1) Swearing. I used to wonder what it would be like to swear like an adult when I was younger. Their ferocity fascinated me. Their anger! had such punctuation. Their sense of regret and sadness were palpable. Everyone took them so seriously, and I was seen as a little kid. I couldn’t get my emotions across. It was a source of great frustration for me. I saw adults in movies sweep everything off their desk to convey ultimate frustration, and I saw them stare into a mirror for thirty seconds before punching it, but in my inner circle of adults it was swearing that caused one adult to take another adult seriously when they were trying to convey emotion. Swearing had great punctuation. I knew I could punch people to get them to understand I was mad at them, but that usually prompted them to punch me back, and I didn’t care for getting punched when I could avoid it. I knew I could cry to convey my sadness, but I’m a boy, and boys don’t cry. Boys used different swear words, boy swear words, to convey sadness. I knew I could raise my voice to convey excitement, and I did when I said something was great! but most people didn’t latch onto that excitement and try what I was telling them to try. I realized that if anyone was going to take me seriously, I was going to have to start cussing. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to start cussing, it was that I was bad at it. I didn’t have the timing aspect of it down, and my inflection was horrible.
I learned timing first. I learned that there were occasions when group think purveyors considered it mandatory and acceptable to swear, but there were also times when restraint was necessary. Cussing too much drained the power of the words, and it made one look like they were trying too hard. Restraint was the key, but even using the words sparingly didn’t help me comprehensively. I still lacked inflection. I sounded awkward. I learned timing, and I learned how to place provocative words before and after sentiments to get people shocked, but due to my inflections few people took me seriously long term. The inflections came last, but they finally came, and I entered into that adult world of conveyance. I was shocking and provocative, and people began to take me seriously emotionally, and I found that pleasing. If I had a rough day, or someone was giving me the business, I could throw out a swear word, and everyone would back up and raise their eyebrows. They finally knew that I was someone to take seriously. What a glorious day that was! Everyone knew I was a person who used swear words adeptly! I was accepted into the club! To maintain membership, I swore all the time. I swore when I was sad, I swore when I was happy, and of course when I was mad and fed up. I was conveying emotion with a degree of ferocity that could be felt. A funny thing happened to me at one point in my swearing career, I began overusing the words. I drained them of their emotional impact through overuse, and I ended up right back at square one. I was unable to convey emotion in a proper manner, because I was swearing too much, using too many of the designed shortcuts, and no one was taking me seriously anymore. When I wanted to convey emotion at times when group think purveyors considered it inappropriate and unacceptable to swear I couldn’t think of any appropriate and acceptable words to use. It was then that I came to the conclusion that most adults have as much trouble conveying emotion as kids do. They just use swear words to camouflage that struggle.
2) Girl Crazy. “The charms of the passing woman are generally in direct proportion to the swiftness of her passing. –Marcel Proust.
When I was young, and I was very very young, I had this notion that every girl was attracted to me. All I had to do was catch their eye and hold it, and they would be mine on a temporary basis. It didn’t matter how gorgeous they were, I could captivate them with one powerful stare. When I got older, I had this notion that no girl was attracted to me. Now that I’ve met that person that I wanted to meet my whole life, I no longer care who is attracted to me, and I can look back on this cognitive dissonance with some perspective. Women like men that are attracted to them. They like to be wanted, even if they never cash in on the desire to be wanted, they like to be liked. So, when I had the notion that a woman was attracted to me, I was actually attracting them with the notion that I was attracted to them.
3) Assigning Characteristics to Animals. Movies, both cartoon and otherwise, depict a dog listening to a conversation and reacting in a manner that suggest they understand more than key words and tones. Some of us think this is cute and funny. Some of us think they truly understand. The cartoonish dogs hide their head when their owner says something stupid, and we laugh. They scurry from the room when the bad guy suggests that they would make for an excellent dinner. We laugh. It sinks in with repetitive messaging. Why wouldn’t Rover understand what we’re saying? We underestimate animals all the time. Look at what science is uncovering every day about the intelligence of these animals, why would it be so impossible to believe that they can understand us? It’s not impossible to think that they understand us to a degree, but degrees are the key. Dogs understand key words, and they understand tone. Those who believe they understand more than that are trying too hard to understand their pets. They’re trying to bond with their pets, and they believe their pets understand more than they actually do to bond with them, so they assign a degree of intelligence to these canines to have a better relationship with them. It is the same mind set we bring to trying to understand infants and small children. This is more credible, of course, as small children do have a greater capacity to understand language, but they do not understand high-minded, philosophical concepts such as morality. Some psychologists have stated that young minds don’t have a complete grasp of the ramifications of their actions until they’re about eighteen years old, but we’ve told them and told them, and they still don’t grasp it. This is due to the fact that their brains are not complex enough to understand these concepts. As hard as it is for some of us to grasp the complex concept that animals and children don’t understand complex concepts, it actually says more about us that we think that they do than it does whether they do or not. The question I have is am I onto something here, or do entertainment honchos know that we simply regard this all as entertainment and nothing more?
