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Its About Culture Part 1.

When we talk about violence, specifically gun violence in this country we hear a few very different takes depending on the location and the background of the shooter.

When the shooter is ideologically motivated and Muslim, we hear about terrorism first. We hear the panicked cries of mostly white conservatives and a few moderates and liberals about the cultural significance of Islam and its propensity for creating violent jihadists. Even though the insane, rational gymnastics of connecting violence and extremism, in these cases we still won’t talk about Guns, and there is little to no discussion about mental health.

When the attacker is White, and the ultimate ideological motivations are sussed out, we revert to the discussion about “mental health” and family and run away as far as we can from Guns and ideological motives.  Somehow access to firearms, however they achieved them, is eliminated from the conversation and the ideological motivations all but erased by about day 2 or 3.

If the assailants are young black men and they are killing each other over gangs, drugs or other petty conflicts, it’s all about the culture. Single moms, video games, and music are the usual suspects; again, surprisingly the narrative no longer focuses on the availability of firearms, even illegal ones.

In my mind there are four primary causes of violence in general, particularly gun violence, and they cut across most cases regardless of whether they are in a school or out on the streets. Irrespective of where we come from or who we are there are a set of preestablished reactions to stressors that trigger us to want to hurt or kill. Those motivations go right to the heart of what we all share emotionally as human beings, and I believe that is one of the reasons we don’t talk about them.

1. Personal/Group Insult or Revenge – One of the most common reasons for violence and aggression of any kind is feeling violated in some way. Whether it is through direct insult or insulting one’s group, it is a defensive reaction to a breach of some social contract that causes most violence. I believe this tendency is built into us as we are social beings. Our hierarchical understanding of group and private structures create a means through which we have a built-in trigger, groups that tout exclusive membership use this instinct to manipulate people into reacting with violence when they otherwise would have just cooled over time.

2. Fear – Is it that pop-psychological to indicate fear as a primary motivation for violence or aggression. As well as being social we are also programmed to be wary of personal injury. This is an odd one because fear as a concept can be very nebulous or very specific. Fear that a bear is coming right at you is very different from fear of being attacked by a bear. The chemical reactions, the physical changes that result from the various states of fear are very distinct and can be manipulated by people and institutions that are more powerful and have some of their fears to contend with.  I found this discussion of fear interesting as it almost serves as a surrogate for the triggers of violence.

3. Social Engineering – As social beings who have developed hierarchies to survive under specific circumstances we have also come to understand how reinforcement of those structures is required to keep the status quo. I’m not passing blanket judgment on this as dangerous by any means, some social structures have helped us advance to the point where we have created a better life for millions of people. Others, however, though seemingly good ideas at the time, often descend into disruptions that do damage to a great many people. It’s tough to say without the benefit of hindsight that some form of social engineering was good or bad especially if we learn from the results. In this case, violence based on established and enforced social norms.

4. External Perceived or Existential Threat – this is admittedly a kind of toss off. Its fear but not the tangible bear chasing you down type, it’s a minor madness in a way and it crosses the bridge to woo-ville in some cases, but either the feeling of something “not being quite right” or the manipulation of that feeling can drive people to violence, what distinguishes this factor as a trigger is its slippery nature. In a way its one of the most potent modern triggers because of the deluge of information we receive and have access to on a daily basis.  So much information crosses our eyes and ears daily that it’s often really hard to distinguish between what is demonstrably real and what is pure hokum. Existential threats have us not believing our own eyes when we see a concrete example of the opposite of what we believe or are told to think.  Cognitive dissonance is the state this puts us in and in and of itself is a kind of mass mental disorder that affects our macro brain. It is also one of the ways large groups and governments keep control of the status quo. In fact, it is the prefered method of tyrants, both big and small.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of everything in terms of an organism. From my limited understanding of the organization of life, it looks distinctly like from the tiniest cell to the largest societal collections the functions are similar but blown up accordingly. Using the example of the internet (again with a basic knowledge of biology) you can see how humans have organized themselves in the image of their biological networks. You can look at societal organizations similarly, but the internet is the clearest model of our mimicking the structure of our neural networks in our construction and organizations I can see. We build on what we know.

