The Thief’s Mentality
One of the best men I ever met was (and is) a decent man that is kind to others, unusually conscientious, compassionate, empathetic, and anything and everything one would use as a barometer to gauge whether a man is a decent human being. My friend is also a compulsive liar. When I write compulsive, I mean that he lies out of habit. It’s something ingrained in him due to incidents that occurred in his past. This friend of mine, we’ll call him Riff Mortgensen, does not lie to manipulate others in a cunning matter. He lies to foster an image of Riff Mortgensen that he wants you to have, yet he does not prosper from his lies. He just wants his audience to believe he is more adventurous, more intelligent, and more interesting than he is.
Throughout our long friendship, I caught this man in so many half-truths, exaggerations, and outright lies that I considered it my duty, as a friend, to begin calling him out on them. The theory being that if he heard it from a friend it might not be so embarrassing. I also thought it might help him curb the need to lie so often, as it had me.
I met another man that was a real piece of work (a POS). Unlike one of the best men I ever met, Kurt Lee was deceptive on a more consistent basis. This guy didn’t lie because he wanted the listener to consider him more interesting, more intelligent, or more adventurous. He lied about everything. This man was more cunning and manipulative, yet there was a consistency to his character that suggested if his audience fell for it, that was on them. This man’s actions formed the basis of what I would call The Thief’s Mentality.
Those that contend that the Hollywood depiction of the lying, cheating, and stealing corporate employee is an exaggeration of what happens in corporate America have never met Charlie Ronald. After getting to know Charlie Ronald, the question I have is was he influenced by the Hollywood caricatures, or is Charlie Ronald a beast that is, was, and always will be. Of all the liars I’ve met, and all of the types of liars I’ve met, Charlie Ronald may be the worst. Unlike Kurt Lee, Charlie Ronald was duplicitous. His image would’ve fit nicely on a wholesome ad of a 1950’s postman delivering the mail. He had that look about him. He had one of those smiles. Yet, Charlie Ronald might have been the most manipulative and cunning men I ever met.
He lied to secure a promotion that put him next to me, and he confessed the nature of that lie to me. He did it with a smile that asked me if I wanted to join in on the joke. When it was obvious that I wouldn’t, that smile faded into embarrassment. Those that don’t know Charlie Ronald might fall prey to believing that that fade out had something to do with shame. I thought so at the time, but I learned that Charlie Ronald had no shame. Therefore, I went back and corrected that assessment.
The lie he told in the interview for that job, was that he had a particular expertise regarding a specific department in our company. If he didn’t correct the record with me, as I stood before his desk, I would be shifting all future work from that department to him. He had to confess this lie to me, in other words, or pay the personal price for it later.
He then proceeded to lie throughout our time together, and he eventually ended up in the upper echelon of our company.
He might be the type that gets away with lying most easily, and he might be the type that prospers more from his methodology, but he is a horrible person. As horrible people go, Charlie Ronald will not reach out and grab a person with his horrible nature. He is pleasant to be around, but extended involvement with the man brings out characteristics that turn others’ smiles upside down.
I’ve met horrible people that reach out and grab a person with their horrible nature. One of them was a hotel guest, and his display was so memorable that I’m documenting it fifteen years later. After detailing for my boss all that this particular man did in the course of our interaction, my boss said: “Your involvement with this man lasted minutes. Imagine what it must be like to live with this man. Imagine what it must be like to be that man.”
At this point in the discussion, those that have read any of my articles know that I take a step back at this moment in my characterization. Delving deeper into such character assassination would reveal my personal animus for the subject. Revelations of this sort can provide humor, as it often leads to a obscenity-laced rant, but such rants have a propensity of revealing the talent of the author, as opposed to the characteristics of the subject. To do that, I attempt to put the reader into the mind of the character.
Imagine, for a moment, what must drive one to walk up to a complete stranger and unleash on them. Those of us that have worked email inquiries and corporate chat lines know that most people enjoy going off on a nameless, faceless corporation. They do not think of a potential recipient, and they do not care. On the phones, the nature of the hysteria is lessened, and the face-to-face is even further lessened. Most people cannot look another person in the eye and launch into an irrational, hysterical complaint. The question those of us in these sections of the service industry often marvel at how a person can greet a smiling hotel worker that says, “Hello Mr. Johnson, how can I help you?” with total rage.
We can all agree that no one comes out of the womb that way. They probably experience a miserable childhood, they probably didn’t have many friends, and they probably hate what they’ve become. No one can go through that and sleep with a satisfied smile on their face. There is something eating at them, and that comes out when a worker at a hotel says, Imagine being a person that is set off by a smile. Imagine thinking that smile, from a total stranger, means that the smiler is happy, and that whole that chain of events gets under your skin.
