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August 7, 2012

An Incredibly Self-Indulgent Post on Archetypal Resonance

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:28 am

I’m not sure how to construct the following post in a linear fashion, so this might not work. But let’s try.

LAFE: How’s Mos Eisley Spaceport?

ME: Hi Lafe 🙂
Pretty hoppin’ 😉
By which i mean i’m home alone in the dark having an existential crisis…
Do you ever have this thing happen? Where you feel like you can’t get a lock on reality?

LAFE: a bit
not as much as at some times
and places
berkeley is hard on reality

ME: Huh. Places. I hadn’t really thought about that.

LAFE: people say that new mexico has a strange magic

ME: I’ve heard that.
I also think that might be the first time i’ve ever heard you use the word ‘magic’…

LAFE: the bomb came from there

ME: Oh. Wow. Interesting point.

Here’s the thing about the atomic bomb: The dropping of the bomb is widely held among ivory tower literary theorist types to mark the beginning of the post-modern era. I don’t have a good citation for this; it’s just one of those things I “know” from hanging out around and drinking with said types a lot. There’s a short little steal-this-and-turn-it-in-to-your-10th-grade-English-teacher essay here called “An Essay on Postmodern Literature” suggesting that post-modernism is a result of the pervasive trauma caused to human society by the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Post-modernism is a big, nebulous, tentacle-y academic concept, but the key idea, for me, is that “reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually.” This is a big shift from the idea that meaning exists inherently and universally, that there’s some kind of fundamental shared Truth we can all access if we just approach it in the right way.

There’s a lot that’s beautiful about this in an ontologically anarchic vein. It’s also a hard shift for human minds, and human culture, to make. I was talking to Asa the other night about how the advent of mobile and digital communication have ravaged our generational psychology for the sake of building a bridge to future cyborg society. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but they’re related: The shift from a modernist to a post-modernist cultural consciousness is happening on the medium of our actual consciousnesses. Sometimes, that hurts a lot.

I’ve been having a rough day today, because I’ve been dealing with how hard it is for me to lock onto reality. In other words, I’ve been trying to reconcile the fact that I’m really good at applying post-modernism to my individual reality — so good that it’s almost a superpower — with the fact that feeling like I never know what’s real is a fucking burden. Sitting outside in the backyard earlier, looking up at the New Mexico stars, I found myself crying to myself, “I’m so confused all the time. I just want it to stop!” Part of why this feels so hard for me is that my intuitive facility for drawing multiple readings out of the text isn’t just some trick I learned in college Philosophy. It’s most likely a survival skill I developed as the child of an abusive mom.

For me, second-guessing my own feelings, experiences, and sheer reality was a coping strategy for staying emotionally and psychologically intact in the face of the most unimaginable horror: That the person on whom I was totally dependent for my safety and well-being was someone I lived in fear of being hurt by. Telling myself, “This can’t be real. This can’t be real,” and convincing myself of other stories instead was what kept me sane — or, at least, as “sane” as I am. (Whatever the fuck that even means.)

Likewise, post-WWII society at large second-guessing our own feelings, experiences, beliefs, and the sheer notion of reality itself might be seen as a collective coping mechanism for staying intact in the face of the most unimaginable horrors: The holocaust and the atom bomb. Humans did those things. To each other. But telling ourselves, “This can’t be real. This can’t be real,” and telling ourselves other stories about what those events mean has been a collective species attempt to stay sane — at least as “sane” as we are. (Whatever the fuck that even means.)

The point I’m trying to get at, I think, is that part of the reason that recovering faith in myself, healing from trauma and being okay feels so huge, like such an impossibly overwhelming project, isn’t just because that’s a challenging thing to do on an individual level. It’s because I’m trying to do that immersed in a context that, on an overarching cultural level, echoes my own trauma. This struggle feels so intense because I’m hitting a fractal boundary, here. And, for some reason, it feels particularly intense today…

LAFE: today is August 6

ME: What happens on Aug 6th?

LAFE: August 6, 1945

ME: Oh holy shit.
Thanks, Lafe.

LAFE: really?

ME: Oh, no no.
I meant it sincerely.
I know it’s weird, but that’s actually really helpful…perspective.
Thank you.

LAFE: ok!

ME: You are better than almost anybody else I know at…
Oh I don’t even know
Making me feel like…my brain is, like…
Like I’m going to be okay.
In spite of the fact that I have the brain I do.
Does that make sense?

