I never really fit into society very well, even back when it appeared that I did. I always fought against my social situation, determined to do things my own way, often unintentionally (i.e., unconsciously) undermining my social goals, which I tended to create consciously and so was far more self-limiting than those people who automatically adjusted well.
But apart from society, I felt comfortable. It used to be that the morning (when I wasn't imprisoned working at a job) meant freedom, and that feeling permeated my experience. Now, being free all the time, I notice it far less--except when I self-impose imprisonment and then experience that freedom when I occasionally break free.
I seem to fit into nature quite well, nature being defined by me as that world, including its people, that surrounds me wherever I go and interacts with me directly and honestly, according to known laws of science, though without the social chicanery that people will impart to it. My nature disregards the latter, by virtue of my genetic inheritance.
[I know that the 'social chicanery' is also a part of nature and submits as readily as firmer matter(s) to scientific investigation (much of which has already been done); and, barring the effects of Chaos Theory, 'society' will one day be as completely explainable as chemistry and physics is today; but I don't experience (my) "nature" that way.]
Early mornings are the time when I most feel my connection with the nature I automatically prefer. They evoke almost primal memories of a younger way of life, even of people I once knew, who (it seemed to me then, but maybe not) were better, less affected, than anyone I know (of) these latter days. I appreciate mornings most for this reason.
I would say that's it's an issue of renewal, the youth of the day, except that I can, if I make the conscious effort, also experience this same spirit later, as the day progresses. I appreciate steamy summer afternoons as much, though in a different way, as cool, clear mornings. They conjure up the memories of hot tar highways and alligator lizards.
And evenings can be, with focused attention, rewarding too. It's more a matter of mindset than it is one of nature itself, because even in the dead of winter, I can summon similar sorts of appreciation. I wish there were a way to capitalize upon these perceptions; but that would defeat their satisfaction, which is, I think, the fact that they lie outside of the ordinary.
Yet these perceptions and their accompanying sensations used to be a part of my ordinary existence, which is now lost. But, I'll bet, many types of experience exist that I am right now ignoring that I will one day in the future look back upon with this same nostalgic magic. It's a sin of omission: I do not pay enough focused attention to "my" nature:
I really like walking, and I don't know why I don't do it more often, I don't know how I ever let myself settle into the ennui that keeps me sequestered. I want to start walking nearly every day, even throughout the winter.
And I like it that, not only do I feel healthier and more energetic when I walk frequently, but I'm not using gas and saving lots of money. Who needs the oil companies, anyway? I like it that I can buck the system in this way.
And there are (much) better reasons to walk, such as, for example, my health (mental as well as physical): it's aerobic and imparts a definite physiological advantage to the body, not to mention the soul (i.e., psychology).
And it's rehabilitative, in that I can practice, among many other exercises, my posture, seeking as I walk different spinal positions that might be(come) rehabilitative, should I ever manage to make them permanent.
For example, several years ago, I discovered, while walking downtown during a break from jury duty, a way of walking that I labeled "Steppin' Out" because it mimicked that old goofy big-footed cartoon guy from the 70s.
If I could ever learn to walk that way full time, leaned way back with my back arched and my feet far out in front of me, I'm certain I would experience a significant change for the positive in the way my spine aligns itself.
And, speaking of that laid-back cartoon character, my mentality could sure use that kind of pick-me-up too. And, maybe, a different way of walking (you might consider this a metaphor) might change the way I thinkfeel.
When I'm out walking, I feel like I'm actually doing something about my "problems," even if all I'm doing is improving my self-image and thus my self esteem. (I'm sure there is a biochemical improvement as well.)
Also, as I walk, I can find the time--never available when I'm at home preoccupied with other things/ideas, nor is there any reason to be, potential observers being absent--to practice my social roles and "identities."
I find myself, walking, thinking things like, "Maybe today's the day…" There is no ending to that statement. It means, "Maybe something will happen that I don't expect"; or "Maybe I'll meet the person and/or opportunity..."
And then there's the "anti-social" (not really, but people being what they are…) aspect: When I walk, I save money on petroleum products, car costs, etc. ["What are you, unamerican? Oil drives this economy."]
Walking asserts my independence (from the evil that is society that everyone wants to believe is good). Furthermore, walking is a vacation, away from the routine that is my everyday. "Jus' Passin' Thru."
It's the Ventura Highway motif, the alligator lizard mentality, ZZ Top rollin' down the road in some cold blue steel with a bluesman in the back and a beautician at the wheel. I'm a guru mechanic in oil-stained Levis.
But most of the time I'm back at home, where these ideas will occasionally pop into my head, but seldom will they ever be realized in the moment out on the road. Usually, I'm content with other concerns, such as:
I like making (and especially drinking) my own beer, especially when I use the hops that I grow myself, and very especially when, having far more hops stored away than I could ever use, I overly hop the beer.
I always end up, at first fresh taste, thinking that I ruined the batch by using too much hops (or through some other recipe alteration). But, after the batch matures and mellows, I always end up liking it. I liked hopped beer.
I maintain productive gardens, attempting to utilize every square inch of growing area, essentially living off my produce during the summer months (except for protein, which I could do if I would begin to raise rabbits again).
I repair my clothes (sew) rather than buy new ones (esp. work clothes) [a la Gandhi's weaving 'homespun']; and I've hoarded a lot of cheaply purchased clothes against the future. I may never have to buy clothes again.
I economize in every way I can in order to conserve my most valuable resource, money. I conserve energy by heating only my small bedroom during winter months and hiding out there. I live as cheaply as possible:
I heat with wood when I venture out into the house on cold days; I save rain water in summer for the gardens and to flush the toilet, and I store the barrels with the summer excess in the basement in winter, which lasts until spring.
