by j-a

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December 2005



I

Spinning Contemplation
Within the Context of Society

The significance of insignificance

I guess the dampening effect of the Thanksgiving holiday is over. After a few days of lots of sleep and moping around, I'm back in full manic mode, writing long-winded, if disjointed, (raw) journal entries, my mind running on and on at full speed:

When I awaken out of dreams, I'm often amazed at the complexity and enormity of the images. Sometimes when I try to understand the meaning of the symbols, I can make no sense of them at all. I always want to incorporate the imagery from some dreams into the book I'm writing at the time, but often I can't figure out a way to make it fit, so I usually decide instead just to post them to my journal. This is a decision process that's been bothering me for a while now: which pieces of writing do I include where? The problem gets worse the less I write. The more I write, the more automatically the work seems to flow:

I exist in one of two basic states of mind throughout the day: I'm either writing, or I want to be writing. When I'm writing, I'm happy and feel productive (whether I actually am or not). Simple. But when I'm not writing, the situation is more complex, because I can not be writing for a number of reasons: I may be demotivated, either because the caffeine has worn off and I've reached my limit for the day, or for some other reason (demotivation doesn't mean that I don't want to be writing, but only that I don't have the mental energy to do it; I hardly ever don't want to write); I may have other things that must be done, maintenance tasks, or social obligations, and I resent them because they prevent me from writing (even if I am not motivated to write; I resent doing them despite the fact that otherwise I would not write); I may have accomplished a great amount of writing that day so far and feel like I can relax, having earned the right to take it easy, yet still I want to write--and if I have other things that must be done, I especially resent that they interfere with any of the free time I feel I have earned; and I may have other (creative) things that I actually want to do, yet they still prevent me from writing, whether I actually am motivated to write or not. If I have the motivation to do anything, I usually expend it by writing, and then I struggle the rest of the time with what else I must or want to do. So, either I am writing, or I want to be; and everything else is pretty much insignificant.

On Thanksgiving, when I was talking to Joyce, in my caffeinated enthusiasm (I was tired, and so had two cups of coffee), I told her of my predilection for painting and before I knew what I was doing, she manipulated me into a commitment to paint her a picture of a lighthouse. So, rather than promise to paint her a large canvas, I tell her I'll paint several small 4" x 6" studies and she can choose, if she wishes, one of them to be expanded to a larger format.

Since then I've been procrastinating about starting to paint again. I want to do it, but I'm just not sufficiently motivated to actually begin. And, I guess, I'm going to have to get the paintings done before Christmas when I visit them again. It's way past time that I begin to light a fire under my ass, which might be facilitated by lighting a fire in the woodstove instead of hiding out in my (space-heatered) bedroom writing and working on the second draft of my novel.

bit by bit

You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Franz Kafka
My projects, the real ones (writing, art, etc.), and the reality behind the physical ones (remodeling, etc.) are psychological. What I'm doing when I engage in planning out projects is developing my mind/self (psyche) by striving to (re)arrange conditions and contingencies in order to accomplish what looks like different kinds of tasks, but what I'm actually doing is defining and refining the way I view my world; because the world you live in is created (if not immediately, then in the foreseeable future, if that is your plan) by the way you choose to think about it.

But what's the point of all of this advancement if one day I die? The human race (life in general) advances bit by bit through the accomplishments of an elite cadre of scientists, intellectuals, and technicians (and despite errant businessmen and politicians whose purpose is to maintain the status quo and harvest benefits for themselves at the expense of advancement; not all businessmen--a few are straightforward and take a fair and modest salary for their efforts--but practically all politicians, because it's the basic nature of their existence), supported by a system of workers and service people who build the world (when their efforts are not misdirected by the aforementioned businessmen and politicians; I'm not talking about the physical superstructure of the world here, although that is a small part of it when it serves true advancement, but rather the knowledge and experience of the human race, which is the true legacy of life on this planet--and elsewhere, if it exists).

In terms of this advancement, what is it that I do? Nothing, but wait? Someone might happen along, find something I've written or created, become inspired by it, and go off to accomplish something great. (The same can be said of any person, when that person's actions or ideas serve to further someone else's; the person need not be a writer, but may be anyone who communicates ideas, in whatever way.) Whereas, if the person I inspired had not encountered my influence, s/he might have become depressed and gone off and committed suicide and never accomplished anything. This is how I (or any person) furthers the advancement. And there could be many people who happen along, who have already happened along, in a similar manner; yet even if no one happens along, or ever did (an unlikelihood), at least I try. I have not been idle, after all, but working, in my own (relatively) modest way, in the best way I know how, given my personal limitations, to advance myself, so that a small bit of the human race, the advance-guard of life in general, might propel itself forward, bit by bit.

too bad

Do you love him, Loretta?
Oh ma, I love him awful.
That's too bad.
Olympia Dukakis and Cher
Moonstruck
Usually, I solve my problems bit by bit. Very seldom do I ever attack a problem all out after I have searched exhaustively for and planned out a solution, because no matter how well you plan things out, you always overlook something; or at least I do. This doesn't mean that I don't make a plan; in fact, it's my primary mode of problem solving. It doesn't matter what the problem is. As long as I can get it down fairly accurately on paper, all will be okay. And if I can also get its potential solution delineated and scheduled to be implemented, so much the better. It doesn't matter that I probably won't complete the schedule. The mere fact that I create a plan diffuses any anxiety the problem might be causing. At any time in the future, I can begin to implement the plan if anxiety threatens again. As long as I know what to do, anxiety is not a part of the problem. If my problem solving ability falls short of some ideal I might have had when I began the planning process, that's too bad.

Too bad: it's a somewhat idiomatic expression, isn't it? It doesn't mean exactly what its individual words mean when put together. If you say something is bad and then you qualify it by saying something is too bad, without the idiomatic meaning, that would mean that it is bad beyond some ordinary standard; it's too bad. And our idiomatic use of the phrase includes, or at least connotes, that meaning; but its usage extends beyond it, almost as if it were only a single word, toobad. "That's toobad," that's not only bad beyond normal bad, that's bad in a way that you can't do anything about, so that you're resigned to leaving the situation just the way it is. It's a dismissive phrase. We can tease out this sub-meaning by considering a phrase that some people use to emphasize the original meaning: "That's too, too bad." That's not only bad in a way that you can do nothing about, but it's too bad in that way. People say, "That's too, too bad," I think, because they subconsciously recognize that the original use of 'too bad' has lost some of its punch through having the meaning extended beyond the scope of its component words, so they have to add an additional qualifier in order to extend it even further.

When I problem-solve, it's because the problem I'm trying to solve has gotten too bad (but not toobad, because if it had gotten toobad, I'd just give up on it altogether, which I never do, as I hope to explain; if I would admit that all my problems are toobad, then I might as well shrivel up and die). Typically, when I encounter problems, I wait. Waiting solves a lot of problems, in and of itself. Most problems, if you wait long enough, go away; or else they suggest their own solutions as their nature becomes more apparent over time. But for very difficult problems, which I define as the ones that become associated with anxiety (if there is no anxiety, I can wait forever), solutions must be looked for, even if the "solution" is merely the elucidation of a problem and a plan of attack on it. This is what I do when a problem gets too bad, in the normal, original sense of the phrase; in other words, I begin to get anxious about it.

For anything to be toobad, in the sense that Olympia Dukakis meant in the film, means that there's nothing you can do about it, so why try? Love is like that: either you're in love and there's nothing you can do about it, or else you're not in love. But there's a condition short of love that we sometimes get stuck in and think we can do nothing about. When you become caught up in someone's life because you're in love, well, what can you do? But sometimes we become caught up in people's lives even though we don't care for them at all, sometimes we allow people to suck us into their turbulent lives, we set ourselves up to be used, in one way or another.

These people convince us, in whatever way they do it, to become involved with them. Then they whine and complain to us, and when we begin to get tired of it and start to show signs of discomfort, they turn on us and begin to project onto us their own negative contents. It's better in the long run for us that we remain apart from these kinds of people to avoid getting sucked in. We need to pick and choose a few good friends who will not do this kind of thing; but we need to be very careful when we choose, because sucking others into our lives is a common human trait. It's just toobad when people do this. It's my primary source of anxiety and the only way I know to deal with the problem is to plan out how to avoid these kinds of people. And since most people are this way at least some of the time, avoiding people usually turns out to be a good plan for me. I wait, until people come to me; and usually, at least any more, they don't. So, I win the game. (That's just toobad.)

growth (or not)

Got my coat and grabbed my hat.
Made the bus in seconds flat.
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke.
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.
The Beatles, "A Day in the Life"
I'm in London, waiting for a bus, trying to get to Scotland. Several buses show up, but I let them pass by because they're not double-deckers and I want to sit on the upper level and watch the scenery as I travel. Declan (I forget his last name; he does the feed from London to ABC for their middle-of-the-night news report) is watching me from his window several floors above. He's doing the bus count (like he does on the ABC feed) except that instead of just counting the buses that pass, he's counting the ones I don't get on. Craig Ferguson walks by, notices me waiting, and tells me there won't be any more double-decker buses. I thank him, but I tell him I'm going to wait anyway, because I don't want to ride on an ordinary bus.

I dreamed this because just before I fell asleep, I saw an ABC news report by Declan that said that, despite tourists' complaints, London double-decker buses are being removed from service because they're not accessible to disabled people. Well, excuse me for being a crass, uncaring asshole, but fuck the disabled. [I'm allowed to say that because I have a disability; it's like a Scottish comedian telling jokes about how cheap Scots are (like Ferguson did on his show the other night), except that I'm not joking.] The buses could certainly be adapted to accommodate the disabled on the lower level. As usual, I don't have enough information, so let me act like the asshole that I am and assume the worst and conjecture that physically disabled people complain because they can't get up to the upper level. So let's discriminate against the able instead by taking away our luxury of an upstairs ride. [Hmm. That sounds dirty, sort of like "I can't tell you, but I know it's mine."]

