My brother, when I brought him home from the airport on Friday, was acting so normally (i.e., not his normal self, but humanly normal) that I thought he might have spent his whole vacation with his family without drinking. When I go over to his house on Sunday to celebrate the holiday, he seems slightly less this new self, but still better than usual. But after dinner, when he and Joyce and I sit in the living room watching tv, he begins to question her about a person I don't know, and soon she calls him on what she believes is a minor scam he's trying to pull (I only recognize this afterwards). He goes into a lot of detail telling her about this guy Tony who has gone into business for himself doing plastering, etc. and he reports a conversation between Tony and his father: Tony says that he could make a lot of money if he wasn't always getting himself into trouble (which trouble I assume is alcohol); his father says that if it was so easy to make a lot of money as a self-employed contractor, everyone would do it. Joyce says something like, "I hope you're not going to hire this guy instead of _____." I have no idea what she's talking about and I assume that he's hiring someone to help with his work, which surprises me, because I didn't think he's had much work recently; so I think he must have gotten a big job.
Jim reacts instantly to his wife's comment, standing and shouting that, no, he wasn't thinking that at all, and how could she even say that, she never gives him credit for anything, she doesn't support him at all, and he storms out of the room. I think, That was odd, entirely uncalled for, and he seems to be back to his old self again. After a while, Joyce asks me what I thought of his outburst, if I thought that her remarks were out of line. I said that it seemed to me that what she said was not warranted but, on the other hand, his response wasn't warranted either and betrayed something. People don't get that upset for no reason, and I thought that there must have been something in what she'd said that was justified in order for him to act so defensively. Then she told me the background to their conversation: They need some plastering work done upstairs and had arranged to hire the guy who did the work originally when they had the second floor addition put on.
Now I understand. Jim was trying to arrange something contrary to their original plan and she had called him on it. She says that she thinks that he reacted that way because, either he had been secretly drinking all along when they were in Florida and now hadn't had a drink in several days or else he had not been drinking and now badly needed a drink. I told her that I doubted that, if he had been abstaining while in Florida, he would so desperately now need a drink after so long. More likely, he had started drinking again.
Joyce sat in the living room with me and watched some Lonesome Dove reruns, which she had never seen. But she had been developing a severe headache and so she went to lie down for a while. Jimmie and Jay were at work and Danny was off somewhere, so I am left alone. I wanted to remain and watch the rest of the Lonesome Dove series; but since it was only on part three and I either wanted to watch all of the rest of it or none, and since I'd only had five hours sleep the night before after six hours the day before that, and since no one was there anyway, I decided to leave. I looked out the back door to see if Jim's truck was parked by the garage and I didn't see it, but when I circled the block, turning around to leave, there he was fiddling around with his truck. I don't know whether he'd been there all along and I missed seeing him or whether he'd just returned. He said, "Are you leaving?" I said, "Yeah," and waved. And I was gone, and left with the impression that he might have thought I left because he was acting like an asshole, which was not at all the case. The single outburst he'd had was the shortest and tamest of his acting-out on any typical holiday. But my intuition was strong that he felt bad about it, the more so because he thought I'd left as a result.
When I get home, I realize I don't have my glasses. I call to see if I left them at Jim's. Joyce answers the phone from upstairs and yells down to Danny, who verifies that they are on the counter. I tell Joyce to put them someplace safe. She suggests the top of the tv. I imagine that, when I get around to going back to get them, they will have disappeared because the tv is one place I think they will not be safe; in fact, I can't imagine any place in their house where anything might be safe. Misplacement there is a domestic hazard. I decide that I'll go back and pick them immediately. A few minutes later, Jim calls. He says he's going to be working on Long Rd. tomorrow morning and he has some wood to drop off for me anyway, so he'll bring them over, which is a relief because I really don't want to go back out. He says he'll be over around 10:30. After he hangs up, I think that he probably wants to make sure I'm not pissed at him for his antics, since I left abruptly and uncharacteristically early.
I collapse into bed a 9:30, exhausted, and I sleep until 2:30 when I am wide awake, so I get up and work all night on the computer until after...
...daylight. I go in to lie back down at about eight when I remember that Jim is coming over. So, despite the fact that I'm tired and want to sleep, in fact need sleep, because my heart has been palpitating slightly because I haven't been getting adequate rest, I get up and carry the two cases of beer I'd recently bottled down into the basement so that he doesn't see them and become tempted to ask me for one of them, thus precipitating a dilemma within me; and I do a few other minor maintenance tasks while I'm up. Then I leave the front door open and lock the screen and I lie back down again at 9:30, deciding that he probably won't show up when he said he would anyway. I sleep in fitful catnaps, awakening every time I hear a car outside and getting up thinking it might be him. It never is. Finally, after about an hour, I fall into a deep sleep.
My brother finally stops by, not at 10:30 like he said he would, but at 12:20. He calls to me from the bottom of the front steps, awakening me. When I go out to meet him, as he hands me my glasses, he asks me if I was sleeping. I tell him I took a nap. I want to tell him I only slept for five hours last night, I want to explain to him that I didn't leave his house early last night because of his antics; but I'm groggy and more my typical laconic self than I am when I force myself into a more "sociable" mode when I go out into society.
[Laconic, now there's a word that presumes a lot, a word into which language, which is of course a social mechanism, has coded a prejudicial history. It is presumed that laconic people are unsociable, or at least prefer not to socialize, when it may be that they are simply permanently psychologically disabled and would not be if they had a choice. They may be, internally, the most sociable people in the world (I am not, but I am far more sociable than people give me credit for), but seldom will people ever get the chance to find it out if they insist on labeling people and expecting them to live up to their labels.]
We stand awkwardly in the driveway leaning against his truck, saying little, unsuccessfully and with little motivation trying to strike up a conversation or at least to prove that we don't actually hate each other. I know why he's here, but I'm just too sleep-ridden to care. And he, I assume, is too involved in his self-fulfilling prophecy to try too hard to develop our usual repartee. But we manage to exchange a few ideas so that, I hope, he gets the idea that my leaving early last night had nothing more than superficially to do with him. Still, though, I should have gone farther out of my way to correct his misapprehension; but then he should have showed up on time, when I was awake and prepared. We may not all get what we deserve (actually, in the long term, I think we do), but we all get what we set ourselves up to get.
My concern in this situation, my feelings upon examining them more closely over time, are, I realize, Jim's. I've been empathizing with him ever since I saw him standing in his driveway beside his truck watching me depart and feeling, I intuit, somewhat sad, at having in his mind been rejected, first by Joyce and then by me, with consequent feelings of diminished self-worth as a result of his bad behavior remembered. I've introjected his feelings and am "suffering" them. I don't want to feel this way, but it's my role, my "talent" since my early childhood and my educated and developed skill as a psychologist to interpret and analyze behavior. But that's as far as it goes. I stopped short a long time ago trying to influence consciously any personal behavior except my own; and as far as my unconscious motives, agendas, and social function go, I leave it just at that, unconscious.
So maybe I positively influenced Jim and maybe not. If he thinks I disapprove of his behavior, he's right; but not so as to disregard his familial relation to me. I still feel bad that he felt he had to go out of his way to come and make sure that everything is all right between us, because he shouldn't have to (feel he needs to) do that. And I still feel bad that I couldn't have responded in a more congenial way toward him; but I'm a person too, with my own needs, one of which is sleep, which always creates a groggy, non-sociable attitude in me. He shouldn't misinterpret it, and I hope he doesn't; but if he does, maybe that works to his benefit, if it makes him less likely to repeat his offensive behavior pattern. Maybe that's the lesson for me here: don't worry so much about it, because unconscious interaction works mostly for the better in the long run. Maybe. Personal interaction is one of the big mysteries of life that we tend to think is not at all mysterious when we observe ourselves and others in ordinary daily life. But most content in even the most ordinary interactions is unconscious; and who knows what goes on in the unconscious mind? That, in fact, is the question I have based my whole life on.
Asperger's is the mystery I set out to solve back in college when I first began to study psychology, although I didn't think of it as a mystery then and hardly even realized that I was on a search, a lifelong one, although the more or less formal (educational) part of the search hadn't begun until college (and I certainly didn't identify it as Asperger's, which was only recognized in the nineties). This has been the whole point of my life, to discover why the world is like it is, which has been merely the outward expression of the search for who and what I am. Now I realize that I've solved the riddle of my existence as well as the riddle of the universe, my other area of study, cosmology, the nature of which I grasped a number of years ago, the correlate of psychology, the psychology of God.
So what do I do now? Now that I understand the basis of my psychological nature, I find myself feeling like I don't want to fight it. It seems like such a futile effort. When I didn't know, I struggled against the unknown to make myself a "better" person; but now, why bother, when this explanation fits so well and perfectly defines and explains my existence? It seems like I should be starting out in a new direction, pursuing different plans and goals, the ones I have seeming to have gone stale. But what would they be? This is the same problem I've been faced with all my life. So I guess the new mystery is: What am I supposed to do, now that I've done what I was supposed to do? It couldn't be that I should start to work on other people's problems, could it? Oh, I hope not. Other people are so...ordinarily sociable:
The family holiday is over and now the real holiday begins. My next-door neighbors are having a party, with at least fifty people attending. And, I'm not exaggerating here, at any given time between one-third and one-half of them are talking on a cell phone. Two of the younger ladies are even pacing slowly up and down the street in front of the house as they talk. Our computerized devices might be making us more communicative (I doubt it), but it seems to me that technological advances, rather than making us better as a species, are making us more isolated and ignorant when interacting in person.
A car pulls up in front of my house and, since there is no parking available, the driver actually starts to park where he's blocking my driveway. Fortunately, I'm sitting out on the porch and see him arriving. I can be so gracious when I want to be, and yet still get what I want. [Hmm. Maybe that is the way that it's supposed to be done.] I ask him politely if he can back up a little bit so that he isn't blocking my driveway. Fortunately, there's enough room for him to do this, so he complies, being gracious in return. After he goes inside, I go into the basement and get my two recycling barrels and put them out on the street in front of my driveway to keep anyone else from trying to park there.
But I feel like I shouldn't have to do this, not only because I hate it when the neighbors save "their" parking spaces in that way, which is kind of arrogant because the street is a public thoroughfare and parking is not restricted, but also because blocking a driveway is a standard parking restriction everywhere and people who do it are just plain ignorant.
I think back to when I was young and did the same kinds of things. I was one of those arrogant and/or ignorant assholes, I guess. (I may still be somewhat unconsciously arrogant, in my own subtle, passive-aggressive way; but I'm no longer ignorant; I now know better.) I parked wherever I wanted to and did pretty much what suited me, despite social convention and, most appropriate to this little tale I'm telling here, I set off lots of illegal fireworks.
Yes, it didn't take too long before the fireworks arrived, and I don't mean just little bottle rockets and tiny firecrackers. Intermittently, from about four in the afternoon until after midnight, with a fairly constant period of about an hour from about nine to ten, the neighborhood was filled with loud noise, dense smoke, and pretty colored flashes. Kids barely old enough to walk held roman candles in their hands and tried to point them upwards, often successfully. I imagined sparks landing on my roof and setting it ablaze and actually found myself wishing it would happen, both as a perverse object lesson and because I imagined I could have someone else's insurance company pay to rebuild my roof, thereby fixing the leaks.
I didn't observe the main event directly, since I was working inside by then; but I was in the dark in front of the computer and the loudness of the bangs and the colors reflected off the walls indicated the explosions were fairly close to professional in size. All night long I felt conflicted as to how I was supposed to feel: On one hand, these were definitely very illegal commodities and I wondered where the cops were, since it had to be obvious far and wide what was going on here. This was no ordinary neighborhood event. The possibility existed, I suppose, that this was so outrageous that nearby residents assumed that it was a licensed event and so failed to call the police; and I certainly wasn't going to call them because, well, "Up the rebels!"
On the other hand, I found myself resenting the way these people invaded our neighborhood and literally took it over. It became an unannounced block party, spilling out of my next-door neighbor's back yard onto and down the front street. And what's worse, none of my other neighbors seems to be joining in or enjoying the activities. It was all only this one family's affair, and they just moved in several months ago. But, on the third hand, they're nice people, so how can you object if once a year (oh, God, I hope it's only once a year) they raise a little hell? I have to try to think of it as my negative karma being burned away, since I have risen quite a bit of hell myself in my own time.
On a slightly different train of thought, I imagine these people are thinking they're being patriotic. But there's no direct correlation, I want to think, between fireworks and patriotism, except that people think it's an appropriately valid way to celebrate their freedom. And, now that I think of it, it is, when shooting off fireworks is illegal, a defiance of authority, akin to dumping tea, or symbolically firing upon the Redcoats on the road between Lexington and Concord. Hmm. Maybe I'm changing my mind about this whole affair.
It's interesting in this regard, however, that now, if you want to celebrate our initial act of defiance with fireworks, you must be licensed by the government to set them off. And if you comply, you're no longer defiant. Some might maintain that defiance against our government is not analogous to defiance against King George, but anyone who has read even a small of amount of what I've written understands how much I disagree on this point: We have our own home-grown, latter-day King George and he's every bit the tyrant that his namesake was (though perhaps society's "advancements" require him to be a bit more subtle): he excludes dissenters from his political rallies that are supposed to be appealing to the public at large, and he arrests them when they sneak in and do something as inofficious as revealing a democracy-oriented T-shirt; he acts to further marginalize the poor and downtrodden with his deceptive domestic policy while diverting huge sums of public cash and credits to the rich businesses and wealthy estate-barons; he...well, okay, enough of this. You all know the routine, and it's beginning to bore even me. Happy Rebellion Day, one and all.