I will begin to ride my bike, hopefully this summer. This will afford me an even better mode of transportation and exercise, and more solidly establish my independence from the oil company dominated country.
Meanwhile, I remain content now just to appreciate the warm summer days, often aborting the schedule I so meticulously maintain. (I maintain the schedule on paper, not in actuality.) My life is never perfect.
My daily schedule is supposed to be a device that assures that progress is made daily in the areas that the schedule defines. My practice of abstracting the uncompleted items to my daily records in order to check them off later when I do an excess of work in one of those areas is a compromise of this schedule system, a way to turn daily failure into longer term success.
But, ultimately, the only way that success will be achieved is to do these defined tasks. Plans and procedures (such as lists and schedules) will not get anything done. Doing gets them done. So, if I keep compromising by posting the items to a backlist of any kind, I am not advancing. But if I do the minimum daily amount of allotted work, per the schedule, I will.
This is my job now; this is my purpose; this is my life; this is what I do (or should be doing; there's that word again. I hate it. It's the single most significant idea that has characterized my life in my resistance against it). I need to be getting serious(ly psyched) about the things I should be doing.
But mine is an alternative lifestyle, a response to the decadence and, more importantly, the obvious wrong-headedness of the American capitalistic monoculture that promotes a Fahrenheit 451 way of life (single-minded standards and "values" that are spoon-fed to the citizenry via corporate media; and, when you do not have those vaguely specified values that are arbitrarily decided upon to fit the argument of the moment, then you are valueless, according to the corporate way of thinking). I have to keep reviewing my alternity, redundantly, both to confirm the idea that I am, in my difference, doing what I should be doing and not what someone else has decided I should do, and to reinforce the activities in order to make them habitual:
I walk to the shopping center both for exercise and to avoid the necessity of purchasing gasoline (which cost has gotten ridiculous).
I grow extensive gardens, both for the "artistic" experience and to supplement my diet with wholesome vegetables (which cost at the grocery has gotten ridiculous).
I write books, both in order to express myself in a more exacting way than mere journal writing or blogging allows and to create evidence of my alternate occupation and future erstwhile existence (since POD technology allows me to do it at minimal cost).
I create art for similar reasons [recently having forced, for magic box code purposes (using "C" as the letter code, to stand for "create"), a parallel between planting (seeds, transplants, cuttings to be rooted or plant branches to be layered) and painting, primarily landscapes in order to conform the subject matter to the planting parallel, planting being an outside activity done during the warm weather and painting being its indoor correlate].
I make beer and wine, both to reduce costs and because I can, as a further expression of a unique way of life.
Ditto any other project I engage in from time to time that involves expression via doing what others pay to have done for them, including, most importantly, home repairs and maintenance, etc.
This is my life, this is the way I stave off the encroaching effects of the attempt of society to totalize the capitalist experience. My ordinary is perhaps your abnormality.
Actually, though, this is only half my life. The other half is typified by sitting on the porch, or sitting inside or lying in bed during inclement weather, musing (to define the practice in the most positive way) about all kinds of diverse matters. And this is the more enjoyable half. I should not let either attitude (accomplishment or relaxation) take over the entirety of my being. It's a matter of balance, after all.
I've gone through all kinds of alterations in my attempts to become what I think I ought to be. I own this world, this space around me, as far as I can see. My Scots-Irish heritage calls me back into the hills of my mind to assist with the resistance against the neo-corporo-governmental revenuers who would take away my independent way of life. Babylon is calling me, and I resist its appeal, because I can foresee its Terminator nightmare future, the ultimate consequence of its single-minded decadence. I observe and report. I am the latter day hippie-biker dude, hiding out in suburbia. I'm a citizen, goddammit. Don't give me any of your alien invader shit. I was here first, you pup of a bulldog. I belong here. I'm not an invasive species that you need to kill off, I'm more indigenous than you are. And, while I'm on the subject, no, I do not need to be "treated or "cured" or anything of a similar nature. I'm where and how I want to be. You may share this space with me if you behave properly toward me, without prejudice.
Right now, everything is all right. And it's always right now. "Buck up, little girl," I say to myself when I'm feeling overwhelmed and a little bit timid. I can be a crazy muthafucka when I need to be. It's just that I haven't really needed to be for a very long time and I'm sort of out of practice. But I've got the balls (if you'd care to see). LHHBD [I've forgotten what this mnemonic means, but it's in my notes, so it must have once been important]. When all of my problems feel like they're piling up, when it comes right down to it, it just doesn't matter. Everything is temporary anyway. So, what's next? What's going to happen to me today? Is today the day?" Is it excitement or anxiety? Are the principalities working in my favor? Bring it on. I have been to Africa, I can wait one minute longer, I know I can withstand anything. It's my ordinary, after all.
It's natural to become overly attached to your own opinions. Your view of the world and its people says far more about you than it says about the world and its people; so you place an undue emphasis on your interpretation of the world because, whether you realize it or not, it expresses your inner self. When you believe the world to be a certain specific way, you're really projecting your own self onto the world.
The more I learn about myself, about my various "conditions" (which, most of my life, I chose to deny or ignore, because it was just too unacceptable to me to have been anything less than perfect), the more inevitable I become resigned to being only who and what I am, and the more I think that only my opinions count, as I despair of "improvement" or "advancement" and the ideal of open-mindedness that I held throughout my youth and young adulthood.