When it comes to accommodating the disabled, there seems to be one point that everyone misses: everyone's disabled, in one way or another. And no one seems to be too concerned about my particular disability, because the pc people who champion the cause(s) of those for whom life is such a discriminating drag don't recognize it. And never mind what my disability is, in case you might want to know. I don't need to be stirring up any more prejudice against me by revealing any non-obvious facts. [Okay. If you really want to know, go here.] Anyway, I make do. I don't ask for special treatment, favors, handouts, or even equal access--because I assume that, however I am disadvantaged, you are too, in some other way. We're all equal, ultimately, in our disabilities--in the eyes of God (so to speak).

People generally have no problem with respecting the rights and feelings of those among us who are afflicted with physical disabilities such as paraplegia, hip or knee joint deteriorization, etc.; nor have they any problem re mental disabilities such as significantly reduced intelligence, depression, etc.; and yet they'll ridicule me for being absentminded or lacking in social skills or common sense, when I am as disabled as others are, except that my disability isn't a socially acceptable one; it's not (yet) politically correct to consider Asperger's as a disability, and so I am left out here in the cold, on my own, which happens to be the way I like it, which is a function of the disability. Being (somewhat) satisfied in this way, I realize, makes advancement far more difficult. It's not easy to maintain a growth ideal and yet resist it through complacency. It's a conflict I've yet to learn how to resolve.

But growth is a funny thing. You expect it to move you forward. But instead, sometimes, it seems to move you back. Regression functions, sometimes, as review of past mistakes, if you remain aware of what's happening to you. I go on relatively productively through life, off in my own world, until sooner or later, I hit a snag, which is almost always some social situation. Immediately I feel the imperative to revert to my early-conditioned personality, to hide away (which I'm doing anyway, except that I don't feel that way, so that if anyone would benignly approach me while I'm in this mode, I'd welcome them, or at least tolerate them in a typical "sociable" way). Whether I actually revert or not depends upon a number of factors, but in any case, as Thomas Wolfe tried to explain, you can't go home again. Awareness (growth) prevents it.

And yet, in service to insight, sometimes growth requires that you first begin to regress, so that you become aware of and confirmed about the previously less competent nature that you've grown out of. I realize that acting out my old defense mechanisms in the light of new awareness is futile: they don't work. I might act them out anyway, as a conditioned response, butwellthey don't work. So I resort to the only one remaining that still does: silence. I haven't quite penetrated that mystery yet, except that I know that it's true what they say: Silence makes the loudest noise of all. (Although people have to have the ears to hear it.)

This is what my waiting strategy is, silence. If you want to communicate with me, here I am, waiting. And I've been waiting a very long time. I suspect that on the last day of my life I'll still be waiting. Once you've adopted a way of life I spend most of my time waiting, pursuing my alternative lifestyle in order to pass the time, pretending that it's what I really want to do, even to the point of becoming irritated with the less and less frequent interruptions that temporarily end the wait. But I'm not complaining. This is not so bad, really, except that, ultimately, I suspect (it's almost a belief, though not quite) there is nothing waiting for us after death, and my wait, if it is not permanently satisfied in this life, never will be. But maybe that's the whole point: there is no permanent satisfaction; well, okay then, how about a little long term temporary. I don't want to get down to my last day and realize that I've been wrong about this waiting thing my whole life.

This apparent dilemma, I think, is easily resolved by asking the following question: If this were your last day on earth, how would you want to spend it?1 The intended point of the question being: don't waste your time by failing to attend to what's happening in your ordinary everyday experiences, which can be important events, especially if it turns out that they don't ever happen again. A more appropriate rephrasing of the question might be: If this were someone else's last day on earth, how would you want to spend it with them? The first question has an egocentric focus and could result in actions directed toward your own self-satisfaction; the second refocuses you on others and their needs, or at least on your own needs that relate directly to them (such as you might want to tell them how much you love them, so that you don't feel guilty after they are gone).

Imagine if we treated everyone like it was their last day on earth: we'd spread love all over the place and simply ignore nasty, callous, ignorant people because we'd know it wasn't worth our time to have to deal with them, which it isn't, in any case. The real problem here is finding people who are not nasty, callous, ignorant people--because these are relative terms. But you're not very likely to find them if you don't look for them. This is circular logic at its best: I wait, for people to find me; but people who are not manipulative bastards are waiting too. Conclusion: sociable people are manipulative bastards. Why do you think they're socializing in the first place? They're out there after something. They may not know exactly what it is (or they very well may), but they're going to get it, because it's what they do. In my view (which is, of course, wrong; otherwise we would have no society at all, and the implications of that condition is obvious), it's best to stay away from everyone as much as possible, and when it's not possible, be very cautious because they're probably up to something. So, then, what am I waiting for? To be proven wrong, I think. It's another one of my "personality disorders"; but that's okay. It's what makes me human.

overwhelming data

When I write about psychological "disorders" that I "suffer" from, sometimes, later, I suspect that I do not actually have those disorders; or, at the worst, that I exaggerate the symptoms that I find, either within myself or empathetically; and, if empathetically, I wonder, am I "channeling" someone else? I write about myself (sometimes) as if I were someone else, a kind of fictive character in the novel of my life. I don't mean by all of this that I'm not telling the truth, because I am very definitely reporting exactly what I'm experiencing, but as if I am a more or less objective author/reporter existing outside myself and trying to analyze and interpret the experiences apart from the person I am who is experiencing them, as if the self I am who is doing the experiencing is someone other than me. What I'm writing about is the truth that some other self I am is experiencing; yet it is still my own truth.

I think that I may take this approach (it's not a conscious writing ploy, but a retrospective insight) because I semi-consciously intuit that at least some of the information I'm reporting is coming from outside my own self, as if via some "psychic" transference process. I'm questioning the nature of my experience here and/or trying to elucidate general unconscious human truths and tendencies that people, especially professionals, want to project onto, for example, "mentally ill" people (and others, including me), in order to believe themselves to be free of the "maladies." All mental illness exists within each of us, and it is only our ability to rationalize consistent social selves that keeps us from ending up acting like raving lunatics. [Anyone who has ever taken LSD (or any other potent psychoactive drug that breaks down conditioning) will know this to be true.]

I know what it means to be psychologically disturbed, even though I've never actually suffered from psychoses or, for the most part, from neuroses or even minor prolonged ailments (except possibly for mild depression, which I have learned to treasure as an excuse to be lazy). I understand psychological disturbance because I feel that I am especially empathetic. (I know, I know. Everyone feels that way.) And the (inklings of) disorders that I'm certain that I actually do have, I see in most other people also, mostly to a small degree, and not only because I'm displacing the symptoms or projecting my contents onto them. (Don't forget, any projection requires a hook to hang it on.) So, self-diagnosis becomes quizzical sometimes when the communal process that exists among people, when we are all an intimate part of the same unconscious unity, clouds accuracy. I suffer from knowing too much about mental disorders, maybe; and from sharing too much insight into the human condition.

The other side of that coin is the politics of society: By studying in my own self how it is that I, mostly unconsciously, borrow and share political and social beliefs and opinions like I contract physical illnesses like viruses (so that I feel that I, at various times, represent all possible socio-political positions, not only because I am capable of understanding their logic and appeal, but because I become "infected" and must struggle to fight off the any particular partisan dis-ease), I've learned how all people manipulate facts in order to present the best possible case for their beliefs and actions. Being thusly immersed and versed in socio-political opinion, I seem to be able to easily spot the spin. It's like I empathize as if I am an analyst and my patient is a political operative who engages in transference that I must analyze and interpret.

For example, the Penn Hills School District brags in their recent newsletter that they have only raised taxes twice since 1992. But they don't mention the fact that property taxes are collected as percentages of assessed property value and that raising them at all is an absolute, not a relative, increase. The school district (intentionally, I believe) leaves the impression that they are holding the line against increasing costs, that rising prices in general dictate the necessity to raise taxes; though prices are rising everywhere, the district maintains that it is doing its best to keep costs as low as possible. And maybe they are doing their best; but it's not good enough. Increases in property values themselves create additional tax revenues. When tax percentages are increased, that is an increase in tax revenue over and above the normal increase that would occur automatically as property values increase. What the district is really saying is that they can't continue to operate with only the increases provided by inflation; they have to take a larger percentage of your assessed value to do it.

Well, okay. If it has to be, whether through higher costs of education, incompetence, or whatever, then it has to be. But don't try to con us into thinking that you're doing such a good job of holding the line against increases. Extending that logic out over a long period of time, two increases in thirteen years becomes four in twenty-six, and so on, until after x number of years, the tax percentage reaches one hundred percent of assessed value, and then two hundred, until the property value of the entire township is eaten up by the school district's expenses. How about doing us taxpayers a favor? Stop spinning the facts and tell us the plain truth.

