Tag Archive: thinking


Because today was a day full of work, and then tonight was a night full of work, and now it is almost today all over again, and I will fuck up today’s work quite thoroughly if I don’t at least pretend I intend to sleep in between.

But there are things that need writing, and will not leave me alone until I acknowledge them.  It’s been a very right-brain-eating-my-face week, and for some very good and very interesting reasons, and some very bad and very interesting ones.  I am sorting through all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, and now here is a list, because that way I can pretend to the things that need writing that I will get to them, at least long enough to sleep.  And maybe, when I wake up again, I will remember what I meant by all this – or, even more interestingly, I will half remember, and make something not-quite-new-but-curiously-rewrought out of the bits.  Upcycled memory.

Words mean things.  It needs writing because it is true.  Because deserve is a blessing and an epithet.  Because need is a plea, a bargain, a comfort, a curse, a coward’s way out, a pretty lie, a naked and trembling truth. Because words mean things, and people mean things by words, and what we mean by things means everything – and when what we mean is not what it means to someone else, things can go very awry, or just very else.

The trouble with torture.  The trouble with torture, O Best Beloved, it’s that it’s predictably and practically pointless to do it to anyone else but one’s very own private, potent, purulently penitent Self.  No one else has the tools to hone the edge of the tool so fine that it cuts precisely where the intent meets the deed, so that the Self is reminded of what it couldn’t be bothered about before any of this silliness began.

Hookers, whores, call girls and storytellers.  We lie.  We all lie.  And the ones of us who are paid the most to lie to other people are paid to do it because our lies sound like something that those people want very, very badly to be true.  Find the truth that your john wants, and feed it out, micron by micron.  Get paid in the coin of your choice for every morsel.  Wrap as much of what you believe or want to be true in it as you can bear – every word that comes out of your cocksucker that you can believe, your john will believe because you believe it, and it will be easier to sell the ones you know are lunacy and pap.  Cut yourself on true words to feed him watered down lies that taste like lifeblood just enough to make him want more.  And while he’s swallowing, pilfer his wallet.  Or tell him why he had the idea to sign the contract.  Where is the line between fantasy and sociopathy?

Brains are tuning forks. Songs are the note to which mine resonates right now.  The shortcut drug is in full effect, and it is digging things up out of trunks long left locked to rust in the dark.  Pieces of Split City are slotting together, and I think I expected that to be a good thing.  It is definitely becoming something very else, though, and I don’t know what I think of that.  I am becoming, slowly, hesitant to think of these things that I am putting words to as part of some linear work.  There are too many parallels, overlaps, whorls.  Plotlines run like fingerprints.  It is confusing, fascinating.  I have told and retold the story of my own life to myself so many times, in so many ways, trying to make sense of it – perhaps I have worn parallel sorts of paths in my brain, so that it creates not single things, but what if bouquets of possibility and potentiality.

We shall see.

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Mythology of self

We tell ourselves stories all the time, every day.  You’ve heard me talk about this before, and it’s a theme I come back to a lot, primarily because I spend a fair portion of my time asking myself what story someone is telling themselves about a particular set of facts, events, circumstances, whatever.  There are lots of stories to tell about any particular event, and the story that you tell yourself will materially and significantly change the way you look at the event, how you feel about it, how you feel about yourself and other people in relation to it.  The facts form a very, very low percentage of the actual opinion and emotional resonance that a human forms around any important event: most of what goes on in our heads is the story we are telling ourselves about what happened, what is happening, what will happen, what might happen.

That becomes even more pertinent, even more common, even more influential when we think about people instead of facts.  People are mutable and interpretable in a way that facts are not.  Though we spend a lot of brain power excusing or ignoring internal motivations, on some level we (as humans) are basically incapable of ignoring the fact that other humans’ internal motivations DO exist, in a theoretical sense.  So, based on the fact that it can only ever be a theoretical sense, we create theories of who they are, what they are thinking, how they are feeling, what they might or might not think or feel or do in regards to us and what we feel and think and do or do not do or think or feel.