It all gradually wears away as self-education increases. Maybe that's the wisdom of aging; or, maybe, the wisdom of aging is merely the realization that life is too short, so why bother trying so hard any more, to learn, to advance, to understand others? And yet, from time to time, sometimes often, I still try. It's a habit I can't seem to break, despite any new-found "awareness" of the self I'm still yet trying to decipher. New insights happen every day:
I’ve experienced something similar to what autistic people describe as auditory processing disorder: On my last job, where the environment was (unreasonably) noisy, I couldn't hear what people said to me over the phone, even though everyone else seemed to have no problem at all. I have this same problem still, though I experience it slightly differently now, not having to do with sound, but with too many distractions. (Maybe that was the problem all along.) And sometimes, someone, especially people who talk fast and run their words together, will say something I don't understand, and I'll ask them to repeat it, and they will, and I'll still not understand it, so that I'm left with the choice of asking them to repeat it again and again or just letting it go and pretending that I understood; which, on a few occasions has caused my a slight problem, when they expected a response.
One morning in the basement of the church, after Danny's confirmation, Bishop Werl was greeting fawning parishioners at a reception (which I thought was rather vain of him; I guess I kind of thought he should be off in some cloister praying for a bit of humility). The noise level of the crowd, though not so high as it had been at my workplace, was disconcerting to me. Jimmie and I stood off to the side, waiting for the event to be over so we could get the hell out of there. We exchanged a few comments, one of which had to do with his ruddy complexion, which was unusual for early spring. I asked him something about him having been on vacation last fall, remarking upon how he retained his tanned look. He said, "I tan," which, despite being exactly on-topic, I could not understand. I said, "What?" He repeated, running the words together in his usual quick-spoken fashion, "Itan." Nope. Wouldn't register. Again. Nope. Again. (I would probably have given up after the second "I tan" with anyone else.) Finally, young man of infinite patience that he is, he said, slowly, "I go to a tanning salon." Oh, Now I get it.
That incident is typical of the many times people have said things to me that I didn't understand, despite the fact that their words should have been immediately obvious. It's not an issue of context or hearing, it has something to do with information processing. People (a few close women) have had occasion to accuse me of not listening to them. And, in a sense, it's true. I was trying to listen, but my brain wasn't cooperating.
I think that this problem is somehow related to my decreased ability to do 'multi-tasking', which I have joked about with people by claiming that it's an inability to focus attention, when the whole while I knew damn well that it was exactly the opposite. (I did this consciously, but I don't think I understood the evasiveness of the maneuver.) I'm not so bad at doing several things at once as some people are, and occasionally, at my best, hopped up on caffeine, I can function quite well in this regard; but every once in a while even doing just two things can be overwhelming. I want to make up a new joke similar to the multi-tasking one that involves being overwhelmed by just one single solitary thing, but I can't quite think how it should go or what it should be called. 'Single-tasking' seems too simple; and 'unitary-tasking' too complex. I know that if I can just come up with exactly the right phrase, the joke will fall right into place.
Also related to these processing problems is my inability to avoid creating clutter. People assume I'm lazy when I don't clean and organize my house. But it's an impossible set of tasks for me. When I try to do it, I always, despite my best attempts at focused attention, go off on a sidetrack and focus on one narrowly defined task or area and forget about the larger operation.
I work very hard much of the time, far harder than I should; but I work in my own way at my own peculiarly dedicated pace at activities of my own choosing, and the results I get, although satisfying to me, are not what ordinary people think are worthy or the best use of my time. I disagree, of course, except when I become caught up in one of their introjected value traps.
I've said it before: I want to do what I want to do. But, many times, I can't--for whatever reason, whether my own or that of something/someone external to me. (There are people who are internal to me; but that is an entirely different subject.) So, often, instead of doing what I want to do, I end up doing what is easiest or most accessible. Opportunity is as important as motivation when it comes to accomplishment.
My list of plans or goals is extensive (a subject I've also written way too much about), so that, when setting out in the proper productive frame of mind, I have a wide range of activities I can engage in. And this engagement requires a proper attitude and focus, lest I zero in on what I'm not getting done, rather than what I am. Months and even years can pass by as I skip over my most important would-be accomplishments.
I think I should be more organized, more productive, more focused, more whatever. But I'm not; but my lists are my beginning attempts to become those things, to improve myself and my environment. (And even my world.) The lists are my primary point of success. If I were any better at what I do, I'd be working at a job and getting paid instead of working for myself. Actually, my success in jobs had a lot to do with lists.
I was a supervisor. When you have people working for you, it's a lot easier to accomplish goals, especially when your goals involve lots of physical activity, which mine always seem to. I'm certain that, if I had a few employees working for me at my home, I'd accomplish a whole lot more. Well, duh! Because, as important as opportunity and setting priorities are, motivation and activity are also significant. So, I've come full circle.
To get it done, you have to do it, there's no way around that basic fact. Sitting down and planning it out may be a necessary first step, but if that's all you do, you're not going to accomplish very much, unless, of course, you're a supervisor who has a crew of employees to carry out the grunt work. It's not like I don't do any actual work around here, though. I do a lot, though not nearly so much as I used to, life being as short as it is.
It's just that there's so much to do, so many plans and goals. Picking and choosing among them has become the critical issue. It's like choosing who I want to be on any given day: so many alter egos to negotiate through; so many people inside who want to be me for a day or two, to act to their own agendas, do their own things, and exclude everyone else from access to the physical machine, leaving them with their only recourse: list-making. It's an effort to coordinate them all, and the first step in that coordination is figuring out who they are and what priority they should be assigned. It's a huge puzzle and a lot of the time many of the pieces are misplaced and unavailable. But every year that goes by reveals a little bit more of the bigger picture. One day I may see it all. I hope I live so long.
I make a lot out of my difficulties with society, because it seems to dominate my life, as much as does my opposite motivation, list-making (plans and goals). This is pretty much the reverse of the orientation of "normal" (mainstream) citizens; which is why they disconsider my mentality as viable. If everyone were like me...well, never mind.