That's all I'm looking for, really; in myself as well as in others. It's just that, in sifting through the multitudinous information and negotiating the complexity of the human psycho-social condition to get at the simple truth, I happen across all of this other stuff that I feel I must report, if only to sweep it out of my head to make room for the few little simple bits of data that I wish to keep in there, added to my growing collection of logical simplicity. It seems like the world conspires to fill my head up with relevant information, that almost everything I experience is relevant, that I must in one way or another deal with the information it throws at me, that I must process it all in one way or another. Here's some more of it:

The other night on "Grey's Anatomy" [that's a great series title, btw, being a metaphor for anatomizing Ellen Pompeo's character], Sandra Oh, who has been resisting psychological intimacy with the doctor she's "dating," finally gives in just a little bit, after he gives her a key to his apartment, and she takes him to her place, where she reveals how she lives, in a total chaos of a mess, diametrically opposed to the way he lives, his apartment being perfectly organized and spotless. But, despite the repressed embarrassment she feels, she makes no apology for the mess, simply stating that this is the way she lives, this is the way she is, and implying that, if he can't deal with it, then too bad. I understand this situation exactly. This is the simple truth I take away from this show:

I always think, when I get near to the point where I just might end up with someone (or even if I think that I might want to invite someone over for a casual visit; or even when my brother comes over on one of his rare visits), that I'm going to have to clean and organize my house, lest anyone discover how I actually live. I frequently find myself thinking a lot of things like this: I'm going to have to do this, I'm going to have to do that, lest anyone discover how my life is so much different from theirs, or from social and/or cultural norms--the implication being that, if I am discovered, I will be thought odd, or strange, or even "crazy," which might even lead to me being locked up.

But Sandra Oh's character teaches me (this is not a new lesson; this is something I have learned and need to continue learning over and over again until it sticks) that it's okay to be who I am, so stop trying to change me, or if you're not trying to change me, then stop judging me. Oh's character finally bites the bullet and owns up to her behavioral "flaw," essentially saying, "Hey. This is the way I am. Accept it or leave me the fuck alone." (This is also a way that she isolated herself, by being so different that it pushes people away, so that she may remain safe within her isolated psyche; or else she is actually different, which is the motivating factor of her isolation; or both. Which came first, the chicken or the mess?) It's a self-affirming implicit statement that demands recognition of her difference as being as valid as the status quo belief that homes should be clean and well organized.

And people believe that minds should be clean and well organized too. (This is what I'm really writing about here; clean houses are just a metaphor, and my disorganized personal living space is a symptom as well.) But most people do not possess clean, well-organized minds. In fact, I doubt that anyone does; or if they do, I'm certain that it's a symptom of severe mental illness. So, as it turns out, once again, if people criticize the way I live (and I'm sure, at one time or another, they have), it's a projection of theirs, a way of denying that their own minds below the surface of their awareness are a similar mess.

As for me, each time I reaffirm my independent, non-standard existence, I push the world a little bit farther away, because I feel that I should not have to compromise myself in order to adapt to the world; the world should compromise itself to adapt to me. So be it. Except that attempting to develop relationships is not so easy when you're burdened with this kind of a psychology. I feel like everyone should know what I need or want and offer it to me without me having to ask for it. This is the next logical step after establishing a philosophy of waiting for things to come to me. On the other hand, asking for what you want is a perfect counterpoint tactic that often works so well, when you apply it while in a humble, gentle, sociable, caring frame of mind. I should try to translate this into terms I can use in my own life, and use it to supplement my waiting strategy.

I learn a lot by drawing implications, intended and otherwise, from tv shows. Here's another one: The plot on the last two episodes of Boston Legal, where Mark Valley's character accidentally cuts off three of a rogue priest's fingers in his attempt to gain information about the kidnapping of a young boy by a pedophile who is being protected by the priest's confessional privilege, is a metaphor for the torture debate that's going on in this country.

I find it totally disgusting that my country feels it necessary to establish a "torture policy." This should be a policy absolute: no torture, under any circumstances. I mean, what the hell is going on here? Okay, sometimes we have to break the rules. But there should be principles that we establish as sacrosanct--ideals that we strive to live up to. By establishing a torture policy, we officially establish the fact that we have no ideals (in this area at least), that we operate only in a practical world, with only a relative moral code. [Hmm. Interesting that I should be arguing for an absolute moral code, while fundamentalist-backed Republican politicians are opting for relative moral principles. But this is how the socio-political empathy works in me: if I unconsciously recognize a violation of a standard against type, I adopt it to play it back against the violation. Point counterpoint.]

If agents, working in an imperfect world feel that it's absolutely necessary to torture someone in order to get the information they need, they should be prepared to account for their actions after the fact and face whatever discipline is appropriate (if they should happen to get caught, which is unlikely). Maybe, when the facts of the case are examined, judges and juries will understand the necessity of their actions and let them off the hook. But it should be a case-by-case determination. Compromise at the practical case level is one thing; compromise of ideals is a whole other ball game.

I could make this same argument for state-sponsored killing, as for example in a preemptive war. In fact, in a certain sense, when we hold soldiers responsible for their actions, we do distinguish between "justified" killing of enemy soldiers and murder of military personnel and civilians. And I could make exactly the same argument for the death penalty, except that no one is about to violate any "no kill" policies in this regard.

Spinning the facts to substantiate these arguments is like putting the cart before the horse. Spinners maintain their socio-political agenda and, when events transpire that violate it, they spin the facts back in their favor. I try to do the opposite when I investigate psycho-social issues, to spin the facts away from the established belief set, in order to glean the simple information I feel I need in order to live an intelligent life. This strategy seems to work to create two opposing sets of beliefs, and the truth, if there is one, must lie somewhere in between. This creates more mind-work and is not an easy thing to do, as it requires temporarily adopting the two opposing sets of beliefs alternately, back and forth. It requires an intensity of contemplative method. But I feel it's necessary in order to fully examine any given issue.

Plato or Socrates or one of those ancient intelligentsia told us that the unexamined life is not worth living. If life has a purpose (which is what I'm really looking for when I say I'm looking for the simple truth), beyond just merely living and procreating (which is not really a purpose at all, life for the mere sake of it), then it must be to understand it. And you can't adequately understand it without studying and contemplating all sides of it, and not just the one you tend to favor. And that takes time, which having to "work" for a living eats up, severely limiting any serious contemplation (especially when you add in all of the other social concerns, like family, for instance). [I'm going somewhere here, really; but it's taking me a longer time than I thought to get to it. And as I look ahead, I can see it's still a long way off. I may have to break this up into a number of different sections later. Edit: Okay. Did that.]

a contemplative life

Recently I quit caffeine. My doctor seems to think that 17 Diet Cokes per day is too much. In case you ever consider getting off caffeine yourself, let me explain the process. You begin by sitting motionlessly in a desk chair. Then you just keep doing that forever because life has no meaning.
Scott Adams, "The Dilbert Blog"
I

It's been my experience that jobs require you to set aside a large portion of your time and energy and leave you little in reserve. This shouldn't be a revelation to anyone. This is why you should never settle on just any old job that comes along and promises to support you [if for no other reason than employers will lie out their asses about how great a place their company is to work for and how well off you'll be working there]. If you have any kind of a mind at all, you'll want to apply it to what you think is most important in life. [In my case, this is the contemplation of life itself; and it's my contention here, the theme of these sections, that the purpose of life is the same for everyone who is mentally capable of it--unless it turns out that the purpose of life could actually end up being caffeine, in which case, I'll go along with that too.] But if you take a job just to make ends meet [which is what I've always done, because I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life, job-wise] and it doesn't feel to you like it supports your purpose in life, then you're going to be unhappy--unless you happen to be one of those few lucky souls who only require four or five hours of sleep a night and/or have enough energy left over at the end of the work day to devote to your real purpose.

There are a number of books and services that advise that, if you can't find a job in which you can be happy, productive, and creatively satisfied, you should define your ideal work, and then, if no available job corresponds to your definition, you should set about to create it. So, okay. Let's go. My ideal job criteria:

  1. No standard hours. I work when I want to and as much or as little as I want to.
  2. I get paid for what I think; or, short of that, for what I write. Or for the artistic creations I produce.
  3. The subject matter of my art is of my own choosing, and I get paid by the word or by the finished piece.
  4. I don't report to anyone. My boss, if I must have one, takes a hands-off approach and is non-authoritarian, kind, and understanding.
It doesn't sound too likely that I would be able to create a position within the traditional job market, does it? If I had found and tried to apply this advice when I was young and looking for a career, I might have chosen to become a university professor; but even if I'd had the disposition for that type of work, I don't think the competition would have agreed with me, because I suspect that the same kinds of stress situations that exist in the business world would have applied equally in that job situation. (I never would have realized this back when I might have been looking for a career, had I known enough to actually consider looking for a career instead just settling for any old job to support myself.)

I never fit into the standard job market. I do not have a standard kind of personal psychology; or if I do--let's for the sake of argument say that I do--then it's the culture that's fucked up, not me, which is a proposition I'm willing to entertain: Yes, the postmodern capitalist industrial/manufacturing/service society, with its efficiency experts, its unrelenting drive to maximize profits by downsizing to bare-boned operations, its zero-defect quality policies, its political machinations that engineer immigration policies to keep worker wages as low as possible and outsource expensive operations to other countries with low-cost labor, its benefit reduction schemes, its union-busting practices, its temporary worker programs, its mandatory overtime policies to save on the cost of hiring additional workers...(and on and on and on), despite the token activities of human resources departments, de-humanizes workers and makes conditions for living a contemplative life unlikely.

I want to work when I want to work; when I don't want to work, I don't want to work. (That was the big problem when I was an employee; I solved it by drinking huge amounts of coffee and hastening the development of chronic stress.) But sometimes I get mixed up and want to work when I don't want to work (like when I'm mentally or physically tired). Or sometimes I don't want to work when I want to work and then...I don't know what to do, because I don't know what that means, or what I'm saying any more, when I become so confused. (It's the caffeine wearing off.) This is the way it was when I was working for employers, always: caffeine to ramp myself up to do the job and beer to counteract the effects of too much caffeine and stress.

II

My primary method of outputting the results of my contemplation is writing. It's my natural means of expression. My second means is visual art. I've always thought, when trying to justify why I should do art, that I should do it only because I want to, because I'm motivated to, and only for my own edification, completely divorced from any profit motive. I took this same approach with writing, except that I did try to become published, not for the business purpose of making money, but for ego needs. I developed this approach as a reaction against the business aspect of my life, in order to create a kind of safe haven where I might to some degree insulate myself from what I found to be the caustic nature of business.