Some people are little more than animals (drug dealers, rapists, murderers, hardcore criminals in general); others are just plain sub-intelligent. It's easy to understand how, considering this condition of human nature, the elitists (like Bush and Cheney) would adopt the position that some people's lives are less valuable than others. It's true. The problem is that the position disconsiders the fact that elitists are animals also; so it becomes a huge projection on their part.
You know animals by their behavior: they're aggressive (they kill people by starting unnecessary wars for nefarious purposes that they lie to their constituents about, they indiscriminately yet knowingly bomb innocent neighborhoods even as they operate under the lie that they are doing precision bombing, they gleefully disregard the plight of the disenfranchised and downtrodden and even act to further marginalize and disenfranchise them while they pretend to care for their health and safety, they even steal money from the poor and redirect it to the rich (well, maybe that's not so animalistic since it takes an advanced appreciation of the actual and symbolic power of money); in general, elitists believe that they have the inherent right to lord over less socially able individuals, which is a primary imperative of animals. Our basic animal nature, a hierarchical structure that human nature at its best transcends, predominates among elitists who see themselves as "better" than the masses and would perpetuate the animal psychology we have evolved from through continued domination, even when that domination requires physical aggression.
Anyway, even if some people are less valuable than others, how do you know who fall into which class? Most often we can't determine the ultimate inherent value of a person because it could be completely hidden and working behind the scenes and beneath the surface. You can't judge value by wealth, or by accomplishments, or even by individual dispositions, because the crankiest, most ornery, or "worthless" losers could end up being highly valuable through their subtle influence on others' lives, even if only to serve as an example of how not to live. When conservatives act to disenfranchise and marginalize people, they're wrong because they're blanket targeting people regardless of their true and possibly hidden value.
But when liberals empower the downtrodden in the same blanketing way, they're wrong too, because they allow people of less value to gain at (perhaps more valuable) others' expense. The best solution to the apparent dilemma is to establish a system that does not give anyone anything, to allow the smartest people to accumulate wealth (while monitoring them to make sure they don't abuse their privileged intelligent status through neglect of or negative effect upon the public resources and welfare), yet insist that they pay a fair portion of their earnings for the upkeep of society (without deduction), and to enable via continued education and employment programs the people who can and want to work while providing minimal, state-operated facilities whose primary purpose is not only care for but also rehabilitation of those people who are unfortunate enough not to be able, either physically or mentally, to compete within the social structure. It sounds like a big and costly task, but it would be far less costly than our present welfare system, especially if we eliminate the corporate welfare.
In short, don't give anyone (including the rich) anything; make them fend for themselves. And when they can't, put them into homes that educate and/or care for them. This is my basic definition of what progress in society would look like.
When I watch the news, I'm not (necessarily) simply wanting to become informed about what's going on in the world. It's far more complicated than that. Mostly, I'm searching for verification that my political and social positions are evolving, however temporarily set back, and that we (the human race) is therefore making progress. (We can only make real progress if my political and social agendas are forwarded; if the agendas of those other guys are advancing, then we're in trouble. That's an a priori condition.) If I happen, in the course of this survey of the news, to pick up other information, well, so be it. I'll file it away in my steel-trap mind and maybe I'll be able to put it to good use one day later on.
But, I'm thinking, maybe there is a different way of "appreciating" the news. Maybe I can double my news-watching satisfaction (while eliminating a bit of the disturbance I feel when events do not unfold in the way I want them to) by learning how to relish the "bad" news. (I kind of do this already, beneath the surface of my analyzing brain; but I'm considering promoting this sub-text to a primary complementary status.) To this end, I've developed the following mini-checklist for news watching:
This is the attitude I come to when I'm tired of fighting the status quo of human sub-intelligence and so choose to view us as a hopeless cosmic experiment. This attitude seems to be building and it won't be long now, I fear, before the doubt starts deteriorating toward anxiety. When I feel like this, my normally forgiving social reticence starts to degrade into something less kind and I start to despair.
And, anyway, when did we begin to believe that the government was supposed to be this competent, mistake-free organization? It's never been that; it's always been more or less incompetent. But these days people are quick to criticize the government and its elected and appointed officials for any mistake they make. We criticize George Bush (when we do) for his incompetence in this same way, when every president was more or less incompetent, in some way.
But I criticize Bush for incompetence over and above the norm of standard governmental incompetence. And, additionally, I criticize the current administration for perverting religion by twisting it into the service of a political agenda. Politics and religion have long been hopelessly intertwined. Our current form of government was formed to solve the problems this interaction generated. But the current administration is causing a serious social and political regression back to a time before the Revolution, back to a time when politics and religion were inseparable. We don't have to look too hard to see the consequences of the lack of separation. Examples of it pop up everyday. Here's one:
People are missing the point re the recent controversy over the Judas' gospel: it's not about Judas, it's about the early church leaders' practice of changing of the original nature and teachings of Jesus to conform to their own more worldly political agendas. They changed the cosmic Christ and his message into a political pawn of the Holy Roman Empire. True spirituality was transformed into political power that changed the world, and so-called Christianity still functions today to that same end. These political people who preach religion in their attempt to "re-unite" church and state aren't interested in spirituality, they're interested in political power, which is the antithesis of Jesus' message. They're Christian pretenders, and it's way past time to expose them as such. These are not proponents of any kind of gospel of peace and love. These are bigots and hate-mongers who want to divide our nation between rich and poor; and we all know which parts the rich will get (e.g., the lucrative New Orleans area). Let's bring Christ back into Christianity and kick these pretenders out of both religion and politics.
The American government is broken and will not be fixed by a congress with a vested interest in preserving the status quo. It's time to start over again so that we can redefine the concept of corruption.
War is the least evidence of this government's dysfunction. So is, strangely enough, George Bush. Look, rather, to the congress for the inability of the government to implement the will of the people.
And look to the press for its failure to investigate and report the facts. We really don't know why we have gone to war: there may be quite cogent arguments that have been kept secret from us.
But, whatever the real reason, we no longer mount a traditional defense/offense against aggressors, at least not military ones. It's all economic now: we don't want poorer regimes threatening our wealth.
Which is what they try to do, even the nationless terrorists, when they disrupt a functioning economy; and so, this is what we do back at them, except that we tend toward choosing the wrong targets.
It's a battle of wits between two factions fighting to see who can be the most intimidating. The side that backs down first...well, they don't lose, because nobody wins. This isn't the kind of world I want to live in:
I sometimes feel like I'm channeling Dick or Orwell, experiencing the world as they would have, were they alive. But I know it's only me, that part of me inside that identifies with the distress and turmoil in the world:
"At this point, a great danger appears. The conflict within threatens to engulf the society in self-war, group against group. The vital traditions may be lost--not merely altered or reformed, but completely destroyed in this period of chaos and anarchy. We have found many such examples in the history of mankind.
"It is necessary for this hatred within the culture to be directed outward, toward an external group, so that the culture itself may survive its crisis. War is the result. War, to a logical mind, is absurd. But in terms of human needs, it plays a vital role. And it will continue to until Man has grown up enough so that no hatred lies within him."
Taylor was listening intently. "Do you think this time will come?"
"Of course. It has almost arrived now. This is the last war. Man is almost united into one final culture--a world culture. At this point he stands continent against continent, one half of the world against the other half. Only a single step remains, the jump to a unified culture. It will not be long."
Truth is engineered (spun) by, especially conservative, politicians--although liberals are not above the practice (though they should be). Truth is relative to one's situation in life. This is actually a valid psychological principle: What we know as the truth depends upon the filters with which we view "reality," even the physiological filters that are our dictated by our biology. But the way in which politicians and business moguls appropriate this principle and use it to manipulate the minds of unthinking and/or semi-conscious people (and we are all at one time or another semi-conscious) is unconscionable. For example, if we work for a corporation, we adopt its policies as if they are absolute: the company makes the best products, and those of the competition are far inferior; but if we change jobs, we change our opinions, based upon a new set of policies and beliefs.1 We don't see our national "truths" like our patriotism in this way because few of us ever change countries.
Extending the relativity of truth one step farther, we may spin facts, not only to conform public opinion to the way we want people to think and feel, but to literally make black white:2 We live in the "free world." (We do not.) We live in a "democracy." (We do not.) Or if there is some truth in these examples, it is only by virtue of comparison with other less free and democratic areas of the world. If we didn't realize it previously, the Patriot Act and the current administration's anti- and quasi-legal antics should certainly convince us that we are not free. And we are as much a socialist society as we are a democracy. I could even make a case that we are as much a totalitarian regime. At least, a growing number of intellectuals and disaffected (former) establishment types think so.
The truth is hidden by words that do not mean what we think they do, that mean to us what our leaders want them to mean to us, despite their opposite hidden meanings; that is, despite the truth. Many, many ideas are the opposite of what they seem to be. Watch for them. Once you start to get the hang of it, you begin to realize that everything you think you know is bass ackwards. This is what society does, not only political society, but all of it, more or less. Convention dictates that truth be obscure, that the veil of culture be not so permeable, so that we may all believe that we are not individuals, but social animals bent upon following the herd. Otherwise, society begins to lose control, which is bad for the status quo (the people in power, the ones who have the most to lose when society advances). If we advance beyond the current culture, which is necessary from time to time (and even, in a sense, continually), the advance is tentative and fraught with social caution and resistance. Too much change at one time can be devastating to the rigidity of little minds. Quantum theory was discovered almost a century ago and the very smallest percentage of the population even knows of it, let alone understands its radical implications. And so forget about String Theory. That's twenty-third century stuff. That same kind of resistance to scientific progress is also true of social progress. The "New World Order," where everyone is a citizen of the same ubiquitous government and works for the same uber-corporation, where the lion lies down with the lamb and no one has the option of rebellion because all of our thoughts are known or can be readily discerned, is inevitable (both fortunately and unfortunately, according to the particular consequences in any given location on the globe). This the goal of the power elite, although I doubt that most of them would recognize it as a conscious one--because they consciously tend to resist it as much as the marginalized and disenfranchised world citizens do, because the elite, when they do not see the "big picture," believe that a world government threatens their "national" position that affords them their priviledged status. Yet, despite their ignorance, when they fear that their social position will not dictate that they will likely become a member of the ruling class, the "New World Order" is the ultimate destination of, not only the human race, but any species that evolves far enough to overcome the inherent conflict between differing allegiances. We first began to think as a result of conflicting feelings that stimulated brain cells to compare and contrast them. We organize our conflicts into categories that compete for admission to our conscious belief system. We align ourselves with people of like mind and form ourselves into coalitions. We form local, state, and national governments by this same mechanism. The next step in conflict resolution must be a worldwide government. If it doesn't happen, we are not advancing (evolving). It's not a question of whether it will happen, but who will be disenfranchised when it does. The protests against "globalization" are not rallies against the establishment of a world government, but cries against the perception that the protesters and their families and friends are going to get left behind and fall into the cracks that will close as the global machine grinds into motion. (It's happening already; in fact, it's been happening for a long time now.)
I, myself, know that I could never fit into this kind of world. I don't even fit into the current one--to the degree that it has already transmogrified. I belong hidden out in the hills, among the trees, hunting and gathering for sustenance and building more or less temporary lean-tos for shelter; or perhaps subsistence farming in an area where few visitors venture. But the cracks in our culture are yet far from closing down and so I find a place among them where the environment is still rich with detritus from the affluent culture overhead. I don't know how quickly the cracks are going to close. Not for a long time yet, I think (or hope). So, sometimes I feel somewhat safe; but at other times, I begin to doubt and worry, which will escalate into anxiety if I am not careful and allow my physiology and psychology to wander.
In the best of times (my personal psychology times, not real world times), I feel safe and secure. Maybe this is a mere illusion I foster in order to preserve my sanity; but maybe it is real enough, in a present existence sort of way.
In the best of times, I am an accepting and befriending kind of guy. I never take personally all of the fucked-up things that people say and do, understanding them to be, at best, subconscious; and I appreciate people and life in general.
I believe that the basic Christian message is the best collection of ideas to ever have been expressed in human language; but the perversion of that message that predominates the religions that call themselves Christian today is the worst.
It would be so nice and serve my career and my pecuniary life so well to express sentiments of such human feeling that would ingratiate me to a conventional readership; but that is not who I am, most of the time.
In my younger years, when I befriended someone, it was an automatic and unconditional process. I was totally loyal, the best friend that anyone could ever have, and I assumed that the reverse was also true, which most often it was not.
The later shock of realizing this severely jaded me. The back-stabbing I eventually uncovered, and even went to the trouble of testing to make sure it was not the result of simple paranoia, disturbed me so much that I decided I had no friends at all.
Because, if this was what friends were like, who needs them? I didn't seem to have the capacity to develop limited friendships; either someone was my complete and total friend, or they were of no concern to me.
But since I decided that I lacked the ability to distinguish in this regard, I grew increasingly isolated as my friends drifted away. Of course, under these conditions, networking was an impossibility. I didn't have the psychology for it.
I considered it, always, a Machiavellian effort to establish a false front for the sole purpose of promoting a business or personal agenda. It had nothing to do with "friendship" and so it was irrelevant to interpersonal relations.