The guy at the hotel was a momentary run-in with an awful person, but my encounters with Charlie Ronald informed me that he was an informed bad guy. His nature was such that his transgressions were not impulsive, they were plotted deeds that sought gains on the backs of others. I cannot help but think that Charlie Ronald might have built a caricature of himself on a steady diet of 80’s movies and Scooby Doo cartoons. Charlie Ronald’s actions led me to several conclusions about the man, but I had trouble understanding how a person could be as blatant as Charlie Ronald was without it damaging his soul a little.
The comprehensive principle behind the creation of The Thief’s Mentality is one of framing. When we have experiences with characters outside our normal frame of reference, one of the most difficult aspects to understand is their framing. I wrote The Thief’s Mentality for us. I write the word ‘us’, because as anyone that has ever attempted to write anything knows, the process of writing involves discovery. I discovered a truth of this subject matter in the course of firsthand experience, reading, writing, research, and editing.
In the course of writing on such a topic, something falls out of all the hard work. I don’t remember the aim of this piece in its original incarnation, but it is decidedly different now. One thought leads to another thought, based in part on research, writing, and editing, until a selection of blocks comes together and completes a thought. Coupled with these moments are those that occurred away from the keyboard. I call it the half-song theory (trademark pending). If I click stop on a song, halfway through, I’ll spend the rest of that night, completing that song. If there is a disease that lists “has a song in their head 24-7” as one of its symptoms, I have that disease. As I redirected that portion of my mind that obsesses over music, into my writing, I would complete whatever thought I had for the rest of the day, and it was often a spur of the moment, incomplete thoughts I had that I would spend the rest of the day completing. For any writer contemplating this, I would suggest that the writer avoid listening to music while mowing, doing chores, and trying to sleep. As the 80’s song suggests, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.” I highly recommend insomnia. If a writer hasn’t tried it, as a creative pursuit, I cannot begin to touch how many blocks of information I’ve created while staring at the ceiling in an otherwise hopeless search for sleep. I’ve gathered some blocks together in this teary-eyed state, and I’ve substantiated others. If a spell of insomnia hits, don’t turn the iPad on, don’t turn the radio on, just lay there staring at the ceiling. I know that’s hard, seeing as how many of these things provide a cure to the cluttered mind that can induce insomnia, but it can produce some surprising results for the soul that perseveres through it.
I have toyed with this idea that thieves have distinct mentality that they employ in life for as long as I can remember. The embryonic period occurred shortly before I became an adult when I spotted a mower in a friend’s garage. This nondescript mower would not have captured my attention were it not for the top of the line chain lock my friend used to lock it up. This POS mower might have fetched ten dollars from a pawnshop. I doubt that a POS pawnshop would’ve even taken this POS lawn mower, but to illustrate the point, let’s say they would’ve paid him ten dollars for it. The mower ran, but other than that, it had no discernible qualities. I estimated that this expensive, top of the line chain lock must have cost my friend thirty to forty dollars. My friend was a smart guy, and I have to assume he knew this mower had no value. Yet, he assumed that if he didn’t do his due diligence to secure this item, people from all over the county would attempt to steal this POS mower. He probably figured that he would steal an unlocked mower, so why wouldn’t anyone else? It was his mentality, the thief’s mentality.
Through the years, I would hear complaints from people that another person in question thought everyone was a thief, a liar, and/or a cheater in some way. “That’s because they are,” I would respond. “They view the world from their perspective.”
It wasn’t until another friend came to me with the characterizations a former lover made of her. She was a confident woman, but after having her character disparaged over a number of years, her confidence was rattled. The person that knew her better than anyone else would chip away at her confidence on a repetitive basis, until she was a shell of her former self.
“It’s the thief’s mentality,” I said. I explained the theory in depth to her, and I think her reaction to my theory convinced me I was onto something. Instant reactions are often polite, as the recipient considers the idea. In the moment, she gave me that polite response. The key response, which came days later, occurred after she could chew on it.
“That little theory you had on my relationship,” she said. “I’ve given it a lot of thought over the last couple days, and I just want you to know that I think you nailed it. I can’t tell you how liberating it has been for me to look at those years in that light.”
As I said, the ideas and the theories that form the foundation of the theory have been banging around in my head for a long time. The mentality has always fascinated me, but shortly before my friend came to me with her problem, I developed a title for it. I looked online, and no one had successfully co-opted the term, so I decided to make it my own. Once the title was developed, all those theories and ideas I had about the mind of the thief began snapping into place.
Understanding the complexities inherent in this mentality has helped me understand why those that cheat, steal, and lie are often the first to accuse another of cheating, lying, and stealing. Using The Thief’s Mentality as a tool has helped me understand everyone from the good people that fabricate on occasion, to the delusional people that sit somewhere on a fault line, and onto the true piece of work (a POS) that lies for personal gain through outright and unabashed deception. Why any of these individuals lie, in their own individual ways, will always be a mystery, but if we can find a framework for their actions, we might find a way to deal with them better.
We have tried to understand them, but we’ve always done so in a conventional manner. The unconventional conventions discussed in The Thief’s Mentality are what I believe to be its strongest selling point.
