.

So I spent all afternoon and evening dismantling my old system [and the one before that which sat beside it, both functional for a period of time a while ago, until the video board on the older one died], cleaning up years of dust behind the desk, setting up the new system, and then scavenging the old computer for the floppy drive, and for hard drive, which I installed in the new machine as a second hard drive because I needed some small portion of the 16 gigs of data and programs stored on it and didn't feel like loading it all from CD backups--and it's a good thing that the hard drive worked because, as I later found out, the new computer won't recognize the old CD format. I mean...why go to all that trouble of fastidiously (or even casually) backing up everything if, when you need it most, technology changes make the format obsolete?

Now I have a lot of housekeeping to do, moving files from the old to new drive, setting up automatic backup from the new to the old drive, restoring all of the logins, passwords, macros, etc. that will not function, even on the old HD.

So, anyway, what I intended to write about before I got off on the new computer tangent was that while I was shopping, I noticed that I was stumbling through the analysis of the computers, rambling on to the eager sales kid who thought he was going to talk me into a whole of extras like additional virus protection, a three year maintenance agreement that cost half as much as the computer [he asked me why I thought I didn't need it; I told him for that price, if it broke down two years from now, I'd probably be able to buy the same thing again with the money I saved], etc. But the point is, I felt and probably looked like I was a bumbling old(er) man who either didn't know what he was doing and/or was too confused to make up his mind. [When I was young(er), I used to make fun of the kinds of people I seem to be becoming now. Silly me.] As I tried to make up my mind which system, if any, I wanted to buy, I began to think that I never used to be this way; that is, I never allowed anyone to see me this way. I always insisted that I remain cool and distant, rational and totally in control, never letting on that life and its influences and pending decisions bothered or in any other way affected me. But now, I don't care. It's not worth the effort to be "in control." I'd been pretending to be in control for far too long. It's time now to relax and lighten up and not give a shit what people think. I guess this is what aging does to you. [Not that I myself am aging, mind you. I refuse to admit the possibility. Once you admit it, the process hastens because your subconscious is brought into compliance with the "facts" that you admit to.] When you see old men and women walking along, muttering to themselves, looking dazed and out of it, it may not so much be because they're losing their minds, succumbing to dementia; it may just be that they no longer give a shit. They're doing the same thing aloud that younger people do inside their heads, afraid to let it out because they have an image to maintain. I maintain my (self-)image within my own mind now, and feel less compelled to project it out into society like I always used to do. That's what writing, doing art, and playing music used to be about for me. Now, I don't feel so hell bent upon performing any more.

the world, the flesh, and Cecelia

Cecelia, you're breaking my heart,
your shaking my confidence daily.
Simon and Garfunkel
I'm in a large rec hall with two young guys who are forming a band. I play the guitar lead from "Tube Steak Boogie" for them. They think it's great. They want me to be their lead guitarist. I'm flattered, but I have to wonder why these young guys would want an older guy like me in their band. And then an even older woman, a granny type, yet cool, comes up to us. She's going to be the keyboardist. Now I don't feel so out of place. Cut to:

A large communal bedroom upstairs. I'm getting ready to go to bed, on the right side of a huge bed that sleeps four. A woman is lying next to me. I'm attracted to her, but I'm intentionally avoiding letting her know it, and I lie on my back not touching her. But after a short while, she rolls over and presses her back against me, and when I still do not respond, she reaches around and takes my arm and wraps it around her. I give in, reach down, and fondle her genitals.