How, then, do we reinterpret and recreate ourselves?  We are, from an internal perspective, a complex mix of both fact and perception, of concrete certainties and guesses.  When you ask someone why they did a very important, very emotionally loaded thing, they will often have a logical, rational, prepared explanation.  They have a story.  They will tell you their story about why they acted the way they did, what they were thinking, what they were feeling, and why all of that makes sense in the context of what was going on.

The problem with that (or at least, this is my theory today – ask me again tomorrow, it’ll probably be different) is that it’s bullshit.  It’s a story they’ve devised to explain to themselves why what they did was right, or why it made sense, or just why it was okay to do at the time.  It’s a construct, a fabrication, a creation designed to uphold their certainty that they do have reasons for doing things, and that they understand why they do things.  People, in general, devise their sense of self and identity from identifying common characteristics in the stories they tell themselves and other people about themselves, and then basing their future stories and behaviors on those characteristics.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of identity reinforcement.

Here’s the chink in that armor: ask someone why they engaged in an action that has no real resonance, that wasn’t important, that didn’t have any real meaning to them at the time.  Preferably, ask them about it both right after they do it, and then again some time later (best if you ask after they have forgotten the first conversation about the action).  At first, usually they will not know why they did that thing.  It was a small action, an unimportant thing, that didn’t need a story.  But when questioned, they will create a story, no matter how small, no matter how poorly constructed, to uphold their self-identity.  They will seek a story that holds a reason that somehow jells with the way they see themselves, through the lens of years or decades of stories repeating the same themes.

After they have forgotten the first conversation, ask again.  The story will probably have changed, although in many cases not by much.  It will hold together better, and small details will be altered to make it flow more freely and coherently.  It will be more according to the standards they expect of themselves, positive and negative, and it will be a better brick in the wall of self-identity.  The story gains stability the further away from the action the person is – because memory is a strange and mutable thing, and we color it in with details that make it easier for us to make sense of it in context of our world.

So, the thing I am going round and round trying to get at is this: we create our own set of stories, our own mythology of self.  My mythology of self is complex and at times incoherent, and interacts with others’ mythology of me in interesting and sometimes very surprising ways.  Everyone I know has a mythology of self – a series of stories that they have told to themselves and others that is part truth, part fiction, told and retold, honed and refined so that it supports and reinforces the person that they have convinced themselves they are.

The mythology of self is a critical part of human experience, I think.  It is utterly inseparable from the way people self-identify in a more scientific and psychological sense, and it is crucial to creating a bridge between separate people, so that they (like fractious deities in totally unrelated pantheons, forced to overlap and interact) can mingle their mythologies to help form a society that we can all thrive and find wonder in.

There is something in this idea, I think, that I will find really useful for exploring the concept of deity as self, and self as deity.  I will have to chase it down one day soon.  For now, I am having great fun poking holes in my own mythology, squinting skeptically at what ego and mis-memory created to convince me that I am me, and there is no other way to be.  We are humans and gods, children and crones who have a fascination with the other and the self, and we are inherently mutable and adaptable.  The mythology of self may well be one of the most powerful tools we have in reinventing our selves and our worlds to be people and places that we are invested in, joyful about, and in love with.

Deep fried roses.

So, I tried something today, and failed miserably.  It was pretty goddamned epic – I took about three pieces of logic and hammered them together in a bastardization of rationale, and made up a Brilliant Idea of Genius ™, which would undoubtedly result in a Revolution in the Field (also tm) due to my Unparalleled Creativity and Amazingness (did I mention tm?)!

 

Naturally, I created a hideous mess and a stench of deep fried roses.  The house is still pretty damned rank.  It’s nearly unlivable, and I’m actually kind of lucky I didn’t murder us all with the fumes of my egotistical stupidity.  On the bright side, at least this time I wasn’t doing anything that involved gasoline.

 

Yet.

