Actually, no, it's not. It's what we make of input that's important, how we put it all together creatively to come up with solutions and "advice" tailored to our own specific lives. The overall point is that we should not blindly follow what others tell us, but strive to glean from within our own minds the course our lives should follow [otherwise, we become things like sycophants, and nationalists, and patriots; which you may believe are not bad things to be, at least the latter two; but who do you think starts all the wars? I'll tell you who (trust me): all of the people who insist that they're the ones who know "the truth" when all they know is one side of it, which is not the truth at all, because truth is multi-faceted, it has many sides, and people who only want to hear one side, those who have already determined what side they're on and filter their input to confirm (rationalize) it, do not know the truth at all and so become things like sycophants, and nationalists, and patriots, and religious zealots, and Islamic terrorists, and... If you think you are right because you are a Christian or a Jew or a Buddhist or a Hindu or an American and so know better than the "terrorists" by virtue of your "enlightened" system of belief, well, then, think again; you just might have wandered off the path of truth somewhere way back there during your indoctrination; and if you did, then you should also be questioning whence comes your advice. Maybe you just can't handle the truth]; and, although, it may be impossible to consciously sort out which "advice" is actually our own and which came from others, when the advice comes to us unconsciously (some people call this intuition), well...
I was raised a Catholic (in a quite serious and non-casual manner); but I gave up on all of that nonsense as soon as I was mentally capable of breaking free of the indoctrination and recognizing how it limited me with its prejudicial worldview. This is what religion (or nationality, or whatever) does to you: you can never know the truth so long as you allow yourself to remain locked up inside a prejudicial (and/or superstitious) system of belief. I broke free, at best, only semi-consciously. My unconscious mind has always been my best advisor.
A long time ago, when I was just out of college, I hated working for employers so much that I imagined I would retire early. And I did, without ever actually consciously thinking about it or planning out how I would go about accomplishing it; it just happened. (I unconsciously made it happen.) And it happened despite my desire and dedicated attempt not to allow it to happen, when I was consciously locked into working hard and determined not to lose my job. (Yet my unconscious mind had other ideas.)
Before that time, when I was still in college, I imagined I'd become a published writer. And I did, without ever actually consciously thinking (too much) about it. I forgot all about that early fantasy, but I resurrected it unconsciously, not to become published, but merely to express myself, which eventually resulted in publication as I realized again my forgotten ambition and began working toward it, without remembering the original motivation.
There were a lot of other goals that I achieved in this same way, by deciding that they were what I wanted to do and then forgetting about them; yet they "took hold." Now, I'm resolving to make a small fortune in the stock market. I've always known that I could do this, but I never had the opportunity I have now as a result of Internet trading. I used to invest in stocks and bonds, but with a great deal of difficulty and in a painstaking way. The Internet, then, did not yet exist.
My "disability" inhibits me from dealing "in person" with brokers. But now... Like all of my other quasi-goals, I relegate this one to the great void of my unconscious mind and resolve merely to work at it day by day, researching and trading and learning the business. The fortune will happen (as will all the other goals I relegate) if I will but live a long enough life. But life is (way too) short for me to ever accomplish everything I want to do.
I am so far behind now in reworking and posting my journals to my website that I'm beginning to doubt if I'm ever going to get caught up with them, not to mention the two sequels to my last novel based on them, and especially considering the fact that I've begun to work again several hours a day on the stock market investments, which is almost like a job in and of itself. And then there's the other half of my new life:
Each day as I'm returning from my daily walk, although I feel quite satisfied for having put in the two and a half miles to the shopping center and back, I always regret having to arrive back home and want to have been out walking longer.
Today at the shopping center I discovered, in the far back corner of the Vanity Fair outlet, a book store that sells all of its paperbacks for $1 and its hardbacks for $2. This is my equivalent of trekking to California in 1849 and discovering a vein of gold. You know where I'm going to be spending a lot of my time every afternoon from now on.
Today I bought two books, a quirky postmod compilation, Wilson, by David Mamet and Blue, by Benjamin Zucker. I can't believe they sold that second book for a dollar. It's more than worth the price for the art alone that it contains. It's a "novel" with "commentaries" on the main story by peripheral characters, some of whom are real people that Zucker writes opinions for, as if they were their own. A very clever format that's difficult to describe: It's an 8.5"x11" book with artwork on the even numbered pages; and on the odd, the main story text is centered on the page, and surrounding it on all sides in wide margins is the commentary. Already I want to steal the idea for a book of my own--like every other book I read. This is my basic problem: I have too many ideas; and interacting with the world only gives me more. So, I hide away from it in order to remain sane; because if I applied my knowledge in the way that we good little Americans are supposed to, I'd have to work twenty hours a day, and still I'd never get it all done. So I take my own advice and get a lot of rest and relaxation; this is my naturally occurring penchant for existence, and when I violate its wisdom, I always end up getting myself into (physical and/or mental) trouble. It's a difficult balance, life, between extremes:
When a major "pinch" threatens, you (or at least I) can go a long way toward maintaining a non-depressive, anxiety-free state of mind by accomplishing a few minor goals. The accomplishment, then, becomes a new, if temporary focus. I've done this recently on a fairly continual basis since mid-December: beginning my walking program, which introduces me to new daily experiences (although it's starting to get a bit old; I'm going to have to expand my walking area); beginning to trade stocks again; even something so simple as finding that Vanity Fare bookstore.
My past never quite catches up with me, because I keep moving out ahead of it--at least lately. I'm always looking back, waiting for something to catch me up, because that used to happen all the time; but it seldom seems to happen any more. Maybe this means I'm finally getting a handle on my karma, learning how not to do things that will negatively affect my future. Things I do now tend to affect it positively.
And then there's the other side of the coin, the fantasy, which I love, even as I recognize its impracticality (although it does function to prepare the future, sometimes, when it fits into a more rigorous action plan, which most often in my case it does not). Most often, my fantasy takes the form of, either a) reconstructing my past to bring it more into line with who I am now or would like to be now or would have liked to have been back then; b) totally off the wall ideas, like how I wish women like Monica Potter, Courtney Cox Arquette, Jodie Foster, Helen Hunt, Holly Hunter, Scarlett Johansson, Goldie Hawn, Rhona Mitra... etc. would phone me, wanting to talk to me because they'd read something I'd written; and then, after we talked a while, they'd want to meet me in person. Totally off the wall, of course; and yet... If I write this down, maybe by mere chance, one of them will read it and, seeing her name, will on a whim call me. Hey, it's okay. I'm totally safe. Ask anyone who knows me. Well, maybe not anyone. There's that goddam past again threatening me. But I'm not at all the person I used to be. Okay?