4) Misunderstood. “Everything great in the world comes from Neurotics. They alone have founded our religion and composed our masterpieces.” –Marcel Proust
I feel that I’m not understood, and I don’t understand that. I speak so clearly that a monkey should be able to understand me, but the humans around me listen to me with their own agenda so often that they do not take the time to understand mine. Or am I a blowhard that is so ignorant of the various agendas around me that if I took a little time to understand them, they would take the time to understand me?
5) The Dark Days. “Happiness is beneficial for the body but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.” –Marcel Proust
There are dark days that overwhelm me. Nothing I think, or write, can overshadow these days. These are the ‘all hope is lost’ days when I am so depressed about what is going on in the world philosophically, that I can think of nothing that will supersede it. These are the days when I realize that the world holds views so different than mine that it feels pointless to continue pounding my keyboard. No one is listening. No one is watching. No one is reading. No one knows what’s going on. They all think in terms of their insular world, and they can’t see the greater whole. I look back on all the days I spent screaming from rooftops, and I realize I may have just as well have been shouting into a well. It all seems so pointless on these days that I can think of nothing funny, interesting, or enlightening to say or write. I just want to sit and sulk over the proceedings and realize that I have as little power as anyone else does to affect change. All hope is lost. It’s pointless. I don’t think I’m as important as everyone else thinks they are, so I end up cloistered by my own opinion and therefore invalid in the grand scheme of things.
6) Bring the Magic. “Every reader finds himself. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.” –Marcel Proust.
Is it possible for a painting to affect our feelings of relevance? What about music, have you ever listened to a song and felt alone? Have you ever been scared by a series of words in a book? It’s the only form of magic I believe in. Some of the times, we bring the magic to a piece, some of the times the piece brings magic to us, and some of the times we invent magic that isn’t otherwise there.
I sat in a theater once, one among many, and I horrified myself. The setting of the movie was one I knew, the characters were familiar to me, and I knew the plot from my own imagination. Goosebumps riddled my skin, my eyes were popped wide, and I wanted this movie to end well. This is unusual for me, because I normally loathe happy endings. I see them as unrealistic, cliché, and anti-climactic. When I’m truly horrified, however, I want peace in the valley.
I have a friend who never brings the magic. The onus is on the artist to bring him enjoyment. He doesn’t understand magic.
There have also been magicians that stole my magic. These artists insist on telling me that my artistic interpretation was nowhere near what they had in mind. How dare they steal my magic? These magicians have reached a place in their career where they are so accustomed to people enjoying their work that they take it for granted, and they want to define it for us, so that their work properly represents their worldview. They don’t belong in a world of magic.
It is possible, however, to bring too much magic. Yoko Ono created a work (that’s all I will call it) that was done on a large, white canvas. It was what she called a ceiling painting. The canvas was glaringly white and glaringly blank, except for one little word “Yes” painted up in the corner. The canvas was so large, and the word “Yes” so small that the observer needed a ladder to get to it, and a magnifying glass to see it. John Lennon later claimed this was one of the reasons he fell in love with Yoko Ono. He claimed that after seeing the piece, he had to know the author of the piece, and he had to meet her to see if she followed his ethic in life. He wanted to find that one “Yes” person in a glaringly blank world of no.
If you don’t “get” a work of art like this, there’s something wrong with you. You’re in the world of no, and you’re close-minded to the world of yes. You’re not smart enough, artistic enough, or hip enough to interpret the insular world of yes. If you look at this piece as a huge waste of canvas, that’s on you brotha. You don’t understand the psychological power or the sociological ramification of the grand minimalist approach in such a statement. Most of us know that art is a term that can be loosely applied to a number of works, but we all have limits. We all want artists to perform individual interpretations of the world, but we also think that there should be some sweat involved. Writing a word on a canvas in this manner could be called juvenile, posh and elitist, and something an insecure, high-minded, high-browed college art student would do to complete an assignment by the deadline. A really devious college student could then add in all the interpretations later, and slip his buddy a high five when the teacher fell for it. For this to be considered a seminal work by a seminal artist, on the other hand defies credulity, but as they say beauty, like art, is in the eyes of the beholder.
“It was beautiful,” Lennon said of the work. He got it. You didn’t, and we all know a number of people who get a lot of mileage out of that mindset. His interpretation was egotistical and insular. It could be said that that is what artistic interpretation is, but some of the times we bring too much magic to our interpretation. Some of the times we bring more than the pieces actually contain.