I look often at how these incidents of violence make perfect sense. Ideas are like mutated cells or gut influenced genes; they can grow and spread, are road tested by the environment and shaken out accordingly. You have to get non-judgemental when you think this way and see both the biological process and the spread of ideas the same way. Physiological changes, random occurrences of genes or the environment’s influence on them, have consequences. It is my feeling that biological evolution and the evolution of ideas may not only be linked but now be one in the same. We’ve reached a level of complexity in out inner and outer constructions to see where our intellectual developments have gotten almost as complicated as our biological ones.

When you look at movements, especially extreme movements, be they nationalistic, religious or racially based they broadly share the same development cycles and paths of growth. Some, like Islamic fundamentalism, are less exclusive biologically and more rooted in ideology. This is part of the reason Islam has snowballed so quickly. It is not as exclusive as some other movements, it requires no biological purity test, no cultural purity test, and no nationalistic paternity test, there is a small barrier of language, but learning a few prayers can solve that. Many other extreme movements are based on passing some racial or nationalistic purity test and have far fewer adherents as a result. At the risk of sounding like an Islamophobe, it is the perfect virus in that way.

Let me make something clear right now; I hate no person. I am opposed to certain ideologies because they make no rational sense to me beyond social grouping, but I don’t hate anyone who believes in them. I apply cancer or virus metaphor to almost all religions and any social group that forcibly bends its members to a particular kind of violence or extreme coersion.

When violence arises as a result of these affiliations, a large part of how you get perfectly rational and not insane people to enlist is through the use of the last cause of violence. In a sense, you are taking a little bit of the first three elements and mixing them to create a stew of cognitive dissonance. You create a world where, by some non-biological or vaguely biological association, you pit one association against another. The reasons could be cultural, circumstantial or just made up entirely but they don’t pass a rational examination.

What also doesn’t pass the rational examination is the ways we here in the US, separate these groups and their affiliates into little social boxes that have unequal weight on the actions of people who commit violent acts.

I’ll talk about how we treat different groups and ideologies differently in Wednesdays post.

 

FAKE NEWS!!!!

Sometimes its hard to tell what our president is thinking. Sometimes I think he’s not thinking at all but reacting.

Yeah, I know, its been said before.

That’s why I haven’t been commenting much on Trump lately. There are far more people (both more qualified and less than I) making statements about and trying to guess what the president is thinking, probably more than at any other time since he’s been a public figure.

Just since November of 2016, the conversation has shifted from trying to do the math as to how he won in the first place to what he’ll do to where he was coming from to is he mentally fit to hold office. So many of these questions have obvious answers. He won by appealing to the baser instincts of a group of Americans who not only feel left behind but even if they voted for him, as many did, were swayed by the constant barrage of dog whistle idiocy that was the media during the Obama administration. They feel left behind by a country that always told them they were golden, chosen people, so when that promise was uncovered as a lie they rebelled. As with most popular rebellions, the scapegoat firewall lay between them and the people who truly fucked them over.

Never before in my lifetime have I seen the Country in such a state of reactionary fervor. If I’ve learned anything it is that you should never think things can’t get any worse, or any weirder. Sometimes being prepared for the worst is the best you can hope for. Not that you should abandon all hope or lose all sense of optimism, but keeping those things in the vacuum of the naive belief that “people are generally good” is downright suicidal.

I often try to look at recent history and try to draw a flowchart in my head to link all the things I’ve seen since the end of the Vietnam era ( I was born the year the conflict reached its Apex of 500,000 US troops) and remember middle-class. I mostly remember the palpable sense of dread that came with slowly admitting defeat in an unwinnable battle. I was born the year of nationwide unrest over the treatment of African-Americans (we were called negro, Colored or just Nigger at the time, in equal measure) and the year before the death of Martin Luther King.

I remember watching as the post-civil rights era played out, how legal segregation turned into redlining and blockbusting and I remember how the wash of irony felt as I sat in a real estate class 40 years later and heard my teacher discuss the practices as if they were ancient history (they weren’t, and aren’t). A few years before that I watched my Mom “steered” into a property in a mostly black part of town and in a double whammy also watched her sold a subprime mortgage with a huge balloon payment that would have kept her in permanent share-cropper status for the rest of her life. I watched as friends who had genius level IQ’s , but had little or no support at home, were shuffled into “alternative education” and taken out of the system of merit they would have all but taken over.