Like everything else friendship has to be, for me, all or nothing. I still somewhat feel this way, although I now recognize the practicality of networking and the possibility that it does not have to involve a purely egocentric purpose.
This is probably just another projection, because I have to admit that I am, for the most part, egocentric. I want to think that everyone else is too; but I know it's a matter of degree, and I'm not too sure where I fit in along the spectrum.
I strive to reveal things like this about myself. I feel like it's my purpose in life, to correlate my own idiosyncracies with the world and discover how it is that they are not idiosyncracies at all, but rather the world expressing itself through me.
It is both my conscious and unconscious writing agenda to reveal the mechanics and the content of both my conscious and unconscious mind in order both to compensate for that aspect of my conscious and unconscious self that tries to do the opposite, and also to generalize my experience to that of the species as a whole in that such generalization hasn't already been done and been applied to me by myself or by others, consciously or unconsciously.
As a small step in this agenda:
I've concluded that my anxiety is more general that either the more ordinary social anxiety or the particular pecuniary anxiety I've written of earlier. Yesterday my lawnmower finally stopped working after having showed signs of increasing distress for several years. I can still get it started, but it runs fitfully and stalls easily. So I begin to disassemble it to see if the problem is a simple one I might be able to fix. Two hours later, I've got the entire fuel delivery system laid out on my picnic table, and I can find nothing wrong with it, no gunk of any kind anywhere, every hose and port clean as a whistle. (That's a strange simile.)
So now what do I do? Here's where my practice of never throwing anything away comes into play: I got out the old lawnmower that my mother, when she got a new one, gave me years ago and which is identical to the one I've been using for the past, umm, twenty-one years. (I had to stop and count.) Can you believe it? Twenty-one years without any except the most superficial of repairs. (It's a Craftsman.) I guess I can't complain about poor workmanship in this case. Anyway, since I hypothesize that there might be something wrong with the engine of the first mower that's causing it to speed up and slow down, and I seem to remember that the second mower was operable when I stored it away, it's problems having to do with peripheral items like the handle, the pull starter, etc., I decided to transfer all of the "running gear" from the first to the second (spark plug, gas tank, handle, pull-start cord, etc.). That took at least another hour, not to mention the time it took to dig the second mower out of the shed from behind two other mowers, an older one that is probably useless and a newer one that never worked right for more than about two years, and the roto-tiller my brother dumped on me to store for him when my mother died.
But after all of that, the second mower wouldn't start. I sprayed some starter fluid into the air inlet and it started and ran for a few cycles, so I hypothesize that the engine is functional. So I dismantle the fuel system and, sure enough, it's badly clogged up. I spent another hour or so removing gunk from the carburetor, etc. and running wires through ports to open them up. But, reassembled, it still will not start. So, knowing that the fuel system on the other mower worked at least marginally, I transferred it over to the second mower. But, alas, still no start. That's where I left it, because it was starting to get dark and I was fed up with not having accomplished anything after having worked on the problem from three in the afternoon until nearly nine at night. This is where the anxiety starts to set in:
How will I cut my grass, which is way beyond the need to do it and if I don't do it now, the melons will grow into the high grass, impeding their growth and preventing any mowing until late fall?
Will I have to go and buy a new mower? I saw one for sale, at Sears I think, for $189. That's not too bad. But I feel like I should be able to fix at least one of these mowers; or else why bother to store all of this crap away if every time I run into an operational problem, I opt for buying a new machine?
I experienced this exact same logic a month or so ago when my electric trimmer motor burned up and, instead of buying a new one, which I priced at only $29.95, I began to try to fix my old gas trimmer and, after a few false starts (involving hand-crafting several nipples out of various kinds of plastic and incompatibility between various glues and epoxies and the plastics and gasoline), I achieved some measure of success; although I'm not completely happy yet with the results, at least it's functional.
As I cook a quick meal and start to wind down toward sleep, I run over in my head the pending "disaster" if I cannot get one of the mowers to run. Obviously, it will not be a disaster at all, but a simple failure to do the repairs, which I feel like I should be able to do, although can I do it in a timely way to get the grass mowed?
When I get like this, at the beginning of a dejected state of mind, there's only one thing to do: start to make notes so that I can write about it in the morning after a good, or at least fitful (which is how it turned out, after the first several hours) night of sleep. And this is what I'm doing now, writing about it, because writing about my problems is a way I have of solving them, or at least defusing the accompanying anxiety for a while:
I decide that, if I first, each day, accomplish something significant, something "active" (i.e., not writing and/or planning), anything that advances me toward the completion of my plans and goals, I can then futz around all I want with whatever I might want or need to do without worrying about how I am going to cope with the "terrible consequences" I imagine or don't imagine but only feel will be the ultimate result if I cannot get myself to a place where I can feel in control of it all again.
This is the primary factor here, I think: a sense of control, whether actual control exists or not. We're never really in control; but we have to feel we are; more than anything else, anxiety for me is a feeling of lack of control. It's probably more basic than that, more ontological, more object relational; but at the present-day operational level, if I can convince myself that I'm in control of the situation, whatever it is, I feel all right. Control is my first line of defense.
What I started to do yesterday was to accomplish something significant, cut the grass, which would have been a big step toward gaining control of the burgeoning profusion of overgrowth in my yard. And when the mower failed, I should have gone on to something else I could have accomplished, so that at the end of the day I could have said to myself, "Well, at least I got that done," whatever it would have been. But instead I made some preliminary attempts to fix the mower, which sucked me deeper and deeper into the problem, because the ruling principle in my mind, although I hadn't fixed on it consciously at the time, was the mini-marathon method I'd postulated last month. That method will only work, I surmise, if it results in a successful outcome; otherwise I will be left with the anxiety of non-completion.
So, 1) accomplish something significant that can be completed; 2) if anxiety persists, organize a workspace preliminary to accomplishing progress on a problem, or even merely organize a living-space area, as a token organization. [Token organization is a way to establish a sense of control; some people take this to extremes and totally order their entire personal environment, straightening up and obsessively cleaning their entire house, gardens, and outbuildings. Thankfully, I don't feel that it's necessary to go to these lengths to feel good about myself. A little bit of organization goes a long way with me and, due to the nature of my living arrangements, is also a big improvement]; 3) if the anxiety persists, decide what you will begin to futz with that addresses the "cause" of the anxiety, what project you will attack, perhaps planning it out first so as to know the direction you will be taking. Since the whole point of this exercise is not so much the solution of the problem as it is the reduction of anxiety, it's only necessary to take this step as far as it needs to go to accomplish this reduction. 4) If, at the end of the day, after having worked long hours trying to solve the problem, you're left with the "anxiety of incompletion," organize for the next day by performing your little rituals and perhaps planning out a preliminary schedule; and maybe listing the priorities if several "problems" are plaguing you and creating an atmosphere that threatens to blanket and suffocate you.
When I feel particularly anxious, such as the night before an important meeting (this would be social anxiety in this case), I find myself automatically organizing my living space in a kind of pseudo-preparation for the event. I wash the dishes, which I rarely do normally, usually leaving them until the next day when I start to cook a meal. I sweep the bedroom and straighten up the sheets and blankets on the bed (usually they're in a big mess from the previous night's sleep.) I fold my clothes that are lying around in various states of wear-ability. These kinds of activities serve to make me less anxious by "preparing" me for the next day. Starting out from a clean and organized environment imparts an initial feeling of control to the day's activities.
But I know that my anxiety is more basic than this kind of social anxiety or of the pecuniary kind because the lawnmower incident reveals that 1) I don't mind spending the money for a new mower if that's what it comes to because I've definitely gotten my money's worth out of the one I have; 2) there are minimal social effects or consequences to not mowing my lawn for long periods of time, since most of my yard is concealed from public view and what little is exposed can be trimmed with a weed whacker. And yet I still experience anxiety, which sometimes I hate so much. All I want to be is away from it.
I want to go away, over the hills, to the ocean. Wander off and leave it all behind. Or hide away inside and read and write all day. Leave the outside to rot away. At the same time, I want to do it all, everything. Make my visions of the future come true, both.
Things change, usually for the worse. But that's okay because the fact that things change is the condition that enables you to act to make things change for the better. And "worse" is a concept defined from the POV of the state that things change from.
Waiting, for change, is valid, but dangerous. When change happens to you, you exert no control and so tacitly comply with what the universe decides that you will get, which unfortunately a lot of the time is what someone else wants you to have.
People represent the universe in the time and place where they will act. Waiting is a philosophy meant for strong-willed people who know how to resist the evil people bring to situations and who can accept whatever happens with a calm peacefulness.
My anxiety belies my lack of peace and calm. If I were a truly reflective person, I wouldn't need to negate anxiety through writing and meditation, but would write and meditate from a position of peace and calm. My cool and stoic persona is a fraud.
I'm in Swissvale, on Braddock Ave. Rita is around, out of sight (although I'm aware that she is near, as if I can see her), doing whatever she's doing, still working for the old company. I wonder what ever happened to her investigation business. She says, as if she comes into my immediate presence, but not, that she still does it sometimes, at night. She's afraid, I intuit, to leave a secure paycheck to go out on her own. I think this is unfortunate because she was so cool as a detective. I watch her from afar, from across a narrow valley filled with houses as she stands at her back screen door. I decide to go to her and I walk down into the valley between the houses, knowing I will have to get through the junkyard down on the bottomland, which is fenced off and protected by a big dog. When I get to the gate, which is unlocked, I dare not enter because I know the dog will attack. I yell out to the owner, who knows me; but he's a reluctant crusty old dude who doesn't respond much. [Me.] But I persist until he does and he finally comes to the door of his shack, sees it's me, and tells the dog to behave. I go through the junkyard and as I'm ascending the hill I meet three bad guys who have just committed a crime. They threaten me with their presence. I appeal to Rita who is still standing in her doorway, though I don't have a direct view of her from where I stand among trees and brush in a small woodsy area. Rita acts by calling the cops, who arrive and arrest the three guys. Rita joins me in the woods to aid in the investigation. Transition to me observing the "crime scene" area from across Braddock Ave. (to the east) as Rita becomes involved with the case. I observe as if I am a reporter and she is a consulting investigator. A police detective friend of mine stands beside me. I wonder who the officer in charge of the case will be and think that it should be my friend. Standing on his other side is his boss, the chief of police. Apparently, the capture of the three guys was only the beginning of the investigation and there is a whole lot more to discover. When my friend leaves, I suggest to the chief that he should be put in charge, and when he returns and learns that he has been, I suggest that he arrange it so that the city hires Rita as an investigator and that the two of them team up. He's says he'll try to do that. Several scenes summarize how she goes about investigating by schmoozing people. The scene morphs to inside a bar on Braddock Ave. It's nearing closing time and I'm hurrying to finish a painting for the owner. It's a view of the back of the bar I'm facing, a "still life" of bottles and containers on shelves, fairly simple really, with no liquor bottles, only odds and end, but complex in coloration, with varying shades of tans, browns, and grays. Cindy is nearby, passed out with her head on her arms on the bar. She comes to and wonders where _____ is. I say he left. She's upset. He's my ride home, she says. I tell her I'll drive her home as soon as I finish this painting. I'm hurrying to finish it, but her impatience wears on me. Finally, she decides to go to another bar, saying she'll be back. I doubt it. I say, to Rita, who is "around" like before, "When she comes back, she'll be all drugged up." As I'm finishing up the painting, the paint is starting to dry up, as if it were acrylic instead of the oil that I know it is, and Cindy has taken with her the only bottle of thinner I had. I struggle to finish the painting with drying paints, using them to drybrush over already painted areas, meanwhile ruining my brushes and palette with the hardening paint. Rita, who as it turns out was not in the bar at all, but home asleep [as if I have been in contact with her via (her) dreaming], storms into the bar, pissed, saying that she heard that I was here with Cindy. I wonder that she's jealous because she and I haven't been together in years. By the time Cindy returns, Rita is sitting at the bar drinking and is no longer jealous. Cindy is perturbed at me still not being ready. I calm her down by having her start a painting. She has no confidence, but I encourage her and her scribbles and meanderings begin to take abstract shape. She's doing a portrait of a guy sitting across the bar. I point out an area that needs more form and she adds it. Then, when she begins to have problems with the guy's face, she gets angry and begins to smear the paint around angrily with the brush, a childish attempt to ruin it. But I point out to her how she's actually improved it, and I grab her frantic hand and begin to guide it, putting finishing touches on her angry portrait. She's satisfied, so I tell her to sign it. She says she doesn't want to sign her real name, so I take her hand again, run the brush through some thinned red paint, and sign "Sin Dee." This pleases her and she decides that from now on she will paint under the pseudonym. A celebrity is born. She wants to know how she can thank me so I say, "Kiss me," which she does, open-mouthed and passionately. I fear that Rita will get jealous again, but she doesn't.
When I awaken, I want to curl up and hide away, forever. Just because. But I force myself to get up and go out and work in the yard, even though I'm tired and just feel like lying around because I've slept too much and can't fall asleep.
Afterwards, I feel good for having done the work, more alert, energized, satisfied, fulfilled. It's what I need to do, to combat the ennui and lethargy. Work and organization competes with my desire to wait. That's what waiting is, I guess: depression.
The anxiety "caused" by the failure of the lawnmower, which I've pretty much gotten past now, was a pinch point I didn't see coming. Usually, when I see them coming, I can head them off. But more often than not they surprise me.
