December 26, 2013 § 4 Comments
One of the things that has always bothered me is that I don’t seem to feel the way other people feel. I feel some of the same things – I love my wife, which seems to be a common emotion people express, for example. I’m not sure of this, because I have no real means of comparison. I can’t feel what anyone else feels, or in the manner they feel it. I am forced, as we all are as far as I know, to exist in this limited fashion and experience the world only through my own eyes.
So it is with what people call depression. I have something that seems similar to it. A pervasive sense of pointlessness, an enervation that seems all encompassing. Nothing seems to matter. There’s no reason to do anything, and all emotion is flattened. Sometimes I physically hurt from this. It feels like I have been beaten. There’s an exhaustion to it, but it’s not the exhaustion of having worked hard but rather of having had to endure beyond my strength. My limbs feel shaky, my jaw twitches. « Read the rest of this entry »
October 31, 2013 § 1 Comment
Wrote this a few years back. The site it was on seems to be down, so I’m reposting it here. Consider it a Halloween present.
October 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’m about to resort to a device I often dislike to make a point – I’m going to share an incident from my life. I dislike doing this both because I dislike reliving it, and because I dislike resorting to anecdote. But here we go.
After my mother died, I ended up living alone for several years. I worked odd jobs – I was a terrible carpenter, a poor to middling day laborer, a bouncer in a bar that was always on the verge of being shut down. I worked in a bookstore. I was not particularly well paid for any of these tasks, and I was attending college, so I had pretty substantial expenses – textbooks, tuition, rent, utilities. As a result, I was often in a situation where I had twenty dollars to buy food for an entire month. It was 1991 – the dollar had more spending power than it does now, admittedly, but not so much that you could buy enough food to live for a month with a twenty.
As a result, I often did not eat. There simply wasn’t any money for me to do so. I lost well over sixty pounds one semester – I lost so much weight that when my stepmother came to visit me for some reason, she did not recognize me. Of course, rumors of my being on drugs surfaced to explain the rapid change in my physique and mental state – my mother had died fairly recently, and I’d clearly gone over the edge. It was simply beyond people’s ability to understand that, working minimum wage jobs and whatever crappy under the table work I could scrape up simply wasn’t enough money to cover the necessities of life, and that the constant starvation (you try losing sixty pounds in four months) was far more debilitating than any drug habit I might have wished I had.
If not for a kind teacher who began slipping me money – a five here, a ten there – and buying me food at random moments, I doubt I would have made it through college. He didn’t ask me what was going on, or try and make any judgments about my moral foundation or why I was clearly not doing well. He simply helped me, with nothing in it for him and no chance I’d ever be able to repay him. I never gave him anything.
One week he showed up at my door with two loaves of bread and a huge jar of peanut butter. That was it. It cost him less than five bucks. And if he’d asked, I’d probably have broken someone’s neck in return. He never asked for anything, though.
My point in all of this is that my own family looked for blame. Something was at fault – the idea that I was simply laboring under an unfair system was never even considered. I had to be on drugs or messed up over my mom’s death, because those were causes – you could nod sagaciously at them, and say aha and then walk away. If I were on drugs, well, one might argue that you could get me an intervention but if you chose to just walk away (as they all did) then that was understandable. You can only do so much, after all.
We do this with misfortune and suffering because the alternative is to be aware of how fragile our own position is – at any moment, everything you have and everything you love can be imperiled, your possessions gone, your loved ones taken from you. Your very life is a transitory moment suspended between vast gulfs we are entirely ignorant of – you do not know if you existed before your birth, and you cannot know if you will continue past your death. To accept this fragility is daunting enough – to recognize that everything you may succeed in accomplishing in your life was as much the result of happy coincidences and societal forces as it was your own labor prevents one from even the momentary comfort of the delusion of self-sufficiency. We assign blame and look for fault in order to convince ourselves that we can somehow control the randomness of our day to day lives.
No one deserves it. No one did anything to cause it save those that did it. The only question you should ask is “can I help” and if you’re not willing to do that, then at least don’t make it worse. The pain of another isn’t your cue to go into post-mortem mode, looking over their lives and their choices like the scouts on Monday morning going over the big football game to see how we lost.
Poor people don’t deserve it. The victims of violent crime didn’t do anything to justify it. There’s no magic path through life that you can discover and use to avoid it.
October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
I don’t pretend that I believe everything I remember. I mean, I remember it – but I also know that I have many, many reasons to lie to myself. Much of my memories are constructed from stories others told me, or remembered through a haze of chemical abuse quite vast for a person to have survived. There was also quite a lot of physical trauma, including head wounds, at least one case of a fractured skull that wasn’t treated at the time, and a few concussions.
But the real truth is, I lie to myself because to look at the truth, to try and remember things as they were, is agony. Not hyperbolic agony, not the agony we write poems about when we’re callow, just a deep and abiding pain that will not recede and must be suppressed, walled over, buried at any and all costs. I have lost too much and mourned too often to gladly remember. And so, I have my half-true stories, which I tell in place of facts, because it’s easier.
Here is one of them.
September 9, 2013 § 3 Comments
Yeah, I listen to In Flames. I know I’m probably too old and should just listen to 90’s alternative stations on the radio and complain about kids today. (Truth be told, my biggest problem with kids today is how conservative you all are. Seriously.) Anyway, today’s post is about suicide.
Yes, I am a very cheerful sort. If reading about this topic (and I’m planning on being frank) is too disturbing for you then you may want to not read this.