But lately I've been thinking that, with respect to art, this may be the wrong approach. This non-profit status may be an unconscious transfer of my writing motive (which could also be wrong, maybe) over to my art, a result of having tried to publish my writing, only to discover that, unless I produce a commercial product, it's unlikely that I'll ever see much income from it. And if I remain true to my artistic vision (contemplation of purpose), I'm not likely to produce anything commercial. But the same may not be true for my art, because people expect (modern) art to be weird, and unusual art is commercially viable, far more so than traditional art.

But the real problem here is not the product per se, but my attitude toward commercial enterprise: I hate it. I hate business. I hate the whole idea of having to go out of my way to sell my time, my talent, or my products. If I produce and the world doesn't beat a path to my door with minimal marketing effort and exposure on my part, so be it. Even via the internet, which has made the submission process far easier, still, you have to make a sales pitch of some sort and sell yourself in some way. [The very word 'submission' itself has always turned me off; I will not be subservient. It's a character flaw, maybe; but if it is, up the rebels.]

But with art, I may be in a different situation. In the "old" days, when the only marketing venues were personal contacts and galleries, you had to sell yourself. Space and time were limited and competed for attention. But now, you can take a laid-back approach, post your work on the net, and wait. If it happens, it happens; but if it doesn't, no love lost. You can do the same thing with writing, but perhaps not so effectively. My journal work (my primary form of writing) is therapy: writing is cathartic; rewriting/editing is insightful as it gathers and collates content; repetitive content/themes is conditioning/re-programming. (It's all a function of a search for meaning and/or purpose.) Art doesn't seem to function in this way for me like writing does. So maybe I can free myself to go this other, slightly more commercial way instead.

III

The piece work motive for art may just work for me by providing me with a reason to do art, which I am always searching for, a reason, a motivation for this alternate form of expression, when otherwise I will simply write; and the activity involved may just be (or become) my ideal job: produce in my own good time, in my own way, with no boss. [The truth is that I really don't want to do anything most of the time. What I want to do is think. I like to think about doing things, but seldom do I like actually doing them. (If I could maintain for eight or preferably twelve hours a day the attitude/motivation I experience during the first two or three hours after drinking a cup or two of coffee in the morning, I could actually accomplish something; but as it is, I use up that energy writing and there is little left for doing other things.) Maybe I should try to drink more coffee. It used to work a long time ago, before I had my heart problems and had to severely curtail my caffeine. I could try this on a sporadic basis, one day here, one day there, planned out ahead of time by listing projects I will at least work at, if not finish. (I'm exaggerating a little bit; motivation is not a continuing problem. It's a bit worse at this time of the year, and it recurs occasionally at other times; but there are times when I work, actively, quite well with minimal external stimulation2. But I want to work that way all the time.)]

time and energy

So, why do art? I've yet to adequately answer the question. Every time I start "arting" again, I have to ask myself this question and answer it. Yet I seldom find myself asking it re writing, which occurs automatically, in my head. But the images in my head seldom insist themselves upon me as a motive to objectify them like the words do, and on the few occasions when they do, I'm not prepared, not set up, to accommodate their expression. I don't have the system readily at hand and have to go and dig it out from the disused studio that's been piled up with extraneous materiel that must first be sorted through and found a new storage area or new temporary resting place for in a home that is maxed out in its spatial utilization; whereas the writing system, which I use for many, many hours daily, is always immediately available and besides is far more compact. And even with a renewed studio organization, my artistic methods and procedures are weak and underdeveloped, whereas with writing they are quite sophisticated--because that's where I've put in most of my artistic time over the years. The obvious solution here is to do computer art; but there's something about the tactile methodology of traditional artforms that appeals to me. If I will do art, I might as well take advantage of that slim motivation.

When I write, and especially when I rewrite, when I reread my journal entries and try to make some kind of preliminary sense out of them, when I rearrange the content into a more coherent and sensible form and prepare to transfer it into the various projects I'm working on, I'm engaging in a kind of therapy, sorting through the mental machinations I've documented, reconciling dissonance (to some small degree), thereby developing my psyche. I can find no such analogous function when I do art. Maybe it's there, unseen, because it feels right, when I'm doing it. But it's not nearly so satisfying as when I write.

So why do it? I still haven't answered the question. Well, I like to do it. But it always distracts me from the others things I want and need to do. I can't seem to maintain a multiple focus. I want my life to be about one single thing, and if it must be so, that thing is writing. I'm not a multi-tasker. I used to be, when I was young and had far more energy--which seems to have become a more valuable commodity than time in this regard (now that my caffeine intake has been severely restricted). My whole life has been predicated upon the opposite insight, that one's time is the most valuable thing one can possess and, when you sell it to another in order to survive...well, if you have to, then you have to; but when you continue to sell it to amass material possessions, you do yourself a disservice. But, from the point of view of a life that's beginning to wind down, energy may be the more valuable commodity, when you remember how you had formerly handled all of the many tasks that life and love requires. And yet, labeling yourself as a multi-tasker is simply a way of putting a positive spin on the fact that, for whatever reason, you are unable to focus your attention. I may have had all the energy I needed when I was young(er), but I was no more focused than I am now. In fact, I may have been less. Time has a way of sorting out this problem, if it is one. Time and energy, the two poles of universal life.

Well, I think I may have expended my writing motive for the time being. I think I'll go and do some art, before the motivation provided by my single cup of morning caffeine wears away. I'll leave the question of why do art for later, when I have more time and mental energy. I'm sure it'll come up again.

time management

I've rearranged my schedule system so as to work on some art projects on a rotational basis. I now have four tiers to my system: primary focus tasks that I "must" do every single day, daily tasks that if I don't get to don't carry over, rotational tasks that typically take two to three days to get through, and discrete tasks that carry over to subsequent days. It's an odd system, but it works, although, except for the "musts," not immediately. I use this system, which I write onto the front page of a mini-clipboard, in conjunction with my note-taking system (on the same clipboard) to "program" myself to get things done, eventually, when the items I schedule appear, day after day, sometimes transferred to more recent pages if I begin to fall too far behind, until...sooner or later...these items become a part of my psyche, until...I dismiss them, by completing them.

My schedule is a documentation of my ongoing psyche, or rather, of some small part of it. With the recent changes, I've begun to think of the clipboard as "my work." If it's on the clipboard, it's what I do: notes get processed into my journal, or wherever, and tasks get completed--eventually. The only items that get removed uncompleted are those that I determine are too complicated or time consuming to be done soon. I transfer them to my daytimer, which I use as a longer-term system, and/or to my procedures book, where I keep my step-after-step plans for more complicated goals. I've developed this system over a long period of time in order to handle the complex plans and goals that my mind insists on producing, whether I want it to or not. It's the way I live my life.

In order to be effective, I must do things in my own way and, especially, on my own schedule, at times when I am "up" to doing them; when I try to do things when I am not at my best, especially those things involving interaction with others, but even tasks I do by myself, I tend to engage in behaviors that are self-defeating. Back when I was working for employers, I adopted the precursor of my time management system to try to remain directed toward the goals and ideals I established for myself and for my work; but the system often let me down, not because it was inadequate, but because it (I) was overburdened with detail (and, ironically, I had trouble finding the time and/or mental energy to use it adequately).

Now, that same system, fine-tuned, works perfectly, because I have reasonable expectations for how I spend my time. Then, my defined responsibilities far exceeded my ability to perform them. [This, I believe was an unconscious agenda of at least one of my major employers, who had to prove to himself that no one could measure up to the impossible standards he set, and thus his expectations for employees (and probably for people in general) could never be met; which is an indirect way he has, I believe, of confirming to himself that he is better than everyone else.] All of the things I had to and wanted to do back then could never be performed in the allotted time, and prioritizing them was all but impossible due to the "crisis" nature of work that continually interrupted itself.

Now, I move from task to task smoothly and efficiently, competently accomplishing everything I schedule, eventually. The system is tailored to my personality and set up to handle everything I input into it, eventually. It's more of an anti-schedule, really; it waits for me to get to it and holds its format until I do. My understanding of my previous inability to use this system as an employee, but now my ability to use it effectively, verifies my opinion that employers are overbearing assholes--at least the ones I worked for. In any case, I will do it all my own way, or else I will fail. [Maybe that means that I'm the asshole; but both, really.]

In a sense (since I was fired from a number of jobs, mostly for discriminatory reasons; but we'll ignore that for the purpose of this argument since I don't want to sound too querulous), I ultimately failed at several of the jobs I worked at (although while I worked at them, I had a significant string of intermediate successes), because I was prevented from doing things my own way, but had to conform to inadequate policies and procedures. (In part, I was fired for not conforming; yet my successes on those jobs were because I did not conform, and not despite that fact.) Now that I am doing things all my own way, I'm a great (self-defined) success. I'm a success because I'm doing what I want to do. There is no better definition of success.

David Blaine, in his book, Mysterious Stranger, describes how he turned what he'd loved all his life from the time he was a small boy (magic) into a successful career. He deals tangentially with (his) success, as well as more directly with a number of other issues that seem to apply directly to my life:

...human nature what it is, when one doesn't appear needy, people will go out of their way trying to help; unfortunately, the converse is also true.

***

Paul became a nomad, hitting the road with only the clothes on his back. To this day he wanders from town to town like some mendicant priest miraculously making his way. If he runs out of money, the phone suddenly rings, and it's a publishing company trying to track him down to send him back-royalties from one of his old books.