Autism (especially Asperger's) is the very definition of poor social skills. I wouldn't be surprised if one day researchers discovered that all people with "poor social skills" were on the spectrum. So, when someone criticizes you for having poor social skills, your defense should be that you have a disability (or, in my case, a difability).
In fact, I might go as far as to say that all simple verbal behavior of direct statement (bluntness, or making contextually "inappropriate" remarks, as opposed to obfuscated language in order to be tactful or "sociable" or deceitful, or whatever) is a symptom indicating disability, regardless of whether or not other symptoms exist.
Because "sociable" people are definitely not direct, they tend to consider the behavior rude, or even hurtful. To be sociable, you must consider others' feelings, even if the other person might welcome direct assessment of their person and/or situation. I welcome such behavior, and I assume that this also is a symptom of my difability.
I have always considered directness an ideal and have been on a long-term search for ways in which to make my interactions more direct, less weighed down with the baggage of typical social discourse. But, directness is considered substandard behavior in polite society. Small talk and delicate and obscure hints are favored over direct discourse.
In fact, "well-bred" people tend to be insulted by directness--because, I believe, it hits too close to the truth they wish to disguise. (Overall, as well as personally, society is a disguise--of individuality, the "aut" that sociable people seem so much to fear.) Indirectness was a point I missed back when I was teaching myself social skills.
And, of course, there is no better example of misinterpretation of indirectness in the social struggle than among the relationships between men and women. It continually surprises me that I have done as well as I have in this regard; but I think that's been because, in addition to that bit of charm I always seem to manage to unconsciously convey, I also seem to unconsciously take advantage of traditional paternalistic social patterns that postmodern women claim are anachronistic but which they nevertheless, rhetoric to the contrary, seem to expect and even cherish in men.
It's an old story: Women complain, and rightly so, about how men disconsider their needs. Yes, times have changed, and for the better, for both men as well as women. But...(Everybody has a big but...) Now (generally), it's women, empowered, who feel free to disconsider men's needs. So? We deserve it? I don't think so. Maybe some men do, the macho assholes; but not me. I'm not one of them, I never was, and I've never acted like one of them. Historical paternalism must be compensated, balanced out? Sure. In social terms. But equilibrium, not a swing far in the opposite direction, must be achieved.
I am not an historical figure; at least not yet. And there are many men like me, men who have worked toward the goal of women's liberation and treated women fairly and equally all of our lives. And now we find ourselves on the outs, our needs disconsidered; because assholes down through the ages asserted their biological imperative to dominate the breed, the environment, and the world. But I am not of that ilk, so why should I have to suffer? Why should it be automatically assumed, these latter days, that my needs are, not only subordinate, but irrelevant? Why should social change thwart my biologically determined needs?
Women want satisfaction. I have always striven to provide them with it, for the most part successfully; and often to the detriment of my own. It seemed like the thing to do. I didn't know, at the time, that I was caught up in a movement that determined that very behavior; but even if I had known it, I probably would still have complied. (That could be either me or the movement talking, and probably both. Not only my behavior but my personality has been movement determined.) In this activity, I chose most often to ignore my own biological heritage: satisfaction for the woman first, and only then... But, wait! There's my biology to consider:
Women are complicated creatures; men slightly less so. Women, by virtue of their biology, have developed psychologies oriented toward the nurturance of offspring; and, to that end, their programmed "rules" (instincts) dictate that certain necessary conditions be met, included among which are a slowness to arousal that requires male patience to evoke properly in order to reap the fullest reward of the feminine response. Many men are all but oblivious to this, because men have instincts of their own, which center around getting into it, getting out of it, and going about their other, less demanding, but more "important" business.
Now, as a result of the cultural empowerment of women, we men have become second-class citizens, relegated to either properly pleasing women or living without their intimate presence, except for perhaps the short period of time that it takes for women to get to know if we will be true to our basic nature. Male satisfaction consequently suffers. Hit and run is no longer tolerated (at least, as I have explained, in rhetoric.). Yet that is our most basic biological imperative. It's a need that increasingly goes unfulfilled in truly intimate relationships. (There is, of course, always the casual encounter; but that can be costly, in more ways than one.) The scales are tipped, and men are found wanting. Alas.
It's still a dual-nature issue. The transition is still in progress. Which is fortunate for men as well as women, because we may settle on a more rationally negotiated truce. I can imagine women bristling at that last remark, when they will maybe want a more emotionally negotiated intimate relationship paradigm, which would, of coure, not be called a paradigm at all, but rather something more like, oh, I don't know, maybe an interaction, or a...relationship. What's a word that means relationship but designates a less open-ended, more pattern-fixed set of circumstances? Because, despite all desire to the contrary, relations between men and women have always been patterned; in fact, they've been pretty much instinctual, though women, and many men, do not want to know this. Whatever.
But passives are subtle creatures (employing smaller tools). I remember the last day of the last job I was fired from: A few minutes before that final encounter, I ran into my boss's boss, the company president, in the hallway as I was on my way to customer service to deliver a proof sheet to be shipped out before day's end. As he approached, he raised his head, silently asking what it was I was carrying. I showed it to him, revealing what he knew to be quite an accomplishment for our current level of technology. He expressed admiration and praise. Less than half an hour later, he and his underling weasel had me in his office; and then I was gone.
To be fair, I know he didn't agree with the dismissal and was only appeasing his plant manager's desire not to have to deal with my "directness" any longer. (Unlike everyone else, I refused to lie to him, which he interpreted as insubordination.) And, I guess, he needed his boss's support while doing the deed, spineless slime that he was. He was a far more accomplished p-a than I was, and I acted against type when trying to do my job, having trained myself (poorly) in the ways of society in order to survive and prosper. If I had been truer to my inner p-a self, I would probably have survived.