 

So, I’m sitting here, stoned on flowers, and trying to come up with some great moral, some silver lining, some reason that this enormous clusterfuck needed to happen, so that I can feel better about having made said hideous mess and stunk up the house.  And the moral of the story, O Best Beloved, is this:

 

Even when you fuck up royally, you end up with a recipe for deep fried roses.  Which, if you don’t burn the fuck out of them, could probably be pretty tasty, if very strange.  Next time I may batter them, and declare myself the ultimate Redneck Hippie.  And the other moral, the one I like better, is this: not everything has to have a moral.  Sometimes you just fuck up, because you didn’t think things through well enough, and you end up with a house that stinks and a day that irritates you, and you learn and move on.  There is no greater reason or purpose; you salvage what you can out of the mess (see: deep fried roses) to make yourself feel better, and then you try it again once you can stand the smell of flowers.

 

I write a lot here about big sweeping ideals and grand philosophies, but the ones that matter the most, I think, are the ones that do not have grand ideals and do not make good sound bytes or good rallying cries.  “Stop bitching and get on with it” is not a good slogan.  “So you screwed up; so what?” is not a great motivational speech hook.  But, realistically, they are the things that lead me through the day to day life that makes room for the big sweeping philosophies and adrenaline-pumping rallying cries, and so they are, metaphorically, the day job that pays for the interesting hobbies.  It’s a tradeoff – do the boring everyday work of getting on with it, and you’ll have the room to spout off about ideals and should-bes.

Remember monsters.

(Author’s note: Usually, with stories, even with little moments in time that have a flavor that wants to be written, I have context.  I know who the people are, what they want, where they are coming from, where they are going.  I have some kind of an idea what the larger story would be, if I wrote the things before the beginning and after the ending.  For this, I have nothing.  I have no idea.  I know that both of them are pieces of me and people I have known, shot through prisms that are both harsh and just.  So I present it to you as it is in my head: out of joint, out of whatever world it belongs in, the players wandering in to live through something in front of our eyes, then disappearing again without ever explaining why.  In a lot of ways, I like it better without the why.  So remember monsters.)

“Live like any minute now, they’re going to figure out why no one else wanted you, either,” she said quietly, staring down the steps at the sidewalk, not meeting his eyes.  She huddled around the coffee he’d bought her, as if trying to save every bit of warmth and life it could provide.  She sipped it slowly, savoring it as they talked, and took drags off a cigarette she’d pulled from somewhere in the depths of her giant hooded sweatshirt.
“Why wouldn’t they want you?”  His question was innocent, caring, hopeful.  He wanted her; she could tell that.  He wanted, partly, to fuck her.  Mostly, though, he wanted to save her.  He wanted to be the man who saved her, and feel like he was worth more because he’d saved someone pretty who needed saving.  It was an old, old story, and he wanted to be an important part of a pretty story with a pretty girl who needed him.  She knew the look.
“Because I’m not someone people want, because I don’t want people.  You don’t know me, and I don’t care.  I don’t want to be understood.  I don’t want to be cared about.  The important word in that sentence is live, not want.  Live, so that when they figure it out, you can keep living.  Survive, so you can keep surviving.”  She looked up at him then, straight in the eyes, demanding.  He saw something in her that frightened him badly – something hard and reptilian, something that had no warmth or softness or prettiness in it.  The only beauty in the survivor’s eyes is the beauty of function, and he was not equipped to see it or appreciate it, not in someone he wanted to save.
“Look,” she said, standing up and dropping the butt of the cigarette, grinding it on the concrete stair beneath her boot.  Her voice was the same flat, quiet, pragmatic tone it had been since he’d first spoken to her.  “You’re a nice guy.  You want to find a nice girl down on her luck.  You want to be someone good to her, good for her, good with her.  Take it from me – don’t do it.  People who need saving once need it all the time, and nobody you save is ever going to love you for it.  All they’re ever going to do is need, need, need.  Eventually, they’re going to hate you for making them need you.  You don’t want a pretty girl to hate you, so find one who doesn’t need you but loves you anyhow.  Don’t pick up strays.  You don’t have to be a hero to be important.  And get a fucking haircut.”
He was confused, hurt, beginning to be angry.  He stood up to match her, topping her height by inches, trying to be intimidating, trying to look aggressive.  She laughed merrily, throwing her head back and howling with mirth.  It was the first time she’d been loud at all, or drawn attention to herself, and she was obviously beside herself with glee.
“Don’t posture with me, nice boy.  You are nice, and you’ll make a nice girl a nice boy sometime.  Now go back to your nice apartment and your nice things, and leave the monsters to our street corners and our steam grates.  Don’t try to save us.  We don’t need you, we don’t want you, and we’ll eat you if you try.”
Then she kicked him.  Not hard, not to injure, just knocked his knees out from under him.  He went rolling down the concrete steps, screaming as joints and head bounced off the unforgiving corners, skidding to a stop on the sidewalk, just shy of traffic.  She walked calmly down after him, and looked down at his form, sprawled ungainly against the black of the gutter.
“Remember monsters, nice boy.  Remember strays.  Stick to your nice life, and stop trying to save things that are surviving just fine on their own.”