***

Crazy things happen when you're in Paul's presence. Normally skittish deer came right up to him and ate food out of his hand. Later, we were wandering around Estes Park, looking for a place to eat, engrossed in a conversation about Jesus, and right when we turned a corner and opened the door to go into a restaurant, we bumped into someone on his way out. "Jesus!" he said. I looked at Paul. "You guys scared me," the guy said, and walked away.

One night we were in some quiet bar watching a few locals play darts. They weren't very good, but all of a sudden Paul yelled out, "Bull's-eye!" and the guy threw his dart, bam, right into the bull's-eye.

***

After a week we had fashioned a unique, consistent character for the show--sort of an urban shaman, an unexplainable, mysterious, but ultimately real guy who walks up to people in the street, is in their lives for a moment, then out of their lives, after having added some amazement to their day.

***

I was intently staring at a woman. I'd just said to her, "Think of someone in your life who's important to you." Her whole demeanor changed; she started to look a little nervous. This was the final day of shooting my second special, Magic Man, and we were losing light fast--this would be the last possible shot and we had to get it.

"The name is short," I said. She made eye contact. Her body language made me think I might be right. I also sensed that it was a woman's name, someone close to her. "And the name symbolizes something else," I said. Her eyes widened. I knew in my gut, just by intuition, that I was right. At that exact moment a truck drove by with WHITE ROSE, the name of the company, printed on the side. She didn't see the truck because her back was to it. I thought that the appearance of the word "Rose" at that precise moment was too fortunate to be simply a coincidence, and my hunch was that it was the name she was thinking of, so I turned her around so she could see the truck. At that same moment, a cab drove by with the word "DAWN" spray-painted in huge letters on its side. She saw it, started screaming, and then broke down crying. I didn't even see DAWN on the cab (in fact, we had to find the cab on the film later; even our cameraman hadn't seen it), but when she reacted so strongly, that was the name that immediately came to mind. I intuitively understood from the depth of her emotion that Dawn was her mother's name and that she had passed away. Some might say that this was that strange place where coincidence plays into reality, but when it hits on this level, it seems to be more than a coincidence, as if there's some other force at work.

I never wanted to be a "magician," and I don't want to be one now. I don't want to construct reality for the sake of show or entertainment. And, especially, I've never wanted, in the least, to be a performer. My orientation toward life lies in the opposite direction. But I'd like to take advantage of "coincidence" phenomena, as well as others, such as "contact" and "presence," when they spontaneously occur, which can be fairly frequent during certain times in my life. The whole effect of my ability to "charm" people (akin to the sort of thing that Blaine's quotes hint at) is three-fold: 1) the experience of the above spontaneously-occurring phenomena themselves (which always inspire wonder in others as well as in myself); 2) the reticence to approach, which is achievable via "waiting," thereby creating a bit of a mystery (people are intrigued by those who are distant and/or inexplicable, thinking they are more interesting because they don't know who they really are); 3) direct "approach," a behavior not at all unlike the performance that an entertainer engages in, putting himself "out there" in a revealing way. I do these things, when I do, automatically (if I think about them, especially about "perfromance," I shy away from them); but it may be beneficial to enable them to occur more consciously (without actually staging events). Blaine uses all three (in addition to magic). Most performers do, although some film actors may be exceptions, tending more toward the reticent mode and relying more on technical skills and less on approach: DeNiro and Warren Beatty come to mind.

Along the same lines, another recent source of inspiration for me was the film The Straight Story. In it, Alvin, played by Richard Farnsworth, "coached" the people he met by using incidents from his own life as examples instead of outright lecturing people who seemed to need it, as some older folk will tend to do. They got his message by implication, yet there was no uncertainty or ambiguity involved.

Sometimes I fantasize that I am an old man, like Farnsworth in that film. Sometimes I even feel like it, when I obviously know better. (This is an attitude akin to feeling, as I sometimes do, like I'm still a teenager.) At one point Farnsworth says, "The worst part of being old is remembering when you were young." Old people regret being old, no matter what they might otherwise claim. (Full-blown Alzheimer's patients, then, are spared this ignominy, I guess.) But I'm not going to mind so much being old, I think. I'm just crazy enough and smart enough and experienced enough now to know how to capitalize on my senior years. If you know how to do it, and if you don't lose your sense of humor, you can get away with a whole lot more being old than being young. (And I got away with a lot when I was young.) While I'd rather be young, life experience can be a big plus. For example, I'm an experienced expert at passive aggressive manipulation.

"Give me a break. I'm a senile old fart."

And I'm not too bad at outright aggression either, if absolutely essential.

"Respect your elders, sonny, or I'll rip your lungs out. I'm not as frail as I might look to you and I learned a few things when I was young that you probably know nothing about."

It's true. I know how to incapacitate a man twice my size with minimal effort. The bigger he is, the dumber he is, and the more macho he is, the more easily he can be incapacitated.

All I've got to do is avoid the kinds of mental disability such as that exhibited by Alzheimer's patients. My mind has always been my greatest asset. If I lose that, I'll be hopeless. But then, I probably wouldn't know enough to care.

interpreting existence

In his book Cosmic Consciousness, Richard Maurice Bucke describes Bartolomé Las Casas, a Spanish aristocrat who came to the New World in 1502, as having lived an active and productive life up until the very end when he died at ninety-two after being ill for only a few days. This is another fantasy of mine (except that the age at which I die is much higher; I'm going to hold out until they discover the cures and technologies to extend life indefinitely, which I'm convinced they will do, and in the not so distant future, and then I'm going to die thoroughly pissed off because only the smallest top percent of the population will be able to afford the therapies).

I know the secret of living a long life. In addition to being somewhat lucky by avoiding cars and trucks careening out of control, falling buildings and airplanes caused by terrorist-initiated explosions, living in hurricane zones where lots of rich people do not live, etc., health in old age is determined by the maintenance of physiological balance that enables the life force or "cosmic light" to flow through the body without restriction so that it may heal potential illness at the moment of its onset, or at least very shortly thereafter. Sometimes it might take a conscious act of attention and/or will to bring the healing force to life. Good posture, mild exercise, and frequent meditation are essential practices that help to maintain this process.

Alvin Straight, after having lived a hard life that caused the deteriorization of his body, allowed the balance to tip too far in the wrong direction. This is what happens when disease sets in. The older you get, the more of a fine line you have to walk to keep your body in balance. Thus, it takes more and more of your conscious and informed attention. David Blaine says, "It's a universal defense mechanism for people to build walls around themselves to survive. The older you are, the more layers you built." I'm using this quote a bit out of context, because Blaine's point was that building the walls and adding the layers was a negative process and I'm saying that it's a positive one. Alvin Straight refused to build the walls. He didn't want to wall himself in. But this is what you must do as you age, inevitably, to whatever degree, dependent upon your physiological condition. You must take greater and greater care that the world does not impinge itself on you in a negative way; you must maintain the balance.

This doesn't mean, however, that you need to restrict your mind in the same way; in fact, it could mean exactly the opposite: old age provides a greater amount of time for contemplation. It can mean that you are able to take on a whole new role in life, like Alvin's traveling sage or Blaine's friend Paul. It can mean that you can develop alternate forms of communication (for lack of a better term; maybe I mean communion), aligning yourself with and tapping into cosmic forces like coincidence, intuitive contact, and presence that impart to you a kind of old-age wisdom that our current postmod culture eschews. I see examples of this sort of thing all the time, although they tend to be a lot subtler and less conscious than I'd want them to be. I'd like to develop my skill at consciously presenting what I know in this way without being overbearing or seeming to be pretentious (which, I suspect, is the way at least a few people see me now). I think I would have made a great teacher if I hadn't been so introverted when I was younger.

Actually, I have been a teacher, not only formally, as a production manager where my primary function was to train people not only how to do the complex and difficult printing work, but to be good, little employees as well. (You might surmise that some parts of this educational process involved subtle irony and sarcasm, which was not always lost on the employees involved.)

And my role as an educator carried over into my social life as well. Family and friends and even the occasional stranger have always looked to me as a source of information and advice, and they still do. I still get phone calls for this purpose, which I appreciate. I like to teach because it verifies for me what I already know, much of which may need reinforcement, when I don't realize I know it until I say it or write it out.

But the problem is, many people, typical people, people who do not know me well, do not see me for what I really am. I am not at all obvious in this regard, not only because I don't relate well to strangers (and even sometimes friends), but also because I actually like to be thought of as distant and difficult to approach. And, I construct self-definitions that I impart to others (often without even intending to) that are as much fantasy as fact; or more correctly, are true, but exaggerated--or maybe spun is a better word.

I don't worry so much that people get the wrong idea. In fact, a lot of the time that's exactly what I want to happen. But sometimes I worry a little bit that I'm creating an impression of myself that just isn't true. Although I want to put the best face on, want to create a good impression, want people to think well of me, want to tout my accomplishments and virtues (or socially approved vices), still, some people will get the wrong message when they take the spin for fact, which is the whole point when it's done by political hacks whose purpose is to mislead; but that is not my purpose. I only want to embellish; I do not want to deceive.

But I try not to worry too much about this phenomenon because, after all, you are responsible for how you interpret what you read/experience. I never actually lie; I simply spin the truth in the direction that most benefits me, in the way I want people to go with it. Nevertheless, I'm currently revising my self-definitions so that people are less likely to misconstrue the spin as inconsistencies or flaws of personality or creations with no basis in fact.

There's a lesson here, though, that I must relearn from time to time (because it keeps dropping back into the subconscious process): You can create your own existence, define how you want to be seen, even what you want to be, by assuming that you already exist in that way without ever outright lying, spinning to whatever degree necessary, all in the service of accomplishing your goals and manifesting your dreams. Truth is relative; it's what you make it out to be. If I say I'm something and you believe it, to a degree it becomes the truth. If enough people believe enough other people, then we call that society and culture (which also involves others defining you in this same way, if you do not do it for yourself; it's actually a two-way street; or maybe an eight-lane super-highway).