I watched the systematic dismantling of families, the ignorance of the problems faced by people who were just out of reach of the middle-class dream, not quite poverty-stricken, but barely able to make the rent, the car payment, and the heat, and often one or more of the above would suffer. (oh and food, let us not forget food)

I also remember being terror-stricken by television, the resurgence and resurgence, and further resurgences of “hate groups,” militias and various other largely white organizations whose members instinctively knew that their days as the majority were numbered. Who ignored the unequal application of benefits to them and cherry-picked statistics to bolster their own “superiority” (there is nothing funnier and scarier than listening to someone uneducated and unwilling to be, call me a monkey) even when they had an 8th-grade education and hardly a tooth to speak of.

I saw the 50-year slide into identity politics. WHITE identity politics. And now I shake my head when I hear someone like Richard Spenser, Alex Jones or any of their loosely affiliated internet sleeper cell operatives promote the narrative that Blacks, “the Left” and the “the gays” are the ones who started this whore identity politics shit. As a writer, I look out into the world, and it makes no narrative sense, as a truth-teller the story is flawed in a way that disqualifies it even as magical realism. There is nothing real about it.

As I look over all the historical links in my lifetime, I see definite patterns. Some overlap and others diverge, but a few, though taking up different sections of the page, clearly resemble each other.

Taking the experiences of poor White Americans and Poor Black Americans in snapshots of events, drug addiction, poverty, enslavement (Blacks by government mandate through slavery and its aftermath and whites by government mandate through union busting and land grants to wealthy corporations) they trace similar paths.  The positive elements also converge, reverence for the elderly, a sense of community, developments in art and culture, resistance to undue authority…

But somehow, some way, the two rarely meet.

They don’t meet because one group, although downtrodden, believed that they were better by virtue of “whiteness”. That belief carried down through the years and was the current on the river to Trumpville.

This is not fake news.

Thinking for a second about some of the self-described leaders of these folks and their motivations there has to be something other than the endgame that gets them off. Even if they could eliminate or disassociate themselves from the rest of us there are still going to be sociopathic tendencies, violent individuals, and disagreements within their midsts.

I often wonder how an ethnostate of any sort would look. Having no skin in the game and no need to wish for such a thing I think I’m a bit freer than most to imagine a more realistic version of this utopia.

It would be like any other society, divided along some imaginary, or real but either way subtly enforced means, messy and stratified and pretty much just as fucked up as the one we have now. Either it would have classlessness imposed by a tyrant, or be capitalistic and leave some people behind. Either way, there is no escape from the same bullshit we face daily, it would just be whiter, or blacker. There is no way, through merely segregating “Europeans” or “Africans” to magically make everything better. The same power struggles, the same marital disagreements, the same arguments about government and what it should and can do will still exist.

Just because y’all look the same, does not make you the same.

Have you ever seen people who agree, are of the same background or the same political beliefs all in the same room together and NOT arguing? In most cases, intra-group disagreements are more violent than those between groups. Without the political or racial “other” to swerve the distraction bus towards, those conflicts would explode.

I guess perfect is the enemy of the good after all.

 

Insight Comes In the Strangest Forms, In the Strangest Places

I have no doubt everything this man says is true.

 

From Sexuality to Race, power and money and the art of music, some of the most incisive comments I’ve heard about any of these things come as a conversation from an observer.

Born outside the corridors of power Quincy Jones “Q” as he’s been known has an insight into all of the above that takes no in-between-the-lines interpretation to unpack.

This is what online journalism does so well, what Rolling Stone used to do but gave up to chase false rape accusations and hand the alt-right a new narrative.

Read this, it will change the way you see music, sexuality, America and life.

Tyranny Comes on Little Cat Feet

  • with apologies to Carl Sandburg

It’s becoming more and more apparent that we are losing our democracy of voices and opinions. Just as we seemed on the verge of becoming the ideal that we’d believed ourselves to be as Americans, that model was obliterated.  At this point it doesn’t matter who shot first, or why, but the decreasing number of us in the no mans land between the constructions of “the left” and “the right” regardless of how we lean, is troubling for democracy, and for the very survival of our country.

Tyranny doesn’t only come from the right.

I make no bones about how I lean; I make no apologies for my liberal cultural background and my progressive politics. I also do not wear that label as a bulwark against letting opposing ideas sink in, mixing with my own and changing me. This approach is my definition of what being Liberal means, being open to ideas, allowing them to mesh with my experience and trying to understand what lessons shape others. It’s a word that’s been twisted to mean inflexible and turned into an epithet, so much so that I go back and forth on whether I should call myself one anymore.

My definition of self is mine and mine alone. I know what the word means to me and also know that some of the other words I call myself are only shorthand for the complexities that I keep in those boxes.  Like anything, I think we get so wrapped up in the labels and the shorthand that we forget what the words mean.