This is what I think about when I awaken, before I go outside. This and how cute Cindy used to be, before I changed her name. I expected the name change to change her personality; but I didn't expect it to change her appearance.
Personality is a disguise. It's that part of ourselves we present to the world, the conditioning we adopt early in life to hide what we decide we don't want the world to know about us.
I spend a lot of (unconscious) time trying to avoid being classified in ways that people will label me; but it's a futile pursuit, because this is what people do, even me:
Such as when I talk about Jay Lamo on The Tonight Show and John Asshole on 20/20. In fact, it's a favorite practice of mine to label people I know in terms of celebrities they resemble.3
It used to bother me a lot that people often don't know how to take me when I change my personality to fit new facts I discover about myself. Now it seems I prefer it this way.
People think they don't know me when I change, when, more than likely, they know me better than they did before, because I always try to change to reveal more of what I really am.
"Knowing" people is not knowing the facts of their lives, but the essences of their psychology, so that Thomas can report Jesus as saying "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed." The essence of a person may be gleaned from the facts of the person "in front of your face" in a more or less rational and/or intuitive kind of psychotherapeutic process; but there is a more direct route to this knowledge, which is probably what Jesus was talking about. Direct revelation via a process of communing is different from intuition (or it is pure intuition, divorced from any connection with a rational process).
I learn this from direct revelation while standing in front of my face; but, later, doubt creeps back in as I try to explain it in words: I think I may be an immature child and my "anxiety" is nothing more than a normal reaction to things in my life that need to be done that I simply would rather not do. I'm thinking that this particular "pinch" I'm in right now, feeling trepidation at what should be mere work I have to do, is just me acting like a spoiled kid; because all I want to do is sit out on the porch and read, do nothing, enjoy my "retirement" as if it were an extended vacation. I think I shouldn't have to do anything unless I want to, which of course is not true at all, we all have to do what we each have to do, there are things that need to be done just to pay for the fact that we are alive and existing among others who are alive too. And I keep forgetting that "normal" anxiety is repressed excitement. When I feel that twinge in my stomach, if I happen to think about it, which I seldom do, I can realize that I'm excited and not anxious at all.
In the past I've dealt with my necessity to have to do things I'd rather not be doing by minimizing to the fullest extent (is that an oxymoron?) repetitive maintenance tasks such as summer yard work, where at one time not so long ago (before my recent garden art project, which is one of the things that nags at me now) I had pared it down to cutting the grass once every two weeks and cutting the hedges once every two months. Now I have a list of daily chores: watering the plants (actually, that's kind of enjoyable), trimming them to keep them in general shape, weeding [because I can no longer fit the lawnmower around and between a lot of the areas that I used to mow straight away (not to mention that fact that the lawnmower is broken)], propagating and planting newly propagated plants in a timely way, etc. I created, in large part, this complexity that needs to be attended to by conceiving of and implementing my "gardens vision" plans.
While I'm out trimming the hedge (I got the left front done with more effort than I want to have expended, especially since the new growth was nearly two feet long since this is the first time this year I've trimmed it, although I have to admit that it does look good now; actually, I don't mind cutting the hedges so much, even when they're this long, if only I didn't have to rake them up and haul them up back and shred them--and, actually, I don't even mind shredding them so much either), Steve (who has been flitting around across the street, going to and fro, doing minor yard work and preparing to head out to work; I know this by the fact that two of his employees are hanging around, ready to depart with him) comes over to where I'm raking up the hedges in my neighbor's yard and starts to complain about his work, prefacing his remarks with "I love my work," to which I reply, "Me too," but I don't think he understands that my sarcasm is a reflection of his, I think he thinks I'm being serious. He begins, speaking to me in his usual cryptic way of leaving out most of the details so that I'm not quite sure what's talking about, to tell me about a job he's working on, as an employee for someone else, all day long, and none of the other employees showed up today, and while he's working as an employee he has to direct the people who work for him as employer on different jobs. [If you don't exactly understand what that means, then I've rendered it accurately.] We talk for a while on a few topics that I switch him onto by gently interrupting him to prevent him from rambling on boringly about his work: the poison ivy that's all over the place, growing in the hedge, crawling up my neighbor's house almost to the roof, interspersed among the wild grapevine growing up the spruce in my neighbor's side yard; social security (because he mentions that he doesn't pay his own, or workman's comp, etc., threatening to transition back to his work), how I can't decide at what year I'm going to retire, he says it's best to put it off as long as possible, that's what he tells everyone, although he won't have much when he's ready because he stopped paying into it when his work slowed down, I explain in sparse detail how if I sign up too early, it'll increase my non-tax-protected income to a point where I will have to start paying taxes again. And then one of his employees and/or his wife, I'm not sure which, shouts out something about being ready to leave, encouraging him to come along and--here's the whole point of relating this boring little tale--he seems like he doesn't want to leave. He says he has to go to work, and so in response I go back to raking up the hedge cuttings; and in my periphery I see him backing away, but not turning and departing, as if he doesn't want to go. I think, "That's strange." Finally, when he determines that I've accepted his departure as final, he does turn away. I think about this as I'm working and conclude that the reason he's so talkative is that he's seeking approval--ineffectively, since he does far more talking than listening and if he'd, rather, allow the other person to do most of the talking and merely direct the conversation (like I do...hmm), he might better find the approval he's looking for. Yep, that's it: his loquacious behavior is an approval-seeking mechanism, just as my taciturn behavior is the same, when I entice people to approach me while I hang back, gaining attention through their approach. And then, overnight, I have a dream (of course):
At an old workplace, Rita does something managerial that rubs me the wrong way (the details are fuzzy), and so I decide to quit (recurrent). The scene morphs to and/or overlays (both) my childhood neighborhood, especially the lot between Maplewood Ave. and Seagirt St. Rita relents, deciding she needs me too much, but I've already decided to move on. I appreciate her attention and deference, but I've had enough, I'm too good to have to put up with all the crap of working for a company. Cut to:
Somewhere downtown: I arrive at a small workplace where I've been hired as an independent contractor to take over a small screen-printing operation. I come in with my own supplies, observe the ponderous and clunky operations directed by an incompetent peon supervisor, then assert my independent authority and take over, substituting my equipment and staff (three young, attractive ladies) and breeze through several jobs that would have taken the employees the rest of the day to finish. I worked at lightning speed, setting up and printing the jobs while the girls supply me with everything I need so that I do not have to leave the work station, and as I make each print, one a second or so, one of them whisks it away to the dryer while another delivers new piece of stock into position beneath the screen so that I never have to set the squeegee down. Everyone is highly impressed. Cut to:
An abandoned warehouse in the North Hills: I've become involved in a joint enterprise with a young George Clooney (who may have been the supervisor in the previous section, but I don't recognize this within the dream). We have a job to print and mail some small paper or cardboard-like containers and have chosen this old building to set up shop because the rent is minimal. I try to influence the operation to streamline it, but George insists on arranging things his own way. I go along with it for a while, wondering, sometimes aloud, why we're doing what we're doing, why we must work so inefficiently. [This was my primary complaint at the last place I worked: Why must we allow all of these inefficiencies (beyond the scope of my responsibilities, but which affected my department's production) to exist when it would be the easiest thing to straighten them out.] The procedures are so inefficient and I can't discern the purpose of the materials we're printing, in particular why we're printing on a piece of two-inch masking tape placed on each envelope when we could print directly on the envelope itself, thus saving a lot of taping time, not to mention the printing time because it's far more difficult to get a good print on the tape surface. At lunch, we go to the post office to mail some of the finished product, which has become small packets of that metal-like plastic containing some kind of soap powder sample. Before we mailed them, I thought for sure that we'd be told that the post office wouldn't allow us to, because each individual packet was only about a one and a half inches square, printed on one side with the address and no return address. But they let us do it, and the guy with me hands each one (there are hundreds) individually to the clerk who stamps it with a rubber stamp-like postage meter. Back at the warehouse, I tell George that he can forget about my participation, that the operation is too inept for me to be a part of. Like Rita earlier, he doesn't want to lose me, feeling that I'm too valuable; but I leave anyway, trying to catch up with the guy I was with at the post office, who is leaving for the day. I shout out to him, asking if I can get a ride into the city. He agrees, although I discover that he's driving a very small car that, in fact, is nothing more than an extra wide motorized wheelchair, not quite wide enough for two people to sit in comfortably. I tell him that he can just drop me off at a bus stop if he knows where one is; but he doesn't. We become lost and can't find our way into the city, although we can see it in the distance from the hills. When we finally get to just above the North Side (or Norsigh, as we call it here), I ask several people how we can get into the city, but no one knows, or else they refuse to talk to us. The guy parks his "car" in a parking space on a street and goes into a building (actually there's no imagery for this; he's just inside the building) while I continue to stand outside, as if I've just come there from inside the building, asking people for directions. When the guy comes back out, as if it's the next morning, although he's exactly the same person, I notice a difference. It's like now he's a crazy man, with disheveled hair and a wild look on his face; and so, by association, am I, which is why no one will pay any attention to us. Viola! This is what working for an employer does for you--or at least for me. It drove me crazy--via stress; or it brought out the craziness that was already there, awaiting release. It took a special kind of stamina to work five or six days a week, ten to twelve hours a day. It was a good trial by fire, and I proved my staying power, if not my competence. I proved my competence too; but not my sociability--to the satisfaction of my employer; but, fuck him anyway--thereby proving his position; but not his sensitivity or political correctness, seeing as I had a social disability. My awareness of this fact is my current mode of change: I have been prejudiced against all my life. I've always felt this, but never before knew exactly how or why, so that I misinterpreted it as a kind of semi-conscious paranoia.
I've been feeling trapped in a daily ritual of my own choosing, and I want to rebel. I hate authority, even (I think I wrote before) my own. If I think I "should" do something, even if it's only me (my overbearing superego) that's telling me to do it, I want to rebel, which usually in these kinds of cases takes the form of doing nothing. It's summer, and I want to be on vacation.
Today, sitting on my front porch in the late afternoon after having done some yard work, I drank the last bottle of Dutch lager that I made in August, 2004. That was a good batch of beer. I'll have to brew up some more of that stuff. I realize that I can be on vacation every day and still do what I have/want to do, by working in a "problem" area a little bit each day. This is a lesson I must re-learn at least three or four times a year. As usual I'm making too big a deal out of the "problems" I encounter.
I cut the narrow, six-foot wide strip of lawn out by the street in front of the retaining walls with the gas weed whacker that I recently fixed. So now as I'm sitting here relaxing I'm thinking back to last summer when I began to doubt the wisdom of growing all of these trees and bushes because it made it so hard to maneuver the lawnmower around them; and this year I have even more plants, propagated from the plant stock I bought last year. Potential solution to my lawnmower problem: cut everything with the trimmer since I have essentially no open space wider than pathways left--except for the melon patch, which only needs cut once or twice a year before the melon vines begin to take over and make mowing impossible. Things change, for a reason; I guess. Is this a working solution? We'll see.
You see, everything is okay now because I have an action plan. I can use the weed whacker. Therefore, I don't have to do anything right now because I can always do it later. When I don't have an action plan, when I don't know how I will get something that needs to be done done, I get anxious: "Oh, no. What am I ever going to do?" When I'm no longer anxious, all of the earlier histrionics seem so stupid. Why then should I go to all the trouble of constructing elaborate procedures (rituals?) to deal with my anxiety when I know that it'll pass? Maybe, instead, I should take the attitude of "waiting it out" like one would wait out a storm. One reason is because the rituals (schedules and procedures) many times prevent anxiety from occurring in the first place. It's only when I deviate from them, which is often, that I start to experience problems (I'm an excellent and effective planner), because I get bored doing the same thing every day and think I can vary my routine and do away with my careful planning to control my "attitude" (for lack of a better word); and it works, for a while, until it all comes crashing down, all at once, such as with the lawnmower incident.
It's become a daily ritual with me that, after doing yard work, I retire to the front porch with a homemade beer. Today, I opened the last American Light (which I brewed in March, '04 as an ale instead of as a lager, so that instead of a light beer I got a full-bodied amber). It was a 24 oz. bottle, so tomorrow I'll drink the last of it; but I will appreciate it most today when the carbonation is at its best. As I drink the beer, I think about Steve. I have to watch myself around him because when I express wishes, he tends to want to enable conditions to maximize them, and I tend to respond with the enthusiasm of my youth to become involved in "enterprises." (These are each of our particular unconscious tendencies.) This is the mechanism through which I let him suck me into trying to fix his lawnmower, with the idle hope that he might pay me some small pittance and I would become a small engine repairman, which is an insignificant fantasy of mine.
Yesterday I mentioned in passing another fantasy, that I would like to grow plants, but I have no place to sell them. This was in response to his asking me if I wanted any cuttings from a dogwood tree he'd cut down on a job and brought home to dispose of. I said, no, I have no room left for plants of any kind. Then he solicited my advice as to how to go about propagating dogwoods [which was his real motive for bringing the subject up, I later conclude: to get me to propagate them for him. This is explained in more detail later. People can be such sneaky slime]. So I find myself drawn over into his yard, looking at the branches. He was going to try to plants the seeds, but I told him they weren't ripe. (Dogwood seeds are supposed to be red; these were still green.) Then I explained how to take cuttings and root them. Then I found myself in my kitchen rooting cuttings that Steve will sell next year, all the while doubting whether it's really worth the effort. But I'll let nature determine the outcome. If the cuttings grow, that will be my sign. [Later edit: none of the cuttings rooted; for best results, I think, they should be rooted in the spring.]
