Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Lucky 'Ole Sun and The Bonneville Mud Flats

It's difficult exactly to put my finger upon what most excites me, to write about, or talk about, or read or think about. I know at some level I am a generalist, and fairly ignorant of classical frameworks of thought (due to having never formally studied anything at all.) And yet I spy in my (clearly my favorite subject is myself) choices and enthusiasms a certain distance between the parts of me, born perhaps of pain I have experienced (as most do) or maybe just endemic to certain sorts of men ("yeah, endomorphic boys," my friend Rick would say. He underlines passages in the copious magazines and Times articles that he reads, then slips them into his conversations (such conversations comprising something like sixteen hours of his day.)

There are so many tensions between values and certain anxieties you get the feeling "values" and "virtues" were conjured originally to paddock these very things. One of my favorite riddles, in the realm of "values" and "virtues" is the question, "What, really, is the difference between chastity and impotence?" A lovely question to apply, especially metaphorically, to many of the mean emotions our animal selves conjure. How I love to remember the tiny distance between some of my feelings, and the humping dog... I rather doubt lust is elaborately different in a dog and a man. Stand between your lust and yourself, however, and your grey matter will conjure a great deal to explain that thin organ sitting at the seat of it's two hemispheres: the brain stem, the old brain, the thing that helps us higher creatures hump.

But can standing between your ancient, practiced, animal desire, in most any instance really be regarded as a higher purposed behavior, fitting for the supposedly cultivated appetites of man? Is your chastity, even in an instance, just that, a principle enlivened by your flesh. Or is it impotence, an inability to act upon the constellation of your desires; a fear that rejoinder with the old passions of the pack might lead to a crowd dynamics pushing your notions of your self, straight over a cliff.

Kinda funny to imagine that the impotent want it bad! Isn't it? It is only that they don't take it, even if it's on offer, due to some cerebral rationale, or physical immobility. Or keening fear (which Lord knows, can be rational. Rape, STD's, social stigma, Daddy's golden key to the lock around your neck (a common evangelical ceremony that keeps your little sweetheart from whoring around.))

I bring these things up to people on occasion, and let me tell you, opinions vary. The most thoughtful (and possibly most self identified as wimpy) really take to the potential for a mistake to be made as to the allocation of one label to the other. "It's not impotence, it's chastity." Or, "It's not chastity, it's impotence." The important thing to, sorry, the scared and wimpy, is that the universe, or our social and spiritual arena, at the very least, be regarded as somewhat fickle, and random. Bad labels apply to good people.

The vastly less thoughtful (and possibly most self identified as a billy goat or seductress) will consider for perhaps a tenth of a second that a chaste individual is not by definition impotent. Then the matter will be settled. They like this question. To them it is not a riddle, but rather a parable of sorts. Your entire point, in bringing this up, Andy, is to show the chaste man can't get it up, and are therefore looking for a back door. Then they giggle at their homophobic pun, and move on to other issues of similar magnitude. It is easy for me, or rather, used to be, to regard this attitude with contempt. And yet people have limited resources to address most of the issues in their life, and lust can seem more or less straightforward to the self identified as "normal", and as such, be a buoy to far more unpleasant existential questions. There is weakness at the root of all our aims for uprightness. And fear. Looking down on that is like conjecturing the worth of a woman on the basis of her size next to a oak tree. You are much smaller and therefore.... Weakness and fear is the basis by which we operate (and the probable self knowledge that accounts for our marvelous adaptability. Necessity, or feeling better, is certainly the mother of a winter coat. Hairlessness is a weakness, but sewing draws on fear, for survival and strength. A complex network of associations and feedback. Not easily labeled, though, for who has the time to think about this nonsense?)

The weak and the fearful (as I have been, am, and will be) have all the time in the world. The trick is knowing you are weak. And knowing you are afraid. It doesn't really feel that way.

The word "answer" is a fencerow trickster. One moment the terminus of an algorithm. The next the fulcrum of an elaborate curve, meant really, to describe a entire category of points in a set.... and not necessarily concrete (addressable) ones.