As passive as passive-aggressive people seem to be, it's important to note that passive-aggression is still in fact aggression. Just because you have your doubts and don't want to create a scene doesn't mean you aren't out to get me. My boss got me, because he was a better snake than I was. It's interesting that passive-aggressiveness provokes intimations of paranoia when, in fact, it's not paranoia if people really are out to get you. This is exactly what the p-a's want: If they can convince, if only via suggestion, anyone concerned that their actions or, more likely, the actions of others working off their hidden lead, are legitimate by virtue of the fact that their victims are compromised by paranoia, so much the better.
I don't so much like revealing myself in these ways as the "delicate" creature that I am, subject to (albeit, in normal social discourse, well disguised) emotional states, anxieties, etc. In fact, I have disliked the personality type so much throughout my life that, not only did I adopt a hard veneer that pretended to unaffectedness, but I disliked and stayed away from people of the more emotive persuasion (lest they affect me with their contagion, I now understand).
I still dislike emotive people (whiners and the like). I understand how they create their own problems and I easily see through their complaints to the denial they project. Get a life. But I know that is my own projection operating. (At least it's no longer denial.) Still, though, I'd rather be thought of as tough. I am tough, in addition to being delicate. I admit to the delicacy, but you'll never actually see it, except in writing.
And even then, I'm not sure that it's so wise to reveal this softer side. That's a part of the conditioning, the tough guy, talking. I feel like, for therapeutic purposes, I need to reveal all that I am, especially the imperfections; but... And, anyway, it's so cool these days to be a feeling person, right? And, if I'm anything, I'm cool. [This is my typical schizoid orientation. What would I be without a balanced personality? Just another macho asshole.]
But, interestingly enough, even though they are potentially far more revealing tools (if one knows how to interpret them; it's that qualification that's the key here, proper interpretation being essential, otherwise, they become passive-aggressive fogging devices), I have no problem at all revealing myself via dreams:
I'm driving along a two-lane highway, out beyond the suburbs, on an unknown stretch of road that is yet familiar, as if it were Washington Blvd. I see a hitchhiker, a young black girl, perhaps a teenager. I pick her up. She's going up over the hill into a project-like area (if the projects were a kind of semi-rural, low-rent, run-down, almost hillbilly-like plan of small cottages, not quite as bad as slums, but certainly not the suburban-like neighborhood that it seems to be modeled after). But before we get over the hill to this place, just after we turn off the highway onto the side road, nearing the top of the hill, we pass a huge, institution-like area comprised of numbers of red-brick buildings far off to the left, fronted by huge rolling expanses of lawns punctuated by small stands of trees. It's a foreboding, off-limits kind of place (similar in atmosphere to the Shuman Center and the Veterans hospital off above the Blvd.) When we get to where the girl wants to be dropped off, she thanks me for going out of my way to bring her here. I tell her that it's not a problem, that I was coming this way anyway, even though I really wasn't (though I can't imagine where it was that I was going). I drive on down the hill to another highway and try to figure out where I am, on some rural route out in the middle of nowhere. When I come to an intersection, I don't know which way to go. Cut to:
Back on the original highway (but not). I'm walking, heading back toward my vehicle (now a pick-up) [parallel: I now have a pick-up truck; previously I picked up a hitchhiker], which is parked off at the side of the lonely intersection (no buildings in sight, only highway and trees). The truck is locked and I don't have the keys. I feel somewhat comforted that I've "found" the truck, but still a bit ill at ease that I'm locked out of it. A guy comes along with a "horseless carriage"--not of the internal combustion engine kind, but of the horse drawn buckboard type, but without horses. It has accommodations for six people to sit on/in it while, at the same time, standing on the ground so that, as the walk, they propel it along. This takes place in the huge area of fields across the four-lane from the intersection where my pickup is, although now it is more like an expansive country shopping center parking lot, though in an area that is deserted enough that we (I and five others) feel that we need a ride to a more "civilized" or populated area. The guy who owns the buckboard enlists us to take places in/on it in order to "drive" it to where we all want to go. I am the sixth person, the last one he recruits before we set off. A few miles down the road, we come to a more populated area, where I run across db. She, too, is lost and looking to get home. Almost lucidly, I wonder at the "coincidence" that we have met up and picked up our relationship so naturally, sharing an interest in getting back to where we belong. She says that she thinks we are close, that it's only about 2,000 miles in that (she points) direction. I say that I think it's a lot closer than that, like maybe ten miles at most. (In our minds, the difference between 10 and 2,000 is not of the order of magnitude that it is in real life, but more like a multiple of maybe four or five.) We begin to walk together and soon we are in a town somewhere out beyond Pitcairn, like in the area of Level Green, In fact, I state that I think it is Level Green, though I'm not so sure that it is. But it's a place I've been before in dreams, as is the area of highway we were on just before we got there.
I tend to think of dreams as spiritual guidance, even though the scientist side of me is somewhat reviled by this idea and wants to see them simply as reptilian brain function. It's that goddam feeling side that always wants to subvert the scientist in me. I feel that dreams are so much more important than ordinary rational experience. So I try to entertain both sides, side by side, rationalizing and meditating, and even sometimes praying.
When I pray, "Please, God, tell me what to do about the leaking roof, how to fix it, before it ruins my good home, I've done everything I know how and still it continues to leak, so, please, show me what to do," or whatever other personal problem I might happen to be obsessing or paranoiding over at any given time, I'm not really praying to God, at least not in the ordinary sense that everyday people think of that activity, I'm really praying to myself, to that deep inner part of me where unconscious wisdom resides that occasionally will reveal to me how to look at a problem in a different way to find its solution; because I know that, if there is a God, It is in there somewhere, that It must exist in there, immediate and available, if only I knew how to contact It.
