William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

20. turmoils


Learning patience. No Internet-at-home in the forseeable future. Wacky thing alluded to before potentially not happening until Thanksgiving. Got some more books.

I was getting Grampy his lunch today and I was talking about “us” going up to New Glasgow or Antigonish to get what I suppose is a new but old-school, easier-to-use hearing aid, and he said, “Well, I don't know about 'we',” and so I explained that if I were around I could also get the explanations / instructions and be there to help in case he forgets.

He 'replied', “What you need is a trip to the barber!” He said, “not to criticize you or anything,” that friends of his and Nanny's in the village have been asking about me, incredulously rhetoricizing “Why does he have a beard like that? With a beard like that he'll never get a job around here!” (Because this came after talking about going to get the hearing aid, I now realize he'd be ashamed to be seen with me in public. Part of me is like, 'Well, that's his blanking problem,' and the other part is 'Somebody who's not me should be here; he'd accept help from somebody else where he won't from me, so my presence may be doing more harm than good'.)

Well, I think part of it is that a lot of people don't know me from a hole in the ground (except for my hair). People would be less dismissive if they knew me. I suppose you can say that about a lot of things. However, I'm surprised at the numbers of people who choose to become indignant about my appearance when it affects them in no way whatsoever. (I guess those are the people who aren't saying, “Wow, nice beard!” or “Hey, when did you start growing your beard?”, so I shouldn't feel too bad.)

At least now I know what a white-woman-convert wearing a burqua must feel like. :-p Gosh, I've felt that intense feeling of betrayal – just a solid betrayal of general principles. Symbolizing everything I dislike about the prescriptions of that culture. It's true, I do dislike it. It's fundamentally different from my philosophy about freedom and especially sexual freedom.

But one person converting affects me in no way whatsoever, so this is 'irrational'. Our friends and relatives, by and large, aren't jumping on some Islamic fundamentalist bandwagon. Take a deep breath and hold your nose. Meanwhile, Christian fundies and the new breed of sex-shamers present a far greater danger. (And the sooner the CPC is out of office, the better. I don't feel like they have any willingness to fend off totalitarianism.)

I've just now thought of saying, “Your efforts to shape my expression are not appreciated,” but that would also be exceptionally hurtful, as it's implicitly rejecting his wisdom and experiences. So I'll just smile and bear it. It's really either that, or leave, or change (*click* BRRRZZZZZZZZ...).

At least I can dress up as one of the Duck Dynasty guys for Halloween. I will be shaving at some point – for my PEI grandmother's 100th birthday. :-) Gotta give her some incentive. j/k

One thing I'm missing from this summer that I had last summer was my interest in Feldenkrais. All last summer, the process of discovering new physical connections led to many memories surfacing and new insights being formed. (Muscle memory endures!) So I've downloaded some more of a Halifax instructor's podcasts and will be getting back into those – I gave up on it last fall because I was too busy, didn't have space at home, and didn't have money to do the live classes, but here I don't have any real obstacles to doing them by podcast.

* * *

While experiencing the anxiety noted above, I had some delicious chicken and vegetables.

I think it's OK to eat meat because the animal inside ourselves loves it. But at the same time I can also understand how many cultures regulate it to within an inch of its (ex-)life. At this moment I'm debating whether it's ethical (i.e., respectful) to eat meat or even dairy in front of a TV or computer or other distraction. Or ethical for me, anyway. I'm also starting to see why most other people eat much more slowly than I do. I think my problem is that I've been only getting the surface taste of things and not really getting deep into the full gustatory experience of eating anything, which includes the smell and even the feeling you get as it goes down your throat. I mean, all that stuff was happening – I just wasn't noticing it.

Plants are definitely in on this dog-eat-dog aspect of nature too – I ought not to forget them, and how we chew up their genes virtually nonstop. But the genes generally don't care, do they? I mean, they get to go on, whether naturally or artificially selected. Even we are just slaves to the demands of our genes to be expressed.

Perhaps that's the meaning of life. Maybe it really doesn't get any deeper than that. But I think there's more – I want to know why I'm on the Will Show and you're on the Your-Name-Here Show. And it surely is a spectacle inasmuch as we love to sing and dance and grow pretty flowers and attract bees. Show off or perish. Seriously, what's the point to being modest? Is it some kind of passive-aggressive bullshit? “I'm so much better than you that I don't want you to be threatened by it so I'll act like it's no big deal.” I'm not saying you have to be a braggart, but do be proud of yourself. I think it's poisonous and corrosive not to be.