[But I'm so often disappointed when I see my favorite actors on talk shows or elsewhere who behave differently than the characters they portray. Their characters are written more interestingly than they write their own real lives. So, if one of those women, or any other (there are a whole lot more, so if your name isn't on the list, hey, call me anyway. If you've been in movies or on tv, I probably fantasize about you. And, Margo Martindale. You wouldn't happen to be Margie Martindale from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, would you? If you are, I really liked you, but I was way too shy back then to do anything about it; and I was terribly disappointed when you stopped writing.]
And then there are my favorites, all of those unknown "celebrities": Some people (especially the women; I love the women) look like celebrities (i.e., they look good: cute, blemish-free, well-kempt, poised, postured, posed, self-assured, etc.) but are not (for whatever reason: introversion, lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, lack of opportunity--or, rather, ambition, because that's what opportunity is). I like these people; these people, rather than the "real" ones, are my celebrities. I don't like those celebrities who are so smug about their position in our celebrity-worshipping society; and, also, I don't like them simply because they're the elite, the cream turning rancid as it cools, floating on the top of the cooling hot coffee of culture. They can be quite genuine as people go, I still don't like them, no matter how much I may be attracted to them. Even if they express opinions that I agree with, that are critical of the hopped up pop culture, even if they and engage it with reticence merely to make a good living, I still don't like them, when they ply the public to mine it for their own aggrandizement by taking advantage of its propensity to worship. The only ones I like are the down-to-earth celebs who hide out from their celebrity and try to live a different kind of life (Mia Farrow, Robert Redford, etc.) But I like and tend to worship the ordinary, unknown people who look like but aren't celebs, and very especially those people who exhibit the qualities of character and personality while not possessing the appearance of it. And there's a category in between who disgust me the most, the people who think they are celebrities when they're not, the egomaniacs who run around all wrapped up in self-importance. [You think this whole piece of writing here might just be a big projection, huh? What I like and hate about myself?]
The third side of this strangely shaped reality/fantasy coin is the tug-of-war between my need to remain a private person and my need for attention. This struggle is what kept me from walking up to the shopping center for years after I had the original idea. It took the feeling of "desperation," the realization that I might not soon have a car, that finally motivated me to act. And after I did, as I began to get into the new mode of thought and action, I realized I could function quite well out among them without the insulating metal can wrapped around me. [Actually, I've known this for a long time now; but it's so hard to overcome the conditioned reticence.] It's like this almost every time I detach a little bit more from the postmodern capitalist monoculture: I really don't miss the things I gave up, when, before I gave them up, I thought the decision would create a great hardship. And I discover additional benefits hidden within the detachment, little surprises I didn't expect, such as, if you don't drive, the state can't threaten to take away your driving "privileges." This resonates with both my penchant for withdrawal and my problems with authority. In fact, I recognize how these are related: When people (try to) exercise their "authority" over me, I withdraw. [I also withdraw from manipulation; but only when it is prolonged and threatens to produce chronic stress does it begin to produce anxiety, which eventually will lead me into paranoia.] This is why I like "unknown celebrities": not only don't they call attention to themselves, but they don't distract attention away from me; yet, when I don't want to call attention to myself (I do and I don't), they are the perfect foil, enabling my further insulation. I can worship their celebrity and not be caught up in the game. Think about it. It really does makes sense.
I'm in an auto accident with another car on a cold, dismal night in the middle of a snowstorm on a isolated dirt road in the Allegheny National Forest. My car swerved and slid into the path of an oncoming car, which at the same time swerved and slid into the path of mine. [I like that reciprocity.] No one else is around. The place is desolate. I get out of the car and survey the damage, which is extensive. I feel devastated that I no longer have the use of my car; furthermore, although the car looks like nothing more than just a car, I feel as if it's an animal, a treasured friend, that has been hit and killed. I turn away, overcome with grief and walk along the moonlit road toward the other car. Although both cars stopped adjacent to each other, they are now, paradoxically, about a hundred feet apart. The other driver, a woman, has also gotten out of her car. We walk toward each other and meet on the roadway, halfway between the two cars, both of which are inoperable, stranding us in the middle of nowhere and imparting a palpable atmosphere of dread and doom to the otherwise idyllic scene. I discover that the other driver is Diane Keaton [whom I dislike, both as an actor and, I suspect, as a person--although I'm perfectly willing for her to try to change my mind.]. After a few words of concern for each other's health and well-being, Diane begins to come on to me, but I resist her advances. I say, "There are three things about me that you should know. One, I'm not particularly attracted to older women. Two, no matter how good a method they may develop, actors always reveal in their performances to sufficiently discerning audiences at least a small part of their true personality. And, three, no matter how good I thought your performance might have been, I never liked you in any movie I ever saw you in."
"Well," she says. "First of all, you're not so young yourself."
I say, "That's irrelevant."
"Does this mean we're not going to have sex?"
"That's entirely up to you."
Diane. Call me.
My car has been dominating my thoughts (off and on) for a long time now. It took nearly a year to get used to the idea that my car might fail inspection, and then it took another month to get used to the idea of walking and/or driving an illegal car surreptitiously (in the dark of night with the inspection sticker hidden or disguised in one way or another); and now, on New Year's Day, my brother arranged with a friend of ours who is in the car repair business to begin looking for a good used car for me, thus thwarting my (perhaps ill-conceived) plans to become more of an outlaw and/or further detached from the mainstream corporate capitalist monoculture. On one hand I want to tell the guy to forget it, that I don't need a car. But, really, I do. On the other hand, I want to go along with what others are doing for me, because, for the most part, except for my tacit agreement, others are working to my benefit without my asking for it (a kind of an ideal that resonates within my psychology). I was all set to live without a legal car, settled in my mind re my (anti-)social situation; and yet, I had left the solution of my thorny problem to the Universe, and It seems to be acting in my favor. So, I guess, I'll continue to rely on "the principalities" to determine my better course through life; and if they don't really exist and my course through life, after all, is merely accidental, well, so be it too.