Pain is a curious thing.  It creates different reactions in different people, at different times, under different circumstances.  Everyone goes through a lot of pain in their lives, and reacts to it in approximately seven squillion and three completely disparate ways, depending on… everything.

It has been a hell of a year.  It is about to be another hell of a year, but in completely different ways.  I am thinking about all of the pain that I have been through in the past year, and contemplating on the changes it has made in my body, my mind, my soul, my person.

 

I am more vicious.  I am more compassionate.  I am less likely to empathize.  I am more likely to understand.  I am stronger.  I am more willing to compromise.  I want to help more.  I’m better at drawing on boundaries on what is help, and what is enabling.

 

I love more people, more willingly, and am more open.  I am more afraid, and more defensive, and more likely to have violent reactions when people I love hurt me or make me afraid.

 

I’m less likely to hold grudges.  I don’t have the time or energy for the kind of hate I have nurtured in the past.  I don’t need the burning passion of despite against people; I have more than enough despite for causes and bigger problems and passions to keep me warm at any season, any time of day or night.  There are bigger things than people to be angry at; single persons are too small to deserve my destructive energies for long.

 

I am more resilient emotionally and mentally, and much more fragile physically.  I will be in the hospital a lot this year, and that doesn’t scare me as much as it should.  I am glad that I have friends and family and loves I can depend on to take care of me – and I am not afraid to depend on them, because having to ask for help is not weakness.

 

I have redefined weakness and strength, over and over and over.  I am still doing it, every hour and every day.

 

Pain had a hand in doing all this.   I am bitter and resentful and angry about my pain, and I understand very deeply why people are angry about the pain they suffer.  I cannot help but be grateful as well, because I cannot help but see how it has made me more into the person I want to be, and moved me further away from the person I was afraid I would be trapped into being for the rest of this life.

 

I hate my pain.  I love my pain.  I wish it had never happened, and wasn’t still happening.  I am grateful that it happened, and occasionally cut myself up with it internally, to teach myself the lessons it has to offer more clearly, more permanently.  Pain is a tool, a teacher, a punishment, a penance, a purgatory, a visceral experience.

 

What pain will this year bring?  What will I learn?  What will I fail to learn, that I will curse myself for after the fact?  What will I learn poorly or incorrectly, that will lead me down a path I will regret?  I don’t know.  I will learn some things well, some things badly, and it will be a hell of a year.  One way or another, it will be a hell of a year.

 

(I have talked to three or four people about pain today – to any of you that read this, thank you, and I hope that your own pain can be an ally.  If not today, then someday.)

Pretty noises.

I like Christmas.  Reasonably speaking, I like Christmas a LOT.  For someone who is three parts atheist, five parts satanist (little s) and pi parts pagan of various types, it’s practically heresy to say things like that.  But I’m a heretic, too, and an infidel, and it pleases me very greatly to enjoy something that is so very out of fashion with so many people who identify with one or another of the things that I identify with.  What can I say – I’m contrary.  It’s one of my more charming qualities.