I awaken briefly to realize that the woman is M from across the street, and I understand that in the dream she was intentionally disguising herself so that I would not know who she was. I fall back into sleep and dream I'm Johnny Depp and Cecelia has come to visit me in my small apartment, so small that the bed along the back wall spans the entire width, and the floor area between the bed and the door is less than six feet, more like a cheap hotel room than an apartment, except that it is definitely an apartment. The place has no windows and feels almost like a cell (in the monastery sense of the word). Cecelia is atop me on the bed, but she's quite conflicted about being here, especially in this position. And yet she can't resist me (and not only because I am Depp). When I smile at her, she melts and will do anything I want. (And you know what that is.) Cecelia feels guilty, but she does it anyway, because she can't resist me, and because, although she believes it to be wrong, she feels it to be so right. Afterwards, I go outside. Cut to:

A city street. I walk along smiling at every attractive woman I see, and they smile back and look back at me as they pass on. I am forming a "network," I think, as I walk along the sidewalk. I can call on these women any time I want and they will come running to do whatever I want them to do. And it's all done with smiles. I make eye contact, smile so briefly, and then look down, as if I'm shy and overcome by the sudden intimacy I've discovered. In the presence of men, I maintain the very slightest of smiles, as if I know something others do not, as if I am in on a big secret. I realize that I am an influential and powerful person, all because of the way I smile.

I realize, awake, that I am Cecelia. The way she feels in my room making love to me is the way I feel toward society, toward people in general, conflicted: in communion (sometimes) when I am existing within an anonymous crowd; but shy and withdrawn when I am interacting with any specific person, yet at the same time experiencing, to whatever degree of awareness, an immediacy of presence with them. It is by virtue of this latter half of the conflict that the communal affect seems to get passes on much of the time, as I observe, usually in retrospect from memory, often at least partially blocking awareness of it in the immediate moment, others' reactions to my presence. But, when I do happen to observe it in the present, the communal phenomenon all but overwhelms me and I want to shy away (which is why I developed the awareness blocking in the first place.). My "rational" self issues warnings: "Don't trust these people. They'll fuck you." [Catch the double meaning?] This is the Cecelia in me. She so much wants to be religious, but doesn't know how to go about being spiritual; and so she substitutes beliefs for spiritual experience. But in the dream, she gives into the "spiritual experience," which I (dream-ego) mistake for sex. (I am in Cecelia.) We're both fucked up: I am too caught up in sensuality, she in religious (which may be a symbol for more general intellectual) dogma. It's the essence of my schizoid split. I am continually discovering new ways in which I am divided: intellectual/spiritual, rational/emotional, new/old...

the whole point

I don't like to learn how to use new processes when old ones seem to work just fine. But I do like to have learned them if, when I do, they end up providing a definite benefit. It comes down to a matter of investing the time. If, when I do, I am rewarded with easier ways to do things, great. But a lot of new-fangled processes/ideas do not deliver on their promises.

Now, here I am again, five years down the road, re-configuring my new computer to act like the old one did, which I had to take the time to re-configure to act like the one before it did...and so on, back to paper and pencil methods. I can invest the time to reconfigure, or I can invest it learning to do things a new way. If I do the former, when I'm done, I know I'll have a tried and true working process; if I do the latter, who knows? Maybe the new word processors (etc.) have big advantages over Lotus Write. (I doubt it; the former new ones didn't--and I spent a lot of time backtracking back then to re-establish older methods after the new ones didn't work out to my satisfaction.) But I just don't have the time to fool around learning how to use all of this new stuff. Guess I've finally become an old fuddy-duddy longing for the good-old-days. But at least I'm not using a typewriter any more. Or pencil and paper.

Remember back when typewriters had just started adding word-processing functions? Wasn't that a great breakthrough? But things advanced so fast that I didn't have time to wear any of them out. I still have them. I keep thinking that, if my computer ever breaks down, I may need to revert back to them, if the new ones cost too much and/or my financial wherewithal has deteriorated; but prices keep going down as technology advances and my computer needs remain the same. So I just buy a new computer. I can't wait until computing advances to the point where I can just think up this stuff and people who are tuned into my brainwaves can understand what I'm trying to say think. I mean, that's the whole point, isn't it? Of everything? Communion. Or is the medium really the message, after all.


Somehow, the heat and humidity impress upon me the idea that we are all one. I don't know how this works, but it does. Maybe it's the fact that we slow down and rest and pay more attention to our surroundings in this kind of weather. But probably it's something else entirely. Whatever the case, I'm perfectly happy with the heat and humidity--unless I have to do physical work. Even the modest exertion of mounting electrical boxes can overwhelm me in this heavy atmosphere.