Whatever comes to me without my specific (or even conscious) request, is welcomed, and comes without the (karmic) need for reciprocation (because it is already a part of my karma). This includes, especially, ideas and experiences, which I accumulate like possessions: I've been trying to write a book based on my ongoing life for well over ten years now, with varying degrees of success, none of which rise to a level I'm completely happy with. The problem is that my life has no plot. It has various themes that weave their way through it, but no unifying structure to hold it together. So I try to provide one; but it never seems to work out. This is akin to what I feel is the purpose of my existence: none. The problem (another one) is that you don't know me or what I'm thinking, or anything about me, really. The solution is that I am going to try to tell you (again). But the problem with that solution is that in order for you to understand how it is that I think I have to render my thoughts in a way that you may not (at least completely) understand. In accordance with the basic nature of my being, I jump around a lot. I no longer have any real desire to engage in linear, consistent thought; I never did, really, and the more I live and think, the less I tolerate in myself the logical thinking that academic elements of society have implanted in me. It used to be that I tried to think and especially write in some logically "valid" way; but no more. It just isn't me.
I've got spring fever (and it isn't even spring). Last night before I fell asleep, I started to go through the new Gurney catalog, compiling a list of purchases to take advantage of the Buy $25, Get $25 Free coupon. I know it's not really free and all of the crap they sell is twice the price it should be; but I can't help myself. If it looks like a bargain... This is all a part of my attempt to clutter up the entirety of my grounds, covering the areas tightly with productive (useful) plants so that I will never have to cut the grass again. Plants are like (at least my) ideas and experience: they grow and spread life prolifically, die back in the winter, and return in the spring. This is not really true, of course; it's a bad simile. I may severely restrict my social experience (what little there is of it anyway) during the winter, but experience is ongoing, whence it comes, and ideas are relentless. But I try to draw as many analogies as I can with the seasons, whether they are factual or not, because they dominate my life and mind and seem so important.
I'm in my garden planting all of the seeds I just received from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.. As soon as I plant them, they begin to grow, and by the time I'm done, the first ones I planted are full-sized plants. I am so pleased with this that I resolve to buy all of my seeds from this company from now on. But when I awaken briefly between dreams, I am so disappointed that this cannot occur in real life.
I'm in the living room at 6023, but at the same time it's as if I'm in some Spanish country in an affluent hacienda. Through the huge picture window, I see a desert scene, which is nevertheless filled with lots of green plants, a veritable garden of summertime delights. I'm half-lying on the sofa with my back against the arm. Michelle Wright [a local news celebrity] is standing behind me, on the left, and her mother is at her right. Others are in the room. My left arm is up behind my head and, unable to be seen by anyone, Michelle is pressing herself against it, altering the pressure she applies, stimulating herself. I steal a glance up and back at her occasionally. Each time I do, I understand that she is even more stimulated by my eye contact. She's more beautiful than I've ever seen her. Earlier (details forgotten), I had been attracted to her two older sisters, both as beautiful as she is; but it is she that I'm in love with. Her father, an old Spanish gentleman, sits across the room. Later, when we are alone in his office, he tells me that until his two oldest daughters are married, Michelle cannot be mine. I vow to him that I will find them worthy husbands. Still later, I return to him dejected because I can't find anyone worthy of them. I say, "All men are pigs." He says, "Now you know how a father feels." Cu to:
I'm on Maplewood Ave., having returned to the old neighborhood to see what's it's like. Several new houses have been built between Kosmel's house and the new one at the bottom of the hill that had just been built when we lived there. I know all of the people who live in the older houses, but in the new house next to Kosmel's I see a woman I don't know; yet I know her name is Annie McCormack. She's on her front porch, wearing a beautiful but common red and yellow house dress. She bends over, doing something on the porch, and I can see her underwear. Cut to:
The back alley. Dianne and I are racing from the top of the alley, trying to see who can get to the back porch first. I know I can easily win, but I let her keep up and at times even let her take the lead. Just before we get to the porch, I must decide whether or not I want to win badly enough. I decide I do and I edge her out of the way and get to the porch first. But, awake briefly, I change the ending and let her win. Cut to:
The front street again, but going in the opposite direction, toward Wilkinsburg, in a car with M driving, me in the passenger's seat, and a girl in the back. At Grant St., the area half-morphs into someplace else [recurrent], a sort of almost "old world"-like area of older, affluent, near-palatial homes on a tree-lined street, sort of a forties sepia-like scene. Very "comfortable" imagery. M pulls the car over at the end of the block at a place where there are no houses from which someone could look in at us. It's an odd time of day, sort of like late afternoon, judging by the light, but as if it's very early morning when no one is out on the street. M "announces" via explanation for why she pulled over, "He's going to make me orgasm." She slides over to sit up against me and I put my hand down her pants and begin to work at her. She comes quickly. Then I think it's not fair that the girl in the back seat doesn't get to orgasm too. So I crawl over the back seat and do the same for her. Then I lie down on the seat and lay my head in her lap. She pets my head as I press my face down between her legs. Awake, I realize that she is Jane, a girl M used to know, who never paid any attention to me at all, which I want to think now was an act on her part, since I pretended not to pay any kind of attention to her either--because that was the way I was back then when I was around girls to whom I was extremely attracted. Also, I become aware of the progressive seasonal nature of this series of dreams and start to wonder what this means. The winter weather, though unseasonable, is seeping into I me, I think. Winter is a time (for me) to remain inside; and I have going out almost every day. This is not so good; something is going to snap.
The girl is tiny, and young, looks sort of like a pre-teen, though she seems to be older, obviously in-tune, aware. As I move on, I think, What am I doing? What's wrong with me? Am I still twenty years old? I would actually have allowed that guy to run into me. (I might have stopped at the last minute instead of running into him too. I probably would have; I like to think I would. I want to think that I'm no longer the kind of person who would "attack" in that kind of situation, but merely steel myself, stand my ground, and defensively wait for an attack.) Am I wrong here? Would I have been in the wrong if there had been an incident? Would my failure to step aside, rather than the other guy's, been the cause of it? Am I missing something here?