Most People Don’t Give a Crap About You
In another entry, entitled, Most People Don’t Give a Crap about You, I detail for the reader a mindset they may want to use to combat the worst of the worst, a true POS. It’s not a comprehensive measure to combat those that attempt to lie, cheat, and steal from us, but I now use that mindset in my day-to-day encounters with them.
The heart of this piece occurred in my teens, when I asked a college professor if it was a better mindset to approach a person from the perspective that they are a good person, until they prove me wrong, or is it a better idea to approach people from the perspective that they are a piece of work, until they prove me wrong.
“I’ll give you a third possibility,” this professor said. “Have you ever considered the idea that most people don’t give a crap about you?”
I had not. To that point in my life, I thought everyone was paying attention in one form or another. If I tripped, or slipped, I thought everyone in the room was aware of it. When I spoke with people, I thought that they could detect the fact that I was a naive, nubile, prone to fall for what they were selling. I knew that these people did not know me, but I never considered the idea that they might not alter their approach if they found out I was. I also never considered the idea that if they did find out I was street smart that they might alter their approach in such a way that it could lead to my undoing. Long story short, even if they discover what makes me tick in the initial encounter, it will not alter the way they approach me, because they do not care what I think of myself.
The purpose behind The Thief’s Mentality is multi-pronged. The first that I have found is about the attention they receive. Some of them are masters at deflecting attention. Others find ways of manipulating the attention they receive, so that its reflected back on the accuser. If there’s one thing an accuser hates more than anything else, it’s introspection.
He Used to Have a Mohawk
I received a compliment for the use of a Mohawk haircut, as a form of subtext, in a piece called He Used to Have a Mohawk. In this piece, said the critique, I used the Mohawk as another character in the story.
Conventional thinking has it that a man that decides to wear such an unusual haircut should be ready for unwanted attention. Conventional thinking suggests that there’s nothing wrong with a person that decides to shave their head in such a manner, and it’s on the observer to accept the Mohawk wearer for who he or she is as a person. The conventional line of thought suggests that the observer might discover the limits of their preconceived notions, or conventional thoughts, of a person by finding out that a person with a thin strip on their head is actually a beautiful person. The approach I took with this piece combined the traditional modes of thought regarding those that cut their hair in such a manner, with these conventional thought patterns. I then examined them through the prism of an individual that used to have a Mohawk.
A part of this person, I pose, delighted in the “unwanted attention” he received from both parties. A part of this Mohawk wearer had to have enjoyed the idea that he shocked some of the people some of the times, and another part enjoyed those people that tried to understand him better to discover the beautiful person. No matter where the reader stands on the prism, they must acknowledge that the Mohawk wearer generates more attention than a person with a more sensible haircut does. Some would say that Mohawk wearers generate unwanted attention on themselves by wearing such a haircut, but others could say that no attention is unwanted for some. If a Mohawk wearer detested those that judged him for such a haircut, he or she could allow the hair to lay flat.
They don’t, I pose, because they enjoy detesting those straight-laced people that will never try to understand them as a person, they enjoyed the bond they have with those that sympathize with their plight, and they bathe in the sheer number of reactions they receive in one day with one simple haircut.
My guess, watching the groom MC the various events of his wedding, was that the man was not born of unusually compelling gifts. He was not a funny person, and he was not the type that can grab one’s attention through sheer charisma or charm. He seemed like a shy, normal man that was as uncomfortable in his own skin as the rest of us are. I wondered, watching him bomb on stage, if our reactions would’ve been different if our reception to his presentation would’ve been different if he still had that high blue Mohawk, and I wondered if he wondered the same? Say what you want about a person that wears such a Mohawk, but he generates expectations. When we discover that an individual with a Mohawk is a genuinely kind and pleasant person, that characteristic defies our expectations. We are pleasantly surprised that a man that a man with a blue, eight-inch Mohawk smiles and says pleasant things. The man that stood before us, with a sensible haircut, was not funny or charismatic.
One of biggest, and most common, lies “one of the best men I ever met” engaged in was the role he played in the events of the weekend. As the events transpired, my friend was often a witness of the events as they occurred. In his retelling, however, he was an active participant. This led me to think about active participation.
How many of us actively participate in the events of our lives, and how many of us recite the “goings on” of a weekend that we happened to see? How many of us tell these tales as if we were an active participant?
There was a young child at the wedding of the man that used to have a Mohawk. His name was Kevin. Kevin was about nine-years-old. He was old enough to participate, and old enough to decide, for whatever reason, that he didn’t want to participate. He laughed harder than anyone in the room at various jokes, and he threw comments out. I decided that this kid was attempting what I call a participation crossover (registered trademark) from casual observer to active participation through vocal antics in the audience.