It's in this sense that I think of myself as God, which is a part of myself, or of which I am a part (two ways of saying the same thing), an intimate, if most often distant, kind of friend that I spend most of my time talking to when I am alone, mostly without even realizing it, thinking I'm talking to myself; and answering myself occasionally, as that God, giving myself advice. God, for me, is immanent in this sense, unseen but always available, and distant only because that is what I, at any given moment, choose, to distance myself from that innermost part of me that is eternal.
And, when I call God an asshole, this is what I mean: That innermost Self (or maybe slightly less than innermost, but nevertheless deep down, which I conflate with the deepest part of me, being so fundamentally unknown to my conscious mind) is construing (via my subconscious process) what I'm saying/doing in a kind of literal way and translating the activity into unintended actions/thoughts that migrate back up and affect my immediate activity/life, such as when I drop things because I'm not paying close enough attention as my mind wanders; and/or when It exacts instant or longer term karma by interpreting what I'm doing (usually having something to do with goal accomplishment with which I will take moral or "ethical" shortcuts in order to facilitate), determining that consequences should apply (according to either universal or personal past conditioning principles), and applying them via my unconscious actions. In simpler terms, God is (within) me, so I'm the asshole.
In these kinds of ways, we all "do ourselves in"; yes, we do get, at least eventually, and sometimes immediately, what we deserve; but it isn't "God" or a universal (beyond the personal) retributive mechanism at work so much as it is our own unconscious selves applying the correcting action. Knowing this, an "advanced" person who is so in touch with the inner self as to be aware of and able to control this process, could, I suppose, become free of the consequences of karmic (self-)retribution and go about acting however s/he wanted, accomplishing goals without fear of reprisal or unexpected consequence. But if a person were so aware, I doubt that s/he would act in ways that it would be necessary to negate said mechanism.
While trying to combine meditation and contemplation with my blasphemous idea of "prayer", it suddenly occurred to me, remembering Vanessa Redgrave in Smilla's Sense of Snow, that "prayer" need not be this effete practice it has become in modern churches among lame helpless parishioners, that it can be both effective in meditative terms and efficient re minimal time consumed. No need for long sessions wherein you gradually come into "enlightenment", or not; rather, the session can be short, sort of an "instant" prayer whereby a modicum of stress relief and renewal is attained, in addition to a petition to that inner god (the unconscious process) that just might hear the prayer and rearrange your unconscious behavior to effect an answer.
And, as I begin to "pray" in this way (i.e., "instantly"), it further occurs to me that I can maybe advance my longstanding desire to bridge the gap between my (perception of) inner and outer worlds; that is, in petitioning my inner nature, for whatever (prayerful) reason, I can redirect that same petition outward (toward the heavens, so to speak), seeking any possible connection (e.g., extra-dimensionally) between what I know to be myself and that which may exist "supernaturally" beyond me. (It's not really supernatural, which is merely a convenient word for that which has not yet been discovered and defined scientifically.)
Some examples to which I could apply this contemplation/"prayer" method:
I feel like I've been unfair to her for not staying in touch. Maybe that's not true. Maybe we are, after all, nothing more that mere acquaintances. But...who knows the true nature of interaction?
I segment my life into separate departments. I always have. It's a method I have for maintaining control, over my self and my world(s). And one of those segments is a website that she is not aware of.
A (big) part of my non-revelation is content about her that I'm unsure of, that maybe I would want to rewrite, that is maybe amateurish or juvenile. But it's too much work to reread and revise or delete it.
I've committed a lot of my inner self to that site and to her. I consider it my "therapy" venue, wherein I reveal what's really troubling me (insofar as I am capable of knowing what that actually is).
This orientation (like that created by any surreptitious activity I engage in) feeds back into relationships to cause a sense of distance, as if I'm keeping important material to myself (which I am).
Inevitably, people drift away, in part because I never pursue relationships, and in part because people, especially women, feel that I am both too distant and too close, aware of more than I should be.
I work out these insights and complexities during my "therapy", never reveal the results, yet act as if I have; all of which serves to influence the relationship in mysterious ways no one has yet discovered.
I would reveal as much of this input as I am capable of, except that, on the few occasions when I have done just that, no one has ever responded positively; and, anyway, it takes too much out of me.
When input exceeds a certain (often relatively small) level, I automatically begin to shut down, to self-limit that which I will consciously acknowledge. (It's all there, or most of it, in memory; but I fail to grasp it in the moment.) All my life I have tried to deal with this phenomenon, striving against it, driving myself into extreme states of chronic stress in my efforts to make a living (keep a job) or act in ways that people would consider normal. All my life I've consciously tried to maintain the appearance of normality by doing what's "right" and legal so that I would remain a legitimate citizen; but all of you "normal" people make it increasingly difficult for me as I age.
The older I get, the harder it is both to maintain the fiction as I realize more and more consciously what it is I'm up to, and to cope with mainstream life as I realize how I am increasingly excluded from it by the way in which the economic nature of corporate capitalism (which is merely an expression of the age-old exclusionary principle of rich v. poor) marginalizes anyone who does not fall squarely within its contributory margins.
I've become increasingly sarcastic as I've aged. It's a natural reaction. I ridicule those who (would) ridicule me. People say (or would say, if they knew me well enough) that I should be nicer. Well, why? It doesn't do any good. I don't seem to suffer discriminatory effects (of ageism or against autism) any less when I am nice; in fact, the opposite may be true. (Nice guys--and girls, to a lesser extent--do in reality finish last.) People walk all over nice people. They use verbal and even physical means to attack them. As I've gotten older, I've made myself look tough(er) to counteract this problem.