But, despite the weather, I get ambitious and begin wiring spotlights to illuminate the backyard so that, if I ever get ambitious again and decide to garden past dusk, I have the light to do it. But I have to stop working at dusk because I had the electricity to the side yard spotlight turned off so that I could tap into the line. I started working on the project the next day, but I had to stop to make a run to Home Depot because I'd forgotten to buy a few items--of course. But when I finally finish, my entire property is illuminable at night. I sit on the back porch and anticipate randomly turning on the lights in the middle of the night to try to catch that damn groundhog in the act of raiding my gardens. Heh.

But I never get the chance to surprise it. I checked the trap at seven the next morning before I took a four-hour "nap." And I didn't go back outside until four in the afternoon, when I found her in the trap. But she was dead. So much for Havahart live traps. She must have died from heat exhaustion trying to escape. Too bad. If I had known that, I'd have spent ten bucks for a spring trap instead of the forty I paid for the "humane" one. Spring traps may cause a lot of pain, but desperately trying to claw and gnaw your way out of a metal cage and dying for lack of water is a kind of pain too.

Anyway, she's raided her last garden. I buried her in one of the terraces I'm building on the back property line, along with the apple bait that she had just started to eat when she realized, I guess, that she was doomed. Now I can remove the netting from the cantaloupes. The vines are growing through it instead of under it, which is causing them to grow up instead of across the ground. But I guess I'll leave the netting over the rest of the gardens to keep the birds out of them. But I feel like I'm running down and not wanting to do any of this any more. Maybe having killed the groundhog is making me sad. Nah!

motivation problem

If only I could accomplish my plans and goals as well as I can organize and schedule them; but I'm limited by available time and energy--especially energy. (Or should I call it motivation?) In terms of my goal of maximizing my growing area, I've been thinking I have definite space concerns that limit what I'm going to be able to do; and it's true, but it's not (yet) my true limitation. I've got a long way to go before I reach the point where I run out of growing space. Meanwhile, I limit myself by my frequent lack of motivation. The problem is generalized across the entire spectrum of my behavior.

But what does it matter, really? A hundred years from now, I'm going to have been dead for quite a while and any of this silliness I think are problems now won't mean a thing. In fact, how much of what we do as a worldwide species will matter? Future humans will look back on this period like we look back on The Dark Ages: all posturing that we did as barbarians. Superstition abounds, still, while we think we are so advanced; and cults worship fictive gods and kill other cults because we are incapable of being tolerant--and, of course, for money.

Hypothesis is the mechanism whereby I avoid the trap of faith. We humans have a marvelous ability to predefine the universe. We construct the world we live in by the premises we assume. As a species, we create our own reality via consensual definition. (We agree as to what it is we experience and dismiss diversion.) I choose to take a step backwards to hypothesize a few "facts." I don't need faith to define a god I need only hypothesize. Or not. Faith is a crutch that enables the insecure to pretend they are not. Face it: we don't know. Why is it so hard for us to admit that? No one has ever been where it is they say we go when we die. (Those who claim they have misinterpret their experience.)

no love lost

I've been thinking that I've been lost and wallowing in a muddle of purposelessness and self-doubt because (among a lot of other reasons) I'm months behind in publishing my journals online. But when considering how I might "find" myself, I realize that, although I am definitely behind, all of the material is there, accumulated in the raw journals, just waiting to be formatted in html. I'm behind, but I'm not wallowing; I've been documenting it all along.

Apparently, my anomie, which I've long been considering an antisocial tendency, is my personal expression of a movement in the Zeitgeist. Strange that I would adopt a social tendency (if that is what it is) to characterize my rebellion against society. Or maybe not. Though I may wish to escape the ill effects of an errant society, still, I am caught up in it.

But when I lose sight of my purpose in life, all I have to do, if I can remember it, is to stop drinking coffee for a day or two; then the purpose of life becomes quite clear again: the purpose of life must be to drink coffee, because without it there seems to be no purpose.