It’s not always easy to hear through our filters, its never comfortable to be challenged, especially when that challenge comes from someone who you’ve already built a persona around.  But those problems are often the most powerful. Coming to grips with the fact that someone who comes from an entirely different background or had a very different experience in their life than you’ve had in yours yet you are still able to connect in a meaningful way is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have.

That is part of the reason it makes me so angry to see people put up walls, especially those who label themselves with monikers that define them as just the opposite. I spoke here about the Yale nonsense that happened a few years ago, and there have been numerous other newsworthy incidents, mainly on college campuses, that reflect an unwillingness to be self-reflective in the face of opposing viewpoints. The Milo incident at Berkeley or the Charles Murray incident at Middlebury college in Vermont are two big ones that spring to mind.  While I find Yiannopoulous a repugnant, showboating, self-promoting buffoon, I also found it ironic that the protestors, who became violently agitated over this clown, didn’t understand the legacy they were trampling on at that institution. Murray is also a cultural accelerant, but a more thoughtful and one who has been maligned in a way that makes me sad for the state of academic and cultural discourse.

When I look across the Millennial landscape and see the hairs-on-end sensitivity, the jumping at shadows and accusations, real or imagined, of triggered talk by folks who just haven’t caught up yet, it terrifies me to think that they will be the ones making some of the harder decisions about what speech will be allowed and what will be censored by shout down.

I’m so incredibly sick and tired of people being so offended by what they think they hear that they’ve become the monsters they, without a shred of irony, finger-point to daily. Sick of the fucking crybaby, triggered nonsense, sick of the proliferation of safe spaces as places NOT to be confronted on your bullshit instead of real and genuine refuges from psyche destroying trauma.  Let me make this clear; there is shit in this world that is so horrible, so psychically damaging, so mind-fuckingly severe, that it requires years of intense therapy to get over. Let me also make this clear, about 10% or which happens here in the United States, and about 5% is genuinely worth isolation from.

At this point a clear distinction has to be made, we all experience trauma, and unless we talk about it respectfully we never really know how difficult another’s existence is. BUT what is also true is that we’ve created a culture that condenses each of our experiences into little nuggets that cling like leeches to the identities we create for ourselves. In no way do I discount anyone’s stories of abuse, be they sexual, psychological or emotional, but when we are so deeply wrapped up in our traumas that we can’t see what someone else has gone through, see our universal personhood, we put another nail in the coffin of this grand experiment.

When we don’t dispense with our hegemonies of our experiences over other’s, when we refuse to listen, to hear what others bring to the table however flawed it might be, we lose a bit of that connectivity to each other. When we start pulling outward into the human instead of backward into an identity, into white, male, female, cis, gay, trans, straight and queer, we remember our sameness isn’t opposed to our uniqueness. When we stop the ridiculously insane push to be right all the time and be wrong at least some of the time, we gain it back.

We’ve all gotten too sensitive in all the wrong ways, instead of being sympathetic to how others may feel (which requires asking them exactly how they think and why) we hold way too tightly to our identity constructs.

I’m calling out so-called Liberals an Progressives on this as well as gender rights activists, queer theorists, and feminists, mainly because I feel allied or am a part of those loose identifications. I’ve called out the prevailing myth of white supremacy as a historical fact, women’s struggles as history and the benefits that come with being of a privileged class. My bonafides are there.

Yes, I find it amazingly ironic and annoying when ego-driven when people like Ann Coulter decry Liberal Fascism, when members of the alt-right claim their free speech is being violated, and when self-promoting attention whores like Milo Yiannopoulous and Mike Chernovich point out the hypocrisy of the left.

It’s annoying and ironic, but also, sadly, right.

 

The Case for “All Lives Matter”

Edited on 10/12/17 because the first time around I just don’t give a f***!

Edited 9/8/17 because brought to you by the letter “M.”

Edited (yet again) on 8/10/2018 for a few misplaced (s)s and slightly augmented wording.

Can we re-purpose a reactionary frame?

Can we take something not quite patently offensive, but triggering and reshape it to mean something that can unite rather than divide? Can a community of people, who already feel burdened with the explainer role, manage again to unify under something they mainly feel is a bastardization and outright insult to the movement they identify with?

If we’ve learned anything from the election of Donald Trump, we should take away this, using the language of the oppressed to claim oppression works, but can the opposite work as well.