It may seem that being nice is a way to better win friends and influence people; but that's just one of those superficial strategies (tactics?) that is not what it seems to be: Acting nicely toward people smooths out the wrinkles of social relationships, but being (truly) nice opens you up to be taken advantage of. In order to "succeed" in society, you must act nice but be in fact very tough.
So, instead of dealing on that duplicitous (as I see it) level, instead of "cultivating" relationships, I develop increasingly complex processes that engage my intelligence without taxing my limited social skills and creating a stressful lifestyle, for example, various engineering projects that I design to save utility and other costs, or activities like brewing beer and making wine.
And, as a consequence, I am challenged in various ways, questioned as to why I bother to waste so much time doing things that the society creates for me at very reasonable prices, that I really don't save all that much money with my little projects, that the time and effort they consume is not worth it. They just don't understand. How could they? Especially when I never both to explain, but merely tolerate their dissent. But they wouldn't understand even if I took the time. I know. I used to try. Talk about wasted time and effort. How do you communicate the immense feeling of satisfaction derived from doing something for yourself and subverting social processes, especially when the society is hell bent upon producing inferior products. They think their great society makes things that are affordable, so why not take advantage of that fact. But the way I see it, another word for affordable is cheap, which is exactly what this society produces, unless you're willing to pay premnium prices; and there is no better example of that than commercial beer.
Instead of being praised for my developed ability to brew a quality beer, I am ridiculed for it (obviously, these are not beer connoisseurs who are objecting), even to the point of claiming that drinking a beer a day is bad for my health (as if they really care). I would explain (if I cared enough to bother) that I have good reasons for drinking a daily (home-made) beer:
She tells me that I need someone to watch over me. I don't think she had the song in mind. It was just a comment designed to let me know that she thinks that, as I age, I am getting increasingly sidetracked from what is the real purpose of life, which is to engage people and learn how to relate in ways that better guarantee communion. I don't necessarily dispute this purpose. In theory, I think it would be a fine way to live one's life. I have often come to this same conclusion myself, though always in isolation, as a result of an intellectual or meditative method, not as a means of relating to real people; because I often find that I am not so adept at engaging people and would most of the time rather relate to inanimate objects and processes. And much of that time (you will well know if you've read a lot of what I've written) is devoted to plans, goals, and scheduling:
Every once in a while, I feel like I have to reassert my (ideal) schedule, as if it were a purpose for my life (it's not) or as if it gives it some kind of meaning (it does, but barely): I write in the morning (and at any other time that I happen to be awake during the day or night when I happen to have ideas). Around noon (or around my own personal mid-day, if I happen to have arisen late, or too early), I might go for a walk, perhaps up to the stores to buy something or simply to imagine that I'm someone other that who I am (fantasizing in public). In the afternoon, I tend my gardens. Evenings, I read, or else, too mentally exhausted, I watch some inane tv. At night, I try to sleep. That's my ideal summer schedule, which, in the winter, all falls apart and begins the deteriorization that I must rehabilitate in the spring (in part by writing out silly justifications like this one).
And, sometimes, in the summer, when it becomes particularly hot, I even fantasize that I am (or am with) Jesus (the historical figure, not the god), walking through the desert; because the desert has become a developing theme in my life, and because Jesus is a oool guru-dude who, if he lived today (physically, not as the Christians claim, spiritually), would probably ride a Harley instead of a donkey into Vegas instead of Jerusalem.
Like the Bible, Jesus, for me, is nothing more than a source of wisdom and a means whereby I might (if only I would apply myself in a more dedicated way) more readily recognize my own spirituality, in that I have the same potential as Jesus had and, if I would devote myself to it, I might eventually recognize in me the same attributes and qualities that Jesus exhibited during his short life.
Though I am not above it, this is not blasphemy, even from a Christian point of view. (Think Worldwide Church of God.) This is merely (semi-)scientific exploration. I hypothesize that, if we become like unto Jesus, in a significant and not in the ordinary superficial way that most Christians (especially fundamentalists) propose, then, at some profound point we will share his personality traits, which is a way that we can "resurrect" him (or anyone), because if we are enough like any person, to that same degree we will be(come) that person. A person with all of the traits (and experiences, which would be yet another realm of "qualities" to master) of another person would be in fact that other person. (Think about it for a while before you reject that possibility out-of-hand.)
This is a fine fantasy, isn't it? All mere conjecture of course, unless I would take it all more seriously and devote my life to it, instead of just a few minutes or hours a few times a year. That would be a noble purpose; but I have so much more to do and, to do that lofty practice justice would require my full time and attention. This is what, whether they realize it or not, Christians are supposed to be trying to do. (It only remains a fantasy if you make no headway toward its realization.)
Short of this lofty goal (which I've outlined in more detail somewhere else a while ago, but cannot find right now), people will continue to wallow in their ignorance, however "enlightened" they think they are. Jesus, to date, is not a living god. The fantasy has not to even the smallest degree yet been actualized. But if he were a living god, one thing I'm certain of is that he would not want all of the scam artists who are operating in his name to be doing what they do while pretending it's religion.
But who am I to criticize, when I recognize all of that as my own projection? I pretend that my (quasi-)scientific "spirituality" is religion, of a sort. (Actually, I don't; but instead, recognizing the dislogic, I eschew religion altogether; but for all practical purposes, I continue to argue the issue as if it were "religious" in nature.) I would be better off tending to my own, more natural, sense of religion (spirituality) and leaving the more lofty, philosophical matters to the theologians:
Gardening, when done correctly (with the spirit of living, growing vegetation constantly in mind), is a far better religion than any of the standard ones we know today (which, at some point in their evolutions perpetrated violence and still today, with a few notable exceptions, tacitly condone it).
