“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” – Carl Jung
I grew up with a depressed alcoholic Father. I’d sit watching TV beside him in the evenings as he knocked back a steady line up of scotch/rocks and smoked his Kents. I loved my Father though his misery seemed way too much like the family business I was expected to eventually shoulder. My Dad seemed like a frightened, tired fugitive who’d joined the family by pretending to belong here; reading the paper nonchalantly until the coast was clear. This turned out to be close to the truth.
I discovered something surprising about him while reading through a stack of his old poetry.
Pretend you’re me. Five years after your distinctly heterosexual and masculine father dies.
Here’s my new story, delivered to me at that hour and minute. My Dad was Gay and living in permanent exile from his own life. Or he was Bi, in the closet, and living an untrue life. Or maybe there is something I’m missing. I’m building a story out of fragments connected by gaps of unknown size and shape. Being Gay or Bi in the mid-twentieth century is sufficient reason for any rhetorical person to hide, but insufficient for me to understand my father. Who was he hiding from? His family? He held them in contempt or at a cold distance. Society? The law? I have a sort of theory. I’ll get there eventually.
I’m uncomfortable revealing his most private secret to you, one that he never wanted to reveal to me. A secret he may not have revealed to anyone after his early twenties. I’m reluctant to expose his story out of concern for his feelings, his pride, and his shame. But none of these exist now, except in me on his behalf. OK, I can’t hurt him with this story. I’m the only one morally responsible and there’s no victim to protect.
Maybe I’m naive but I was shocked at first because he was so gruff and masculine, it played hard against type. However, it did resolve my lifetime question: Why the hell is this guy so uncomfortable? It made him a more sympathetic character to me. He stifled his most basic feelings and lived in that prison. He nursed a broken heart for a lost love grown perfect in the virtual world of separation. Many of us do something similar, but a happy life keeps that pot on low heat, on a back burner. His pot boiled away till it charred. Pay too much attention to your ghosts and they come to own you. Continue reading
The madman stepped out of the shadows three feet away and smiled broadly.
Under the harsh yellow streetlight, his blonde hair was white, the angles of his face gaunt. His eyes glinted with light from another world. It was my best friend John, or at least John’s body with a schizophrenic parody of him in residence. The scary thing about John as a schizophrenic wasn’t what he was doing right now, it was knowing he might do anything, that prediction was impossible.
“Hello, initiate,” he said, flipping a coin and snatching it from midair. “Heads,” he said, holding his palm open to me with a penny, tail side up.
I fought back my fight or flight response and focused on some here-and-now questions.
“When did you get out of the hospital?” I asked him.
He whispered, “The temple was never completed” and ran off into the night.
At this early stage of madness, he was eerily himself, handsome, self-possessed, and affable. Months later he wandered up to me ragged and filthy, with broken teeth. His personality faded in and out like a badly tuned radio. After a moment of lucidness, he would cackle and dance clownishly away, his rags flying. It was quietly nightmarish to see a friend’s face with someone else’s eyes in place of his. Same house, different tenant. Continue reading
aka ‘The Hairdresser’ (1905)
American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.
– Henry Wallace
Explosive Polymerization of p-NitroAnilinePhysics
We have two very predictable responses to new technology.
- Superstitious terror
- Unquestioning acceptance
This chart nicely supports and reinforces the existence of this pattern.
There is a sociological model breaking down the details of acceptance, it’s called the technology adoption life cycle.
Remember, my theory is that humans have a symbiotic relationship with technology. With technology, we develop powerful evolutionary mutations that create new human subspecies. These subspecies are transformed powerful upgrades. For example, weather-resistant clothing extended our range into cold areas, spears, arrows, and organized hunting made us singularly efficient, deadly predators. Cars expanded our range by hundreds of miles around our communities. Broadcast technology made us instantly aware of world events and able to “discuss” them in our millions in real-time.
The Superstitious terror response is the various recent tech mutations defending their sub-species territory and advantages and arguing against abandoning these in favor of some untested cockamamie nonsense.
The Unquestioning acceptance response is partly the deep species knowledge of having been made safer and more powerful countless times by saying yes to this deal and also the certain knowledge that they will be vulnerable to destruction by other tribes of humans who embrace the mutation if they don’t.
(I cannot find an artist attribution for the chart.)
Note: This is a writing exercise exploring an important memory, but one that existed like a collection of facts without much context or meaning. I find when I use writing to explore a memory that the lights come back on, and details lead to meanings along a narrative path. Every time I’ve done this I’ve been given a fresh understanding with relevance to my life in this very minute.
In college, (in Florida) during Freshman orientation I met Ally. We had nothing in common except for an instant liking for each other. Something about the other brought out the loving and playful side of us both. We had silly, warm-hearted fun every time we got together, and that was a lot. I was friends with her and her roommate, Laura, and spent time with them almost every day. Ally was tall, slim, and blonde, a bit angelic. Laura was pale with black hair and blue eyes, beautiful really.
Randomness made them roommates but they had good friend chemistry and shared the cultural reality of being good girls from the conservative, Christian south. They were both sheltered, innocent, and upright. They dressed modestly. Whereas I was some sort of oddball from the liberal agnostic dimension with a good bit of sex and drugs in my experience bank. I was a shameless male slut and good at getting into sexual situations. In fact, by this age, I had managed to be kind of a shallow manipulative asshole sexually multiple times. This isn’t ugly bragging at all, just truthtelling. Here’s the odd thing, attracted as I was to both Ally and Laura, I just loved them innocently and couldn’t have MADE myself seduce either of them. I understood half-consciously that that part of me wasn’t good for people. Spontaneously, I wanted to be good for both of them.
This doesn’t mean we were prim and distant. I’d visit and I’d talk all kinds of silly crap that made them laugh, then maybe they’d make us tea and we’d eat oranges together. Soon this would devolve into orange peel wars and finally into grunting and groaning wrestling matches across every surface in the dorm room but the ceiling. Continue reading