Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ask A Silly Question....

Brilliant playwright and fellow blogger, Don Cummings, posted a semi-facetious list of questions in his thought-provoking blog, Open Trench.

I planned only to comment on a few, but true to form, once I get rolling on an idea, I just can't stop myself...

So here are my semi-serious answers. Enjoy!

Why do so many people loathe the idea of a strong benevolent Socialist government but gladly work for feudal modeled corporations that enslave them?

Two words: Parent Issues. I think many people equate Big Government with an over-powerful, irrational parent, and see corrupt corporations as The Bully Down the Block. They tell themselves that someone will take down the bully (e.g. the self-regulating free market) without realizing that the bully's bully will be even worse to contend with than a misguided but well-meaning parent.

Unfortunately, the parent (and the government) carries a whopping load of archetypal energy, which undermines the child/citizen from inside as well as outside. And so people fear that more. Even when reminded that government can be voted out of power here, they'll say that the "next guy" will be just as bad because all politicians are the same (corrupt -- like corporations aren't), and blah blah blah.  In the end, they just need to grow the fuck up.

Why do people in the Midwest continue to deny climate change while their cities and lives are being flattened?

Never underestimate the power of denial -- especially when one's "way of life" (i.e. creature comforts) is at stake. They'd rather ascribe home-flattening gale forces to a misplaced butterfly than to their dependence on fossil fuels.

Why is everything loaded with garlic?

Garlic is tasty and good for you and adds zazz to mundane meals, but you're right it can definitely be overdone. I think American taste buds are overstimulated with salt and sugar, so over-garlicking is probably an answer to that.

Why is it totally cool to have millions of dollars and then want millions more while others cheer you on to obtain it?

The cheerers are living vicariously through the money-whores, fantasizing perhaps that one day they will become like the objects of their obsession. (I wonder if that applies to stalkers, too...)

Why can’t I take a high speed train all across the continental United States in fifteen hours?

What? You want efficient, well funded rail in America? What are you, a socialist???

Why do people continue to buy horrible cheap shit that makes them fat and sick?

For the same reason they drink too much Bud, do drugs and watch too much TV. It's cheap, easy and adequately anesthetizing.

Why do people think they should have something for nothing?

Similar to the Government question:  Parent issues. Or more specifically, Mother issues. People who are not yet grown up -- possibly because they did not adequately have their needs met, or whose overbearing parents kept them dependent so that said parents would feel needed/useful to their growing children, and therefore never learned to (1) discern their real needs, and (2) tend to those needs themselves -- expect the world to be one big fat teat for them to suck on.

Why are so many people flaming out publicly?

This dovetails the something-for-nothing dynamic, I think. Unearned success (for 15 minutes anyway) is essentially meaningless. They don't know how they got it, they don't know how to keep it. And, far be it from me to ascribe depth where there is likely none, but perhaps some deeper level of them is viscerally unhappy and unsatisfied with it.

The desire for unearned success reminds me of  Marion Woodman's caution for our age: "They crave food that brings them no nurturance, drink that brihngs them no spirit, sex that brings them no union. Because their culture worships matter and minimizes soul, they concretize metaphor and literalize life."

And so they push boundaries, in the same way a two-year-old kicks against its parent. Unfortunately, the public is no forgiving parent, and eviscerates the foolish famous.  Or they eviscerate themselves because they just can't help it....

Why do we get old, the whole time pretending we are young?

We want the world to continue believing we are young, because there is no respectable, appreciated place for age in our culture. Despicably sad.

Why don’t I own a Havanese?

Because, deep, deep down, what you really want is an even-tempered rescued mixed-breed pooch.

Why do I continue to run the air conditioner when I know this is slowly eating up all the mountain tops in West Virginia?

Because in the end, even those of us with functioning consciences believe at least a little in the Butterfly Effect over the effect of our own environmental footprints.

Why do men from New Jersey wear clunky pinky rings?

A little bling for the ba-da-bing!! New Jersey guys want to be the Situation. And the Situation just wants to be Joe Pesci.

Why is competition absolutely everything?

It isn't, but for many of us in an ego-based culture, it is because it has to be. But again, this has to do with growing up (or failing to grow up).

The two chief ways we come to know who we are and what we are capable are external -- comparison and contrast -- what am I like and what am I not like. What am I connected to, what am I disconnected from. And what am I better than, and what is better than me. As we grow, hopefully, we come to appreciate our unique complexity, which tempers that kind of comparison with more internally-based knowledge of oneself.