When I’d seen the statement “All Lives Matter” in response to BLM, I cringed. I knew it was a reactionary, angry, reflexive response to a needed if not fully appreciated movement. It angered me that people who know better should have understood that killing an unarmed member of any community should be denounced, that people who should know that there is a disparity between the way young Black men are seen and treated in our society, and the way young white men are treated. That Black Lives Matter, of course, wasn’t a statement of exclusivity but one of defense. That the implication that ONLY Black Lives Matter was NOT part of this declaration, nor was the implication that Black Lives Matter MORE, but it was merely that Black Lives Matter AS WELL.

There is much to be said about how we got here, much hand wringing to be done about how history had drawn a clear line to this moment and how forces, both seen and unseen have forced these confrontations.

For context, I suggest reading some of the books on slavery or civil rights or some of the more inclusive books on American history A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a good place to start.

I’m not getting into context here, it’s too obvious to me and would distract from my point. Plus, I believe we should all be more responsible for exposing ourselves to the context of the history of the country of which we so effulgently pronounce our love.

One of the things I have learned about messaging is that sometimes to do it effectively; you have to give up some deeply held preconceptions. You have to resort to some to the tricks of the oppressor, if you will, and one-up them by playing their game. There are limits to this, of course, but within those limits is where progress can be potentially made.

Appropriation is a hot-button term. It evoked Native headdresses or kente cloth; it evokes everything from girls in yoga pants to Rachel Dolezal.

It doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Appropriation is, in some cases, the same thing as acceptance, it is the brother or sister or transgendered, polyamorous, biracial neighbor of cultural assimilation. McDonald’s appropriated images of Black families in print ads to appeal to the people it was trying to sell burgers to, advertising, in general, appropriates members of audiences it wants to reach, and this is often called “inclusion.”

My feelings are half and half. Half of me welcomes the representation because it brings visibility and half of me knows the motivation is to sell a product. In many cases, even this gives a certain amount of arrival cred but still begs the motivation question. Yet, for whatever reason, it’s better to be seen in a positive light than a negative one, though it can be argued that this isn’t all that positive:

but is was certainly better than this:

Appropriation can be a gateway to conversation and understanding, or it can be a gross misuse of a symbolic cultural totem. I think its time for us to use the poseur of appropriation on the All Lives Matter crowd.

It makes sense that reactionary forces would seize on an approximation of a statement that virtually says the same thing. In this era of lack of imagination, lack of the ability to see things in shades of grey, and lack of connection across lines of partisanship, we have been unable to ask each other, “so what exactly do you mean by that?’ instead of reflexively attacking each other over our perception of that meaning.

So let’s start out by saying that all lives do matter. Black, White, Mexican, Gay, Straight, tall and short, cis, queer, nongender specific, Cops who occupy all of the other identities as well and are both sheltered and wrongly maligned, we can even go as radically far as to say that plants, animals….all life is important. The human variety is where we’ll focus for the moment though, let’s just say that all human experience is valuable.

Now we can get into a little trouble here in our appropriation as we often do when trying to be inclusive, how far is too far? So if the whole point of this is a marketing strategy (and make no mistake, the most efficient way to convey this message is through that means), who is the intended audience?

Assuming the target audience is the former Obama voting Trump devotee, a person who, right or wrong, thinks he is now in the minority, who assumes that being white has somehow become a liability, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now feels he must pull back into an enclave of reactionary juxtaposition. We aren’t going for the 1% White Lives Matter crowd, they are lost and never wanted to be a part of this new America anyway. Calling out the hypocritical other and also the people who genuinely don’t understand why All Lives Matter is such a divisive statement by appropriating the tag is a tact worth pursuing.

Re-branding as All Lives Matter, re-purposing with inclusion in mind of the people of all races that have been discounted and ignored, bringing in law enforcement of all races to have a dialog about how people are not treated equally and to what degree. Actually TALKING to each other about these vital issues under a moniker that doesn’t seem to exclude.

Maybe All Lives Matter can be a vital starting point to challenge the notion that they do conceptually and working on how they can actually.

Taking advantage of the short memories of Americans to change things in the long-term may be sneaky, but it can also be useful. From a marketing standpoint, it would be as brilliant a coup as turning a brand that had been wrongly associated with Nazi Germany into a brand that appeals to the Spanish-speaking among us.

In the world of spin, anything is possible.