I saw myself sitting in the corner of that room, as a nine-year-old that would much rather shout things from the grandstand than participate. I thought about all the stories I told to unconcerned third parties that believed I was a greater participant than I was, based on my retellings. I also remember my ability to remember with acute precision the details of the event. My memory was so good that those at the event began quoting me on the minutes of the events that took place, until I became almost as important in the event as the actual players. I also offered them some decent presentations, in that I could retell events with a storyteller’s rhythm. I found a loophole in the requirement we all have for active participation in events, a crossover. I saw this video game playing, TV watching kid headed down that same path, and I wanted to scream out at the kid to get in there now, before it’s too late for you.
One never knows what stories will stick with them. On Norm MacDonald’s stand up routine on Netflix, he spoke about how we remember a person. For most people, there will be no long narratives and expansive stories. Most people will remember snapshots and nuggets that they believe define a person to them.
Most people will remember that we were football fans, because they were football fans, and their friendship was based on that. Some people will remember that we were fans of the Philly cheese steak, that we were jokers, good family men, and honest people. Most people will remember one or two things, but they will not be able to explain the totality of a man to another.
Todd may be the exception to the overall theme of this collection. Todd was an honest man. Todd was so honest he was something of an enigma. Todd was unflinchingly honest. Todd was so honest he was entertaining.
Adult babies. The adult baby is a forty-something man that has never had to care for anyone, or anything, for the whole of his life. The adult baby goes to work, and his wife is often a stay at home mom. The relationship between the two has developed in such a manner that the man’s maturity is stunted.
PART II: Rilaly
There are three separate sections of the Rilaly.com website. The first is devoted to the various posts made. These posts fall under a number of categories including, psychological, political, and reviews of albums and books. The focus of the second section is devoted to fiction, both short stories and excerpts from novels. The third section contains profiles of the people I have encountered in life that I was not able to work into a fictional story. These people are weird, strange, and different in all the ways that people with different ideas on life can be termed weird, strange, and different. They involve people from my youth, women that I dated, and co-workers that I engaged with often enough to have a thorough understanding of what made them tick.
I have attempted to rate the profiles, in the third section, from top to bottom, with the Ellis Reddick story being rated as the best of the bunch, but I must confess that rating these stories proved difficult. It’s difficult because these profiles are so different and personal. I don’t think Platypus People is one of the worst, for example, and I don’t think the dating experiences are any better, but as a man that preoccupies himself with rating one story over another, I did feel the need to list them in the manner I want them read. Feel free, if you have the desire, to flip me a reply that suggests the stories that you think have earned the top of the category.
The modus operandi (M.O.) of The Thief’s Mentality stories
I can see how a reader might be confused into thinking I’m offering advice, or hoping to compile these stories into some self-help guide. If these non-fiction narrative essays offer anyone any points to consider, they are in the counterpoints a reader might reach. I would not say that the people defined by the snapshots they provided me left them miserable, but they were people that walked around with something eating at them. They tried to find resolutions, but what they found would often end up being a ‘go back to the beginning square’ of life.
The takeaway one may have from those paragraphs is that I know exactly where I’m going and how to get there. To that notion, I add the quote from Marcel Proust, via Brain Pickings.
“Our intelligence, however lucid, cannot perceive the elements that compose it and remain unsuspected.”
As a person that has such a healthy ego that I feel that I might have something to add to the conversation, I will say that my definition of how to live has been strengthened by the various definitions others have provided me on how not to live. Moreover, the various definitions of how to live are not near as entertaining as the various definitions others have taught me through their decisions.
Some of the people that offered me these definitions are weird, some of them are strange and different, and some are so quiet that they’re a little creepy. It’s quite possible that the something that eats them up inside is so simple that it may never see the light of day, but in others it’s so pressurized that it may end up splashing all over those that are living better, happier lives. This incident, I’m predicted, will not a dramatic, headline grabbing episode, but I do think a result will occur when these types find out that their way of life will not bear fruit.
The Weird and the Strange
I have not researched the data on this subject, but experience, and common sense, has informed me that there are just as many freaks, oddballs, and weirdos in the male gender as there are in the female gender. I’m quite sure that actual statistical samples would bear this out, but I have never had any interest in dating men, so the focus placed on women in dating section of this collection remains exclusive to the freaks, oddballs, and weird people, of the female gender, that I have dated. Of the twenty-four profiles in The Weird and the Strange collection, fourteen are male, six female, and four that could be said to be more general. So, any fair-minded reader will find that I reserve more negative assessments for my own gender, both in quantity and quality, but I do acknowledge than when it comes to brutal assessments of females the reaction will be more sensitive.
Off The Trail
The idea that a prospective partner has lost their way on the trail of life comes to people eventually. There’s nothing wrong with stepping off the trail, of course, as any hiker will attest to the fact that some of their most memorable experiences have occurred when they’ve ventured off the trail. As one adventurer once told me, getting lost can add to a sense of adventure. This is true, of course, but in the course of getting lost on a proverbial trail, i.e. the one created by rational, sane individuals, some adventurers become convinced that their trail is the one that everyone should be following.