LAFE: yeah

ME: It’s not like you make me feel like I’m not crazy.
You just make me feel like being this crazy isn’t such a huge fucking end-of-the-world big deal.
* hugs *

LAFE: yeah
i feel better reading about nuclear weapons too

In short: There’s no solution for this problem. I can install new circuitry or collect useful concepts in an effort to manage my acute awareness of the painful parts of “the postmodern condition”. But I can’t actually make it go away. It’s part of how I’m made. It’s a superpower. It’s a burden. It’s something I’m both afraid of and obsessed with. It’s something I’m only just beginning to understand. And it’s a heavy thing to carry around. But, since I can’t put it down, I have to get stronger instead.

The first step is, of course, to stop self-sabotaging.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to do what I came to New Mexico do: I’m going to love myself. That means going to sleep right now and getting up tomorrow and eating food that’s good for me and going for a walk. It means getting away, at least for a little while, from the shattered mirror that is my own Internet presence and being as deeply present as I can here with my body and with people and projects I can touch with my hands. I don’t trust my mind but I trust my hands. And if there is some truth out there, if there is some magic, then they know more about it than I do.

Of course, this is just another story.

August 6, 2012

Snippet: Six Sides of the Same Coin

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 8:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

MATTHEW: You saw Everett?

ME: Yeah! We spent all night talking about all kinds of stuff. And he told me something I needed to hear. (Of course.) He said, “Your rational self knows that you are not infallible. Trust THAT part of yourself.”

MATTHEW: Wait, can you say that again? What do you mean?

ME: I was telling him about how I’m having a hard time lately because I don’t trust my perception of reality. …This is something that may not make much sense to you, actually. But it’s something I struggle with a lot. And something I think Everett struggles with too, so.

MATTHEW: Oh. Yeah. I get it. It’s like, you have a perceiving circuit and an acting circuit. I do, too. But you have some kind of processing circuit in between them that’s way more developed than whatever I have there.

ME: It’s the thing that allows me to map infinite different meanings onto a given text or situation.

MATTHEW: But it’s so developed that you actually need an additional circuit to be able to turn it on and off.

ME: Yeah. And that’s exactly what Everett gave me. I told him that having this ability to see a multitude of meaning was a superpower and he said, “C’mon. It’s a burden. You know it’s a burden.”

MATTHEW: [LAUGHS!] I think it’s a burden for you. It’s valuable for the people you talk to. It lets you translate between people whose maps of meaning are too different to be able to communicate with each other.

ME: It’s what allows me to put myself in other peoples’ shoes.

MATTHEW: Uh huh.

ME: And it’s good for me, too, right? I mean, trying on other peoples’ meanings is what feels like intimacy to me.

MATTHEW: But that can get real chaotic really fast.

ME: True. And really disorienting if I’m not sure which meanings are theirs and which are mine. Or if I’m not even sure what my own meaning is at all. But I’m so good at telling myself convincing stories about what I do and don’t believe. It’s like I have to leave myself reality anchors and search for evidence and clues about who I really am. Data my “rational self” can process to determine what’s really going on. Hm. Maybe I should think on that.

August 4, 2012

Not the Only Mythmaker ‘Round These Parts

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 10:43 am

This is a composite of two letters written to me in 2005 by an old friend, Ted: One when I graduated college and the other when, a few months later, I left for my first season in Antarctica. First of all, the kid writes a helluva love letter. But, more importantly, the person he describes in it was (and hopefully still is) really me.

I’m putting this here as a reminder to myself that the tumultuous, exegetic anxiety of this Strange Time in My Life is not all there is to my being in the world. That the person I’m striving to be, the one who’s not afraid of her own power, is not necessarily some far-off future unattainable star. She’s someone I have been in the past and will be again and, in some ways, always-and-already am.

It helped me to re-read this:


Consider this our first letter. You are going away to the iciest and most barren of foreign lands. As you put it, so much more elegantly than myself, “OMFG Antarctica!” An entire universe of experience awaits you, and yet I can’t help but believe the same applies to those who will be lucky enough to know you as a friend where you travel. In fact, I must say right now that my chance to live in the world that Rebecca Crane inhabits has been one of the most valuable and life-changing events that could ever have happened to me. Annoying generalities aside, you smell nice and you have this ridiculously cute freckly face and one kind-of jagged tooth but don’t change it because it would do you a terrible injustice.