I look forward to examining others' lives in this way, when I remember to do so. So you should take your time and think closely about what you want to be, because if I ever meet you (or if your life becomes a matter of public record), look out. I just might be interpreting your existence. This is the whole point, interpretation, which, of necessity, involves narration. We create stories in order to prove, at least to ourselves, that we are not, or at least have not been, alone. But it's a futile search because when we do it, we're chasing an illusion.

presence and the illusion of solitude

Duration accentuates solitude, for multiply the points of a life in time, either backward toward the past or forward toward the future, and the line of duration becomes the proof of inevitability of solitude, admitting as it does of the intersection of lives at an astoundingly small number of points. Narratives chart intersections, and we might conceive of them as attempting to prove, by the way they fill up their own spaces with plurality of intersections and pluralistic significances, that moments of solitude are the exception rather than the rule. In fact, one of the social functions narratives perform is to assure us that intersections occur, as they frequently do not in real life, and turn into points of coincidence and meaning. If coincidence is seen as occasional, as Dickinson suggests, then sequence and duration example its infrequency. The moment after coincidence is the moment of loss. Imagine a time in which time stands still, however, and loss becomes a meaningless concept because difference is itself meaningless. In the resulting fantasy, stasis confers either union or... unconsciousness to any alternative to its absence. For pare all reality to a single moment and awareness of the shadows that fall from one's heels as one walks, distinguishing the self from its own image and that image from the difference of the ground, dwindles to nothing...
Sharon Cameron, Lyric Time
But presence can fill up gaps of duration; that is, presence despite the absence of others. Consider how this theory of levels of interaction relates to a theory of presence as the antithesis of solitude:

Jacques Derrida has spoken of what he calls "differance," using the word to call attention to its two related meanings: first, to name that which is deferred, delayed, distanced by time as it separates entities and, secondly, to name the intervening space that removes entities from each other, making them different from, be not identical to, each other. The relationships between...deferral and difference, delay and non-identity are clarified in the following passage whose subject is signification but as well could be the relationship between any two terms:

Differance is what makes the movement of signification possible only if each element that is said to be "present," appearing on the stage of presence, is related to something other than itself but retains the mark of a past element and already lets itself be hollowed out by the mark of its relation to a future element. This trace relates no less to what is called the future than to what is called the past, and it constitutes what is called the present by this very relation to what it is not, to what it absolutely is not; that is, not even to a past or future considered as a modified present. In order for it to be, an interval must separate it from what it is not; but the interval that constitutes it in the present must also, and by the same token, divide the present in itself, thus dividing, along with the present, everything that can be conceived on its basis, that is, every being--in particular...the substance or subject. Constituting itself, dynamically dividing itself, this interval is what could be called spacing; time's becoming-spatial or space's becoming-temporal (temporalizing).
"Differance" becomes intolerable, as loss is intolerable, and identity therefore craves not merely to prove itself in oblique connection to its past and future or to otherness, but to be that past and future, to become the otherness. Where union is impossible, identity resists the discovery of otherness as if otherness were a contagion or a death. ...otherness is regarded as the power to kill. If what is not the self will overcome it, then to recognize "differance" is mortal danger. Or perhaps the recognition of otherness necessitates an acknowledgement of boundary because of its attendant configuration of loss. One solution to the dilemma is to experience loss as if it were an extension of one's own identity--a clever strategy for dismantling by regarding the images that fill the mind, however removed in actuality, as part of the totality of self that conceives of them.
ibid
But (internal) images (of others--and, incidentally, of things) don't necessarily have to be thought of as "removed in actuality." Presence can not only be a physical phenomenon, but can be an internal process that overcomes physical loss (or absence, as a sense of temporary loss) by positing a meta-existence where all is in contact, in fact, in communion, or even in fusion, so that "one's" identity always encompasses that which only appears to have been lost, the loss being merely the kind of illusion we must suffer, being human, and thus imperfectly attuned to the universal world of Self.

[The sense of "I" is a universal phenomenon, even among animals, though they may not be so fully apprised via self-consciousness with its profound implications as humans are (it's interesting to note that some humans are not so well apprised as others); and even among lesser life forms, which may experience it to a far, far smaller degree, even to the point of a mere hint, but which act as if "ego" were of supreme importance when they strive as all life does to continue living rather than to die. It has been suggested that the "I" that each of us experience is the same for each of us, that there is only one "I" that we each share. I believe it.]

Yet, we can on occasion transcend our imperfection during brief glimpses into the fusion that we know to exist (that we have "faith" in) even when we are unaware of it. Our faith that we are in intimate contact with that which has been apparently lost assures us that we are yet in contact in spite of temporarily existing in an "unconscious" mode; our "identity" therefore is transcendent, and we on ordinary days exist aware of only its smallest part, our normally conscious selves.



II

Identity as a
Separate Existence



my science of psychology

My work is research. J doesn't understand this. She thinks I'm wasting time at best when I don't pursue a profit-bound motive. Most people think this way. My mother oriented our family attitude in that direction. It's a conventional means of thinking that keeps mainstream society on course and productive. But the world must also have people who think so far out of the box that the people inside the box refuse to subsidize the thought. Without these people, there would have been no Walden Pond--except that that's a bad example because Thoreau was concerned with the practicality of surviving apart from the social mainstream, and my work is concerned not with survival but with advancement despite the necessity to continue to survive, two poles of a spectrum: growth and stasis to preserve the status quo of the integral organism.

J also doesn't believe that my work is true science, just as she doesn't believe that I am a scientist, because I don't work at a discipline that uses science (which is wrong; I do). Having gotten an education in science is not enough; you must work in a scientific field that is recognized as legitimate by mainstream conventional (i.e., capitalistic) society. Besides, she isn't so certain that psychology is a science in the first place, despite my defense that I have a Bachelor of Science degree. She argues that I could have gotten a Bachelor of Arts had I not taken all of the additional science courses that I did. I'll give her that point. And I'd even relinquish the entire scientific argument if she'd just consider my work as a valid way to spend my time.

Okay, so most of the time I'm not doing actual science when I write, even when I write about purely psychological matters. I don't literally maintain a scientific method--although I have incorporated, for the most part, that method into my mode of thought, into the very essence of my life/being, when I will analyze daily processes to determine how they (actually, as opposed to supposedly, according conventional wisdom/myth) work; it's just that, in addition to the science of psychology, in tandem with it so that both strains are included in the same train of thought, I am also pursuing other, more literary goals and it all gets jumbled up into a single, non-differentiable mass. It's not important to me that my work be recognized as valid science, it's not even all that important that it be recognized at all (I'm being slightly disingenuous here; there's the ego to consider, which I am trying to transcend); what's important to me is that I be seen (at least by my own self) to be engaged in worthwhile pursuit of (at least self-) knowledge.

So, to this end, I'm beginning a second pastiche for the month, because the first one is more or less complete and there are still a lot of loose ends remaining in my journal, since the month has been a productive one, at least in terms of volume.

emergent science

The first pastiche I wrote this month is riddled, more or less, with science. This one is more "literary" (for lack of a better word). I want it to deal with problem-solving, but there's probably not enough material on that subject to sustain the theme; in fact, I know there isn't. There isn't enough of any like material to sustain any theme, which is why this isn't a part of the first pastiche. [Huh? It makes a kind of sense, in a circular sort of way, at least to me.]

Here's the thing about problem-solving: all my problems are solutions in disguise, so there's no real necessity to sit down (or stand, if I should prefer it; sometimes I do, walking around, pacing--or sleep; most of my problem-solving is done while I sleep) and actually consciously solve problems. All I have to do is uncover the solutions that are inherent in the "problems," which I do, most often, but not always, via dream analysis; but I don't always, or even often, do it directly in that way; that is, I don't discover actual implementable solutions (except literary ones); rather, the dream elucidation and analysis rearrange my mind to a point where the solutions become subconsciously implemented as my mind continues to work beneath the surface to take me to a place where it thinksfeels I should be at some point in the future, when I might or might not wake to myself and shout, "Aha!" (This is not my method I'm describing, but everyone's. I'm simply reporting "science" here.)

It's like summer outside, so I'm out on the back porch writing this on my laptop: the setting sun is all that much more beautiful when viewed through a golden glass of homemade beer. Occasionally, I pause in my work to read a Wordsworth pastoral from a slim book I'm trying to get (painfully and ponderously) through. Wordsworth, that's the stuff to try, when the sun's high in the sky. But when it sinks down to the south, Coleridge is a better mouth. This is the time for which the winter waits, the happy ease for which the cold wind pauses. Houseman writes of ordinary fates and happily pursues ordinary causes. I'm playing with words because I really don't want to work. If I don't get to work immediately after I get up, but postpone it to a later time in the day, I never get anything done, especially when it's warm outside. (It's the unconscious/dream mechanism wearing off, being interfered with by the conscious egomind.)

I want to write about intelligence, but I don't know what to say. Usually, when I encounter this problem (it's really not a problem at all, but a solution), I write about something else, because the reason I write in the first place is not to write about what I want to write about, but to express what I need to say, all of the crap that backs up the system we want to think of as mind, but which is probably more accurately describe as RAM and ROM--except for that damn need, which is how we come up with the idea of mind in the first place. (Computers don't need anything. When they fail to work, it's our own selves that need to replace parts, etc. We're the ones with the motives. A computer's only motive is electricity. Hmm. That may also be true of the human brain. I'm going to have to investigate that idea some day.)