After some time spent on this new trail, an observer can acclimate to just about anything they hear from those on the other side of the table at an Applebee’s. Some people want to venture down this trail, for all the reasons listed above, and they can convince themselves that the person that sits across from them is just as normal as every person they’ve ever met. Does she have some idiosyncrasies? Who doesn’t? The audiences of the story of this date are often the ones that provide illumination.
My audience to such stories have often found it hard to believe what I was detailing for them, the following Monday, as I recounted my weekend’s date. Those that know me have often had “Come on!” looks on their faces. For reasons endemic to a creative storyteller, repetition is often required before an audience will believe the story enough that comments follow. Knowing my general penchant for embellishing, the listener often decides to believe half of what they hear. They may laugh throughout the discussion, but they will return home to inform their significant other that the storyteller is one hell of a storyteller. Consistent retelling of the story, coupled with consistent, sharp details, either leads the listener to believe that the storyteller is more gifted than they originally believed possible, or that the person, in question, has had some unusual dating experiences. It’s at that point that they begin to offer a fresh perspective on the date in question, and they provide confirmation to the storyteller that the subject of their stories is a little off the trail.
Some might suspect that the women I dated that went off the trail haunt me, but I can tell you that it’s the exact opposite now. Now that a woman that hit every one of my bullet points has taken me off the market –the most important being that she was normal– hindsight has provided me a fresh perspective on those that weren’t. The “Why am I attracted to nothing but freaks?” bitterness I had for so many years, regarding the parties concerned, is now gone, and I am now able to reflect back on those women I dated as characters for what others might consider a couple of interesting tales.
I was going to say that I wouldn’t do anything different, but that’s not true. I wish I would’ve dated some of the women I didn’t, because those women reminded me of one that I had, and I wish I would not have dated others, for the various reasons detailed in these stories. My overwhelming concern that there might be something so freakish inside me that prevented me from dating normal women bottled up when I now see as some entertaining material. Now that it’s all over, and I never plan to date again, if fate determines that my current love lives beyond me, I can look back at these moments and learn and laugh right along with the reader.
I would treat it as a compliment that someone would consider me so creative that I’ve fabricated the details. Two of the stories therein, are so wild that I think the reader can feel the reality in it. If they can’t, and they choose to view it as creative non-fiction, with a heavy emphasis on the word creative, all I can tell the reader is that I spent years wishing the details weren’t as true as they are. These stories were painful to me for a long time.
I also want it noted that the reader might encounter some bold statements I make regarding a woman’s attraction to me. They will also read of some details regarding the various faults of the women I’ve dated in a frame they might misconstrue as my superiority to these women. Before we venture down that road, I feel compelled to add the requisite qualifier:
By adding this qualifier, it should be noted that by doing so, I expect to enjoy a qualifier-free relationship with the reader throughout these tales. I expect the reader to know that I do not believe I am a figure of mythology. I do not think I am a Greek god, an Adonis, an Apollo, or whatever figure the reader uses as a barometer of male beauty. If the reader had any personal experience with me, they might end up finding that my humility among men –that have had women attracted to them– to be quite refreshing. In some places, in the stories in this collection, I have qualified some of the statements I’ve made, and I considered doing it elsewhere. To qualify in a manner some demand, to achieve a proper sense of humility, might require a qualifying sentence per paragraph. Those that have read those writers –often unpublished bloggers that are unpublished for a reason that feel the need to qualify every sentence– know what I’m talking about when I say that qualifiers can grow tedious. Reading through those blogs, I find myself screaming, in my inside voice, that we all need to reach some sort of understanding regarding bold statements and qualifiers, and this is it. If you are one of those that cringes at a writer that makes bold statements, consider this an acknowledgement of everything that you’re about to scream in your head regarding my inflated ego, my bold assessments of what women were thinking at the time, and that I know that my excess nutrients do stink when they come out. I do know that some may call my path to living life right unique, weird, or even strange and different, but I refuse to qualify every character assessment in this manner. Also, know that anytime these complaints arise, the reader can return to this paragraph as often as they need to, to have bold statements qualified.
I have also added a disclaimer on each individual piece in regards to the name that I used for the character of each piece, as I chose the names of the characters for these pieces in an arbitrary manner to avoid the uncomfortable experience that the subject may have felt if I chose their name. Any similarities to names, real or imagined, are coincidental. The stories in The Weird and the Strange are works of creative non-fiction. Consider this the disclaimer and qualifier page for future resource.
Strange Office Fellows
I had a manager that opened a team meeting with:
“If you want to be happy in the workplace, my advice would be to avoid telling people too much about yourself.”
This manager went on to detail how revealing too much makes a person vulnerable to their audience’s opinion, and it offers the recipient of this information valuable dirt on the speaker.