Ever since you wrote me that letter on that day when I freaked out, I’ve begun to see myself in a completely different way. I’ll find myself reacting to situations with those typical trained reflexes and then I stop and think, “I’m better than this. I seriously am.” Life can be a self-fulfilling prophecy and you have been that for me. Like, I’m so serious (in the E-40 sense of the phrase), thank you!

So, I sit here, delirious from coffee and studying, barely remembering being conscious during my trip to the grocery store earlier today and all I want to do is write this letter. I want it to be full of errors and sloppy, just for that authentic feel. I want it to be full of all these neat, revelatory things I think about you and how fucking cool it is to know a girl like you who actually has principles and doesn’t talk much about them; you just act. In fact, for you, it isn’t even as if these kinds of things are an issue. You’re cool about it. Essentialism is false and you’re like, “Yeah, I totally knew that a long time ago. I made some sushi. Do you want some?”

So many people take the problems of their lives and exaggerate them until they’ve lost touch with the amazingness of everyday life. I’ve seen you react in stressful situations. I’ve been there through the good shit, the hurtful shit, and yes, we even marinate-on-tha-corner from time to time. You always allow yourself to be okay when these things happen. It’s like you already know the situation will get better soon enough. You’re that certain.

And then, Rebecca, there are these times when I see your freckles, and that one tooth you have and my god you’re so young! People are jealous of looks like that and I think that a large part of the reason you still have them is because you never do overreact. It’s complete innocence. You earned it for being so steadfast in your approach to life’s issues.

Which takes me to another point about the way you want humans to act toward each other. You don’t preach about how we should really hold hands more and be kinesthetic towards one another. You just grab my hand, or scratch my head, and I’m all like, “What’s going on?” and then you start talking. Because if something is good and you already know that, there’s no point in arguing about why it is good. You’ve got to just take the leap of faith and act like you know you’re doing the right thing. And I’ve seen you. That’s exactly what you do. You’ve never failed at it.

So, for you, Rebecca, I’ve gotten some things. But know that whatever this symbolic gesture is, it will continue. I want to keep giving to you because you’re so cool, and so loving, and so fun to be around. If there is ever a time when you need somebody to make you dinner or a cup of coffee or a CD or a piece of artwork, I’m here. You can just call me on my cellular telephone.

The message was always the same but never worth anything less. I am here and that simple fact is so amazing I can’t help but call somebody about it. Sometimes you wouldn’t respond for a few days or I’d be so wrapped up in whatever I spend my days doing when I happen to forget about how amazing this is, but we eventually got the message. When you do leave, and the reality of it begins to set in, I’ll remember those days. I’ll send that message again, though this time it will go an even greater distance. That fact will only add to the sheer amazingness of this. You can get mail in the remotest, coldest, least inhabited place on the Earth, and I will be sending you this reminder to you when you are there, again and again.

I want you to do things. I want you to discover, to keep discovering those little channels and backdoor pathways to new experiences. I want you to feel newness, a sense of newness so overpowering that you can’t sleep. I want you to write about it. I want to know every detail. Just like that time you called me out of the blue to tell me you heard some really good music. I want that from you, so innocent, so certain that my time couldn’t have been spent hearing about anything better. Because that’s what I love about you.

Many people believe your departure will leave a gigantic hole in their life that will be difficult to fill. That could very well be one of the greatest compliments your friends could ever give you. I happen to follow their school of thought. I could tell you that what you have done for me in this wonderful year of friendship will be enough to last a lifetime, and though true, a statement like that would only serve to cover over the fact that you will be missed and that this moment must be bittersweet. I am so happy that you will be able to travel to exotic places all around the planet. I want you to take in everything you possibly can, and I want you to wake up time and time again with a sense of wonder about the world you are living in. You are already like this, but your travels will take you even further along that path.

For both of us, the icy wonderland awaits. You will be going there. I will become swept up in it. The fact that I know I will miss you weighs heavily on my mind as I write this, but along with it, I feel a sense of empowerment. I truly care about somebody out there. No matter what she does, where she goes, or whoever she becomes, the girl I know her as will not be tainted. And I can confidently say this, knowing I am not assuming anything: She feels the same way about me.

With friendship, kindness, mystery, sex appeal, and most importantly, love.

Your friend,
Ted B

P.S. I made a music CD for you. I want you to listen to it right after the pilot tells everybody they can put their trays down and use their electronic devices.

Thank you for leaving me an anchor, Ted.

Your friend,

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