 

 

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Your Heroes Will Always Disappoint You

Updated on 8/23/17 with links. And a few egregious spelling errors.

….so don’t have heroes.

Feminism has been redefined, again and again, mostly by men. I think I went through a short period of calling myself a feminist before I realized the ridiculousness of that statement. I’m not a woman, so the defining of feminism was not for me to do. Like conversations about abortion, I can only actually be involved on the periphery unless I had something directly to do with the pregnancy. Yes I know and love the women in my life but I don’t define who they are.

Feminism and the definition of it are truly woman’s work. I have a right to chime in and ask questions but the defining characteristics of feminism and being female are not mine to judge.  I think our first mistake when we talk about feminism is allowing fearful or manipulative men to set the conversational terms of engagement. Men, although well-meaning, are often swayed by less than honorable reasons to declare themselves “feminists.” there is a running joke that guys who declare themselves feminists are just trying to get laid. Its a trope on every college campus and workplace and it exists because in many ways it’s true.

It is like the friend who declares their “color blindness,” the person who always knows the best “ethnic food spots” but knows not a single person representing the various flavors he can describe in great detail. The guy who likes exotic looking chicks, or the girl who shows up at all the anti-racist rallies and doesn’t have a single Black friend IRL.

Those people. I’ve been one of those people. I hope never to be one again.

I wish I could say that Kai Cole’s essay about her ex-husband Joss Whedon came as a huge surprise to me. Anyone who shouts so loudly about a cause and is so vocally oppositional to those who champion its opposition is often, not always, but often, full of some degree of shit.

Granted, as we should do with everyone, we need to wait for both sides or at least the stream of on set confirmations that will surely follow, until fully accepting Cole’s POV lock stock and barrel. I fear, though, that it may be too close to the truth.

I love Rosemary’s Baby, adore Braveheart and still believe North by Northwest is a classic, but all of the above film’s Directors, were and in some cases still are, shitty to women. It doesn’t make my enjoyment of any of the above less so because they all came from the minds of mild to extreme misogynists. It does, however, because I am a man and have no direct experience with misogyny, not ring as deeply as it would had I been female. It sucks in this case because he was preaching to be just the opposite.

Now you can find a whole host of reasons his activism was nulled and voided by these revelations (if true) but I can’t help but think that along with the truckload of bullshit there is a deep psychological upset in there as well. Not justifying any of it, just looking at everything full big picture.

If what Cole has written is true, not in its natural and understandable POV but its core truth, that Whedon was a faker and manipulator who used his feminist creds to hide his philandering, that will be a hard pill to swallow. For me it’s not as much a personal affront that he cheated, that aspect of his life is his, and his ex’s not the public’s. What tramples on my sensibilities is that everything he’s said, largely in line with my own beliefs, will be used as ammunition against the rest of us, the silent ones who looked at his stances as brave (but sometimes just as bad as some of whats been said on the “other side”)  and echoed his sentiments. It doesn’t make the views any less relevant, but it does make the spewer damaged goods. The messenger and the message have become one, and the messenger has his stink all over the message.

This is why I back away from admiration as a public duty, and this is why I don’t have heroes. They will ALWAYS, ALWAYS let you down.

I Woke to Find Everything Vanished, and I Smiled a Little

I’m finding myself again in a particular state of consternation over other’s expectations of me. Everyone seems to have an idea as to what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.  People who don’t seem to realize that I’ve done and continue to do my level best to fulfill my obligations to them keep demanding more, so much so that this stone is about out of blood.

I’m looking down the road to a potentially major life change that will affect all my relationships going forward. When I mentioned this potential to a certain parental figure I got a disinterested sigh and a couple of self-serving questions about relocation, then there was a call telling me to do something that I’d been doing more of anyway. Yeah, I couldn’t be vaguer.

So in the past two weeks, I’ve received calls, text messages and email imploring me to take up some forgotten task or fulfill some unfinished obligation or to chide me for some life choice that someone else close to me does not agree with. It seems to have spread to my work life as well, as one of my coworkers had the nerve to, without irony (she’s a talker), tell me that leaving early one day “fucks the rest of us.” Unironically because she does about as much talking as she does work, more likely more of the former than the latter, every single shift she’s on.  She also has no idea who I am or how much I work. Assuming your small window into a relative stranger’s world shows you the entire picture is a sin punishable by a hearty “fuck you!”

So yeah, this is a bitching post, so let us get right to the bitching, shall we?