My experience has informed me that this is valuable advice, as most of the disputes, fights, disagreements, and harsh feelings one employee directs to another is a direct result of people not following this advice. My experience has also informed me that, for most people, it’s impossible for them to follow the advice. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, their day, their philosophy, and the worst and best things that have happened to them in life so much that they cannot bear not telling them to co-workers, people that sit next to them, and the people they encounter on smoke break. When a person is confined to a relationship with another person, for forty hours a week, these things spill out, whether the person wants them to or not.
This same manager mentioned the fact that when a person is sitting next to another person in an office, as we were, they can grow closer to that person than anyone else in their life at that moment in time.
“Even family,” this manager said. “You may find yourself telling the person next to you, things you wouldn’t tell members of your own family. My advice, for what it’s worth, is don’t.”
When a person sits, or stands, next to another for forty hours a week, for months on end, they become an extended family, or another family.
I’ve been around the others, of course, those people that follow my former manager’s sage advice, and what the reader holds in their hand might be the reason why. I love to figure out what makes other people tick. The process of discovery involved in trying to figure out why a person would try to convince me that she conceived a child in a manner other than the traditional, led me to want to be around her more often. It was such an outlandish theory that while in the discovery phase, I hung on her every word. She appeared to be claiming that hers was the second birth by divine intervention, even though she never made that claim explicitly. She simply had no cause to her effect.
Readers of these tales will probably respect the reasons why the exceptions to the rule, those that followed my manager’s advice, chose to remain protective of their privacy. I enjoy hearing another’s tale almost as much as I enjoy retelling it. I have a big mouth, in other words. Protecting one’s privacy, however, does not create a very interesting atmosphere. Most of the jobs I’ve had in my life lack mental stimulation, and the people that surrounded me were the ones that made them bearable. Thus, when I quit one job, a friend said I would still be at it if the powers that be sat me next to someone interesting. I must agree with that, on the basis that I wouldn’t have focused on how boring the job was had I a suitable distraction.
My joy in life has been in discovering the various perspectives on humanity, and though some have come from my family, most have been on the outer reaches of my life that opened a window in their soul to reveal some peculiar thoughts about life they had. The detailed ruminations on life I’ve heard from close friends and family, are conspicuously absent from my discoveries, because they’re too familiar. I know what makes these people tick, in other words, and their explanations have been so thorough that there’s little room left for analysis on my part. They’ve often provided it.
“You don’t know how to eat,” my dad would say when I would inform him that the concoctions he would develop were gross. This has led me to wonder if the subjects in The Weird and the Strange think the same things when we make faces at their philosophy, and their epistemology. They think they have a way to the light, and the truth, of good living, and our confusion regarding their methodology leaves them just as just as confused with a “You don’t know how to live” imprinted in their minds. Their ways may seem incomprehensible to the rest of us, but they have been fashioned and molded to believe that their trail is the one that leads to happiness. Their trail protects them from harm, and it allows them to get through life in a manner that leaves some of us so confused that we talk about it, and write about it, to elicit some sort of comments from others to see if we might be the ones that don’t know how to live.
What do you hope that they achieve by the end of that reading?
I guess the first thing I would say is that I can only control what I can control. I don’t know what the reaction will be, and I don’t think I would’ve written half of what I did, if I worried that someone would be offended, others would consider me too silly, too serious, or some confusing hybrid in between. The only thing I can you is that by writing these pieces, I helped myself work through the confusion I experienced regarding the humanity that encircled me throughout life. These people irritated me. In the same manner, I imagine an oyster develops a pearl as a result of an internal irritant.
An overwhelming majority of oysters do not produce pearls. Some scientists have suggested that pearls are formed in one in ten thousand oysters. The internal process involved is similar, but different, to the process that the oyster uses to create an outer shell that protects it outside harm. The oyster pinpoints the origin of the internal irritant and secretes a substance that scientists call nacre, a calcium carbonate substance around the irritant to prevent it from affecting other, internal parts of the oyster as a whole. The process begins, in other words, as a defense mechanism, until the oyster develops layer upon layer of the calcium carbonate to shield the interior of oyster from the harmful intruder, and a pearl is produced.
For a person that wants to live a full, reflective life, the unknown irritant may take the form of a simple question that the subject internalizes to a point that it becomes harmful, or it may be a life-altering dilemma that has prevents them from producing a well-lived, reflective life.
The three pearls of wisdom that I have found among the ten thousand quotes that I use to stave off irritating bits of confusion come from Leonardo da Vinci and Anton Chekov. The quote from Leonardo da Vinci is more of a paraphrase, but it states, “The answers to that which plagues a man can be found in the questions he asks himself.” The second is a direct quote from Anton Chekov: “It is the role of the storyteller to ask questions not to answer them.” Until, we arrive at the final quote, which I suggest may be the foundation of philosophy, the Ancient Greek maxim: know thyself.