I will never forget loving somebody who's favorite line was, "give me a concrete answer." About God, or ideas or feelings about the world. My answers to her about my feelings about her were as solid as a rock. But she couldn't live within my faith in her (actually a beautiful reality about all of us human beings, most thoroughly embodied, sadly, or not, in women. I can't really say. See how it kinda infuriates!) She longed for the company of a people who lived in the forward motion of an algorithm. I have always been moved most by the balancing of the scales in every footstep regardless of intention. "To infinity and beyond! won't get you there," I might have said to her. She liked the rockets red glare, none the less, and bless her, gifted me with a little of the succor of such passion. You see... while the mind and spirit might not exactly meet, Lord can they sympathize. Not exactly a grounds for a proposal in marriage. Lucky me.

It is hardly rational, or interesting, to look upon all relations with this sort of analysis. Plenty of people have the perceptive fiber to understand their place, in relationships, or even the world, as perhaps one not meant to be shared completely, but rather complemented. What a mercy. Is there anything sadder than the fool who longs more for a reflection of themselves than the challenge of somebody who can see as much or more of them, than a crude apparatus that only a type of reflection requires? I have been taught as much by people who ask me questions from the distance of their tradition, spiritual temperment, and culture as I have by some who have strategized to help this man. That, I suppose, is why so many of my friends over the years have been so deeply unattractive to the mainstream of my generation. Mothers of friends, or fathers, with all the wrong sentiments and feelings. Foreigners who only technically deserve the interest of my people (while inviting mockery with nearly every assumption and stylization they template to my dominant culture.) Broken and weakened True Believers, who avoided for too long the cynicism that girds against feeling for the homeless and helpless; eyes best avoided, given the epidemic of depression and mental illness. All of us have mistakenly in childhood, prior to the end of our innocence (if we're lucky, instigated by mere sexual maturity, not violent removal from a sense of security.) chosen friends we later realized were either embarrassing or abusive. The pecking order begins earlier than that, of course, but we learn. And we remember the shame probably more than any instance of embarrassment or abuse.

As adults we are supposedly cured of such circumstances. Suddenly ready to embrace the entire world, in all it's complexity, we look back on the school days as a place of "hormones" and cruelty and stigma. People still come up to me in the street and pour their hearts out, slowly reaching back, further and further, till they finally get to the place where their troubles began. A triumph of humanistic designs on causality, these stories are important to listen to, perhaps even sympathize with, but markedly unpersuasive. We remain our entire lives grasping and cruel. We continue leaving our shame, and those we've abused or abandoned behind, our entire lives. It is only the pure technicolor of childhood, where we are expected to have open disputes under enforced contact with a diversity of people, that sets it apart from the adult condition. Most of my sweet liberal friends would not take well to being teased at an Indianapolis bus stop by a gaggle of giggling bus riders. Trust me, if you ride the bus, you will encounter, should you stand tall, and engage your electrical apparatus, now a common part of your existence, ridicule and provocation. I have seen grown men many times teased, as they silently withdraw into their private realms, their eyes glazed with the faith that their torment will pass, and their feet moving them to the edge of the group waiting for the bus to come. Just come... The mix of mental illness, poverty, substance abuse, cultural misunderstanding, and, of course, prejudice, can make a inner city bus stop seem a place perfect for the pigeon shit that sprinkles it like holy water. My nice liberal friends know when and where to get real. With some exceptions (and many across the nation, thank God) the bus stop is a step to far.

In order for a culture under as much flexion as ours to have the upwelllings of sentiment necessary for a pseudo-democratic change, a certain degree of myth making about who we are is probably what spans the gap. Should I put my boot against the head of every so called open minded, "spiritual" liberal six miles from where I sit, I've no doubt I'd find just as many bobble headed lemmings, as genuinely open minded souls. But that doesn't bother me. For every hopeful person born, someone certified dies. Given the vississitudes of youth, probably more hope makes it out of the gate, and into the world, than the devil had ever reckoned, given our constitution.

So my hopes are fractured floor of mud, willing to hold the roiling waters of change, but just as willing, I guess, to sit in the light of the sun and know that the glare can blind, even as it enlightens.

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