I have my rights, one of which is to protect my personal space, and another is not to be intimidated, not even by a kid who might be unwittingly thinking that he can challenge a gray-bearded man who may appear to him to be too far past his prime to be any kind of threat. That's his problem, I think, and if he had persisted, both he and I would find out how accurate that kind of thinking is. Am I still the man I used to be? It's been twenty years since anything like this has played itself out all the way. The simplest scenario would proceed something like this:
We bump and turn around each other, stare after each other while moving on, until, the challenge still operant, we must stop and face off, staring each other down, when I would probably give him one of my more or less inscrutable, hands slightly extended down at a forty-five degree angle, take-it-as-you-will shrugs that incorporates hints of "What the fuck?", "Here I am.", and/or "What's it gonna be boy?", or whatever else he might choose to project. Maybe my fingers would tip the balance as I wiggled them so very slightly, challenging him to come on. But my face remains stoic (always), unreadable, any fear that might creep into the auto-pilot behavior negated, transformed into its opposite, interpretable, if you will, as reverse threat. Maybe, he would back off then, intimidated as much by his own projection turned around to face him as by my own cheek. He might say, in this case, as he departs, something to the effect of, "You're a crazy old man," to which I would reply, "Son, you have no idea." Or, maybe, he is just rock-headed enough to accept the challenge and head toward me. Big mistake. What choice does he have, after he commits himself, but to walk right up to me and extend an unfriendly hand toward me, perhaps pushing at me, testing? [But maybe he would simply approach, too near, and stand his respective ground, and we would face-off and stare each other down. He's the loser in this case, because this is my area of expertise, passive-aggressive stonewalling; and I can turn this around, eventually, in a humorous and friendly exchange. But probably he will have to act, either leave with some face-saving snide remark, or attack.] A push with a hand is a mistake: wrist lock, take-down, and, maybe, the situation warranting it, rib-crush and choke hold. (A weapon, a knife perhaps, would necessitate this.)
But there is a more dangerous scenario that is far more likely to happen now than in my prime: As he approaches, he pulls a gun. Kids these days. Full emergency mode, which, too late, excludes retreat. Full-out attack, hoping he has waited until he has come in too close, which is likely since attackers don't like to tip their hands too soon. Am I anywhere near as quick and sharp as I used to be? Can I close the distance before he aims and overcomes any residual doubt? Is my reaction time, even, sufficient? Big questions. But it comes with the territory. If you're going to stand you're ground...
Something like this imagined incident has happened to me more than once, the first time way back when I was in college. I was, back then, a fledgling hippie, yet no less (unconsciously) adamant about standing my ground (though, that being before my time in the army, not at all yet trained). I'm walking across the center of the campus in front of Old Main, down a wide sidewalk skirted by flat, stretching expanses of lawn. Four jock-type guys are approaching me, spanning the walkway edge to edge. These are typical, mid-state, rural, corn-fed country boys, sporting buzz-cuts long before they were fashionable, haircuts that indicated an attitude far different back then (well, maybe not so different; maybe it's just the culture that's different). No one else is around, everyone else, I guess, being in class. The place looks deserted. It's a summer day and the atmosphere is sunny and bright. I intuit from a long way off, by how these guys are acting, looking between themselves and back at me, that their intentions are not so friendly, particularly the one who is in my line of travel. As we approach, the end guy makes no move to give way; and neither do I. I have a right to exist too. I hug the edge of the pavement, but am determined to neither step aside nor give way by turning. We collide shoulders. Now that I think of it, he must have stepped slightly aside, because I didn't, at all, and the only thing that turned me was his contact. If he had held his ground, we would have met head-on and stopped each other. This hadn't occurred to me before; but now I realize that he stepped aside in order to "shoulder" me. But he didn't achieve his purpose, which was to intimidate me, to force me to step onto the grass in order to give way and defer to them. While continuing on, I turn to look back at him to see him looking back at me. He says, "You're a sorry fucker," which even way back then, as socially naive as I was, I recognized as a face-saving comment, a kind of bravado to demonstrate to his buddies that he had not been one-upped by me in my refusal to give way. As we walk on in our opposite directions, I continue to look back until he looks away. If he had stopped and turned to face me, I would have had no choice but to do the same, despite the fact that I really was intimidated. And then what? I wasn't then at all what I am now.
Our contact, however, I theorize, transferred some of my intimidation to him. I like to think they got an object lesson from that incident, that it might have occurred to them, at least subconsciously, that there were "hippies" out there who were not the wimps they assumed they were. I like to think that my refusal to step aside made it just a little bit less likely that they would try to inflict their intimidation on others of my ilk, so that we might exist just a little bit more easily, less harassed. Peace, bro. And maybe the kids I almost encountered along the road might learn this same object lesson. But I doubt it. Maybe the girl might be just a little bit smarter than she already is; but the guys...intransigence. They're too ingrained within their juvenile, but dangerously macho sub-culture. I know. I should talk. When intransigence meets intransigence, look out.
I feel like I should be better than this by now. Would David Carradine in "Kung Fu" (one of my primary role models when I was growing up) have failed to step aside? Of course not. He would not act unless acted upon and would otherwise defer, ego (which is what I'm really acting out here when I do these kinds of things) being always subordinate to Self, which includes others and so incorporates their intransigence into a peaceful coexistence (in the kind of ideal world that Zen perceives). I feel, thinking back, like I should be better than this by now. But I'm not. Well, maybe, I'm a little bit better; but not nearly enough. I still, when pressed, resort to that god-damned automatic ego-response: I will be respected, in one way or another, whether you like it or not.
What's up with this attitude, anyway? I thought I'd gotten past all this, if not long ago, then last month when I "resolved" the anxiety issues that I'd been trying to deal with off and on for over a year. I guess not though. Now, I think, I should be wary and guarded all the time, that the laissez-faire calm that I search for is potentially dangerous when achieved. It lulls you into a false sense of security. I've been enjoying my long walks to the shopping center more or less oblivious to the fact that there are people in the world who will do you serious harm and think nothing of it. Shootings occur all the time less than four miles away from where I live. I've been assuming that I'm safe and secure in my mind of a world. My lifelong search for a peaceful calm, as it seems to be increasingly developing, may be a dangerous diversion.
Wary and guarded is the best defense, of course; but it's also a sane response to reality, because there's always something out there waiting to happen, there's always some little bit of residue karma waiting to explode into a full-blown incident, I have not yet exhausted (I suspect) all of the negativity I created throughout my life (although I've come a long way since and incidents are now few and far between). This is the answer, of course: until that karma is expunged, this kind of crap is going to continue to happen to me, no matter how old I am. Sooner or later, someone is going to challenge me in some way, and as long as the karma remains unresolved (this goes back way before my teen and young adult years, long before the martial arts training, which was not so much a karmic determinant as it was a response to the "problem"; this goes back to childhood), I'm going to, not necessarily react (although that too is a possibility), but definitely refuse to give way. Intransigence. It's a bitch.