On two separate occasions recently (and several other times in the more distant past), my brother and his wife asked me how it is that my gardens are so lush, why the plants are so large and the harvest so plentiful; and they find it hard to believe that I never use fertilizers. They want to know my secrets, desiring to make their far more meager efforts and effects similar.
So I explain to them how my results are achieved, how the soil must deep and loose and loamy, achievable via digging out the lower levels of clay-burdened soil and replacing it with rich soil created by a previous year of composting, and plants well mulched with grass clipping to retain soil moisture so that soil nutrients are not washed away with excessive watering;
whereupon they counter each of my suggestions with objections and excuses as to why they can't (be bothered) to garden the way I do. "So then why ask me?" I think, but don't say. At my brother's house on Memorial Day (when the subject came up again), he complained that using grass as mulch creates mold, and his garden is directly below his kitchen window.
It's an excuse (for not doing what is necessary to achieved the desired results). I'm beginning to think that everything he and his wife say is an excuse. I'm going to have to look for this behavior more diligently. I suspect that they approach people for advice, not so that they can better their own efforts, but so that they can criticize it to reinforce their far more lame way of doing such things as gardening.
This is the way it is with all "religious" people: They worship in a half-assed way; it's a symptom of the great unwashed masses of humanity. But rationalization and projection is also a symptom, and this is what I'm doing, again (and again). I can't ever seem to get away from the fact that I am a huge projector: I cast images that the world has recorded on my psyche onto this screen for anyone who cares enough to see, intermixed with the peculiarities of my own content so as to be inextricable. In this, I am not all that much different than anyone else on the planet who has access to a medium of expression, if only a mouth and a willingness to speak. That, maybe, is this world's true religion.
In a different sense, psychology is my religion. (Actually, that's probably more true of writing than psychology.) I believe in the scientific nature of psychology; but, more "religiously", I believe in the therapeutic nature of some of the more reputable, various non- and quasi-scientific "disciplines" that proliferate throughout our modern/postmodern culture. And, with equal fervor, I do not believe (a la the common religious practice of exclusion of contradictory religious belief) in "therapies" designed to make people "normal".
[Most professionals in the medico-psych community (who suffer from the scourge of behaviorism, which happens to be the only(?) area of psychology that is scientific and, thus, really "works") believe that therapies should be applied to make "patients" appear to be normal; and they conflate that appearance with reality. But normality is more than appearance, it's a neurological orientation; and science has not yet found the methodology to alter the neurology of the human animal (except in shocking, lobotomy-like ways).]
Normality is a troubling idea for me (being myself of a "deviant" nature). Our culture (all cultures, really) begins at our births to try to condition us into a normal mindset, just as it tries to program us into whatever particular religion into which we are (supposedly) born. We are "educated" and tormented into complying with the way we are supposed to be, and for the most part we adopt the way of life that is expected of us. We become more or less proficient at adapting (or else we end up institutionalized), so that our wardens would not believe, if we were ever so undiplomatic as to inform them of it, that our lives are a constant struggle to remain compliant.
When we are (born) different, if we allow it (and often we do, it being, at least earlier in life, and unconscious decision), society places us in the category of "slightly less than human". It doesn't for the most part do this intentionally, though some specific individuals do, and the tendency to generalize this prejudice is unconsciously contagious.
But, everyone knows very well, if they will just take the time to think about it (prejudice can be and probably most often is a less than fully conscious process), that all members of the species are quite human, including even those unfortunates among us who are born with far less than adequate (for independent survival) intelligence, even those of us who are so severely brain damaged as to be incapable of independent survival. We inherently know that the essence of being human is not functional, but genetic, a matter of species-genes.
Even people who are characterized as less than human because they exhibit incredibly cruel, even evil, behaviors are quite human (evil is a fairly common human trait), and we classify them in the way that we do, not because we literally believe that they're not human, but because we have a hard time accepting the fact that humans too often act so badly.
[Hitler was human. To believe that he was not is to invite similar behavior from other humans. You can't head off what you cannot see coming, and until someone commits a horrific crime, we usually consider them to be human. Conversely, to classify people who have not committed a crime as less than human is, by implication, to see them as a potential criminal, which is inherently unfair.]
We classify people who significantly deviate from the norm as less than human because we do not wish to admit to the fact that some humans exhibit traits that other, "normal" humans do not, or do so to a far lesser degree, enough so that they appear not to possess them (which fact might clue us into what's actually going on).
Somehow, it is felt, we who are "different" are not completed and thus not able to compete as well within society as those of us who are complete. This prejudice is convenient because it absolves the society of its responsibility to incorporate all its citizens into the social fabric, by providing meaningful employment opportunities for everyone. (At best, society provides sustenance for its "disabled" people, which is not a means of socialization, but an admission of failure to incorporate.)
Everyone in one way or another is not complete. A highly competent businessman may not be capable of maintaining a viable marriage. Is s/he then less human than a person who can "compete" well in both areas of life? An autistic person may be unable to maintain a neat house or personal appearance, but may be a literal whiz at computer programming. Is s/he less complete than someone who is meticulous in personal and domestic care (for example, a great housewife) but knows absolutely nothing about computers?
No one is a completely functional human; but individual differences can work together to create a fully functional society. But a society is not fully functional when it marginalizes and disenfranchises people who are different enough from the norm to be considered non-functional or even at a less than adequate functional level. If a society has enough of these kinds of "different" people (which our postmodern society certainly does), then it can be classified as a dysfunctional society. In short, it is the society and not the individual that defines individual difference. If difference is recognized by society as non-functional, it is the society's failure, not the individual's.