Suicide is one of those topics that, even if you’ve been there you can have a hard time understand it, much less explicating it. There are many different kinds of suicide and many different reasons for it – it’s hard to compare the suicide of a teenager being bullied with that of a person with a terminal illness, and those are just two examples. So all I can really do is explicate what suicide means to me, and why I’m uncomfortable with how our society deals with both those that commit suicide and those that attempt it but survive.
I’m using myself as an example here, because all I can do is use my own experiences. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 5, 2013 § Leave a comment
I never met my maternal grandfather – he died before I was born. So I’ve really only got my father’s father in my memory, and he was an interesting person. Far more accomplished than I’ll ever be (he was a plastic surgeon) and somewhat detached, emotionally. His relationship with my father was what you could call rocky, in much the same way that England and France’s relationship was rocky during the reign of Henry V. And yes, that was the best I could do for a metaphor.
For whatever reason, he liked me. Perhaps because I was his only grandchild. Perhaps because it made my mother uncomfortable whenever he visited. Understand, my mother was practically fearless – she would, could and did often start huge disturbances in public over anything that bothered or concerned her. She would tell cops right to their faces to back off, and they would. So when I say he made her uncomfortable what I’m really saying is His complete emotional detachment to everyone in the world terrified her because it meant she couldn’t win an argument with him. He barely cared what his own son thought, much less the woman that he’d married, and it was only exacerbated by the fact that my grandfather was the one who’d repaired my mother’s hand after a fireworks accident nearly ruined it – you couldn’t even tell, years later, that she’d had something explode in her palm and blow the skin off of the fingers.
But as I said, he liked me. Even loved me, in a way – he would pick me up on his lap and give me this bristly kiss on the forehead and rub my head absently while he talked. Even as I reached the age to be too big for him to do this, he would anyway – by the time of his death, around my eighth year, he was so frail it was a significant effort on his part to lift me. His limbs would tremble with the exertion. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
I challenge you to come up with more than one funny dead baby joke.
I mean, really funny. Not a smirk raiser. Not a “aren’t we so cheeky, telling this awful joke” crooked grin. An actual knee slappingly funny joke about dead babies. One that doesn’t depend entirely on the fact of dead babies to try and push some kind of social outrage button, a well structured piece of comedy involving dead babies as an integral part of the joke.
September 3, 2013 § 11 Comments
There’s a power in rage that clouds our ability to understand it. Rage – real, honest fury that causes your skin to flush and your teeth to clench, that makes your hands close into fists involuntarily, that seething anger that moves you before you know you’ve moved – precludes reflection. It is incoherent in its insistence on response, part and parcel of the fight or flight response. And that is due to the fact that rage is ultimately just the other side of fear. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
For me at least, the line between acceptance of different opinions and rejection of those that hold them comes down to coexistence. Specifically, are they willing to allow it?
It’s not enough that they be willing to allow me to exist, either. It’s not enough that they be willing to allow others that they disagree with to live, as long as they don’t make them uncomfortable. Right now I’m thinking about Orson Scott Card again, as I do sometimes because to me he’s the primal example of someone I once enjoyed as an author, whose books I purchased and who I probably would have defended until I discovered that he hates me.
I am an adult who was a child, and when I was a child, I was sexually abused. I’ve talked about it before, and I’ll probably do so again, but for now, that sentence suffices. Card’s argument that homosexuality is the result of childhood sexual abuse enrages me to my core – it takes good people I’ve known and paints their very identity as trauma, it takes my pain and uses it to make cheap points in his campaign to make people he doesn’t like go away. For him, gay people having the same rights he enjoys is terrifying, a threat to all he holds dear. To be honest, his logic escapes me, but his fervor doesn’t. He’s claimed that if the US Government allows gay marriage, he’ll become its enemy and seek its destruction. I’ve been called a liberal communist and called a traitor for my opposition to the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, and I never called for the destruction of the United States’ Government.
So here I sit, and Ender’s Game is about to come out, and it will have a huge marketing push and people who only know Card’s novels and not his newspaper columns or other statements will go see it, and some of those people will be gay, and their money will go to someone who hates them. Some of those people will be the survivors of rape or sexual abuse, and their money will go to someone who has used the worst day of their lives to try and steal happiness from other people, to use their pain to justify causing pain to others. This is why I won’t go see the movie, but I don’t claim that my decision in this case should matter to you.
You can’t coexist with hate.
Hate isn’t rational. Hate isn’t willing to allow others to live, much less live purposeful or happy lives, or even simply pursue happiness (since happiness isn’t guaranteed in life, of course) – hate needs the objects of its vermillion gaze to be held down, to be stripped of their essential sameness. The people who hate will not accept that the people they hate are their equals, perhaps even their superiors – they must be kept down, held back, kept away from whatever it is they want that those suffused with hate already have. For the man who embraces hate, it is not enough that he wins, the object of his hate must also lose. It is not enough that the ones who hate have every advantage, every right and privilege afforded by society, but those despised must also crawl in the dirt and be thankful for every scrap hurled their way from on high.
“We don’t need gay marriage, gays can already get married to someone of the opposite sex if they want to get married” is the kind of argument you hear from those who will not coexist. Make no mistake – they are the ones who have chosen the path here. They are the ones who will not live and let live. Not us. We’re not the ones threatening to declare war on the government if it doesn’t vote our way, we’re the ones threatening to vote. We’re not the ones calling women sluts and whores for wanting the same access to medicine as men, we’re not the ones who try and make it harder for minorities to vote because they can’t win elections any other way. The targets of hate are always the ones being told to compromise.
You can’t compromise with someone who would rather you starve than see you eat the same food he eats.