I did adhere to the Chekov principle for the most part. At times, it ran against another principle I find endemic to storytelling: To be interesting. I also believe that each character cried out for perspective. Other people don’t know the people that are near and dear to my heart, and whether or not the attempt to provide perspective provided an answer, perspective was necessary for full characterization. In a manner equivalent to a therapist’s question to a patient, I provided some questions regarding my subject’s mindset, and I provided some answers from an outsider’s perspective projecting an answer. I am not a therapist in any way, shape, or form, but I am capable of providing an outsider’s perspective with some knowledge of the characters involved. I am a person that asks questions, and some of the time an answer leads to more questions, which feeds into the Da Vinci principle of asking questions, until we arrive at a truth internally.
The idea that one essay, one book, one story, or one pearl of wisdom can cure all that ails a person is almost as foolish as the idea one universal answer can provide a salve all that plagues man. There are answers, however, and they can be found in the questions we ask ourselves after concluding a reading, or listening to another person’s tale. Why did the people I know act the way they did? If I knew, it wouldn’t be such a point of fascination that I ended up writing about it. I do have an idea, but we all have ideas. I based my ideas on watching them, experiencing people similar to them, and using a collage of that information to try to understand them. Are my answers right, or is it more important that I put forth an answer that causes you to question my answers?
It would be just as foolish for one writer, no matter how great, to suggest that one story from their life can pinpoint the irritants of another’s life to produce a pearl of wisdom, as it would be for any reader to enter into such a discussion with the belief that all that ails them can be resolved. We all have something to teach one another, however and if we fail to transfer those lessons learned, they wither and die on the vein.
There are some stories in this collection that focus on illusions and delusions. To my surprise, some psychologists state that some illusions and delusions can provide a layer of protection against the external stimuli that could serve to damage subject’s mental health. That they may produce a pearl, but it’s my contention that illusions and delusions perpetuate with effectiveness in a manner that tends to snowball, until they begin to overwhelm the subject, and they end up on a psychiatrist’s couch trying to figure out where they went off the trail in the bright, shiny forest composed of delusional vegetation.
Some of the stories in the three categories on this site may seem inconsequential at first, but it is my belief that the unusual characters contained within have something to offer. As stated previously, only one in ten thousand wild oysters yield a pearl, and of those few pearls produced, a smaller percentage will achieve the size, and color that are of a jeweler’s quality. Yet there is something gained by those seeking answers from another’s life story for personal enrichment. The stories in this collection might not provide what the reader finds an earth shattering revelation, but it is my contention that most philosophers provide nothing more than a layer of protection against the random. When this layer combines with other layers of personal experience, and other readings, more nacre provides the calcium carbonate necessary to produce enough wisdom that self-defense can be achieved.
What is the meaning of Rilaly?
I have received crinkled faces from family and friends regarding this name that I chose for my writing over twenty years ago. I told them that Riley plus reality equaled my version of reality. The difference between Rilaly and Rilality is, of course the -ality tail. I deleted the -ality tail out of a fear that someone somewhere would develop some sort of hashtag that linked the title of this site with some form of innuendo. I’m not hip to all of the terms hashtaggers use, so I employ a better safe than sorry policy in regards to the title of this site. The unintended consequence to this deletion was the use of an –ly word to describe my method of operation, and adverbs are deemed a no-no in writing quarters. I’ve since unearthed a new etymology for the name Rilaly that institutes immorality, Riley plus immortality, minus the -ality tail, equals Rilaly. It can be either. It can be both. Like Led Zeppelin refusing to talk to the media in regards to the idea that they sold their souls to the devil to land a recording contract, or Pink Floyd refusing to comment in regards to the idea that they timed Dark Side of the Moon to segments of The Wizard of Oz, I will make no further, official comments to the media regarding the etymology of this name.
Does this new incarnation imply that I expect to live forever? Yes, but it also has something to do with the fact that my father died I was two years and two months old, and very few people, even in his inner circle, remembered enough about the man to tell me anything substantial about him when I wanted to know. The summation I received, of the man’s thirty-four year life was “He was a funny man that was fun to be around.” They would then add that I remind them a lot of him.
‘Thanks,’ I want to say. ‘But you know nothing about me, so how can you declare that we were similar in a way other than superficial?’ I’ve since learned to shut people down when they begin their introduction to my father in such a manner. I’ve learned that these otherwise pleasant people have nothing to offer in this regard.
My takeaway: As Norm MacDonald suggested, most people would forget most of the facts, and ideas about us after we are gone. Some people will even forget that we were ever here. We can live an adventurous life, encounter various people from all walks of life, and we can have a sparkling personality that leaves others spellbound, and they will forget about us. Even those, like Hemingway, that lived a life no one will forget, and documented his goings on for some to read 1,000 years from now, could become a dusty corner in a library. People move on over time.
I also learned, and this may be an unfair assessment given how long it took me to be interested in my dad, that most people are not observant, or reflective. If they had as many memories with my father as they claim, I was too young to enjoy those memories when they occurred in the immediate aftermath of that man’s death, and most of those stories and remembrances were gone by the time I grew interested.