I've gone outside onto the verandah. Clearly I'm having a Moment now, one of loose associations, but some of them stick. It's a beautiful day. Shame that in summer this always means there's a lawn mower going. The sound destroys an otherwise pristine aural landscape. I almost want to go back inside, but maybe if I stay I'll get used to it.

Speaking of summer, this is the one I want to reclaim. I want to take September and say, “This is mine! This is still summer! You can't have it!” It's silly of me, I guess. I'm literally still feeling the effects of the house of torture that was elementary school, even in relatively placid rural PEI. You can't be stuck on a damn orange bus five days out of seven wishing that it would go somewhere else for once, then being shepherded inside and aggressively bored to death. The worst part is that I passed this on. When I was in Japan they got me to teach math. It was a joke. Or, truly, I was a joke. It was a farce, but without mirth. For all of my math classes I only saw them once or maybe twice a week but they all dreaded me. “I don't like English Math” comments piled up in my colleague's journal homework. (“You're getting creamed, mate.”)

But I just didn't know. If I knew then what I know now, would I be better? No, I wouldn't have subjected myself to that institution in the first place. Or so I like to think - going by my record, it's like I have Stockholm Syndrome with school or something. Perhaps this is a common affliction. How else could post-secondary education be so damn popular if it's not compulsory? I'm sure there are many answers, I'm just saying that I think this is a real part of the picture. Nobody goes for knowledge – knowledge is everywhere... else but school, oftentimes.

We've found ways to institutionalize knowledge and institutionalize spirit. We've attempted to regulate experience itself and give it models that we are taught to expect it to conform to. Why are we doing this? Why are we killing ourselves with this shit?

I think we can make a much better world. To a great extent I think it will be revolutionary rather than evolutionary. Look at what's happening with societal acceptance of anything – it only happens when people are shamed into it. Race, gender, orientation, those bases – more are coming. Other areas are still usually handled only with fear, shame, and expletives. Is this the best we can do? Can we open our minds up a bit – don't worry about the grey matter falling out; you can't help but build on what's already there anyway. You won't lose yourself if you transform – all that you are holds all that you were.

Adulthood itself is an act. I think there's very little genuine in it. When I was a kid, I remember one of my PEI cousins drinking his milk or something in little sips, not because he innately wanted to, but because that's what adults did (and Oh! To Be Adult). How many other fixed action patterns are there that most kids went on to adopt that I didn't even notice?

Still, doing things like playing house (which I really only got to do with the girls at my school, and I enjoyed it until people started making fun of me for it) was such an unadulterated* pleasure that perhaps it's noble. And now that I think about it, we need these acts in order to be able to cook, clean, drive, and hunt. Someone like me might be more of an actor – I get caught up in the acting itself rather than the ends to which acting is a means. Well, I have a place, too. I entertain, merely by acting. I love acting.

* - I didn't realize the root meaning of the word until now.

That's why it's so hard to stop being “Will the Character”. I think I've finally reached that point, but it's been hard – I've had to let go of so, so much, and I still have so much more to lose. Maybe that includes my beard. I like it because it brings out my eyes and it all works really well when I smile. When I do shave, I don't have 'five o'clock shadow' so much as 'ten-thirty am shadow' that never really went away. Shaving is a farce for me, and it's a fixed action pattern that serves no purpose other than demonstrating conformity, which I reject anyway.

Let's tackle a really hard question. Why did I hate being wrong so much? Why was my whole identity wrapped up in the notion of being perfect (in the sense of never making a mistake)?

Because it meant I was acting imperfectly, and if you're acting, you must be perfect, or it spoils the illusion. We want our actors to simply refuse to be imperfect, to believe in their own perfection so much that it's infectious, and when we watch them, we can't help but say, “(S)he is X!”

Sounds plausible.

Or it meant that I was not worthy of continuous, non-stop praise.

But most people can deal with that, can't they?

Really, why am I such an attention whore? Why am I publishing this? It's not for praise, but I like praise – what I want is for people to understand me. To fully and completely see where I'm coming from. I feel like people do that so seldom - more seldom than I've been recently trying to do it for others, though perhaps that inability to reciprocate is part of the reason why.

This isn't answering the question at all, but I don't think I can answer it today – it feels like trying to square the circle, rationalize pi, or make that perpetual motion machine. I can't get outside of myself to be perfectly objective. Perhaps when I'm dead I can look back on myself and see where I fit and figure it all out. For now I will try to be more attentive to the patterns around me. Hopefully I will see the notable ones. I really think there are 'notable' ones – if I go to a hotel for a conference and they have oranges at breakfast and orange is my grandfather's favourite colour, I think that's interesting but I don't think there's meaning that you can extend to something else.