I feel like I'm wasting my life. But when I was working at a full time job, I felt like I was wasting my life then too. In fact, I can't imagine any job I could work at, any profession, where I would not be wasting my life. I don't know anyone that I feel is not wasting his or her life. Life, in general, is a waste--except for the fact of it:

Intelligence, that is, simple awareness that objectifies existence and appreciates it, is enough for me, it seems, when it comes to living a purposeful life. Anything beyond that state is superfluous. When we try to rationalize our existence, that's when we become lost.

It's ironic that, when I take a strictly hardcore scientific view, with a survival-of-the-fittest, evolutionary attitude and with my (true) Christian values of forgiveness and tolerance set aside, I can accept George Bush and his policies as intelligent and pragmatic. Setting myself aside from the fray of human existence and becoming the dispassionate observer, I can envision a world where weak and marginal people weed themselves out via their inability to compete effectively, where technology is used to develop urban global sectors designed for the relative well-being of the rest of the more functional human race, with special elitist arrangements made for those few of us who can afford it, and where the rest of the planet becomes a wild and wooly source of raw materials and refuse dump, eventually depleted so that we must engineer extraterrestrial expeditions to mine the elements we cannot artificially produce.

That nightmare sci-fi scenario is Bush's legacy--all organized and manufactured by global capitalist enterprise, of course. It's a brave new world the Bushes are ushering in, a New World Order; and, strangely enough, it's the scientists who should be proud, not the pseudo-Christians. According to (true) Christianity, this is not the way that we're supposed to be. But so what if the ecology of the Earth is permanently ruined and we have to hole up in artificial environments, if the majority of citizens become prawns in a meat-market metropolis that harvests them to do its mundane work (I kind of feel like that's the way it is already), if... Well, what's the use? I'm not going to live all that much longer anyway. At the absolute best, I got another fifty or so years. So if you (the elite social engineers, that is) want me to participate in your faux democracy, you better accelerate the research on immortality and make it available, if not to the masses, then at least to me. Otherwise, I'm outta here, and you can reduce the planet to a cinder for all I care. I don't have any kids to leave a legacy for, and I never wanted to be a part of your damned system in the first place. So, no love lost.

the air up there

My social isolation and tendency toward anarchy often takes a peculiar form in dreams:

1) Linda and I leave work and are walking through the mountains, along steep, jagged ridges on a narrow path that should feel dangerous; but we are casual and secure. She walks ahead of me because there's not room enough for us to walk side by side; and in order to speak to her, I have to get up close to her and half-lean over her shoulder. As we walk along, we're talking intimately and soon I'm almost whispering in her ear. But she tells me that when we get back to civilization, we have to go back to the way we used to relate, because her husband won't like it that we are so close. Dissolve to me, alone, having walked around to the other side of the ridge. As I descend, I look out ahead of me to a high point up on the ridge above where it drops off as a cliff about fifty feet high. An SUV is poised up there, trying to prevent going over the edge by running the wheels in reverse; but gravity finally wins the battle and the car plummets down, landing on its nose and flipping over onto its roof. As I'm walking toward it (still casually, as if this kind of thing happens every day), the driver is climbing out of the car. [It's my next-door neighbor, but I don't recognize him in the dream.] I yell to the guy, asking him if he's okay. He says, yeah, he's fine. I ask him if he needs any help, and he says, no, he's all right. I walk on down the hillside and onto the flatland that is the outskirts of the town, where I meet Linda again, who's arrived here via the other side of the ridge. She's happy to see me, but is afraid to express herself as intimately as she had when we were up on the ridge.

2) db moves back into the house and begins to clean and organize the entire place [recurrent], completely--every room, every nook and cranny. I walk through the house. Every room is completely empty of content, except for the furniture. All surfaces are clean and bare. I express amazement that she was able to do this and wonder what she had to throw out; but she insists that she retained everything, having stored it all away efficiently. I like the way the place looks and feels, but I wonder how she will live here with me and not have sex with me (which I intuit is her intent). I awaken with the distinct feeling that someone is trying to tell me something.