After I'm done rooting the cuttings, I go back out onto the porch and watch the evening progress. The vacation theme predominates. Tonight I'll dream about it:
I awaken in my bedroom at 6023. It's mid-morning and the house is strangely quiet, yet filled with loud room noise. I get up and walk out into the house. All of the furniture is gone and the place is completely empty except for drapes still on the windows. I look out the front window and see Mom and Jim leaving. Jim is in his car at the end of the driveway and Mom is just exiting the garage. Before she gets into her car, she talks with the next door neighbor. Someone is supposed to be taking someone somewhere. Jim motions to me to come out to him. I'm not wearing any pants and so have to rush into my bedroom to find some. Cut to:
Upstairs south bedroom, which is also empty, except for a few minor odds and ends here and there such as filled garbage bags, boxes, and a ladder. Rectangular, dirty, soft blue foam tiles about 4" x 6" x 2" are lying piled up on the windowsill, obviously after having been removed from something. I conjecture that someone had used them to seal off the window to keep the cold out and they had been stripped away while the room was being emptied in preparation for selling the house. The window opens onto the front yard [where there was no window in reality]. The upstairs is not like the downstairs in that it has not been cleaned and needs a good sweeping and dusting. I'm still looking for my pants. There's a guy in the room with me, a decorator, who is either helping with the moving or preparing to remodel after we are gone. Somewhere along the line we've become the Forman family in "That 70s Show." Mom is Kitty, I am Eric, and Jim is Hyde
That's not fair, I think when awakening. I wanna be Hyde. But then I guess I was pretty much an Eric when I was growing up. I didn't get to be Hyde until I was almost an adult.
I didn't do any major yard work today, only the normal walk around the gardens doing the typical daily maintenance like watering, trimming, etc., after which I retired to the front porch with my books and settled into full vacation mode, writing out the above dream longhand and generally mulling over my life. It's raining a fine mist, quite pleasantly, enough to cool the air without driving me inside. I watch the deck in front of me begin to glisten and remember back to when db and Susie used to lay out there in their bikinis, spraying themselves with misters, striving for the perfect tan, the boys who lived across the street sitting on their porch lusting after them.
The world is at peace here now. The birds chirp. Even the traffic noise from the highway and the main road down in the valley seem to add to the summer ambiance. There's a slight haze among the trees on the ridge across the valley that makes the foliage in the recesses appear a whitish blue, producing a green-blue contrast. What was all that anxiety crap about anyway? Isn't this the whole point of life, after all--to work yourself, after a struggle, but only if absolutely necessary (but maybe the contrast is important), to a place where you can feel like you're on vacation?
The excitement is here, without the anxiety. I'm looking forward to experiencing the day, whatever it may bring. Of course, I may drastically change my mind about this if it brings "disaster." This is the essence of (my) anxiety: experience brings change to a condition I want to maintain, until I can see an alternative.
In the lawnmower incident, for example, the solution had the additional benefit of further reducing my dependence on conventional adherence to standard social mechanisms, thereby increasing my detachment from society. But I had to go and throw out those old push mowers. I wish I hadn't done that. See? Save everything!
Actually, I'm not nearly so afraid of heights (i.e., of falling) as I am of the flaws and "abnormalities" inside this complexity that I lovingly call my unconscious mind. Whatever outer manifestations occur, the real fear is deep down there inside. If I must be anxious about something, I should forget about the real world and look inside:
When I was young(er), one of my "faults" was that I would repeat criticisms of specific others that my friends and acquaintances would make, as if the criticisms were my own (which they were, because I thereby adopted them). This was probably a bid on my part for acceptance, but the people to whom I fed back criticism in this way got a glimpse of their own (overly) critical nature (whether they'd consciously admit it or not; usually not, but rather project it away onto me, their unwitting victim, seeing me as, at best, fawning), so that, without knowing or intending it, I served a public service as a scapegoat; and I was too withdrawn to correct any misapprehensions about me, if I even knew of them, which was not so likely, at least until long after the fact when it was way too late.
Now, I realize (such as when I was talking to Steve the other day) that I no longer do this any more, that I'm very wary of agreeing with people when they hint at delicate topics, testing your reaction, looking for inroads that they can exploit, so that they can later say things to their friends like, "He told me _____," when it was they who brought the subject up and nurtured its verbal development. It's a standard "stupid human trick" that I've learned, without ever trying, to avoid.
Racist remarks lend themselves to this tactic very well. They're easy to disguise in their most common form, so that if you bite too hard or happen to wander into an unfriendly forum, the racist can always say, "Oh, I didn't mean that" (although they seldom say it, but rather agree with you, until they work their way to a place behind your back where they can report, "He said...").
I would never make racist remarks, of course, because being a minority (of one) myself I am highly sensitive to prejudice. But I find myself confronted with the innuendo frequently. My usual reaction, like with Steve the other day, is to let the matter pass on by as if unnoticed, yet always with a little bit of guilt, because I feel like maybe I should have by now scripted a response that corrects this kind of recalcitrant verbal behavior, if only for my own smug benefit if for no other.
But I can't help thinking, each and every time I observe the phenomenon, that such a response would be a hopeless gesture. Can I change people, even fawning people like Steve (notice the role reversal in my life now), in this way, with a mere response and no developed operant conditioning plan; that is, does mere verbal response function as an effective operant condition? I think not. People are what they are, barring the application of a significant well-planned and extensive conditioning program. If they exhibit a change, it is only token, for the benefit of the present crowd, agreement for agreement's sake, for whatever personal reasons. So, is it worth the trouble to stir up the hornet's nest of prejudice by correcting people's verbal behavior, especially when the innuendo is such that they may deny their intent? Do we ever make any real social progress by controlling negativity? Or is it enough just to stonewall it?
Examining my past trait of being overly agreeable, I have to wonder if I really don't do this any more. Or would I still revert to it if the right [wrong] circumstances prevailed? Have I really changed? And if I have, I wonder what the operant conditions could have been that enabled it, because I never sat down and even planned out a program to that end, let alone implemented it. I doubt that I'd still do it, ever, because I don't make close friends like I used to, I don't allow myself to open up like I used to when I was young, and I certainly don't agree with people just to be agreeable, although I may still imply agreement by my silence when it doesn't actually exist. I've become my own person and don't readily absorb opinions like I use to. I am no longer such a sponge; or maybe I'm too critical a sponge now, because I frequently find that I easily adopt others' logic to use to my own pre-established ends, when my own logic is not forthcoming to support issues I feel or intuit are right. I am no longer so malleable as I used to be, yet I hope that I still maintain enough of an open mind that I can see when I am headed in a wrong direction. Listen to everyone's opinion, at least for a while, that's what I say. Consider their point of view. But never adopt it, always adapt it, if that is an appropriate reaction. To do anything else is to do an injustice to the long history of developed thought you have nurtured. I used to hold a lot of contradictory opinions that I sucked up like the human vacuum cleaner that I was. This kind of behavior can be positive and even essential when you're young; it's how you learn. But cognitive dissonance must at some point begin to overwhelm you and you must take an active role to get inside your head and attempt to straighten at least some of it out, otherwise you become a frumpy housewife with a mouth that rambles on spouting all you've heard and seen without doing any critical thinking about your never-ending experience.
[Okay. Okay. Don't get your panties in a bunch. It's only a metaphor. They're only words. I know there are intelligent and critically-thinking housewives out there and that I'm playing on a stereotype, but deal with it. You know what I mean. I'm a good guy. Really! My heart's in the right place, even if a lot of the time my head is not.]
Now, having been burned one too many times (this happened early on as well as later, when I was a young adult), I am far more wary and suspect everyone of ulterior motives that dictate manipulative behavior; and the smarter people are, I assume, the more subtly manipulative they will be, the worst being politicians and social engineers. And worst [best] of all, women who fell in love with me, out of a sense of jealousy, could devastate me with manipulative cruelty, when they realized that other women might also feel this way about me, mostly unbeknownst to me, because I seldom ever attempted to attract women, feeling attracted enough as it were and almost always nearly overwhelmed when women paid attention to me. I would have no idea at all why this would happen, or even that it did, until maybe even years later, thinking back.
I want to agree with the Oe quote above, that every man has a right to his own illusions, but I'm not sure that I do. I hate being deceived, especially by my own inherent nature. Rights, of course are relative, and the right to maintain an illusion must be somewhat low-level; and, in any case, the obligation we each have to dispel our illusions may trump any right we have to express them. And 'powerfully' is a highly subjective adverb. I would agree that we all have the right to express ourselves powerfully, so long as the power involves no violence, whether physical or psychological. Violence in the service of illusion is one of the greatest evils of mankind.
Memories can be tricky. And Steve is tricky. It's just occurred to me that, the other day, despite my having turned down his initial offer of taking dogwood cuttings, ostensibly for my own purposes, I ended up doing it anyway, in a joint venture, which was what he'd had in mind all along, evidenced by the fact that when I at first declined, he then asked my expertise as to how to propagate them and then turned it around so that I ended up propagating them. To be fair, it was probably an all but unconscious motive on his part, the way he "manipulated" me into doing this, and I participated in my own "folly"--if that is what it will turn out to be--by revealing my fantasy of being a nurseryman, which he played upon: I told him I'd like to propagate all kinds of plants, but I have nowhere to market them and what would I do with them all, and he said he could market the dogwoods with no problem, and at a high price, to people he worked for, and we could split the profits 50/50. Even at the time I agreed to do it, I imagined how he might deflate the price he claims to have gotten for them in order to reduce my share; but I hadn't considered his financial situation, how he currently owes a lot of people money, probably, in part, by not following up on deals like this one, and so maybe I would never see any money at all and will have been sucked into a profitless enterprise, which is no big deal, I do this kind of propagation all the time anyway; worse though is I will have been taken advantage of, which is a big deal, allowing myself once again to be taken in by someone's manipulative psychology. I remember how I used to be a victim in this regard when I was young; but maybe I was just normal, after all, responding in the way that most people will in similar situations. We're all either manipulators or victims, and probably both at the same time.
When I was working at a job, the last one, I'd adopted the practice of posting the daily production of my department on the bulletin board so that employees could see how they were doing. After a month or so, Steve told Roger to tell me that "management" (meaning he) didn't think this was a good idea and that I should refrain from doing the daily postings. I disagreed, but I complied. About a year later, Steve had a buddy, a business consultant, come in to assess the company's work backlog. One of the guy's suggestions was to post the daily production results on the main bulletin board by the time clock so that employees could see how they were doing. No word of acknowledgement to me. No apology. Nothing. They probably didn't even remember the incident. Did I resent them for that little slight? Fuck yeah! Okay, that's not so much an example of a manipulative psychology as it is one of managerial ignorance, but I hate the memory anyway.
People have criticized me for not letting go of issues in my past; I respond, when I do, with the observation that, if I don't let go of them, they're not in my past, But usually I just ignore the criticism. If you really want to disarm a critic, refuse to acknowledge the criticism in any way. Totally ignore it. When you acknowledge criticism, even to refute it, you give, however little, credence to it, because any idea listened to commands a certain degree of respect by having been raised to the level where it can compete with other ideas. But ideas disregarded are discards, not worth the time even for consideration. You must, of course, consider them if you choose to disregard them; but your critic need not know that.
Two of these criticisms are: 1) that I'm wasting time and life taking long naps in the afternoon and lying around at night unable to sleep, and 2) that my contingency plan to walk or bicycle to the store because I can't get my car inspected is "crazy." I defend myself (here and now, although I simply ignored the criticisms when they were made) by claiming the right, even the obligation, to take care of myself to assure my health and longevity; and if that means taking a daily afternoon nap or walking or bicycling (also potentially improving my health) to the store to save money (to the chagrin of neighbors and/or traffic, I surmise), or whatever other future complaint or criticism may be proposed, then so be it. And if you think I'm crazy, then you're the one with the problem, not me. If you want me to drive a car, reduce the price of gas and make it easier for a senior to own a junker without all of the overly taxed restrictions; if you want to stay awake during the day... Oh, why bother?
I write these ideas now out of a sense of freedom from them; that is, I feel none of the usual angst or pique I feel when I am confronted with "problems," having been freed of it all recently by my lightening mood; but sooner or later, the pinch is going to come again, I know, whether or not I spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about those future "problems" I'm now choosing to ignore. (Problems are like critics: you can ignore them or you can confront them; but either way, it makes little difference. So I might as well ignore them.) I should plan out the contingencies and then forget about it all and enjoy my life while I can until the problems actually happens; and when they do, all I need do then is implement whichever contingency best fits, or adapt them to any new conditions that might present themselves. That's it. That's all. Maybe I'll think about it all tomorrow, Rhett. The world feels much too dismal to me now.
Hezbollah fires rockets into northern Israel. They send a raiding party into an Israeli base and kidnap two soldiers. Israel responds by bombing key positions in Lebanon and lays siege to the country. Hezbollah responds by intensifying its rocket barrages on Haifa and the towns of northern Israel. What's the significance of this action? The Valley of Jezreel extends from Haifa west to Nazareth and south to Megiddo. The Megiddon plain at the southern edge of the area is where the final battle of Armageddon is supposed to take place. (Ar-mageddon = Mt. Megiddo.)