 

Christmas is a holiday that I have quite successfully claimed for myself and my own enjoyment, and generally speaking, most of the Christmases in my adult life have been very good.  Even when I’m a broke motherfucker, usually I have time to make presents for the people I care about, to create something that I will get joy from giving them, and from seeing their joy in being shown that they are important to me.  It’s a very pleasant experience, all around.

 

One of the things that I have been thinking about lately is how much I like breaking things.  There are lots of things in the world that make very, very pretty noises when you break them.  Glass shatters with a shiver, paper rips apart like dry skin, wood cracks apart with a great deal of sound and fury, stone can shatter or crumble or fracture and all of those create fabulous and thoroughly tasty sounds.  There is a large part of my head that will forever be a fractious cat, pitching wine glasses off of counters to hear the pretty smashing.  Just as cute animals make the tastiest food, so do beautiful things make the prettiest noises when they are destroyed.  There is something viscerally pleasurable about taking something that has been created for the beauty of itself, and ruining that utterly.  Tear it up, smash it, burn it, destroy it.  It’s a very satisfying to create a tiny little Kali dance in a mortal scale.

 

So, what the hell does that have to do with Christmas?  Patience, patience, and I will draw a map from one to the other.

 

The lines on the map are made out of tape, you see.  Yes, tape.  I like tape.  It makes me happy.  I may be slightly OCD, and just as with my other tame pathologies, the OCD generally manifests in places that I can control, so that I am not crippled by it.  Tape is one of those places.  Sit me down with a strangely shaped object, a box, and packing materials, and I will be entertained and engaged until I have figured out the Right Way to pack the object.  There is only one Right Way – the one way that marries form to function, that creates a perfect geometry of stability and beauty.  It is Euclidean perfection, total structural integrity, and the absolute pinnacle of both accuracy and precision.  Many other ways may work – they may get the job done – but there is only ever one Perfect Solution.

 

So, you see, I love Christmas.  I can find the Right Way to pack and decorate each present, creating and re-creating that process of marrying Form to Function to create the perfect package.  Even better, I can give those creations of beauty and near-perfection (because absolute perfection is impossible to achieve, but damned if I can’t get close) to people I love, to enjoy by destroying.

 

Pretty noises – watching people whose happiness means something to me tear up things I have worked hard to make perfect.  Hearing the sound of perfection destroyed and discarded, often carelessly.  There is an element of masochism in it, because I don’t talk about wrapping packages, and I don’t wax rhapsodic about the impeccable geometry of form to most people.  I give these creations away, knowing they will be destroyed without ever having their worth known.  Pretty noises, made prettier by the sheer ignorant nihilism of the entire process.

 

It is a strange and very disconnected sort of pleasure.  It makes me love Christmas, that pleasure.  I suppose in many ways it is a melodramatic, overwrought, years-long allegory about my view on life and people – even people who love you will destroy your careful work, and won’t even know it, blah blah blah.  But really, mostly, it’s about pretty noises.  Tiny paper Kali dances, stamping out beauty to get at what’s underneath.  It is pleasing to watch, and refreshing, and gives me a wonderful sense of freedom – because I can give near-perfection away, knowing it will be destroyed, and feel nothing but pleasure in it.

 

Pretty noises, making crashing sounds in my head, hymns and carols rendered in shattered crystal and steel.  It’s its own prism, refracting and reflecting and throwing pretty lights on the inside of my skull.  Very pleasing.

 

If there is a moral, it is this: I rail and rant about the people I see casually destroying beauty every day.  Then I perpetuate it, purposefully, in a way that I enjoy and that brings joy to others.  It is one part hypocrisy, one part prism – because there are no inherently evil acts.  Just pretty noises, made important or unimportant by context.

 

Scream.

Every day when you walk through the world, there are people around you screaming.  They scream all day long, every day, and then scream into the night, and wake up or just stumble out of bed without ever having slept to do it all again.  They are screaming for you, at you, with you.  They are people like you, and they are screaming to try to be heard.