7) God and Philosophy. I believe in God, and I am sympathetic to those who want to worship Him in a relative manner, but God should have little place in philosophy. Philosophy is the study of the human mind. Philosophers take their observations, and knowledge, of man and spread it out to the masses. They help us understand who we are and why we do the things we do, and in their interpretations of man are many answers to the problems we face if we understand how the human mind works a little better. To say that we should turn to God for all that ails us is, to my mind, a violation of the “God helps those who help themselves” principle. A philosopher should be forced, in his study of general and fundamental problems, to locate an answer that is entirely secular. Everyone has a relative understanding of God, and I understand their need to seek his guidance in matters great and small, but to my mind God placed us on this Earth to fend for ourselves, and our greatest philosophical minds shouldn’t rely on God to provide the answers to human frailty any more than we should.
8) Bullying and inner-strength. “We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” –Marcel Proust.
Have you ever met a guy who was never bullied? They’re out there, and they’re usually soft. They have no precedent in their lives. When someone lays into them, they can’t look back at the high school bully and say this particular person laying into them now is not as bad as that bully. They can’t recall a day when they had to fight their way out of a particular corner. They have no mechanism with which to continue the fight of their lives for the rest of their lives. They never had to face the reality that they’re alone in a fight, and they never had to deal with the fact that if they didn’t do something the endless abuse would continue. Your parents can advise you, and in some ill-advised circumstances they can step in and assist you in this fight. Most friends will abandon you on these occasions. They may put forth a “Leave the guy alone,” but that usually leads to you having a weaker perception of yourself and increased bullying. Most friends won’t want to implicated with the names you’re being called, or the degradation that you’re suffering. They’ll usually take their seat with the rest of the spectators and enjoy the show. It’s not that they’re evil or negligent in their duties as a friend. It’s just that they’re insecure individuals who don’t want any part of your pain. They probably have enough of their own to deal with, and this is especially the case in high school where insecurities are rampant. When you’re bullied, and I’m not talking about the occasional pot shots that are delivered on a daily basis, but really bullied to the point where you don’t want to go to school the next day, you’re on your own. You’re on an island with nothing but your own devices. As Proust says, no one can truly spare you the humiliation of these fights, but you will be wiser, stronger, and mightier for having successfully fought them alone.
9) Argument for pot legalization. If you bring up the fiscal problems experienced in California and elsewhere, you’re sure to hear a myriad of creative solutions. One of the most popular out there right now is the legalization of marijuana. “If we legalized it, and taxed it, the revenue we receive could balance a budget.” It is possible. I’m not saying it’s not, but my question is how long would it take to accomplish this goal? How many balanced budgets would be achieved before the representatives began reallocating that money? All of these creative measures are band aids to the true problem: spending. It’s our fault. We voted these guys in. They appealed to us by promising record levels of spending, and we continue to require that they spend more. Bottom line: All of these creative measures may bring more revenue to the government, but if these government representatives received increased revenue, they would simply spend more. There seems to be no end in sight to this cycle for the moment. We need a catastrophe. Legislators don’t usually change their ways without a catastropohe that touches the lives of enough voters to make a difference in how its broadcast to the world. Even then, they usually find their favorite band aid that allows them to keep doing what they want to do. We’re in whatever situation we’re in, because it favors those who put us there.
10) Purchasing an identity. We have too much time on our hands. We have too much disposable income. We have no disasters to worry about. We are so bored. We need a trinket that is backed by a successful marketing campaign to complete us. It’s a nothing nothing, but it’s something we need. We need something to have, but what do we have to have? We don’t know. We’re told in some creative manner that affects what we think of our completion what we have to have, and we fall for it, because we’re impulsive. We’re bored. We’re insecure. We’re searching for something to complete us. This one product could make life so much easier. We could be one of the crowd and better than the Johnstons, but at least we’d have something to talking about. We like to talk about the products we purchase and how our products are better than yours. It shows we know a little something something about the nothing nothing products we purchase. We’re finally complete, until the product runs its course and loses all tangible value to us, and it is a staple in the corner of our storage closet with all the other products that used to do something for us, until they grow so abundant that we need to buy a storage unit to house all of the products that used to complete us. We can’t throw those products away, because we may fall back a stage if we do.
11) Our interest in the joneses. We’re disinterested in most people. We claim to be interested in them. We detail for others who know them what we know. Then when we have that narrative validated, we move on. A friend of mine, we’ll call her Renee, wants to keep up on a girl we’ll call Shelly. Renee details all that she knows of Shelley’s life. Then she says: “Is that where she’s at right now at this point in her life?” Another responds that that is correct. The thing is if Shelley was at the reunion that just ended, Renee would have virtually no interest in speaking with Shelley. We all have these little gatherings to help us keep up on each other’s lives, but we’re all usually interested only in those things that have occurred with us and those in our inner circle. We constantly evaluate those of us around us to determine if there is something interesting in their lives, and we usually determine that there isn’t. We usually live most of our lives in varying degrees of disinterest to the lives around us.