This is the first time that the Hezbollah has had rockets, supplied by Iran, that have been able to reach this far into Israel. America and most of Europe are (quietly) backing or sympathizing with Israel while maintaining an official position that gives lip service to attempts to broker a truce. Russia and China are making up their minds and may end up as a third faction. Military strategies are increasingly focusing on this area of the world (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel). Iran and Syria are supporting the Islamic fundamentalist fanatics. Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Will they give Hezbollah, or some similar group, nuclear weapons to launch at Israel to explode in the valley of Jezreel? Of course they will, if it so suits their purpose.
Is this the beginning of end of the world? Don't worry. My sources say that it will take a long time to ratchet up to that point and the final battle won't occur until 2057. But then, in the meantime, there will be the tribulation, which may be beginning right now--wars and rumors of wars, plagues (AIDS, SARS, etc.), pestilence (bird flu, pollution, etc.)--although the Bible says that the actual tribulation is only supposed to last seven years; but then the Bible should never be taken too literally. Numbers and "prophecies" in it tend to be more metaphorical, which counters the end time scenario with the argument that the Biblical prophecies are old texts written about conditions and battles experienced two thousand years ago and we are free to create our own future, except that history, like human nature, repeats itself, especially if you get caught up in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expect it to happen and it is more likely that it will, because you'll do your best to see that it does.
Continuing the neo-prophecy, Islamic civil war begins, Sunni's against Shi'ites. It's already started in Iraq, unwittingly (or maybe not so, maybe they intended just this outcome all along) begun by George Bush and the neo-cons. The Shi'ites will prevail because the side with the most dedicated and/or harshest ideology always prevails. Black and white trumps gray every time because that's the way the human mind works, and it's the minds of the people, more than any other thing, that determines the outcome of battles and wars.
Next, the Islamists, Shi'ite controlled, turn their full attention to the West and focus it on the Jezreel valley. The whole world by this time had pretty much been transformed into Terminator country. Pockets of underground society exist, trying to survive the madness. Above ground, religious dogma reigns over automatic nuclear armies. You've read about it all in books and seen it in films. All we need do is allow the fantasies (which is what all prophecies are, imaginative intuitions chosen by the masses and manifested into reality) to play out. This is already happening in isolated spots around the world: Somalia, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan. You can watch the beginning of the end of the world on the daily news. Nothing new need happen, but only that which currently exists need spread; and it is spreading. The future is contained in the past, which is replete with dire "prophecies."
Now you see how I occupy my free time in my "retirement," researching end-of-the-world scenarios. I'll end up like one of those crazy old men walking down the street with a sign that reads, "The World Is Coming To An End." And you wonder why I feel odd when I consider how I might start walking along the road up to the shopping center every day? I worry about how I will be perceived (always), if I will end up like one of those apparently borderline cases you see walking along the main arteries and highways with dirty hair and disheveled clothes, carrying plastic bags or raggedy knapsacks, perhaps mumbling to themselves. I have to maintain an accurate self-image, to make sure that I don't end up looking like one of those people. I can't let myself devolve to the point where they seem to be. I wonder if what they're mumbling to themselves has anything to do with George Bush and his shenanigans, the corruption of political power, or any of the other things I write about when I diverge onto "social" issues. Maybe I'm where they are already, I keep thinking; maybe I'm already too far gone:
Unfortunately, based upon our incorrigible human nature and the advancing state of technology and warfare, I think I'm beginning to conclude that annihilation of "evil-doers" is the best course of action. [Omigod, am I becoming a conservative?] Of course, the question still remaining to be answered is, Who will decide who is doing evil? Most often, the "correct" decision is relative and dependent upon the particular ideology of the people in power and has little to do with truth.
True, there are clear-cut cases, such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Timothy McVeigh (who was so far right that he even went along willingly with his own execution); but even someone as apparently sinister as Charles Manson has a certain social validity (in my mind) when he talks about the motivations and extenuating circumstances that comprise his life and "non-actions". (He claims he never actually did anything in the Tate-Bianco murders. It brings up the old conspiracy and circumstance arguments. Maybe no one should be put to death who is convicted only of conspiracy or on circumstantial evidence.)
And as far as political relativity goes, are Islamic fundamentalists "wrong" in any way except that they happen to disagree with capitalist "democracies"? If they should happen to succeed in their social purpose and take over the entire world and establish a fundamentalist Islamic world government, would they then by definition be right, because that's the way the world would be? In other words, does dominance determine morals? No, of course not, you may say. But isn't that exactly what determines our Western sense today, that democracy is right and totalitarianism is wrong?
Nevertheless, if the Islamists insist on framing the argument in "us or them" terms, then one side must predominate, and so I must conclude that it's better us than them. (Strange that I find myself siding with capitalism and "democracy" on this issue; but in any case, these are tentative arguments I'm making here, to see where they will go.) Therefore, since it's unlikely that we'll win any conventional war against the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists and we'll manage at best only to maintain a cold war status quo, I say, Nuke 'em. It's where we're heading anyway with Iran supplying Hezbollah with missiles and developing nuclear weapons, so why not get it over with while we still have far superior firepower? Once they achieve parity, it's the end of the world (as we know it). After we've annihilated them and poisoned the Earth, we can then survive via genetic mutation. Surely we must have enough knowledge by now to manipulate our genes to inoculate species against radiation poisoning. If not, nature will do it for us, eventually.4 There are better ways to adapt or die--different kinds of nightmares:
Instead, I review the previous day and think about how overwhelmed I am with all of the things I have to do, all of the garden work, the pending car "problem," etc. I wonder how I will ever cope.
I realize that both my future and my past cause me problems, the former anxiety, the latter regret. But my present is just fine. It's high summer now, a time to enjoy the present. This is my time of year.
So why am I so worried and angst-ridden? Except for these brief periods awakening in the night, I can easily refocus myself into a pleasant present. But what will happen when the future comes?
But horrible nightmares are the unconscious mind's way of telling you something. If it ever gets to be too much for me, I can always do something outrageous, like go over the top in my Bush criticism.
Or whomever I would choose to criticize. Decided change is so unnecessary when there are plenty of people who are willing to introduce the change for you, in so many drastic ways, if you command attention.
The nightmare's message is: you've got to keep a low profile (or at least I do) when life (always in the form of people) pinches in on you. Anxiety and depression, successfully repressed, reveals itself in dreams.
I have an option: If I ever get so very desperate as my depressive anxiety portends, I can adventure off somewhere to live and die, like Ambrose Bierce or Harry and Tonto, take the risk of awakening myself.
Perhaps to a desert where domestic terrorists are assembling in preparation for a coup. Ah, to be stood up against a wall and shot for daring to be different. A fitting end for a postmodern zombie mentality.
After a fitful morning's sleep, trying to catch up on what I missed last night, I awaken feeling like my life has taking a serious turn toward the maudlin. I decide to take some time off from real life and remain in bed all day watching mindless tv:
Mike Wallace has a commercial on the tube for cbscares.com. I don't know the purpose of the website, I didn't pay enough attention. I was too busy in my mind trying to figure out why cb wants to scare people. CBS may care (personally, I doubt it), but they need to pay closer attention to the unintended subliminal suggestions they make in their ads.
This commercial starts me thinking about caring in general. Although I know that it is I who has the disability, I can't help but want to think that it is society that disregards, disrespects, and cares not a bit for me, and that the social mechanisms that benefit me have been put in place by previous administrations and generations and continue to operate by force of law or procedure despite the current political atmosphere of self-sufficiency or die; even though those uncaring, automatic mechanisms have kept me from falling through the cracks into the abyss of poverty (not really, I'm being overly dramatic here) by allowing me to grab onto the widely-spaced floor boards of "respectable" society and hang on by my fingernails (okay, I've stretched that metaphor about as far as it'll go), I still find myself wanting to blame society for its thoughtless, pecuniary, capitalistic attitude that considers individual citizens as mere fodder for the corporate machine. This is all, I guess, one big projection and it's actually my own self that sees other people in this way.
One of the symptoms of autism is that the autistic child believes that other people know what he is thinking (and thus it's not necessary for him to communicate? Or he's too revealed and is intimidated? Maybe both.) When I think that people, especially women, believe that I am "in touch" with them (communion, intuition), is this the same thing? I'd say so, from my point of view, except that, in many cases, I have verified that they will think it too. Occasionally, they will confirm it themselves. I don't know where I'm going with this, these are just thoughts that I woke up with today after having had this dream:
Mom, my sister, my brother, and I go to a movie in a theater somewhere around the Miracle Mile shopping center in Monroeville. But the event turns out to be a live performance featuring members of the audience, almost as if it's a school play-like event. Everyone is seated around a central area and people sing spontaneously along with the music that's being played, and various people are encouraged to solo. I'm intimidated, of course, and refuse to sing when I am encouraged to do so. I feel like running away, but I don't; I tough it out (like I would have done as a kid, refusing to participate, feeling like running away, but standing my ground and daring to be different, non-participatory in a token participation kind of way, a member of the group, never allowing myself to be singled out for individual accomplishment--in my own mind, always stonewalling recognition and praise, as if it were only natural that people would want to praise me, so that I should not respond with gratitude, but merely with my continued presence--thus the reference above to the autistic symptom). When the event is over, we leave the theater. I've forgotten something, some article of clothing, and have to go back to get it; but I decide not to. My brother, little imp that he is (it's a shame that he has lost that childhood trait, which he managed to maintain well into adulthood) is clowning around and amusing me. We learn that we have to walk nearly two miles to get to where we parked the car (near Sears), and I say that Mom should walk while the rest of us wait for her here. Cut to:
I'm with db, driving through Monroeville, as if toward the area where the theater is (as if we are Mom returning with the car). We're driving in a severe storm and the wind is causing the high profile tractor-trailers to swerve dangerously in front of us. Cars too are being affected, though not so much. We manage to maintain our equilibrium while others around us become involved in serious accidents. Cars and trucks with wood paneling strapped atop them have their loads blown dangerously away, but the paneling strapped atop our Toyota subcompact, although the wind catches it and threatens to topple us as it bends it over nearly backwards, remains tenuously secure. We drive up to the intersection near the turnpike entrance where there are apartment buildings (but not in reality). I have a long list of dates and times of people (women clients of db) who have arranged ahead of time to get married. db has been arranging their weddings, on a hectic schedule, one after another, sometimes only an hour apart. But I notice that we just missed an appointment (apparently for an actual wedding, but perhaps, in a sense, only for an appointment to begin arranging one). Each of the appointments are in one or another of the apartments in the nearby buildings, as if the buildings are sheets of paper and the appointments are listed on them in lined out blocks, like a schedule. I express my concern to db that we've missed an appointment and are about to miss a whole lot more; but she doesn't care. I feel like we're letting people down, but she seems to be of the opinion that these are not people who will miss an actual wedding, but rather all that will be missed is an opportunity for her to plan the wedding, that the worst that can happen is that she will lose business. I'm not totally convinced of this and feel like at least a few of the missed appointments will be actual weddings.
I awaken with the understanding that db is that part of myself that is disconcerned with the consequences of the future and that "I" am the worrywart who becomes anxious and depressed over the things I plan to do but do not get done. I'm now right in the middle of a major slowdown, with projects and responsibilities piling up. The storm has been raging for a while now, yet I remain calm and "steady" by telling myself that there is time to take care of everything--eventually, though a part of me doesn't believe that things will work out so well and "people" will be disappointed. (People--society--may be a symbol for my own expectations. Hmm. Superego, I guess.)
Is, like, Mercury or Jupiter or some other dubious force in retrograde or something? The ambivalence that borders on antipathy is going into its fourth week here on the old homestead. For the umpteenth time I've been searching the net for parts and clues as to how to repair my car, with no success. My bank, for no apparent reason, declined a meager twenty-dollar online purchase I made, from a vendor I deal with all the time; and approved several subsequent purchases with different stores. Why?
So, fed up with feeling disappointed, I manage to overcome my physical lethargy and go out to run the weed whacker to at least make a small dent in the high grass between my fruit bushes before it gets dark. I pull the starter cord a few times and the trimmer starts up as the starter rope breaks and hangs loose in my hand. And then the motor stalls. Lately, it seems like everything is breaking or challenging me with complex operational problems. I'm slowly getting disillusioned with trying to accomplish anything at all. Life is just a pile of fermenting dogshit. Rather than try to fix the gas trimmer for the fourth time this season, I relent, admit that life has beaten me once again, and decide to go out and buy an electric trimmer, on the theory that the universe is telling me that I should be weaning myself off machinery that runs on petroleum products. But the way things have been going lately, I postpone that purchase until a future time and go back to my original plan: back in bed, I turn on C-SPAN to see if I can find some conservative political agenda to project my ill feelings onto:
If, in a misguided fit of drunkenness, a scrawny man throws an ineffective punch at a bulked up weightlifter, who retorts with a powerful punch of his own, that too is a disproportionate response.
Although equal in kind, the response of a stronger, more effective man (or nation) is by its very nature disproportionate, which under ordinary (sober) circumstances should be deterring.
Hezbollah has proven by their historic behavior that they will not be deterred. They will violate all agreements, which are nothing more than temporary. Logic dictates that they be annihilated.
Anyway, what would be a proportionate response? Launch rockets back at them, tit for tat? Kill and kidnap a few of them? Perpetuate the status quo as they gradually escalate the exchanges?