I keep trying to increase my level of detachment (effected in the dream by db) via forgoing for relatively long periods of time food, news (specifically political news), and anything else I can think of that seems appropriate (the dream images of barren and clean surfaces). But I can't sustain this behavior--obviously re food, or I would die, but even re the news, because I recognize its relevance, not only to maintaining a correct view of the nature and condition of the world, but to my very own personal welfare; as relatively independent as (I want to think) I am, there are ways that my personal life is affected by what happens in the world, especially (negative) government decisions and policies: interest rates, basic identity (can I continue to call myself an American?), social security, etc. You can exist in the rare air of the mountains for awhile; but you can't remain there forever. You must return to more sensible elevations eventually.

return to social concern

Yesterday afternoon, my brother called and told me that if I wanted some firewood I should meet him at the country club landfill at 3:30 today; so I did. He wanted me to meet him because he needed me to load the truck since he tripped over some lighting fixtures at work and hurt his knee and Workman's Comp was paying for his physical therapy and he didn't want anyone to see him lifting the wood (he's the maintenance guy at the country club) because he's not suppose to lift more than ten pounds.

So while I'm loading the wood into his truck to be dropped off at my house the next day, he tells me he was appointed to the safety committee because one person from each department had to attend regular monthly meetings to satisfy insurance requirements, and he's the only person in his department. And he tells me that at that meeting he suggested that people not leave trash in the hallway that led to the dumpster, that they take it out the few extra feet and deposit it where it belongs.

So, the next day, he's confronted by the effeminate manager of food services who is irate at him for having complained about him and his employees at the meeting. My brother didn't know at the time that it was his people who were depositing the trash in the hallway. And, knowing my brother, when the guy gave him a hard time, he gave it right back to him.

After I had finished loading the truck, we were standing in the sun while he continued on and on about this incident. He was obviously deflecting my attention away from his behavior and onto the other guy's (i.e., projecting), but I got the idea that it wasn't entirely his fault. But I was uncomfortable standing there in the hot sun and wanted to get back to his house where we could talk more comfortably. So I changed the subject and we headed back home.

At his house, after we talked to his next-door neighbor for a while, my brother gave me two hot peppers from his garden and I left. A little later, after I got home, he called me and said that he was going to bring the wood over tonight instead of tomorrow morning, because he wanted to go back to work and finish up some things rather than doing them in the morning. When he arrived, after I unloaded the wood, he hung around and started talking about the incident at work again. When the subject changed, he kept going back to it.

I can be a little bit dense when I am "socializing" until I have time later to absorb the information I acquire. I missed his intent. I only began to realize after he left that my brother did not call me to get wood for me; he wanted to talk to me about the incident at work. He's having a hard time dealing with. And I'm afraid I didn't offer him much help or comfort. I feel badly about this and try to think what I could have said that might have made him feel better; but I can't come up with anything. I myself didn't handle these kinds of situations very well when I was working, and I said as much to him when I was loading the wood, telling him that I hated it when those kinds of situations occurred.

I guess I could have told him that he should shut up when hostile people confront him; but then, he already knows that. It would have been hollow advice. How do you shut up when your repressions take over when someone pushes your buttons? The best you can do is apologize later, and that's hard enough for my brother (or me) to do even when the other person has been free of any bad behavior.

It feels good though that he thought to come to me for advice, that he sees me as having a kind of expertise in the area of working for an employer. At one point in our conversation early on, he mentioned how he has worked only for himself all his life and had no experience at working for an employer. But through it all, he was somewhat indirect, in that he never couched his remarks in a way that let me knowing that he was seeking my advice. [He may not want to admit to me, or even to himself, that he needs to do this; his inferiority complex may prevent him from doing it. I know it prevents me; but, then, I'd never ask for advice at all, in any way, no matter how well disguised. My insecurity takes an entirely different form.] But had he asked directly for advice, still, I don't know what I would have said. I don't know now what I could have said differently. Increasingly, I seem to want to believe that one is either a social animal or one is not, and no amount of education, in psychology or whatever, and no amount of operant conditioning, will reverse your basic predilection.