I’m wholly sick and fucking tired of everyone asking still more of me than I already give. Whether it be assuming small financial obligations out of the kindness of my heart or giving my attention to someone else instead of them, I’m done with being motivated by the expectations of others. So many people in my life live in their own little bubbles, surrounded by the comforts I’ve provided and have grown entitled because of them. They feel entitled to be rude to me, demand attention of me, and request of me things that I have no capacity to give at the moment, all while ignoring the things I’ve asked of them.

The very worst part of this is that all but one person in my life (two actually, but he’s always been appreciative of me) at the moment does not regularly say thank you for what I do continue to provide unless prompted to do so,  unsurprisingly, she is the person who gets the majority of my limited free time and attention. She is also the given or implied reason why the rest of them are so damn unappreciative.

Let me say this, I’ve learned about myself one thing. If you offer me appreciation for what I do, I will return in kind. If you continually complain about what I’m NOT doing, it won’t end well.  I’ve lost my tolerance for others putting their needs above mine and now my needs come first, unequivocally. I’m not looking for my ass to be kissed, but when I’ve done any of the things I’ve alluded to above, don’t take that shit for granted. It’s a sure way to get told to go to hell when you need something from me and fail to ask in a way that does not indicate you have a total lack of self-awareness.

At some point in everyone’s life, they realize that a turning of priorities may be in order. They fumble over what that means and sometimes actually come across something that works to better their outlook, enhance who they are and create joy in their lives in the most simple way. It could be a person, a job, a new point of view or any combination but when they do come they change who we are.

Reviewing one’s life you can see catalytic patterns. Times when one event leads, directly or indirectly, to another, and that to yet another still. Yes, there are choices in-between that move those patterns forward in the direction hindsight reveals, but there are often direct lines from a to b that reveal themselves as time goes on.

Hence the title.

When I wake up throughout the day, in the examination mode of memory and contemplation, I see these paths like routes on a map. There are arteries behind me that vanish, paths not taken, roads left behind never to be visited again, ahead there are splits that lead to other splits, that lead to still others. Not quite the infinite paths we like to believe there are, but as infinite as our little brains can handle. Infinite enough to know that even if we chart a course, the wind or a landslide will deviate us at least once. As our past disappears into memory and the present is lived in every moment, we only have so much say, only so many fucks to give.

I’m choosing mine wisely, with intention, giving attention to the things that I choose first and then allowing the rest to intrude when I will it. It’s the only semblance of control we have, and even if it is an illusion, I’ll take it.

For now, here are some general thoughts:

There is more than one way to love, live and leave.

I am not your world unless I say I am. And even if I do, not always, and not forever if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.

I may love you, but I don’t owe you shit.

I choose what’s important to me, I’m not even slightly sorry If you can’t handle that.

Do not assume that you are at the top of my priority list unless I explicitly say so.

Do not EVER take me for granted.

Finally: Don’t be so fucking vain, this song is only partially about you, whoever you are.

In Remembrance: Robert Pirsig

Some books move you, others, you identify with on a level that moves with you. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was THAT book for me.

I honestly do not remember much of the book’s narrative. I remember the basic premise and flashes of many of the pivotal scenes but the specifics are lost on me now. I think it’s time for a re-read.

I read it the first few times when I was vulnerable and young before I became a father (or a man really) and both times I read it I thought myself deeply in love. I knew it was about becoming, something I write about and allude to a lot here, becoming the person you are and how that person relates to the rest of the world. It was about philosophy and kindness and fear, it was about being imperfect in the face of others wanting perfection, and it was about being a father.

It is a book that I encourage every man to read, women too, but especially men. It deals with the pain and confusion of becoming a man and becoming a father in such beautifully illustrated words that even if you are none of those, you can understand what it is like to be any of them.

It was my go-to comfort book for many years. I’d read a chapter or two when I was depressed or despondent. When the girl I liked didn’t like me back and I was so afraid that I’d never have the opportunity to become a father. It kept me warm when I was cold and alone and struggling just to keep my head up. It kept me alive when I was suicidal, awake when I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open and striving for healthy when I was so sick inside I could barely get out of bed.

In a very real way, this book was why I wanted to write in the first place and its more than 100 rejections proved to me that it was a noble venture. And that, with perseverance, luck, and will, almost anything is possible.

 

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/04/24/525443040/-zen-and-the-art-of-motorcycle-maintenance-author-robert-m-pirsig-dies-at-88

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