Allowing them to go on killing your citizens a few at a time while your barely adequate response only serves to further enable them as they gain local and worldwide sympathy is stupidity.
Disproportionate response is what deters further violence, if it does, which, in the case of Hezbollah, it will not. Nothing will. Their entire purpose is the destruction of Israel. Annihilate them.
Jesus' turning the other cheek was a negative disproportionate response. We need this different kind of logic if we are to survive. Ineffective proportionate response is how we ramp up toward nuclear war.
The final nuclear war, precipitated by increasing proportionate responses, will bring about the ultimate peace (where the lion will lie down with the lamb) because it will be so horrible.
No one will want to resort to violence again. It will change the human psyche forever and the few retrospective throwbacks will be socially isolated. Our collective mind will snap. Just like that. [Snap.]
Just like that, from time to time, my mind snaps. Something inside me says, "Wait. Enough," and my thought takes a right turn, and there I am, out in left field kicking a soccer ball during a baseball game.
This happens to me all the time, just like that; my whole world turned upside down, what was once important become insignificant as my priorities change as I re-focus my attention onto a different set of problems.
It's difficult to have to go through life like this, never exactly knowing what you will be working at from day to day or even hour to hour, complicated plans relegated to complex lists you seldom reconsider.
Often, in order to deal with the distractions, I try to limit the input, intentionally avoid knowing what's going on in the world, stop reading, even meditate to try to stop thinking, but it seldom works so well.
Being inside my head is like being in a roomful of people arguing politics: I take both sides, (try to) consider the merits of even conservative arguments, and then fail to choose, yet favor one or another:
1) People who get upset over someone burning the American flag mistake the symbol for reality. The flag is a symbol of our rights and freedom, which cannot be burned. At best, flag burning is disrespectful, and anyone who feels disrespected by another's action reveals a weakness within his or her own self. You can only feel disrespected if you allow it. People who feel disrespected are complicit in the behavior toward them.
Flag burning presents no threat to the country. In fact, it is an expression of the freedom we value. If you would restrict flag burning, you would restrict our freedom. The burning of the flag strengthens our rights and freedom by demonstrating that, despite the destruction of the symbol, that which is symbolized lives on.
And when we see on the news a fanatic in another country burning and/or desecrating the U.S. flag, we should rejoice in the ignorance he displays. He thinks he insults us; but, rather, he compliments our way of life, that we are so free, so great, that not only do we tolerate, but welcome his expression. He may burn our flag, but he cannot burn our freedom. He mistakes a piece of cloth for the freedom itself and denies and projects away his own restricted rights and mentality;
2) Everyone who works at a socially valid job deserves wages that guarantee a minimal degree of affluence--because their work is essential to society. Social status, while it may be dependent upon the work one does, need not be reflected in one's level of remuneration, at least to the extent that wages for those of the lower levels fall below a point where an adequate standard of living is unattainable.
The problem here is that I don't buy this argument. Even at five dollars an hour one can survive and even prosper if one can avoid vices, scrimp and scrape to save money, and thus, eventually, over a long period of time, improve one's situation. Hard work and dedciated diligence pays off in the long run, especially when you avoid getting caught in the trap of desire that our consumer culture generates. The reason that most people fall between the cracks is that they waste their resources, by throwing money away on vices, by allowing themselves to be conned into thinking they need unnecessary consumer goods they see on tv, or by simple stupidity.
Is it the government's job to protect its citizens from these follies and deficiencies? Should the government have to guarantee an unwed mother a wage that provides an adequate living for her three kids just because she was a stupid teenage cunt who let the boys fuck her without taking precautions against pregnancy--or worse, let herself get pregnant because she wanted a baby, imagining in her childish delusions that it was better than a baby doll? Should the government pay an alcoholic or drug addict enough to enable him to continue his addiction?
3) Everyone is in the situation they're in for a reason, and almost always that reason is--if not current, then traceable back through their lives to--stupidity. Ignorance is the scourge of the working class. If you want to improve society, forget about minimum wage laws and start providing adequate education for everyone. The problem is not that people don't make enough money, the problem is that the upper classes don't want the lower classes to become educated, because education threatens the status quo. The rich get poorer when the poor get educated.
It's a well documented effect that, as students near graduation, they may begin to slack off and maybe even fail or drop out. Ditto, as anyone working on a project nears its end; and not only because work expands to fill the time necessary for its completion. It's the neurotic expression of the fear of failure. As we, as a species, approach the point where technological advances enable us to provide for the well-being of all people (which was our renaissance goal, expressed in utopian writing), we balk, lose the vision, and give in to the pervasive hopelessness and cynicism that characterizes postmodern corporate capitalism. [You can recognize the underlying pathology by the compensatory conscious constructs that demand (overly) positive attitudes such as those of big business that do not tolerate any kind of waywardness, no matter how realistic.]
Consequently, we allow huge populations to starve and suffer in our unwillingness to apply our advanced technology for their benefit. It is more important, we believe, to assure our continued high profits and feed our greed than to spread the wealth out a little bit to benefit those less fortunate than we are. I can understand why we would not want to "waste" our resources on insoluble problems that would eat them up and produce insubstantial and/or temporary results. But that's not what I'm talking about. There are lots of things we could do that would permanently alter the human condition for the better. Education is one of the most important--true education, not that brainwashing crap we pass off as education now, even in our own country. We could, with a minimum of time and effort, educate the world, which would improve forever the horrible state the world is in.
It could all be changed, just like that, if we had the will to do it. Lawmakers and pundits seem to want to think that educating people is a difficult task that will require lots of money and federal programs to accomplish. Not so. Education requires only one thing: the will to do it, which will not come from status quo politicians or their establishment supporters. It requires that someone in authority stand up and acknowledge that all citizens (and non-citizens as well) have the right to be (relatively highly) educated. It could start tomorrow and be accomplished within a generation, with little or no more money than is being thrown at it right now. All it takes is the will to do it, which we don't have. We live with the implicit assumption ingrained into our system and our minds that some people deserve to remain ignorant. And the non-qualifying factor in petitioning for an education seems to be the fact that you are ignorant to begin with. It's a catch-22: If you're ignorant, how can you possibly want an education? Wanting an education implies a lack of ignorance; and if you're not ignorant, then you don't need an education. Nothing happens when everything stays the same.
The best way to initiate a truly effective education agenda is to indoctrinate children early on into the habit of daily reading, preferably of well-written material, but at least of anything that engages their minds with words and stimulates the active as opposed to passive thought processes. (Passivity is exactly the mindset our politicians want us to internalize; and tv addiction is the perfect mode for accomplishing its social manifestation.)
I never got that much of an education in college (from the classes, that is); but I read, constantly, every text and a whole lot more besides (and I still do). I never paid all that much attention to course material; but I did learn how to learn--by reading. And I made it a lifelong habit.
I read, I guess, for the same reason I write, searching for answers to questions I don't yet know I have, or for solutions to my problems that are hidden as code in text I must decipher, like I therapeutically decipher the text I write; and I find the answers and solutions, which, as in my writing, turn out to be temporary. This is who I am, and no amount of therapy is going to change me, so I might as well get used to it and get down to accepting my basic nature: I am going to feel this way, from time to time, sometimes for long periods of time.
My desire to read voluminously is a search for something, anything, that has the potential to change my life, for the better, of course, to perhaps break me out of the rut I seem to be in. Not that I mind that rut so much; typically I quite enjoy it. But in anxious times I've become aware enough to discern the disability and/or neurosis beneath the surface that keeps me locked into a place that I rationalize that I really want to be.
I'm locked in to my present existence. Each aspect of it is a check against another, which is a check against another, etc. If I change one thing, the whole thing begins to fall apart--or so I think, or feel:
I must drink coffee, at least two cups a day. If I don't, depression begins to set in. At first, it's merely an increasing lethargy, which then grows deeper and deeper until eventually I find myself almost unable to move. But, no matter how long I've been without it, a single cup of coffee snaps me right out of it. But coffee may be aggravating my spinal inflammation, increasing the pain that I must take NSAIDs for;
I drink beer to attenuate the feelings of anxiety and dread and to create a sense of an ease of life that I otherwise don't seem to be able to experience any more. One beer a day, if that, just to break the cycle; and maybe, rarely, and additional beer later at night.
Still, though, the anxiety continues to build. I have a beer and the anxiety recedes, but only for a while. I understand quite well how people become alcoholics. If I didn't allow myself to feel the anxiety, if I killed it with drugs (even legal, prescribed ones) or kept it attenuated with alcohol, I could be free of it, and then not so free, addicted, if only psychologically.
And the depression: if I didn't allow myself to feel it from time to time in small doses, if I killed it with drugs or kept it attenuated with caffeine, I could feel free of it; and yet not free. And I might be tempted to do these things, except that I know I can't. Denial is not freedom, though it may feel like it. (Although, since we are never really free, maybe it would be enough. In this sense, delusion may be the best therapy of all.) Anyway, I know my limitations. If I overly self-medicate, if I overly stress my physiology in this way, I'll lose my heart rhythm.
So, my back/heart problem has a positive aspect to it. It's all one big interrelated system (syndrome) that must be kept in balance. Lose the balance and you fall ill and die. Lovely state of mind, isn't this? This is what I drink coffee and beer to avoid. Usually, I maintain a relatively stable (if vacillating) state of mind; but every once in a while, I go cold turkey for a while, to remind me of what I really am:
I feel good when I work around the house and in my gardens and often bad when I even think about having to go out into society, especially when I think I am dependent on the car to go anywhere. If I lived in the city and could walk or take the bus, I might feel (slightly) different about going out among people; but lately, the thought of driving the car somewhere (which I always loved to do) has become a kind of sadness for me, a sort of nostalgia, as if for a lover who is long since gone. Therefore, I must conclude (not so logically, but emotively) that petroleum is an evil technology, especially when you consider the wars that are being fought over it. (Rationalization is as powerful a therapy as denial.)
I feel like I have all these "problems" that I should be dealing with; but I don't: I have only the one. The car, for example, is not the problem. My reaction to the car problem is the real problem. If I felt confident in my ability to interact with people/society, I could resolve any problem when the time came for it to be resolved. But I never know from day to day the "mood" I will be in when the time comes to interact. The problem is not any specific incident, object, or condition, but the way I'm feeling, which is my disability, my inability or reduced ability to interact so as to deal effectively with the "problem" at hand.
What if: the car breaks down; my roof leak keeps getting worse and worse; my refrigerator stops working (there's not even any hints that this is going to happen, so it's just an idle fear); my back keeps getting worse and worse and one autumn the pain does not subside, but continues on permanently, the passageway that acts as a conduit for the nerve to the heart narrows to such a degree that my heart rhythm is permanently affected, I have to have an operation I can 't afford, the cost eliminates the money I have set aside for my comfortable retirement, and I end up dying in abject poverty?
Thinking like this is definitely not cool, and so for most of my life I have kept it to myself, because being cool is how I've managed to survive and prosper, when otherwise I would have been just another asshole. I imagine, thinking back on it, that people, when I've said or done something that have might indicated that I am an anti-social asshole, might have said or thought (probably still, to this day), "Well, at least he's cool." I know that at least some people think of me in this way; and so, it works. But being cool was not something I ever (consciously) tried to do. If I had, I'm sure it wouldn't have worked:
I think I managed, unconsciously, to create my cool persona because I've always so much loved my life. Even during the worst of times, I have always loved my life. I may not have liked some people so much, I may not have liked the whole world at times, but never my own life. And, again unconsciously, I translate(d) this (self)love into a kind of mechanism of social interaction, when ordinary everyday networking seemed to be too much for me to handle, or even to comprehend. Trapped inside my own head, I projected my self-love out onto others, some of whom felt it even as I did not. This is how I managed to survive and prosper when my disability should have totally isolated me. Even though I never really (unconsciously) felt socially adequate, I did feel "cool," because I imitated people whom I thought were cool. (And I still do.)
That's my "social" self, my social side, if you will. My other side--not the inner one, but the other outer one, involves "nature," which I make my own, even personify in an odd way, via my gardens. The progress I'm making in my garden (art) as plants grow, millimeter by millimeter, season by season, is exactly like the progress I make in my life, little by little, bit by bit, each day seeming like it's crawling along like a plant growing, never going anywhere, staying rooted in this spot; yet after a while I look back and see the progress I've made, the growth I've achieved. From time to time I prune myself so that growth may continue more prolifically in a better-trained direction. My mind is growing, expanding, bit-by-bit, like reading a book a page or two a day, finally arriving at the end having accumulated the knowledge it contained. I read five or six
books texts like this simultaneously. Acquiring knowledge, from any number of sources, is like reading a number of books a few pages at a time. This is how I grow, by educating myself, when no one ever really understood how to educated me and so left me to drift and fend for myself. This is how I am, stuck inside myself, never free of it, yet nonetheless learning, even how to socialize a little bit. A very little bit.
This dream is somewhat recurrent. I've had similar dreams before. When I was working (always, really; before and after my work "career" also) I pushed so hard trying to learn what I needed to know to do a good job. I don't think anyone understood how hard I worked at this (and still do, in my own personal work), while I watched others apparently breeze through their jobs, just doing them, and not caring to expand their repertoire, leaving work for the day and never giving another thought about it until they returned, while I continued to dwell on it night and day and worked in my mind and on paper, searching for the key that would make it all easier and better.