 

Every person walking the face of this planet has a voice.  Some are simple, some complex, some restrained and some impassioned and out of control.  All of them are worth listening to, because every single one of them is unique in some way.  Experience is never repeated, only refracted and reiterated into a new shape, a new time, a new person or circumstance.  When you lose track of the idea that all voices deserve to be heard, you become deaf to the beautiful complexity of living.

 

Every moment you breathe, there is something in your mind that is trying to be heard.  We are island creatures, made of flesh that cannot mingle with itself, and so we reach out to each other and ourselves to try and make the minds do what the flesh cannot.  We scream.  We chatter and stammer and beg, to try and be reaffirmed that we are people, that we have voices that other people can hear, that our voices deserve to be heard.

 

Do not lose track of the beauty in screaming.  Every scream has a meaning, a feeling, a thought, a moment of connection that will never happen again.  Miss it to your own detriment.

 

I scream to myself, to others, to nothing, to everything.  Like every other jumped-up monkey on our tilt-a-whirl rock, I scream all the time.  Often it is silent, and often it is unheard or misunderstood.  That doesn’t stop me, and cannot stop me, because to stop trying to be heard is to start trying to die.

 

Scream.  You have a voice, and it is a voice that has value, that deserves to be heard.  Scream.  Other people will be better for hearing it, because it reminds them that they are people, and that they can understand you a little, and so you can understand them a little.  Scream, and remind yourself and the people around you that you are all people, who have things in common, fears in common, loves in common, being in common.  Scream, and be whole.

 

And when other people scream, remember that they are like you, burning to be heard and understood.  To silence another person’s voice is the closest you can come to the Platonic ideal of sin – it excises and burns up something that is precious in its rarity, its complete immunity to recreation.  We are all fumbling in the dark of sentience, trying to find a way to touch someone else that we can never really see or be one with.  The closest we can come is to scream, to create a voice for ourselves that has something of all of us in it, that creates a bridge between the islands of ourselves, that provides for us the vital sense of connection, of being a creature who is not alone in the dark of its own mind.

 

Scream.  You will be heard, and someone is equipped to understand, and to care.  You are not alone in the dark.

 

Engage as equals.

This could be a diatribe filled with profanity.  It could be a gripping personal memoir of everything I have seen and done and been in the last year, providing every sordid moment in glistening, horrific 3-dimensional detail.  It could be a long, woeful ramble about what a horrible person I am, how much I regret being myself, and how I should never be trusted to make choices about anything of note, ever, because I am also an idiot.  It could be a lot of things, but really it’s just one thing: I have distilled everything I have learned from all that into three words, easily understood.

Engage as equals.

Easy to understand the concept, but hard to understand how it applies in so many walks of life, and why it is the first tenet I have added to my own personal code in a very, very long time.  I will give you some examples of why I think engaging as equals is critical, is necessary, is indispensable in being a functional adult.

DON’T BANK ON WHO YOU ARE:  If you make your living with your brain, but you are not willing to take your statements, opinions, and arguments into a forum where no one knows who you are, you are refusing to engage as equals.  That is demanding a handicap of reputation, and in many cases, a handicap of perceived superiority over the individuals who may disagree with you.  Your professional reputation was (I hope) based on your ability to state your case well, to research well, to debate intelligently and to prove your points or convince others that you had.  Refusing to engage when the other party is seen as your equal (in intelligence, in reputation, in ability, in whatever) is cowardice, and I will not abide it.

DON’T PITY FUCK:  If you have any interpersonal relationships that involve any level of intimacy, it behooves you to engage as an equal inside them.  Even if you have a negotiated unequal power dynamic, that power dynamic does not change the equality of the partners as people.  And, in a more mainstream sense, it is all too common for one partner to assume that they are more intelligent, more resourceful, more qualified, more attractive, or more *something* than the other.  The catch is this: that usually cuts both ways.  If you are both in a relationship where you feel like you are doing the other one a favor, on some unspecified level, that seems to be to be a great big giant red flag.  You must engage each other as equals – persons of equal value, of equal worth, who may have different things to contribute to the relationship, but whose contributions as people are essentially impossible to measure on a quantitative scale.  If your relationship devolves into measuring who has done more for whom, get out.  Refusing to leave just because you’re used to where you are, or you feel that your partner deserves your treatment of them, or you deserve their treatment of you, is laziness and cowardice.  Again, I will not abide it.