Why is it that even though I would like an economy based on compassion, I somehow understand that this is impossible? Is it because I have been brainwashed?

It's not impossible. There is evidence of it all around us (look at the outpouring of help for Japan and the south). We are capable of compassion; we just need to learn that compassion for others is not necessarily in conflict with self-interest.

Why did I always try to impress people when, really, everyone was already so upset about themselves that all great deeds just made them feel even worse?

You don't know that impressing them made them feel worse about themselves. Most likely, you intended to make them want you more; by showing what you were capable of, you are increasing your value to them -- especially if it is done through friendship. You are basically saying, "See this cool thing I can do? Well, even if you can't do it, you can connect to it just by being friends with me."

I know it doesn't make much sense, logically, but people really do work that way... And a lot of people prefer reflected glory, anyway.

Why is there MRSA at all?

Survival of the most mutable applies in particular to bacteria.

Why is the sun still here?

Depends on what you mean by "here"? It really isn't here at all; it's 93 million miles away. Which is a good thing.

Why are we all alive right now and not at the point of true extinction?

Maybe some ruminating dinosaur asked that just before the asteroid hit.... :-)

Truly, though, we are nowhere near extinction. We are just in an extended teenage phase. Asking why we are still here is like asking why your sister's teenaged son hasn't killed himself in a wheels-and-booze related incident. He may. But he probably won't. And neither will we.

Why are people having all these late life babies that might have had better brains if they had had them twenty years ago?

Babies born to older parents may have "less better" brains (though there is plenty of research demonstrating the opposite), but older babymakers are almost always better, wiser parents. So maybe the kids have "worse" brains, but they will get far more mileage out of the brains they have.

Why is rice pudding so tasty and empty?

It isn't empty!! It's filled with rice! And pudding!!

Why do we look better when we are thin?

Tell that to Paul Rubens. Skinniness is ugly to me; healthiness and comfort in one's body is beautiful, no matter the body weight.

Why do I own such horrible headphones, taken from the back pouch of an American Airlines seat?

Cheap, convenient, and clearly you are content enough with them that you don't care to replace them yet.

Why are clams so tasty in the same way in absolute value uniqueness that cashews are?

Not sure. I prefer oysters to clams and Brazil nuts to cashews in both absolute value and uniqueness.

Why do things change so quickly and then we are so quick to make fun of how things just were? Is this part of the fear of time-death thing?


Why do I care?

Enquiring minds want to know......

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Worldwide Flooding: When It Rains It Pours (HuffPo Comment)

A few years ago, while my father was waiting in a hospital lobby for the rain to let up, he noticed a forlorn young man gazing dejectedly at the downpour.

"Man!" he pouted at no one in particular­, "Why does it gotta rain!?"

My father looked at him for a long beat and responded, "So you can have water to wash your car."

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Love & War

I have been thinking about a recent falling out with a former lover.

We had not been involved romantically for a few years, and a very nice friendship seemed to be developing between us. Then a month ago he suddenly became distant and guarded.

The last time I'd seen him, he'd told me he would be in New York for a week in April, and so I believed he meant to see me. I cleared time in my schedule for him, and even attended an event he was hosting. But I did not hear from him, and beyond the first hello at the event, he not only avoided me -- he all but ran from me when I asked how he was doing.

Later, I -- along with 3000 of his closest Facebook friends -- learned that he was in a new relationship; I was absolutely stunned that he would behave so childishly. Weren't we friends, after all? Wouldn't he want to share good news like that with a good friend?

Apparently not.

I emailed him a few days later asking why he didn't simply tell me the news. Within minutes, I received a l-o-n-g email from him stating:

"My relationship with G___ is personal, private and what I will share when necessary. I was not hiding anything from anyone. I don't live in that world, either as a participant or as an observer."

Um... OK....

The letter rambled on:

"If I mean to say something, I'll say it. If I mean to share something, I share it. If I don't mean to say something please don't fill in the blanks because it matches your story. My life is just that, mine. What I choose to share I share. ...
"Your assessment of how I treated you is just that: yours. You keep holding onto that story if you need to. I suggest you not. I have no obligation to discuss with you any aspect of my life, none. No one in my life is afforded that. We had no implied agreement to hang out. None. Stop telling yourself those stories, stop creating scenarios...
"I'm not going to apologize for any of my behavior, for it's not callous or cruel. You have placed judgments on my actions, you have created stories about what you needed and wanted."