I'm in a rural area, visiting a kind of combo retreat/vacation place. It has an exclusive, almost cult-ish atmosphere. I'm with the Seinfeld cast [recurrent] (George, Kramer, and Elaine--Jerry isn't there, nor am I he, like I sometimes am). One of the head honchos is interviewing George as a potential client/member. George is not serious (acting in his typical Seinfeld way), but the guy thinks he is. We've just sort of stumbled into the place and got caught where we shouldn't be, so George is pretending to be interested in joining to cover up our trespass. The guy interviewing him is Mr. Carlson (Gordon Jump) from WKRP. George makes up some outlandish name for himself, and we think that this will tip Carlson off as to George's flippant, non-serious attitude; but it doesn't. Carlson follows us out of the building and down the road (Thompson Run), at first trying to convince George that he should join the club, and then trying to proposition him. George tells him he's not that way and we get into our car and leave, amused by the whole "affair." Cut to:
A nearby town, sort of like and in the area of Leechburg. As we enter it on a winding road through the hills, I drive into a parking lot without realizing it. When we try to get out, we see that every egress in marked with an "in only" arrow and (paradoxically) manned by a pay booth. I drive around looking for an exit as we bitch about how unfair it is that we might have to pay even though we hadn't intended to enter the lot. Finally, we find an exit; but it doesn't go out onto the street, but down into a tunnel. It's an entrance to underground "caves" (which are more like tunnels, or a mine) and a long line of tourist-type people are waiting to get in, and the entryway is like a kind of combo ticket area/gift shop. We're no longer in a car. The other three are walking, but I am on a motorcycle. We get into the line. Cars are not allowed to go into the tunnels, but motorcycles are. There are a few other bikes, but most of the people are on foot. Someone from behind us makes a comment about how Jews shouldn't be allowed into the mines. We're offended, but we ignore the remark.
I must be a Jew. If there is no Jewish heritage in my Alsace lineage (which we, i.e., I and my cousin, who has been trying to research it, suspect), then I must be a descendent of one of the lost tribes. (Ireland? Scotland?) I feel so connected to the Jewish culture, it feels so comfortable to me, even as my sense of its strangeness, caused by my total ignorance of it during my formative years, yet dominates my perceptions of the culture.
I imagine that (at least some) Jews feel this way about my Catholic heritage: I can see, when I force myself out of the conditioning of my childhood, how really strange, cultist even, the Catholics really are, despite the fact that it feels so ordinary to me. So I imagine that Jews feel this same way, exclusive, different but ordinary in their own minds, their extended sense of family/religion predominating their mindset.
It's all wrong, of course, Catholics and Jews and every religion or social organization that excludes people from their folds. Exclusion served its purpose when we were tribes; but our tribal days are done. We are a common humanity now. It's time for the old ways to pass. Catholics, Jews, etc. are like the isolated Turkmen, Pashas, Afghans (or whomever).
We live among cultural mountain ranges in separate tribes and meet only very occasionally, if ever, in common public valleys to trade our specific commodities. But this is not the modern world, which throws us together. We have more commonality now than difference and only our adherence to our intransigent pasts prevents our human identification.
Dreams predominate (more than usually) as I continue to hide away from the cold, sleeping as (fitfully) long as I am able, venturing out of my super-heated bedroom only when absolutely necessary. I don't have to do anything (except make sure that my finances remain in order to assure my future survival; that's my "job"); but I most often feel like I should be doing something, making progress, advancing. On bitter cold days like today, I can stay in; and that makes sense. But staying in, although it often feeds into a state of withdrawal, doesn't necessarily mean hiding out and doing nothing. Often I remain highly productive, only not at the kinds of things I might (want to) otherwise be doing, except for the cold, or for a desire not to be out-going. In my reverie between naps, I compile lists of things I will do, an "out" list, when the external or internal weather eases up and permits it.
But internal times like this are good for catching up with novels I planned but didn't have the time to write last summer. The current one is a horror story about a college-town girl who is displaced and sets out across the state in an old VW, heading for the big city where she thinks she will be better able to survive, only to get sidetracked in a small town that harbors a peculiar kind of entertainment business. Most of my journal work (long, meticulously outlined studies of the social anxiety problem that has flared up again recently) is being shunted off into that novel, leaving little for my online journal. I do this from time to time, write my journals into novels instead of publishing them directly. Over the last two years, I made the mistake of not doing it until last September, causing me to have to backtrack to incorporate the published posts into a trilogy I'd planned, erroneously believing I would actually find the time and motivation to do it. As it were, I managed to finish the first book. Then the winter mentality took over completely and the task ahead seemed too daunting; so I quit part way through the second novel. (But I will get back to it--someday.)
So, anyway, I'm going through my current journal looking for entries that will fit here, and I'm finding very little, which prompts me to write about looking for them; all kind of hopelessly discursive. But my approach changes as soon as I posit the problem, because (looking ahead--which is really, from the time I'm posting this, looking back), without consciously attempting to solve the problem, I end up writing this:
Two a.m. and I'm wide-awake after sleeping only four hours, and that's after only four hours last night. My life seems to be becoming episodic again. I think of it (actually living it is a more continuous affair) in the past (that is, I review it) as a series of "this happened and then that happened" events and tend to ignore the interconnecting-tissue train of thought, which I then mimic when reworking the material for publication by providing transitions (currently written and thus out of sync with the past nature of the work I'm reworking, but made to seem relevant by the nature of the pastiche itself) to make it all flow smoothly piece to piece. (This is the way I tend to think when I first awaken, before my logic-trap mind sets in as my day wears on.)
Last night, as I was getting ready to go to bed, I looked out the front window and saw a car parked in my driveway, a new, red, sporty job. At first, I thought I had a visitor and, fortunately I had already turned off the lights at the front of the house, because my immediately reaction was to pretend I wasn't home. That's almost always my immediate reaction, which I usually follow up on unless some condition, like an open door or being illuminated through a window reveals me.