MAKE FRIENDS YOU LIKE:  This is a corollary to the previous point.  If you are in a friendship or acquaintanceship, and you feel like you are doing the other person a favor, get out.  It will drain you and make them feel small.  The same logic applies for friends who feel they are doing you favors – it will drain them, and make you feel small.  Neither situation is one in which friendship can flourish.  The only people who can last as friends, honest and open with each other, are people who engage as equals.  If they do not believe that the other person is bringing as much value to the table as they are, then there will (of necessity) be some sort of commodification of the friendship.  Doing people favors is only kind if you are not waiting to call them in, and not waiting to capitalize on being “that guy” who does people favors.  If you do it expecting a return, that is not friendship, and cannot effectively be masked as such.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS: There are people in the world who are less intelligent than you.  There are people in the world who are less adept than you.  There are people in the world who are less attractive, less motivated, less everything-you-think-is-important than you.  I have bad news for you, chum – those people are still your equals.  No more, no less.  Your criteria for importance are just that – yours.  Those criteria have no bearing on their actual validity as human beings.  Those people are your equals, and if you want to get anything out of your interactions with them, you have to treat them as such.

KNOW THEIR LIMITS:  Corollary.  There are people in the world who are more intelligent than you.  There are people in the world who are more adept than you.  There are people in the world who are more attractive, more motivated, more everything-you-think-is-important than you.  I have good news, this time.  Those people are still your equals.  No more, no less.  Your criteria for importance are just that – yours. Those criteria have no bearing on your actual validity as a human being.  You are the equal to those people, and if you want to get anything out of your interactions with them, you have to treat them as such.  And, corollary again, they have to treat you as such if they want to get anything out of those same interactions.

REMEMBER, CAESAR: Thou art mortal.  Even when you are in the height of your field, at the top of your game, in your best element, and absolutely top-flight of where you will ever be… There is still someone who knows more about it than you do, for a correctly phrased definition of “it.”  That is not a reason to despair – it is a reason to make sure that “someone” has to be so narrowly defined that it takes serious research to find anyone who *does* know more, or is better, in your chosen field.  “Thou art mortal” – praise and damnation all neatly wrapped up in one package.  Thou art mortal, and so is everybody else.  You are, at the basest level, and from a fundamental human perspective, their equal.

Engage as equals.  Give your friends and your opponents the respect they are due as human beings.  Anything less is ego, hypocrisy, cowardice, or outright denial of fact.

Don’t flinch.

There will come a day where someone you love very deeply will come to you, and tell you that you have hurt them, cut them, made them bleed.  They will say to you that they love you, and they want only to love you, and that they need you to understand what has happened to them because of the things you have done or not done, said or not said.  And, if you are smart and courageous, you will say yes, because the love of a human being is nothing to let go to waste.  You will hear the wet broken glass of their soul, shattered, grating on itself, tearing itself apart trying to make sense of you, an inherently foreign creature.  If you are very, very lucky indeed, you will realize that you are hearing the sound of a human unmasked, unarmored, giving up and offering truth that can only be paid for in kind.  If you are very, very brave, you will admit that the only response is to watch them bleed, to hear them scream, to take their pain and make it part of you as well, because it would be a heresy to look away, to shut down, to disengage.  It will be terrifying, paralyzing, astounding, amazing, and one of the most painful things you have ever done.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