I was completely taken aback -- first by the cold, high-handed tone, and then by the sheer length and immediacy of the email. It was as though he'd had this little speech planned out for some time....

"Obviously you've been holding onto this for some time," he sneered. And then in the next breath, "A couple of years ago a similar thing happened, if I'm not mistaken."

I had no clue what he was talking about. And who was holding onto what here anyway??

As I looked over the words I started feeling sick -- not just because they were pretty damned callous and cruel -- but because they didn't quite seem directed at me.

I mean, yes, the letter was addressed to me, and seemed vaguely to respond to a few of the points I'd raised ... but it was so completely out of synch with what I had written that I couldn't even imagine the person he was speaking to ...

So I took another tack -- a kind of olive branch -- in hopes of bringing it to a personal level that might remind him of the me whose company he had enjoyed and with whom (I thought) he shared some connection.

"In this area, I admit I have some baggage," I explained, hoping to stir some compassion, "I have lost more than a few male friends to new girlfriends -- a few who were 'exes' of a sort, but most of whom were platonic -- and all of whom were dear to me -- only to be dumped unceremoniously when the new relationship came about."
"Friendship is sacred to me... I don't share myself with everyone the way I had with them, or with you."

I took a breath and hit "send."

"This ... is just another example of you and your story-telling," he shot back. "That is not the case with me, so let go of that baggage. It has nothing to do with me, and is irrelevant. You continue your pain cycle. That's your choice."

He continued parrying madly at an attack that existed only in his mind, concluding with this nonsenical pastiche of new-agey jargon,

"Whatever you need to hold onto, you hold onto it. This conversation isn't working for me. You've decided to live your life the way you live it. That's your choice."

And finally:

"I wish you peace."

That's new-age-speak for Go Fuck Yourself.

I let it go and went to dance class, feeling more confused than hurt.

Did he really not see that, even as he accused me "fill[ing] in ... blanks [to] match [my] story", he was doing precisely that to me??

Of course not.

And there is the essential blind spot in both loving and hostile relationships.

Both love and war are often the result of eros or shadow projection, respectively. In both cases, we dehumanize the other to fit our needs -- the "story" in our heads of what the world is and how we relate to it.

In a loving relationship, where we are in frequent contact with the beloved, the projection eventually falls. The beloved's humanity asserts itself, and we fall right out of erotic love. If there is a genuine connection that is based on more than erotic projection, a personal love can then develop.

In hostile relationships, however, the projection finds a more stable home because we keep the enemy at bay, so there is less chance that our enemy's humanity will mitigate our hostile projection -- forcing us to fall out of hate.

And I think that is what happened here.

My guess is that my friend may have had some lingering feeling for me based on the good experience we'd had earlier in the year. This, unfortunately, may have posed a threat to the new relationship that emerged a few weeks later.

I don't think my friend was conscious of this, and there may have been more at play than I'm aware of -- but one thing I'm sure of is that he considered me dangerous before he got off the plane in New York and intended to get rid of me entirely.

And the best way to break a personal connection is to supplant it with one's own projections -- which meant he had to avoid me, or he would risk seeing me as I am, and not as the disposable Inconvenient Woman he needed me to be.

It was the Inconvenient Woman he addressed in those emails -- spurned, angry, inconsolable, irrational, resentful, furiously vengeful -- in a word: Dangerous.

While I am certainly capable of all of those qualities and more, I am not her and she is not me -- because she is not a real person at all. She is merely a projection men form to hurl at women in their lives who have become, well, inconvenient.

(It's worth noting here that, after this email exchange, he not only unfriended me on Facebook, he blocked me altogether, as did a few of our mutual friends! And he blocked me from his public "fan" site!! So I must be very "dangerous" indeed.... Oy.)

Reflecting on all of this in dance class (shimmies are great for getting perspective!), I thought back to when he and I first met: his whole-hearted embracing of me, his intoxicating enthusiasm for just about anything I did or said.

Was I a real person to him even then? Probably not.

No. Absolutely not.

When I got home, I looked over the email thread again and decided, even though the exchange was painful, not to delete it.

I'm sure he would say it was just one more thing I -- meaning his version of me -- was holding on to.

But I -- meaning my version of me -- would say it was a stunning example of love, war and how romantic projection can unceremoniously flip into its opposite.

And that is absolutely worth keeping.