The ideas I want to write most often come from inside my mind. When I encounter ideas that do not originate inside my mind [actually, ultimately, all ideas originate outside the individual mind and interact with those introjected earlier, which makes me wonder where they come from in the first place; therefore, this premise can't be true and some portion of ideas must be original mental creations by someone, which causes me to conclude that I do in fact think original thoughts or thought permutations from time to time, which is encouraging], but I find them instead within that great big world out there [typically on tv or the internet; my friends seldom inspire me--which means that maybe they're...never mind. It's not worth the extra words], and I want to incorporate them into my thought processes (i.e., I want to retain them but often feel inadequate in this regard, like maybe I'll forget and never think of them again and be the poorer for it), I force myself to write them out, in my own words (like Dan Brown did in The Da Vinci Code). I say "force" because, since it isn't a part of my actual motive for writing, it's hard work for me. When I'm motivated, the words flow easily; when I must paraphrase others' words, now that's a lot of work. It takes intelligence, which is not why I want to write about it. If I were smart, I'd go and do other things right now and forget about this project.

We overrate intelligence. It doesn't make us happy; in fact, sometimes, it can make us quite the reverse. Animals are, generally, happier than humans--because they don't "think." (I know, they do think; but not rationally. You know what I mean.) Thinking disturbs us. [Okay, not all of us. But this proves my point: the more intelligent we are, the more we are disturbed by our thoughts. Morons, imbeciles, and idiots (are those labels still in use or has the pc crowd gotten to them too?) go through life more or less oblivious to the cognitive dissonance that critical thought causes.]

But intelligence is adaptive (which is why you never hear of an idiot inventing a new product, making a fortune, and buying a palatial estate). The more intelligent we are, the better equipped we are to survive. But intelligence is a relative trait. As a species, we selectively developed (evolved, for those of you "in the know") intelligence because those of us who did not tended to die early and thus failed to procreate abundantly and so pass on our genes. So (this is the conclusion I reach via research), since intelligence is relative, we do not derive our intelligence from God, which is absolute (unless your idea of God happens to be nature, which I believe is a Christian heresy), but from the circumstance of interaction with our environment, which means that the theory of Intelligent Design must be wrong: God has no need for intelligence because he has no need to evolve. He (if He exists--and if He is male) simply is.

Intelligence and consciousness go hand-in-hand: each feeds the other. We're intelligent because we're conscious and vice versa. So, it's only logical, God cannot be conscious, at least not in any way that we can understand the concept.

[I realize that I'm dealing here with the smallest part of the concept of consciousness, the way it has evolved, but certainly not the highest use it can be put to, which, if God is conscious, would be his mien; rather, consciousness for God, and for the best of us humans, would be the wonder and appreciation of the complexity of the universe. However, I might still agree that God could be unconscious, and we are Its conscious existence; God has vested Its conscious evolution in us, maybe.]

If God exists, I believe (yes, folks, I am a heretic; so go ahead and burn me at your metaphorical stake already) It must be synonymous with the totality of the universe or, at best, an emergent property of it (just as our intelligence and consciousness is an emergent property of the complexity of molecules that make up our existence). I believe this because, if God were beyond the universe [whatever that means; as soon as you posit an extra dimension or whatever where God could exist, that externality automatically becomes a part of the universe--because thought exists within the universe. Conclusion: we have thought up God], then He would be, not a real thing at all, but an idea. Now, follow me here: we believe in the existence of ideas; but where are they? You can't actually point to an idea and say, there it is. You might point to your brain and say they're in here, and in a sense, you'd be right; except that they're not in there in any sense we recognize as physical existence, because ideas are not things. But relationships between things, specifically, between brain cells. So, ideas are simply (or maybe not so simply) overriding interactions between real, physical things.

God didn't create the universe, the universe created God: It arose out of it as an emergent property. It is for this very reason that I believe that God does not exist in the sense that we as humans mean when we think of existence. God is more like an idea than an actual presence (which is an idea itself). Intelligence is a similar idea. It doesn't exist in "reality"; that is, it's not a physical thing. Intelligent people exist, but not pure intelligence apart from people. Since I've already proven (I believe) that God, if It exists, is not intelligent, intelligence, an emergent property, is like God, in that it is an idea about things rather than a thing itself. We can exhibit intelligence, but we can't see it or touch it, or...

Intelligence doesn't hit you over the head. It's a subtle form of non-existence. When we see crude, ignorant people, we recognize instantly that they are not intelligent because we can readily imagine them hitting us over the head, which intelligence doesn't do. Instead, it creeps up on you behind your back and softly brushes against you and slips away quickly as you turn and whisper, What was that? Or else it confronts you directly in the back room of a library when no one else is around. Oh, you can say, Wait a minute, I saw an intelligent man once speaking at a conference and he was anything but subtle. No. What you saw was a man, not intelligence. You can't see intelligence. It doesn't exist; yet it makes itself known. Here is a particularly potent and subtle form of intelligence:

Stuttering John, one of Howard Stern's protégés on his old show, had a clever venue where he interviewed celebrities; but his stutter inhibited his effectiveness--or so it would seem. I believe that it was John's purpose to elicit the kind of reactions that he typically got from people, thereby revealing: 1) their true attitude toward handicapped people when they dismiss him out of hand because they feel embarrassed by the situation they find themselves in; or for whatever other reason; and, if they don't outright ignorantly walk away, when they exhibit a half-turned-away or otherwise compromised body posture that indicates their discomfort; and/or 2) their attitude and reciprocal behavior toward the "crudeness" of the common vernacular John uses, thereby exposing them for the elitist snobs they are. This is John's act, which is quite potent, the more so because he disguised it inside the apparently outrageous Sternian format.

So, Anthony Quinn, during a Stuttering John interview aired on Howard Stern's show, listens respectfully and attentively as John babbles his way through a typical question posited for its shock value (something disgusting about taking a crap, I think I remember). And when John finally gets the question out, Quinn, instead of dismissing it and John like most of John's interviewees would do, answers it in a forthright and honest way, according to it a seriousness that it doesn't really deserve. Quinn, by not engaging in the avoidance or retributive behaviors typical of John's other interviewees, avoids John's trap and proves himself to be a tolerant, understanding person, either because that's the way he truly is, or because he has foreknowledge of John's "game" and has prepared for it, which, if this is the case, proves the former point, that he is caring enough and intelligent enough to see what's going on and take the trouble to plan out how to act appropriately, so as not to offend John, or handicapped or low-class people in general, for whom John acts as proxy. Intelligence meets intelligence. Quinn was a class act. There are very few people who have measured up to his standards. Or those of Stuttering John.

ultimate detachment

Speaking of intelligence, I'm really beginning to appreciate the times when nothing good is on tv. I check the schedules for local programming online (I've long since cancelled the cable) and when I come across a dead period of half a day to a day or two, I feel free, untied to a definite time schedule. (I experience the same feeling, but for far longer periods of time when I have no social appointments and can freewheel through life; tv, it seems, has been my replacement for social engagement. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon human phenomenon. Sad. But I don't mind. No, really. I mean it. Don't worry about me. I'm fine the way I am.)

This is just another stage on my way to breaking my tv addiction. (Like I broke my addiction to society? Hmm.) Even if all I end up doing is wasting time by just sitting (meditating), it feels better than wasting my time watching tv. But the freedom is especially welcome when I feel like doing other things, because it's then that I most regret my desire to watch some stupid show or movie. In the past (with cable) I would simply record the program and watch it later. But my local, non-cable reception is often poor and the VCR won't reliably record it. The old recorder I had would record any bad signal, reproducing the poor quality accurately; but this new one cuts out when the signal deteriorates below a certain level. Higher technological standards and my decisive detachment seem to be combining to take me to a higher level where the mundane culture is giving way to a more sublime existence.

[That addiction to society thing I mentioned above is beginning to bother me. My mind, it seems, is more like my old VCR than my new one: It has created accurate representations of the society I used to know, with all it's flaws, and I can play those mental tapes back whenever I want and study all of the fucked up things that society and culture has introjected into me, which justifies my withdrawal. The phenomenon is feeding on itself, perhaps in preparation for the day when I will (have to) permanently leave. In the past, I prepared for the deaths of people who were close to me ahead of time, so that when they finally died, I had no grief (because it was parceled out in small increments ahead of time, maybe). Now, it seems, I may be preparing for my own death, well ahead of time, I hope. To die is to break all addictions, which are the bane of physical existence.]

Meanwhile, the television (slowly being replaced by the internet) still exerts an undue and mostly unwanted, yet desired (which is the nature of addiction) influence on my life. Of course, the medium has its good points: occasional shows exhibit a certain amount of intelligence and good sense, and C-SPAN does so consistently. So, if C-SPAN can do such a good, unbiased and/or balanced job of reporting, then so can any news organization. The reason that other news entities do not do such a good job is not because they're not capable of it, but because they choose not to. It's not a matter of incompetence, it's a matter of agenda.

And while we're on the subject of agenda (I'll latch onto any concept to make a smooth transition), I see that my esteemed senator (some people hold must hold him in esteem, it seems), Rick Santorum, is running tv ads touting the necessity to keep social security secure. Santorum was Bush's point man for Social Security privatization. But now he's running for re-election. Does he believe that people have forgotten what he tried to take away from us and give to corporations? Well, maybe he's right (he's definitely right--way right). As a whole, voters do tend to be stupid. We'll see, I guess, when the election rolls around. I, for one, will never forget. What would I do without tv to inform me about the shenanigans of these administration stooges? Probably live a less disturbed existence. That would be intelligent.

snark

The darkening sky makes the laptop screen easier to see; but it's starting to get cold. I can feel the front arriving. The weather people on tv this morning seem to have gotten the forecast right for a change. Too bad. The brief spell of unseasonably warm weather is fading fast with the daylight. Guess I'll go inside and watch some inane tv for a while and hope I don't happen across anything so stupid that it makes me turn it off, like a Dennis Miller Net Zero commercial, for example. Or maybe I hope I do end up turning it off. The stupider tv gets, the closer I'll get to doing away with the medium in my life altogether.