There will come a day when you see the soul of a stranger in the eyes of someone you love, when you see only distance and calculation where you thought there was a place of tenderness and intimacy.  You will know that you cannot face them unarmored anymore, because to do so is insanity, is inviting the wolf into your home, is bleeding in the territory of a feral creature and expecting it to do anything other than what its nature dictates.  And you will realize that, as you have faced and accepted the distance and calculation from them, there has been a change in yourself.  You will realize that no matter what the world behind your eyes looked like before, it is harder now: colder, darker, more desolate and desperate.  Every separation makes that change, and there are always soft things, delicate things, that you had not realized were blooming until they withered in the iced wind of dismissal.  You will have to accept two things, simultaneously: that being a being of changeableness, this is inevitable.  And that being a being of changeableness, the small buds and leaves will return, because no wind from any outside world can control the vistas of your imagination for long.  It will be frightening and invigorating, excruciating and liberating.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

There will come a day when you will try to find love and softness and connection in your heart and hands and mind, and it won’t be there.  You will search for the tender places in yourself, to give them up to another being, to form a connection.  They will not be there.  You will do everything in your power to root them out, and it will be like chasing mists and shadows, because they will run from you and what you intend.  You will be left with an empty armored shell, devoid of truth and meat and bone, because the things that are true have fled from your designs.  You have two choices, and only two: listen, or suffer.  You must accept one, and accept the consequences of it, and accept that it will have effects you can not yet begin to imagine.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

There will come a day when you try to see through the eyes of love, and all you have is a soft voice in your head that calculates advantage.  You will lie without a second thought or remorse.  You will cheat without seeing a problem.  You will do things you had not imagined possible to people who you claimed to love, and you will do them without a second thought, without a single hesitation.  Eventually you will see the truth: that love and advantage are not mutually exclusive, and that things that come without price tags are often worth more than things that have clearly marked invoices.  You will have to accept the idea of engaging without numbers, of being analog, of taking the price tags off yourself and of taking them off other people.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

There will come a day when you realize the bars that cage you are of your own creation, and that there is no lock on your actions or your self that you didn’t create for yourself.  You will see clearly, perhaps for the first time, perhaps for the hundredth, that the door to the cage has been open all along, and it is only your refusal to crawl out that keeps you confined.  You will see that the world outside that cage is huge and bright and beautiful and wondrous, and the only thing that is preventing you from experiencing every inch of it with every inch of yourself is you.  It will be the most daunting moment you will ever have, no matter how often you have it.

 

Don’t flinch.

 

The world is waiting.

No, really.

There’s a copy of William Gibson’s idoru on my coffee table, half-read – and it has been half-read for over a week, because I can’t sit still with it for long enough to get lost in it.

There is a Charles de Lint anthology on the floor beside my bathtub, that I’ve read four pages of.

There are two whole bags of books, full of fabulous things (some of them research for this very project!) like Camille Paglia and gender theory and fetish research and sex theory and queer personal history and the way cities affect our thinking and urban culture and fiction that chews my brain up and turns it into new shapes – these are a few of my favorite things, and I cannot. Sit. Still. To read them.

I’m not faking it.  It’s not ADD.  Every time I try to get lost in a book or a movie, try to just turn my brain off, the front turns off just fine – and the writer-brain takes all those spare clock cycles, grabs them with greedy hands, and starts om-nom-noming them into more things.  It hit critical point last weekend, when I sat on my porch and gritted through my teeth at two very patient friends about how I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t slow down, couldn’t think past all of my right brain trying to eat my face in every possible direction.

Lesson learned: I am not faking it.  I am not pretending I have something important to say to get attention.  I am not making up things that sound interesting but really have no substance in order to attract the interest of an adoring public, to feed my own ego.

My words mean things, because they mean things to me.  I am a writer, because I write with intent.

Bright side: I have made more progress on this juggernaut of a world in a month than I did in six, before, because I am dedicating real time to it, real energy, and a genuine desire to see things.  No blindfolds, no gags, no earplugs – I want to know where it comes from, how it works, why it works.  And so it is working, because I am bringing curiosity and a willingness to bleed to find out to the table.

I’m not faking it, and so I’m earning knowledge I didn’t have before.  It’s a good fucking day.

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