Hold on a second. You have to use the tools the universe provides in order to measure things of the universe. Therefore, there is no perfect objectivity. There is no wonderful static, universal reference frame to measure anything from. I stress that I am not saying that we're then able to say that all of science is bunk because it uses the tools the universe provides. I'm just saying that it's always going to be a bit dirty. I'm sure this has been said before, but I feel like I'm just coming to an understanding of it now.

Unless I actually leave the universe when I die, I won't get to really see anything. Maybe that's what we in fact do. My friend in high school believed that what you believe is what you get. At first I found that too idiocentric to be believable, but on the other hand, being ourselves is our whole window on the universe, isn't it? If it's something in itself, it could have within it the raw materials for there to be a utopia or sexy dungeon beyond the pale.

Whatever it is, it seems like there must be new things there that we can't comprehend. Things that aren't problems and aren't painful but are still somehow issues. Maybe they have change that somehow isn't deleterious. Maybe there is dry rain. Maybe all the things that we ever thought about and experienced fit into a thimble-sized thing, and the next world is actually built up of these things.

When I went to a Seventh-Day Adventist private school, the Bible textbook (I mean, a textbook for the Bible Study class, though the idea of the Bible itself as a textbook certainly has traction – or, come to think of it, the way all other textbooks imitate the fundamental authoritativeness the Bible aspires to in our consciousness) had at least one chapter on the return of Christ and their general apocalyptic ethic. There was a New Jerusalem and one of the activities at the end was a “How I Plan To Spend Eternity” write-up. What would I have written about? That I planned to build a replica of the Enterprise-D with a classmate?

I think we need belief as a bedrock upon which we can function peacefully. I'm just struggling not to choose this. For a while, they had me. For a time, I was drawing views of the apocalypse in what passed for art class. Let it not be said that we weren't intelligent, though. The smartest teacher there was an unshakeable Young-Earth Creationist, and with nobody around with the tools to take him on, his intellectual reign of terror was unimpeded.

And I lived through all of this. And it was my grandfather, Grampy, who got me out of it. I would have gone back there for Grade 10 and the rest of “high school” if he hadn't explained to me that putting my mother through the expense (I think the price was higher for high school years and she already couldn't really afford it as it was) was untenable. My life today, if I were alive, would be unrecognizable. Maybe I'd have a wife to spoon with and I'd be preaching abstinence and handing out tracts at the Wal-Mart parking lot. (Making an editing pass over this, I wanted to say, “but no, I wouldn't be that obnoxious.” But you should have seen me in high school. Here is something I said to a classmate who had a boy: “If you girls weren't going out and getting knocked up, we wouldn't need day cares!” But Dr. Laura is more to blame for that one than Sandy Lake Academy.) If I had that first thing, it wouldn't be so bad, I suppose. I'd probably have children. My genes would be happy.

What did I get out of there? Writing. A teacher introduced me to Dave Barry and through works like his travel guide that were able to go straight to the HA-HA center, I learned what writing could really be. And now I have the ability to write words as well as a musician can play an instrument, and in some way I should be proud of that, even though it's common. It's a fallacy to look down on something just because it's common. It's still possible to be good. In fact, it's possible to be outstanding. I'm not saying I'm a great writer, though, because I'm employing the P-A bullshit referenced earlier. :-)

Aside: I think I have a model for the allure of preaching and the pressure of conformity. There is the 'noble' part of it that showing other people how to do things that work and then having those people do them is a behaviour that works. (As to whether teaching people how to teach people is a good strategy or not, you'll have to ask a Teacher™.) But there is a 'darker' side, too, I think: If you can have everybody do what you do, you express your genes by imposing selection that will favour patterns matching your own. Like I think there's way more to reproducing / sustaining genes than just straight-up reproducing them, and I'm getting this implication from Sapolsky's human behavioural biology lectures, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, and other sources.

Anyway... It's clear to me that this universe is going to freeze up and die, and everyone and everything that ever existed on every one of its worlds will wither and be forgotten. Boy, is that ever depressing. But your moments, your life, what you have is valuable and noble in its experiencing. Life is in the living, not the archiving, unless you're a natural archivist, and I can see the allure.

So it's time for me to stop writing for a while and live. The writing will disappear but the living was lived, and who knows, it may well go on forever in another way.

* * *

When Grampy arose from his nap, and I suggested we have something to eat, he spoke, “I've been making some long-range plans. I'm going to take [his niece in North Sydney, my first cousin once removed] up on her offer to stay with her. You'll have to go back to Bedford.”