I used to like Dennis Miller a lot, back when he was on SNL. I think that his entire appeal, at least for me, was his snarky critique of authority figures. When he changed sides and joined the establishment, as far as I'm concerned, he relinquished his credentials. His subversive style is negated by his new political agenda. His sarcastic persona has become a caricature of itself, as seen in the NetZero commercials where he lamely tries to evoke hints of his former satirical tone of voice. You can't satirize from a position of power. When you try, all you end up with is self-mockery. This is the price of getting old: you're not young any more. There's a lot to be said for the increasing wisdom of advancing years, but the snarky rhetoric of disrespectful youth is never surpassed in later years, even by those wits like Carlin who manage to retain their healthy skepticism and cynicism and work to dispel the ignorance of the younger generation.

It's easy to dismiss the typical know-it-all arrogance of the young who have been brainwashed into believing in the superstitions of their parents and ancestors; they haven't lived long enough to know. It's not so easy to have to tolerate the oldsters who mislead, who have wasted their lives by refusing to grow and advance, bypassing the plethora of opportunities to understand the complex profundity of the expanding universe. We live to dispel the illusions we inherit; and when we do not, for whatever reason, we fail our obligation to the human community. It's one thing if, possessing an inferior intellect, people are incapable of profound and complicated thought and must exist as simplistic, black or white mentalities; it's another thing entirely if they possess a normal ability to reason and use it in the service of some system of superstition instead of for the advancement of the species. [Yes, I am writing about the Jesus freaks here--and their multiple counterparts in other ignorant religions.] The insubstantiability of intelligence may be further proven by the way some people use it in the service of ignorance.

a brief diversion

As a departure from intelligent matters, because I'm feeling far too serious, here's a silly little piece I like that I created by rearranging text generated by searching on Google with the phrase, "Joe looks like" and choosing the items that seemed to apply to me:

Joe looks like a chik hahaha wow and kirk hammet with the glasses, like a pig, like heaven and sounds like it to! Protoman from Capcom's own Megaman series will be busy for a little bit. "Guinness ain't so bad after all," he says. In a classic jazz club with a raised stage, he plays like a family restaurant on a raucous Navy Pier, a scarecrow in his holiday clothes.

He's a fool instead of a crusader, like the guy in the library who would always stare at you because he was too afraid to talk to you. He's the real McCoy, heading off for dinner in the Big U's private VIP dining room with Burt Lancaster. But he looks like a skater dude or a wacky little Power Ranger with a cape.

He's a regular, scruffy, college type of guy, sort of like a combination of Woody Allen and a Wide Receiver or Cornerback. But at other times, he's the type of guy who harasses you at Gamestop for buying Halo 2 when Metroid comes out a week later.

When he dresses up, he is Johnny Bravo in a leisure suit, and he is hell as he wearily disrobes beside the big bed, looking like he swallowed his tongue. But despite the situation, he remains the kind of guy that has no problem detecting a horseshit or two.

He invented a great application for creating and maintaining lists and address books and all of the other hierarchical data of his life, but he acts like some sample code didn't come though in part 1.

Yet he's a cool mofo, able to transcend his circumstances, but then events transpire against him and he turns into a Quick Man ripoff. He'll be bringing his patented style and grace to Nintendo's handheld in fine form.

"Fffffuck!," he says, "Why didn't I ever notice Asha's jugs before?"

He's a wonderful choice for her and he's got a nice place there. From the bed, she says, "Kiss me! Kiss me!" Joe looks like he's ready to hurl, like he just received a punch to his stomach; but he calms down. He's brought her a gift, a wonderful choice. She says he looks like Farnsworth, but when he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he thinks he still looks like his same old self, like he has every damn ethnicity in him. He acts like an independent woman, while Angela looks like she needs a man to take care of her.

When he speaks in public, he looks like every other professional speaker--for about five seconds. He's in agony as he gets down on his knees and sings the first line of the song. He should be on stage with Menudo or N'sync. His made-for-TV flick cast with slightly pricier stars and marginally more elaborate gags was a success that, at the same time, gave him an improved self-confidence and a super crazy sour stomach.

But at other times, he is Quasimodo, the hybrid dog, peeing against the post or the BBC's Sister Wendy narrating the legend of the vestals to a group of African clerics. He's a right miserly old sod who looks like the guy next door when you see him other than in a play or movie.

In a sense, he's the biggest pretender since those who followed Frodo Baggins. He's gained weight and is becoming a bogan loser with his thinning hair looking like a bad wig. Is that another tear in his eye?

one big dick

I'm in some kind of a school, a combo-high school/university, where I'm supposed to be training to become some kind of a government agent. Morgan Freeman tells me, "I don't know how you managed to get yourself into the loop, but now that you're here, you better be careful. People's lives can be seriously affected by what you do."

I suppose he (I) meant that when I interact with people, my influence can be significant, so I should consider what I say to people; but I do. I don't see how I could be more careful that I already am.

I'm very aware of how I influence people, even in the moment, when, typically, other psychological matters like projection, denial, transference, etc., require some retrospection for me to understand.

But the influence I exert on others (unlike the influence they exert on me, which tends to be unperceived until later) tends to be more immediately conscious; perhaps because I feel so far apart, I attend more closely.

[Although, sometimes I will discover, long after the fact and usually because they will think later to tell me, ways in which I profoundly influenced people when I remained totally unaware of it.]

What I am, when out in society, is not what I am when I am alone. Alone, I am free to be exactly what I am. In society I am (self-)censored, which affects how I perceive social interaction.

I feel this same discrepancy physically, that is, bodily: when I am alone, I expand so that my perception of my body extents far beyond me; I become my house, my street, my country, my planet.

This same perception exists when I am out in society, but it remains far more unconscious and I seldom realize in the moment what I see later, looking back, that I am far more involved than I am aware.

And yet, with regard to my inner body (my innards), I have a completely different perception: I do not expand, but rather contract and remain self-contained and disregard what I know about it. Unless we're doctors or work in a profession that knows by training otherwise, we tend to see ourselves (or at least I do) as distinctly formed manifestations of our skin-bound bodies, assuming without thinking at all about it, that this is also how we are inside. But, in fact, except for our skeletal structure (which, if we thought about it, we might conclude is not a part of our identity at all, but a mere supporting framework), we are composed mostly of squishy, mushy, malleable tissue that forms interacting almost anti-structures that pulse and writhe inside us. (And at the microscopic level, we're composed of billions of cells that are very much the same.) If I may be a bit crude for a moment [actually, I live for and love these kinds of moments], we're more like women's flexible labia than like men's hardened penises. [The truth is that the real reason I'm writing this section is so that I could use that simile.]

Or maybe I'm just being egocentric here and others do actually see themselves as squishy, malleable people, externally as well as internally. Certainly, fat people would be more likely than thin ones to realize this. And women more than men. I myself feel very distinctly separate and self-defined, more so, I think, than most people. I see others led around like sheep by politicians, authority figures, (so-called) friends, and relatives and I have to think, how can they be so gullible and deceived? Or if they act that way consciously (which I doubt), how can they be so willing to allow themselves to be manipulated? I approach the world with an air of defiance and caution, demanding to be my own person, rigid and determined, one big dick in a populous sea of vaginas.

And yet, conversely, in other ways, I feel expanded and diffuse within the world. I suspect that I have a whole lot more subtle distinctions of self-perception that I am not aware of, and that they feed into the complicated sense of interaction I feel when I am within and without society. Even my sense of environment plays into this aggregate of perception, as when I enclose myself for the winter inside my house, and then inside my bedroom:

To conserve heat, and thus money, I live in a small room throughout the winter, making brief forays into the cold house to fetch the various items I will sometimes want and to make quick meals to carry to my room; and I will allow the heat from the space heater to expand into the tiny adjacent bathroom occasionally for the luxury of bathing.

Rarely do I heat up the whole house, and then I do it with the woodstove to avoid the excessive cost of natural gas. So, when I go to visit friends and relatives, it's like a vacation to a warm climate where freedom of movement within the house doesn't necessitate steeling yourself against the cold.

People (seem to) live so much differently than I do. No one seems too concerned with conserving wherewithal to prevent future catastrophe. Everyone else takes life as it comes and doesn't spend a whole lot of time obsessing over an impending future doom.

Doubt crept in late in the night when I returned from Christmas day at my brother's (warm) house. I wondered if what I am doing with my life is worthwhile, after all; or am I just deceiving myself. I hope this isn't a hint of things to come, if months of dark concern await me.

The next morning, however, things look a little bit brighter and I find myself working away again. As long as I keep writing, I can push beyond the doubt, I think. This may not be true, but it's a plan. Life hasn't held much meaning for me lately, but it's held some small bits of it. Enough.

One reason I hate to socialize with people is because they will use any opportunity to exhibit their pathologies, disguised as social intercourse. Which is bad enough; but following their example, I begin to get the idea that I may unconsciously do the same.

I may not be so different after all. But this is a recurrent conflict I experience: I am different; but everyone is different; therefore, I am the same as everyone else; but if I am the same as everyone else, then how can I be different; and if I am not, then how can I be the same?

Identity is such a difficult concept to explain, probably because it mostly involves illusion, that of the conscious mind that avoids unconscious content, and that of how we disregard how intimate our interaction with others really is. We are never really separate, after all.





Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
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1.  Suggested by a recent Grey's Anatomy episode.

2. All of that crap about not wanting to take drugs for depression completely ignores the fact that I do exactly that by drinking coffee and beer, my particular form of self-medication.