Soon, though, I determined that someone had just parked in my driveway, which pissed me off. The nerve. I went out, pretending to be going into the garage, to see if I could get a better handle on the situation. Marsha was out walking her dog, so I asked her if she knew who the car belonged to. She did. She said it was someone visiting her husband and would leaving in a few minutes. She asked me if I was going out. I said I could wait a few minutes, but she went and called the guy to come out anyway. Now, I'm committed. I have to go somewhere, to save face. I open the garage door and wait. The guy comes out shortly and by way of apology explains that Steve said it would be okay for him to park there since he'd only be a few minutes. Graciously, I told him he could park on the other side of the driveway. (It's two cars wide.) And, now that I think about it, he should have parked over there in the first place and maybe I wouldn't have bothered to investigate at all, presuming that Steve had okayed the arrangement, because that's always where he parks, with my pre-arranged permission, when street space is unavailable.
So, now I'm out riding around, wondering where to go when all I really wanted to do was go to bed. But I'd been thinking about going out briefly anyway, just to "exercise" the car, charge up its battery, etc., because I hadn't been out in over two weeks, not since long before the weather had turned bad, since even before when I'd been walking, getting exercise myself and preparing for the time when I would be walking or taking the bus full time because my inspection is about to expire and I haven't bought a new car yet, and may not; but that's a (slightly) different story.
So I drove up to the shopping center, appreciating my brief time out and thinking I should do this more often. Just an few minutes earlier, I'd written in my clipboard notes this collection of lines, thinking to construct another lame poem:
I want to break free, go out in the wild,
white world, get a lot of things done again;
but the streets are near-iced, and I remain,
inside, content, a little bit-by-bit
longer still until I can rage and blaze
through the plans I've made...
Okay. So I'm no poet. And this is as wild as it gets for me lately, the local shopping center after dark, just before the stores close. I thought I might as well buy a few minor necessities while I'm out, but I forgot my wallet so I hurry on home before the local constabulary finds me out.
I'm generally discontent, an odd combination of winter malaise and suppressed motivation, which, when I was out, briefly felt like it could be easily broken if I would just go out and do the things I need to do instead of hiding away inside in my tiny space-heatered bedroom out of the cold. I experienced a cold jolt of freedom out there and now I have to go to bed, because I haven't had enough sleep for a while:
I dream about b, the first time I've ever dreamed about her. Interesting. I was at her house, visiting. I met her husband and her dog. Can't remember much detail, except that it was pleasant experience. And then I am with Slim, walking along Rt. 22, coming home from the Shop 'N Save. A two mile walk, which I've never actually yet done. Slim, in his usual manner, runs ahead and off the road into the wild areas, and when he ventures too far, I call him back, and he dutifully returns immediately. He was a good dog. Then, we're on a bicycle, and he's in a specially constructed basket on the front, short-chained to it so that he can't jump out while we're in motion. [Slim is my id and I am my ego, which restricts the id's freedom of movement.]
I awaken briefly thinking about the time, as a kid, I was riding down Grant Street on my bike with a cat that I'd found and put in my bike basket, the old dog chain that used to belong to Jack, since dead, clipped to his collar and to the basket so that the cat wouldn't jump out. But it jumped out anyway as I was speeding along, and because the chain was too long, it got caught up between the spokes of the front wheel (balloon tires). I slammed on my brakes and was aghast to see it trapped in there, all twisted up like a piece of rag. I manipulated it out and it took off like a jet, a lot more wary of people, I imagine.
I'm walking with Slim down Grant Street, a continuation of Rt. 22 (in the dream, but not in reality). Cut to:
6023. I'm in the living room with Slim. A neighbor from up the street comes to the door with a dog named Jack. (I don't recognize the connection within the dream and don't know that it is, in fact, my childhood dog, though it looks exactly like it. And maybe it is, psychically--in the same way that, when I dream of Slim, it always feels psychic. But feelings are tricky things.) The neighbor wants me to take the dog for my own, but I hesitate, because dogs are a lot of trouble and I already have one. He sits, puts the dog on his lap, and demonstrates its protective instinct by telling a little girl (d?), who's shown up, to pretend to hit him (the guy), and when she does, the dog makes a (somewhat feeble) attempt to defend the guy. The girl tries to do this with Slim, telling the guy to hit her. But Slim won't respond in that way. She looks to me for an explanation. "It's an instinct," I tell her. "Some dogs have it and some don't." She takes Jack into her lap (foreshadow, which would make me Jack?) and tells me to hit (on?) her, and Jack, although feebly and with little effort, defends her. Cut to:
The bathroom. d (who was the little girl earlier?) is at the sink washing herself while sitting on a stool (like db used to sit in the kitchen when she was cooking or washing dishes). She's naked from the waist up and is washing her nipples. I walk up behind her and rub them for her. And then my hand wanders down between her legs, and pretty soon my face is down there, and then, the inevitable, and I awaken and continue the dream as a fantasy, projecting myself into my future, imagining I can change it. I begin to try to relate the phenomena of dreams and psychic connection (telepathy and clairvoyance) with some kind of a theory (not yet developed) of past, present, future. Later, when I get up and get on the computer, I find an e-mail from b, who reports that, at about the time I was dreaming about her, she was up early, exercising on her treadmill while reading a rough draft I'd recently sent to her of my last novel, which is a thinly disguised psychological study of my own life. Interesting. Coincidence? Probably. I'm a scientist. I need evidence, not anecdote.
I want to write about the future, but in the present, which is, now, the past. I'm stuck in the past, but this past is at a future time. That is, I'm six months behind in processing and posting (or otherwise disposing of) my journals; and I'm facing a dilemma: Do I add this comment to the current journal I'm writing right now or do I add it as a flash-ahead to the past journal that I'm posting? Now, I suppose; although I'm not above violating my timeline when this sort of thing occurs, not only because it gives my pastiches a kind of weird sci fi feeling, but also because it's kind of true in a way, when posting past journals forces me to relive that life I led back then, which is the whole point, or most of it, to reconsider that part of my past that I thought worthy of, or motivated enough to, write down; because this is the real problem here, motivation. I've already had my equivalent of my two weak cups of instant coffee limit for the day (and night) and I desperately need more; but I guess I can violate my timeline again and have another one, it being only, now, four hours before dawn. I hate to do this, but I'm desperately addicted and can't work well after I awaken without a tiny jolt of caffeine. Well...that's not really true. I can work. I'm doing it quite well. It's just that I'm not enjoying it and it feels like work, when I want it to feel like play.