I just smiled and went about my business. But then it came time to tell him that Paul's father took another stroke. Boy, did that give him ammunition.

“I think it would be very appropriate for you to be down there, to help your mother out.” It's true that stuff is piling up – she told me the garbage hadn't been put out for a month. I didn't tell Grampy that.

“Are you going after supper? Do you drive at night?”

“Is [uncle's] room cleaned out, or do you still have to do that?” No, he's just by himself this time, when he called told me he'll just take the front room.

Persisting in staying here when I'm not wanted is sheer lunacy. There was even once a time when I was favoured, but those days are over. I'll be back for visits (Thanksgiving for sure, even if I have to stay with Josh, who kindly offered), but the experiment of staying here is for now a failure. Still, I basically got what I needed. Was it as transformative and transcendental as last summer? No, largely it was an enhancement and refinement of existing themes. This is still necessary and good. My aunt in PEI recognized that being here was “good for the soul”. But right now I'm not wanted here, and that's corrosive. If that could be changed, it would be different. But it won't change.

I could say, “Congratulations – you've succeeded in pushing me away.” It's the truth, but I don't know all the reasons, and if I were what he was I would do what he does, so there's no call to get nasty about it.

But even if Grampy goes to Cape Breton, we shouldn't leave the house empty. I'll discuss this with my uncles over this weekend. We'll see what happens. I may go back on Monday. It really is time to put the book away and try to build new life among similar-minded people in the city.

* * *

“It gets to a point where there's nothing you can do. I know we all have to face that. ... The worst part is the agony you go through and you think you're out of it and on it comes again. ... Well, 'It's appointed unto Man, once to die.'”

He's right. In the face of that, it's hard not to go.


I wonder if all parties would accept some kind of tag-teaming? Perhaps Mom and I could alternate being down here. It would help alleviate Grampy's “You don't live here!” angst, motivated by who-knows-what. I mean, he was kind when I came down in May before I started at the Gulag. And I've gotten over that and I've gotten over the aggressive rejection of LifeSuck Industries, Inc.. I can program my life without reference to them or anything I don't care for.

* * *

Okay. I had a conversation with my older uncle about what transpired and he had some interesting things to say based on his experiences with Grampy and with performing pastoral care.

He said that it's common for people who feel like they're losing their ability to control things to resent such loss of control. Some things I have to take with a grain of salt. Or let it be as water off a duck's back.

He also said that he knows what it's like to care for people who don't want to be cared for. Sometimes, you have to do that. And sometimes the perception that people have is that they're riding fine without training wheels, but the training wheels are still there, unseen or unacknowledged.

But part of the art is to be invisible. To be here but not be in his way. Let him do his thing. And if he does go to his niece's, they still want someone in the house (otherwise it'll deteriorate), and if it comes to them negotiating that someone will stay here but just not saying it's me, so be it.

I've decided that I'll be patient and take a wait-and-see approach. (Uncle: “You've been patient. You've been all that and a bag of chips.”) It's habitual with me that I jump to sudden conclusions. I'm impulsive as all get out. There's a particular web app I want to build, and it makes no difference where I do it, and I'd just as soon do it here, and maybe it will lead to something or I'll just be more useful to someone who has a job for me.

Maybe I'll just go back for a day or two, if Paul needs help, if his father is in a bad way. Grampy was on the phone with Mom and he accepted the idea that I wasn't going back. He has interesting swings like that with regards to my presence. A lot of time when I'm writing I'm focusing on the negative because it's just so piercing and disquieting. But if I only promulgate the negative, I'm profoundly distorting an ideal perspective of the situation.

Speaking of which, that inevitable distortion almost makes me not want to communicate anything! I can't jack you into my brain, nerves, heart and guts to get my perspective. I have to imperfectly render it here, and you have to imperfectly read it. Inevitably some sound byte surfaces and gets repeated, but devoid of its context. It gets out of my control.

I have reason to worry about the various consequences of distortions. In high school, a line on my website saying “Want to view my non-existent hit list? Click here!” (which linked to a mock-404 page saying that the list would be there if I had one) eventually became a police officer in the vice principal's office almost shouting at me “You've got a website with a list of people you're going to kill!” I feel now that whoever called the police wanted me to have a hit list. Checking to see whether or not it was true held the undesirable possibility that I didn't have one.

But it'll be okay. My life is richer for the sound bytes (and, rare treats indeed, narratives) that I get from others. I hope you feel the same way or at least similarly enriched somehow.

Tags: sherbrooke 2013
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