Of course, I didn't know at the time that what I was looking for was how to network. Had I known this, I might have tried to do it; but I'm not sure, in light of subsequent discoveries, if I would have succeeded. I did know about networking then, but I never credited it with the importance that it deserved. Others breezed through their jobs because they schmoozed people, especially their bosses. I struggled on by myself, trying too hard to succeed alone. The upper management action in the dream was more of an afterthought within the dream, a sort of half-waking rationalization that I created before I fell fully back into sleep:
1728: db and I are in the back bedroom. We were in a good mood, interacting well, getting along great, until we got here; then she became dejected and told me she was unhappy and maybe wanted a divorce. She expects me to become concerned and cater to her, to give in to her, to get all syrupy, change my attitude and behavior, adapt to her way of thinking about how (our) life should be. I refuse to do this, not in any definitive or overt way, but just by being who I am. Since I don't "cooperate" with her, she goes downstairs, taking her case to my mother, who of course takes her side. We go into the living room where my mother tries to convince me to go along with what db wants. My father (who is George Clooney) comes into the room. db, as she "makes her case" (as if she's in a kind of hearing), refers surreptitiously to notes on a computer print-out, which I know she has assembled from having watched Oprah and other women's shows and from reading Cosmopolitan and other magazines. As she and my mom begin to get angry at my recalcitrance, I also begin to get angry, and an argument ensues. I conclude it by stating that life is not supposed to be lived by a "script" (referring to the computer print-outs), that I'm not going to be forced into a mold that some cunt on tv or in a magazine thinks should be the way that couples should live. I'm not about to live a stereotypical existence. db says, "Well, fuck you then." I say, "Well, fuck you too," and as I'm walking out the door, I say to my mother, "And fuck you too." George follows me upstairs where I begin packing my clothes, intending to leave. He objects to what I said to my mother and orders me to apologize to her. I refuse. He demands it. I again refuse, but his demand is an ultimatum. I ask him what he's going to do about it. Obviously he can't kick me out since I'm leaving anyway. He says he'll kick my ass. I say, "I don't think so." He realizes that I've grown up and now have training in karate and he can no longer threaten me in this way.
The superimposition of db on my childhood environment at a time when I didn't know her (when in fact she hadn't even been born) indicates that the problem "we" had was actually rooted in my childhood. This is the same problem as the inability to network; and sometimes it used to make me angry when, faced with the kind of contention that people will insist upon when they don't get what they want in ordinary social interaction with me, I begin to feel their frustration, which escalates between us until I melt down, act out, and end the "interaction." This doesn't happen any more, due mostly, I think, to the fact that I remain alone a lot more than I used to. But, obviously, it still functions within my psyche; otherwise, why these kinds of angry dreams? And this is the same mechanism that drives my relationship with the world at large: If I allow myself to become too intimate with it, I'm going to blow up and take out on the world what I can't see my way to take out on myself.
If I could do it, I'd blow up the whole world, all at once, in one big cataclysmic event; but to blow up only a part of it, however small or large, is a futile gesture. Why bother if they'll just end up rebuilding it all again?
And I could never kill any "responsible" person (e.g., George Bush); even just saying I'd like to do it--or that I'd like someone else to do it--would be a criminal offense that would bring the thoughtpolice barreling down on me from every direction.
I'd never even think of commiting such a horrendous deed, for obvious reasons. But the entire world, myself included? I can imagine a kind of karmic justice in that kind of ending. That's the kind of thought I might well entertain.
It's the ultimate conclusion of the kind of pathology I discover within the anger that I express within (some of) my dreams. So, it's better off that I leave it alone, within the dreams, than to ever attempt to change the world.
Because the world (the Universe), when threatened, strikes back, in proportion to the vehemence you express toward it. Even dreaming badly about it, and I have been dreaming some bad things lately, can have negative consequences:
The hits just keep on coming. Today I received a notice that my home owner's insurance was cancelled because of the condition of my front steps, which are subsiding. Okay. Fair enough, except that in the notice they say that they told me a year ago that I needed to have them fixed, which is a lie. I don't know whether or not to challenge this decision with the state insurance commissioner or just let it go and assume the risk of being without insurance. Maybe, I think, I shouldn't call any more attention to the problem than already exists. (This is a pattern I've exhibited in the past: In an attempt to explain and justify a position I know to be right, I call the attention of one or another authority to a problem, when I would have been better off to have left well enough alone, given the subsequent events.) I guess I'll just go ahead get estimates for the repair and go from there.
[Or maybe I should let it ride. If I'm not sure what to do, if I'm not comfortable with any of the choices I seem to have, if I see negative aspects of each, then the most likely choice I will make will be the one that allows me to do nothing, but wait. Sometimes this aggravates the problem by compounding it over time; but often the problem goes away as I learn new ways of dealing with life. I think I need to assess problems better, to categorize them as to likely consequences: less likely negative consequences means less likely action must be taken, etc.]
Life is really piling it on and I don't feel like I'm up to the ordeal. All I want to do is put in the time existing, not having to go out of my way for anything, live a day at a time; but I feel like if I don't start taking care of some of these things, they may start catching up with me. The anxiety is running rampant, the doubt having escalated up through the syndrome, edging toward paranoia, which I haven't felt in a long, long time; and depression is setting in as well. My back has been bothering me a lot and now my arm is aching at the elbow--arthritis I think, radiating down from my upper spine, probably because I aggravated it by working too hard cutting the hedges yesterday. (I had to cut over two feet of growth off of them.) I don't even want to write all this out; I feel like it won't help at all.
It's one a.m. I'm sitting on the front porch drinking a cup of coffee after having awoken from a three-hour nap. I tried to sleep all night, but couldn't. Low patchy clouds are lit by the lights from the mall three miles away creating a blue/white pattern that looks brighter than it should for this time of night. I try to make this a positive omen, but I can't manage to see any hope in it, despite the coffee. I know I can push my demons out ahead of me by throwing a little bit of money at my "problems": buy a new car or truck; get the steps repaired; get my insurance re-installed; etc. But, not only don't I want to be bothered, I'll feel like a failure after the initial relief of having "solved" the "problem" wears off: I've got all of these alternate plans, like doing without a car, minimizing or eliminating my dependence on petroleum products by walking to the store and backpacking food back home; doing without insurance so that I don't have to play the gambling game with some corporation that is betting that I'm not going to have any catastrophes while I bet that I will.
And then there's the longer-term worries, like spending large amounts of money (car; steps; roof) and decreasing my slowly increasing net worth (or even reversing its direction), thereby impacting my future existence. If I have to go to my fall-back position of signing up for social security before I'm seventy to have enough money to survive, I'll be very disappointed.
That's the personal aspects of the world's "attack" on me. The impersonal aspects, the ones I can make myself feel not so bad about by regaling in the global organism's ongoing degradation, continue on as usual: Israel and the U.S. claim that they are different than the terrorists because the terrorists deliberately target innocent civilians in their attempt to cause as much damage to their enemy as possible while "we" attack only military targets and make every effort to minimize collateral damage. Even if this were true (and there is some real doubt about it), the basic flaw of the argument is that, despite the intent, civilians are killed by both sides and, thanks to our superior weaponry, "our" side kills far more of them than the terrorists do. Doesn't death trump intent? I think so. If I fire a gun at a man who's attacking me and accidentally hit an innocent bystander, can I claim I'm not responsible because I didn't intend to kill her? I don't think so. Maybe I'm less liable than if I had shot her intentionally, but I am still liable. But our current administration (and, to be fair, probably every other administration) wants to believe that it's not responsible at all for incidental deaths caused by their "precision" weaponry. This is utilitarianism at its finest, the greatest good for the greatest number; and isn't that considered a flawed moral philosophy among those who are supposed to know? Or am I just projecting again? I feel like the world is closing in on me and about to heap some big catastrophe down on me; and, of course, I don't yet know what it is, so how can I plan ahead to protect myself? All I can do now is wait for it to happen.
But this is who I am, so I should allow myself to freely feel it instead of constantly trying to figure out ways of avoiding feeling this way, when I do. Yet I am also, occasionally, socially competent and will feel quite confident among people. All my life I've struggled trying to (learn how to) be "normal," at least for the practical purpose of making a living; yet the inner nature that I pretended not to be would always, in rare unguarded moments, find its way out, much to my detriment and chagrin. I created a false front so that people wouldn't discover how "strange" I am; but I always tripped myself up.
This process was, of course, for most of my life, unconscious. As I tried to understand myself and the struggle slowly yielded to consciousness, I learned to give it up much of the time and to be myself, despite what people would think. More or less, I'd done what I wanted to all my life anyway, so it was easy enough to be revealing as I discovered each aspect of myself to be revealed. (In fact, I'm doing this very thing right now.) But being myself often means isolating myself, in order to avoid the anxiety I increasingly feel as I become more and more conscious of it. When I was unconscious, it was easy to remain out in society, where others, if they were perceptive and/or discerning, might understand my inner turmoil, but where I myself was mostly unaware and so could continue to relate, assigning the affect that roiled below the surface to my various compensations and personality quirks so as to remain mostly oblivious to what I really was. I knew I was uncomfortable in social situations and would rather avoid them, but when the practicality of daily life dictated that I interact, I did, awkwardly perhaps (though not always), yet still to some degree effectively.
Now, being myself means isolating myself, in order to avoid the anxiety I increasingly feel as I become more conscious of its true nature. I can allow myself to feel it fully now, but only if I hide away from others, knowing I do not have to interact. But when I must interact (during those times when I am exceptionally anxious), it becomes an ordeal I must suffer.
This most recent episode is a particularly bad one. It hasn't been this bad since the last time I got fired, twelve years ago. Then, it was so bad that it lasted for at least two years and trailed off for another one before I began to feel "normal" again; but then, that also happened to be a time in my life when my stress levels and cortisol depletion were at their highest, the same time as my mother's death and my major life change into an early "retirement," which of course was the result this problem asserting itself and informing my decisions: No way was I going to go out and get another job. I might as well crawl into a hole and die. So I did crawl into a hole, to avoid death.
I'm realizing that I used to "feel" anxious all the time in social situations, although I never actually felt it, but rather convinced myself (and others?) that I was too cool to relate socially in anything but a superficial way. But, since my "retirement," I've been "spoiled" by being at home, interacting only when I decide to, not having to go out into the world every single day, no matter how I feel. And now I'm faced again with the prospect of having to go out and deal with a few, relatively minor problems (getting my car repaired at a dealership perhaps, or buying a new one; dealing with an insurance company to reinstate my home insurance, etc.) and I'm falling apart, mostly because I just don't want to deal with all of this right now.
I can't possibly take care of every "problem" that "activates" the negative affect (anxiety/depression), so I must act selectively on the most important tasks and deal with the core problem separately:
The trick, maybe, to beating this recurring negative affect is to stop trying to hang on to the present and accept that whatever happens will happen. Maybe. So feel the "excitement," knowing that anxiety exists only in the future and there are no consequences to feeling in the present the "excitement" that presages future anxiety; and when this "up" feeling begins to wear on you (which it will; you can't be excited all the time), you can escape it by sleep, fantasy, beer, etc.
I escape this ponderous obsession with my inner state of being by giving it up and going to bed and continuing it in dreams I can't (or don't want to) remember. I awaken at four a.m., thinking I heard a large tree fall. (Or did I dream that?) I get up and try to look out back, but I can see nothing but dark shadows. The neighbor's dogs are not out, so there's no barking. At dawn, I awaken again and look out; but I can see no fallen trees. Maybe it really was a dream.
Later in the day, I go into the studio and see that the shelf that holds two old computers has given way and the computers have fallen halfway to the floor, held up only by the preponderance of disused crap piled on and around a kitchen stool butted up against the shelving unit. I'm going to have to clean that mess up some day, and maybe even throw it all out. I'd hate to do it, but...
Erstwhile, back at the awakening, the dream I can't remember left a residue of ideas that I can, one of which is that some petty bureaucrat out there somewhere is just waiting for the opportunity to pounce to enforce arbitrary rules that will cost me a lot of money. My best defense is to remain out of sight.
The instant that I thought this, a dull ache started in my back, whereas all night long I had been pain free. Coincidence? I wonder. This should be the best time of my year, but it's being ruined by my goddam anxiety.
I worked out in the yard yesterday, nothing excessive, just a bit of weed whacking and raking, and I suffered for the entire evening with back pain that radiated down into my elbows.
But, perhaps because I've started taking vitamins and supplements again, the pain quickly subsided when I lay down in bed for the night. And with the pain, my worries.
Add my garden to the worries I have about my future: How will I ever maintain all of these plants if I'm so limited by my back pain? When I was working at a job, I'd stripped my yard of all plants so that running the lawn mower and trimming the hedges were the only maintenance I had to do, once every two weeks or so. Now I'm back to constant daily maintenance again, a little bit at a time, rotating around the yard, caring for gardens, weeding, etc.
Wait. Didn't I write that same thing earlier this month? This is the way it is with me: I repeat myself, because the past and future exist in the present, always, especially when you write about them. As I travel along the continuum that I am, beset by a world that cares not a bit about me, doesn't even know that I exist, yet I feel that it is out to get me, nothing personal, that's just the way it is, that's how its mechanics operate, I see (imagine and, sometimes, intuit) what's out ahead, correlate it with what I know of the past, and conclude that the world is a dangerous place to live and I better stay as far away from it as I can. And what better place to get away from it than deep inside my head.