I guess I'll add this piece in the place that's it's occurring, because that's where it really belongs and the subject matter back six months is of a slightly different nature, being a compilation destined for inclusion in part two of my Joachin Trilogy (or is it part three by now? I can't remember), which I am finishing month by month as I post the material to the website. So, this would fit, thus, imperfectly back there, as an explanation tucked away inside the book, which is, in part, a book about how I write books and live my life all at the same time. Here, I'll both miss the opportunity to future date my sci fi life and include this relevant material there; but back there, the true nature of this ramble is out of place, the past-present-future theme being more relevant to this time and place (heh!) and not a theme of the trilogy (I don't think. It's so hard to remember when I work in this episodic, piecemeal way.) As I've indicated, my life is rather quite continuous(ly self-perceived); it's my "art" that's episodic. Here's another episode:
Like Allison Dubois (although not literally, i.e., not in an hallucinatory fashion; but rather "psychologically"), I sometimes "see" things, typically about the way that others relate to me. It's been a difficult thing to learn to deal with intuiting people's negative thoughts about me that are contradicted by their verbal behavior. When I was younger, this "ability" drove me to avoid people whom I perceived as dishonest, disingenuous, two-faced, and/or manipulative. Now, I tolerate them in silence--unless they overly criticize me, which will set me off when stress predominates, when I will discern their (sometimes unconscious, but sometimes quite intentional; or, at least, personality driven--i.e., it's who they are and/or is culturally systemic) attempts to deceive me. I would do otherwise, remaining quiet, but I just can't seem to help myself when the stress gets to me; and so I just let them have it, blurting out what I've discovered (or merely think I've discovered; but, usually, I discover later that I've been right all along) about them, which drives them, usually, into denial and projection; or else they retreat, frightened and/or angry at my "attack," even as they fail to recognize that it was prompted by their own behavior (a kind of mirroring I do, when I lose control and fail in my determined decision to remain "cool").
A personal definition of "psychic": a combination of intuition and imagination that collects its content by reading between the lines and images, semi-consciously perceiving body language, facial expressions, language nuances, etc., weaving them into flights of fancy that test, via leading suggestions in a kind of subtle non-question questioning probe, for clues as to what is true in the mind of the "subject," who unwittingly provides information, both verbal and non-verbal, that the "psychic" uses to direct his or her imagination and intuition--which is that faculty we all have that allows us to jump ahead of logic to arrive at "truth" without the burden of a step-by-step approach.
I myself usually do this mostly unconsciously and analyze and interpret the results later as I recall it; but professional "psychics" learn to do this on the spot, as I do occasionally myself, when I unwittingly lose conscious control and "go off" and "let them have it," a brief episode that I recover from quickly and return to my usual self, but which often leaves my auditors intimidated and/or aghast, those who do not know me very well.
In the book Strange Angels by Kathe Koja, two of the main characters, both schizophrenically "disabled," share a bond, a kind of "knowing," the nature of which eludes "normal" people. They intuitively understand, not only each other, which would be expected, but other people as well, even as the others are completely unaware that their own motives are rather transparent to people who, for whatever reason, are a bit more discerning. This characteristic of the "illness" hints at the accompanying paranoia--when it exists. Wouldn't you be paranoid too if you could "see" others' motivations? Unconscious contents are more easily noticed (and interpreted?) when you exist apart from the "normal" mindset of conventional expectation. We get locked inside the worlds we create by thinking like everyone else and failing to realize that some few of us can "see" more than others. It's like our minds are on display inside a room with glass walls:
I'm in an unknown bedroom, like a motel room, that opens onto a hallway that is like a street. The entire wall along the hallway/street is one long window. A woman is with me who is a cross between Sara Gilbert and Dr. Torres. (Sara Ramirez on "Grey's Anatomy.") [The original title of this piece was "seeing two Sarahs" because, when I first wrote out this dream, I didn't remember Torres' real name, although I know that I'd seen it in the credits several times; so my unconscious supplied this dream character because of her name, which means that the name Sara(h) is significant; but how? And I didn't know when I first entitled this piece that Sara Gilbert's first name was spelled without an H.] But the woman, in a different sense, is also db: She's not so heavy as Dr. Torres, but she retains all of her cuddly charm; and she's not so thin as db was when she lived with me [but db is now rather heavy also, so...] I'm taking pictures of this girl/woman. At first, they're just innocent photos, but the scene transitions toward a photo-shoot, and then toward pornography. But before it becomes full-blown, Sarah Jessica Parker, who is a friend of the other girl, enters, interrupting us; and when she sees what's going on, she gets envious/jealous and wants to be photographed too. She's a lot slimmer, although less sexy than the other Sara. [Far more like young db, before she gained weight.] She gets onto the bed and goes through a series of increasingly seductive poses, which become more and more elaborate until they get to the point of being "magickal"; objects start to move by themselves in concert with her movements, and tiny "forms" begin to appear in complex displays around her, and they spread around the room in an orchestrated complexity. The forms are widely varied in shape and color and Sarah somehow (unconsciously?) controls them as they swirl and dart harmoniously with the movements of her hands and feet. As she's posing, she's been taking off articles of clothing and ends up naked and porno-coy. Out in the hallway/street, John Goodman and Roseanne Barr, as Dan and Roseanne Connor, see what's going on through the windows. Although I can't hear what they're saying to each other, I can "see" their disapproval and condemnation in their body language and facial expressions. Consequently, Sarah Gilbert disappears, leaving only the other Sarah, and the scene reverts to the previously more innocent photography. But the poses, again, start to become increasingly seductive. I start this section of the dream over and over again, trying to find the right poses, trying to restage those first poses, the ones she was in before the other Sarah (now the current Sarah) showed up, which were "artistically" far more pleasing, laden with a textural complexity of natural objects such as curtains, colored bed sheets, etc. that the unreal tiny forms that the second Sarah brought, despite their unreal magical complexity, could not match. The natural, albeit man-made, quality of the objects are far more intriguing to me as subject matter for photographic art than the fantastical objects were, just as the first Sarah is far more sexually intriguing in her more ample and duskier physical embodiment than Sarah Jessica Parker is in her more ethereal and paler existence.
Two or more people in one character (or, in this case, one person in two or three, a correlate theme) is one of my most common dream experiences, as my unconscious (I theorize) tries to show me the same thing in multiple ways. And, in "real" life, we are each more than one single person, but "intentionally" (if only for the purpose of consistency; but more likely in order to prevent society from believing that there's something wrong with us) reveal only one persona to the outside world; and, most of the time, to our own selves.