I also had a stepfather. This man stepped in on my life shortly after my father’s demise. I was two years and two months, so I have no recollection of my father by blood. I learned all I could about the nature of the stepfather. My motivation for learning more about the man was that he ruled over our home with a heavy hand, and I was a rebellious young man. I found what I wanted to find, and if there’s one piece of advice I could pass along to rebellious, young men seeking dirt on dad, be careful what you look for, because you just might find it.
I did learn, from his sister, some information about my father’s adolescence. I did learn from fellow Cornhusker fans, that my father was a die-hard fan. I also learned that, at any given time, the man had two to three jobs, and that he was something of a workaholic. That’s it. There was some personal information I gleaned from those that knew him, but suffice it to say that the totality of what I know of the man can be reduced to one small paragraph. These nuggets of information were illustrative of the fact that the people we know, and the information we have on these people is in conjunction with what we love. If my father loved a Philly with Cheese, for example, I have to imagine that that would be the one thing a fellow Philly with Cheese lover would remember. Very few people are interested in the essence of those around them. Not to the degree, anyway, that I was with the man that happened to be my father.
If I was on the other end of this paradigm, and I had extensive experience with the man, I would have had one story that I thought captured the essence of the man. I don’t know if these people were drunk most of the time they were around him (he was a part-time bartender to supplement his income), or if he was far less interesting, and far less memorable than they would permit his only-begotten son to know. These friends and family members failed to remember much about the man, except that he was kind, funny, fun to be around, and that I remind them of him.
Those that know me, might do the same to my only begotten son, and if I didn’t provide a resource my entire existence may be reduced to the idea that I was a funny guy that was fun to be around, a political junkie, and a sports fan. I have no problem with these characterizations, of course, but I want him to know more.
If I achieve nothing more, in the course of exploring my mind for the benefit of stories, blogs, and character profiles, I think I have achieved an essence that will live long after the worms (and whatever else) begin gnawing at my mortal vestige. Riley plus immortality equals Rilaly, minus the -ality.
One aspect of my essence that I’ve uncovered of late is an exaggerated fascination with originality and nuance. I write exaggerated with the idea that I greet those that offer me nothing new with indifference bordering on cruel. They do not know this. I present them with warm smiles, lifted eyebrows, and laughter. They may have variations on the theme of the previous person I’ve met before, as everyone’s core personality is achieved on different roads, but they all too often end up at the same destination.
Most people try to be unusual. They strive for nuance. Originality is why they’re here. One of the greatest insults you can deliver to your fellow man is to inform them that you’ve met them somewhere before in another incarnation, and that they’re no snowflake. They may have certain ideas, and they may have had a slew of experiences different from them, but they end up being a type of person that we’ve met many times before.
I seek an original approach to story writing. My influences may run so deep that I might not see them for what they are, but I strive for originality.
For as long as I can remember –perhaps twenty years at this point– the advent of an original idea has provided me a joie de vivre, which when translated from French to English means “a cheerful enjoyment of life; an exultation of spirit.” I feel alive when an unusual idea invades my mind, and I feel like I’m wasting my time in life when I go through periods of time when no shockingly beautiful and strange ideas come to me. Attempting to be fresh, original, and nuanced can be the equivalent of walking on a tightrope over a volatile fault line (i.e. that which I can control versus what I cannot) when one’s mood is dictated by such.
Even when one is seeking inspiration for common stories that have mass appeal, inspiration can be difficult to find. When one is seeking an unusual, personalized twist, however, it can be more difficult. When a person reaches such a point, they read a ton of books and web pages, searching for inspiration. I listen to radio, webcasts, and TV analysts searching for a soundbite that will launch me into something different. Those that cover well-trod upon ground bore me. I attempt to find gaps in another’s philosophical outlook that applies to me. I never know where inspiration will strike, of course, but once it hits, I chew on it for a couple days, and I formulate an idea. I explore it in references, I spelunk through my mind for additions to the topic, I mesh five to six ideas together in a manner equivalent to a fictional scientist, named Victor Frankenstein, from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, and I feel juiced alive in a manner equivalent to the fictional scientist’s monster after receiving some lightning. I feel alive, inspired, and a joie de vivre for the time span it takes to complete an idea I then pour so much time and energy into perfecting the words that I’ve written that the spontaneity of the piece is drained long before publication. It may suck the love of creation out, but I’d rather get it right than have glaring errors.
One could say that having one’s moods dependent on inspiration must provide a mercurial existence, and it does, but there was a time in my life I spent mired in absolute misery. No idea land would result in a dystopian-style funk that could cause some minor forms of depression, until I discovered balance in life. I have my writing life now, and a familial balance. Because of this family, I might never reach dystopian depression again. On the idea of inspiration making a person happy, and its absence making them miserable, I ask the reader to imagine if they would sign up for a life in which they felt totally rejuvenated in life by an idea. If, as I write, that you could feel jolted alive by an idea? It’s like living the life of Frankenstein’s monster.