It's nine degrees outside. I'm huddled in my bedroom in the morning while the wood stove heats the house, worrying about my decision to try to do without a car, fueled by my reticence to walk up to the store to get some needed supplies. Do I dare to go through with this plan? I'm starting to get a little bit anxious because the day is fast approaching (actually, the passing time has been feeling kind of slow and painstaking, but it's only a few days now until the moment of truth arrives) when my car will no longer be legal. I'm doubting the wisdom of my decision, and although I'm determined to at least give it a try, I'm worried about my long-term goal of increasing my detachment from the corporate monoculture, whether giving up that form of security is a good thing after all. But one thing I've learned in life about pursuing your goals is that you should never give up, because life will from time to time drag on and seem like forever, but sooner or later, you'll...oh, it's just too bothersome to go into detail about again. I've said it all before. Never mind.
In a way, this decision prefigures my doubt re signing up for Medicare (still a few years hence, fortunately): Should I sign up or should I go it alone, gambling with my health by refusing to gamble in the government's shell game?
I'm also feeling guilty (again) because I'm not working (at a job; or even, lately, merely doing something "productive"). But throughout each day, almost continually, I work. Working at a job and paying out money to utility companies is the same as working at collecting rainwater for the gardens and cutting wood all summer and going to the extra trouble during the winter of maintaining house heat via a wood stove. There are lots of ways I work in this way, striving for self-sufficiency and money conservation, going out of my way to save money at sales, hoarding, utilizing every possible thing I can instead of wasting it. I awaken again to the fact that I do work, and not only at my art and psychology, which would yet be enough if that were all I did:
I'm working in a kind of grocery store, which devolves into a kind of huge, sophisticated department store-like porn shop. A girl works there with me, along with a large number of other people; but, in a different sense, we're not employees, but customers. The place gets raided, which interrupts the girl and I making plans to meet later after work. A couple of guys and I go down a blind staircase to escape; but we don't know that it's a dead-end, and we have to go back upstairs. But because we're not on the main floor when the raid begins, we're able to skirt out the door behind the cops and get away. Cut to:
An unknown1 workplace: I have a desk at the front of a large open area that's supposed to be like a factory, except it has no machinery. Cindy R. works as my assistant and I want to ask her out, but I don't dare, because I'm her supervisor. But she wants to go out with me too and when it looks like the workweek is about to end, she asks me if I'm going to the _____ (a Jewish Dance thing, where we have to bring a long string with us that will be a part of the dance ritual). I tell her I was thinking about going, and she says that maybe she'll see me there. As we talk, we decide that we don't have to go to the dance, that we can go somewhere else instead. In the end, she's the one who ends up asking me out. Cut to:
I'm in an unknown apartment. Someone (no actual imagery) comes in and tells me that I'm late and have to hurry to meet Bill and Hillary Clinton. I'm not dressed and have to hurry. I look through dresser drawers for clean underwear and clothes. The bedroom is to the right and at the left is a dining area with double glass doors that open onto a private patio. I go out there. A small dog comes up to me. I think I have to take care of this dog because it looks neglected; but I don't have the time. I let it into the apartment and worry that it'll be alone and unsupervised while I go off to work. [The Clinton meeting, by now, has been written out of the dream script.] Cut to:
I'm at work, as an "assistant manager" flunky in a Howard Johnson's-type restaurant, an "upscale" diner (which means it's a pretentious low-class place, clean and well-kept--in fact, it's my job to keep it this way), but catering to economy-minded people. I actually like my job, even though the hours are long (twelve-hour days). [At the beginning of the dream, I'm myself; but by this point, I'm someone else, a kind of white bread, but cool, ordinary, Vince Vaughn type of guy.] I like it because it's mindless work that I can do without having to think or worry about--low responsibility, just make sure everything is clean and if I fuck up and get fired (which is unlikely), it doesn't matter because I can get a job like this anywhere. When I get off work, it's dark. I head toward home, walking, and on the main street, which is kind of like a light business area on Sunset or Ventura Blvd, though more "ordinary." I meet four friends, three guys and a girl, hanging around a car parked at the curb talking to the occupants. We walk along together. We head up a small hill toward my apartment. Someone makes a joke about lesbians, because we passed a few of them, and I add to the humor; and the girl with us acts mildly insulted, because she's a lesbian. I say, "Oh, come one. You know we're only joking." I know she isn't really offended, but is just tokenly defending her sisterhood. My friends walk on and I go toward my apartment. At the corner of the street and the alley that leads to my place, at a store, there are bottles of milk (or some other white containers) piled up in the entryway to a closed store. I take ten of them and leave the rest, which are intended for that store. I know that the rest of them go to a baker who lives out in back, down the alley. Every evening I carry these back to him to save him the trouble of having to come out to get them. He's working in his place when I drop them off, and he thanks me in an Italian or Eastern European accent. I walk up a small hill to my apartment. [In a sense, this is the same hill my friends and I walked up, and this is the same time; that is, at the same time, I'm both walking up this hill alone later and walking up it with my friends earlier.] The exterior of my apartment is different and I struggle with trying to identify it with the place I left that morning when, inside, the place was a kind of trendy, if somewhat bland, upscale building; but now it's a concrete and concrete block back street walk-up. I try, in my mind, to fit the nice apartment into the prosaic neighborhood building.
The dreams go on and on over a period of a few days until…
I've just got to get through one more day, and then I can see the future more clearly, from a point of view inside the reality of the new mentality and beyond the anticipation of it, which always evokes excess anxiety; in this case, what it will be like to live without a (or with an illegal) car:
The movie Catch Me If You Can, which I watched again last night, suggests my little bit of an attempt to outwit the authorities by living surreptitiously as a miniscule outlaw. In the army, I had a friend from Southern California with a perfect Southern Californian attitude: Just passin' thru. I'm remembering him now, wishing I could summon that carefree attitude toward my cold life. But it's easy to be carefree when you live in a place where it rarely gets cold. I hate winter.
This is exactly the conclusion I arrive at when I start to wonder and/or worry about my "individuality" and begin to contemplate the nature of human existence: We are not individuals at all, but only remain caught up in that illusion; and seeing ourselves in others and vice versa, is a doorway into the awareness of our true identity. Or else, I am crazy too.