Cut Off

Between mutilation and fear there is an endless waiting — waiting to see when the next annealing will happen, waiting to find out what my true self knows. I don’t know what the heart knows, because that is hidden in the leaves, I think. There is no greater force of recognition than my hopelessness, that sense that change will never come because apparent changes are just different perceptions of the same thing, that underlying motive that never seems to fully express itself in the present yet is always obvious afterwards. I can’t find any essence, any real reason for obliquity — not even a natural indigence.

It just seems like one thing happened, and then another thing happened, and so on. Each event was carefully considered, and it seemed right at the time to do a particular action, but afterwards everything seemed absurd. I did find a pattern, though. The pattern is idiopathic, a circular obversity that leaves me constantly rationalizing according to other-directedness. That’s because my own tautism leads me to expect externalized epistemes, regardless of the insanity or mere weakness causing the vision. The pattern is not dependent on natural affinity, but rather on perceived infinity, on the apparently regressive irrationality of cyclic reductions. There is no necessary conclusion.

I don’t know where the center is. I thought I found it when I realized that I wasn’t there, and that not being there meant that nothing could possibly result happily. But even though that was comfortably without care, it left nothing to habit. Everything that could have been was already gone, pushed down and crushed and wickedly molested. The time was lost and would never come back. More wasted years without regret.

Now, there is something supposedly important to be done, but it has no necessary efficacy, no possible actuality that can matter. Maybe it matters, but I can’t really expect it to matter. If it mattered, it would mean that something mattered before and will matter again, but I don’t think it mattered before. It was just some kind of solipsistic solecism, a self-canceling soundproof lopsided backwards series of mistakes. One mistake after another — no learning, no correction, no discovery, no understanding.

I think right now I’m afraid that something will matter, when it should not. I don’t know why else anything would instill fear. It’s because I want it to have significance, but it cannot have significance. If it had significance, then I would have to admit that it would be the only significant event.

I want to have the minimum. That’s all I want, but I can’t have it. The minimum is too much. It’s just a mistake to think that there is a minimum, that anything can be achieved through effort. Nothing accumulates, nothing leverages, nothing overcomes. More waste.

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What is charisma?

A gift — not something earned, but acquired almost by accident. Yet not by accident, since it is entirely sensible in context. It seems to arise naturally and inevitably, expressed obviously in the fortunate, and perhaps after diligent cultivation in those who seek their fortune instead of finding themselves immersed in it already.

The gift is provided by someone else, to serve their purposes. What possible purpose it could serve, even the providentially fortunate must discover. With a flash of brilliance the gift can make others believe that the gifted one can move mountains. But if there is no love, the gifted one starts to sound annoying, like someone banging a pot to cover up a death rattle.

The spirited keeper of the gift can use it to build up others, to give them a new sense of life. This seems almost like passing on the gift, if the others start to show some of the same spirit. Yet they may still express their gift in different ways.

There is freedom in the gift; first, because it is a sign to others that the gifted one is obviously favored, and secondly, because the gifted one is free to act out of love and hope, rather than fear and despair.

Because the gifted one is obviously favored, other people are attracted to him, inexplicably and unconsciously at first. Some quickly realize the instrumental value of the gifted one, but most simply want to listen and touch, waiting for some word of instruction or guidance.

Without self-condemnation, the gifted one can feel the exaltation of being able to love those without the gift and not begrudge them anything. He can be gracious to the weak and sniveling, the ugly and scabrous, the repulsive, and the useless ones.

Of course, this leads the others to call the gifted one a teacher, someone who can show them a better way. They’ll start to crowd around him when he’s in public, expecting him to say something earth-shaking or controversial. The pressure to perform becomes enormous. It gets harder to carry on personal relationships.

So, the gifted one starts a blog. This way, his wisdom can be presented to the masses without the necessity of literally living among them. He can control who actually speaks with him, through comment moderation, and he has time to craft his pronouncements. He can keep his personal relationships private.

Eventually, the gifted one can create a little system to impart the knowledge of the gift to some who are less fortunate. Perhaps they will never have the gift itself, but at least they can practice their knowledge of it online. They will come because of the instrumentality of the gift, without developing the awareness of how to use it in love to build up others. And so, some of the followers will start banging the pot to cover up their death rattle.

But the gifted one goes on. Because he must be who he is: a natural ace.

——————————

On the day I was born
The nurses all gathered ’round
And they gazed in wide wonder
At the joy they had found

——————————

I broke a thousand hearts
Before I met you
I’ll break a thousand more, baby
Before I am through

——————————

I make a rich woman beg
I’ll make a good woman steal
I’ll make an old woman blush
And make a young girl squeal

——————————

And when I walk the streets
Kings and Queens step aside
Every woman I meet
They all stay satisfied

——————————

Well, I’m wanted by the men want to learn my line
I’m wanted by the women cause I love so fine
Wanted by the boys wanna learn my style
I’m wanted by the girls cause it drives ’em wild

——————————

Well, I’m wanted by the men for the damage I’ve done
Wanted by the women cause I’m so much fun
I’m wanted by the boys want me to be their teacher
I’m wanted by the girls thinkin’ of their future

The Sentimentalized Corpse

Sometime after the first diagnosis of decrepitude, but before the first warning of imminent danger to my well-being, I developed a yearning to discover whether I had authentic sentimentality. Not reconstructed memories of actual events, that is, but rather remembered feelings that were associated with actual events, or else a lack of feelings associated with actual events.

The best way to accomplish this examination seemed to be by contacting old acquaintances and family members. In the past I had often examined artifacts of my life, turning them over and contemplating them in order to judge the authenticity of my sentimentality. If I could not discover a sentimental feeling, I discarded the artifact. However, I usually was able to discover a faint memory, a regret, a missed connection, an unrequited gesture of love, or maybe a strong imaginary attachment. I would therefore hide it away, secure in the knowledge that the artifact represented some part of me I could otherwise not see. This time I thought it was best to contemplate my artifacts of people, and then prod them to discover some kind of living flesh in the form of an emotional reaction.

What I found was almost invariably befuddlement and disdain from my subjects. I don’t know if this was due to their past experiences with me or my surgical indifference in the present as I carved away rotting flesh. A couple of times I got the reaction I expected, but nothing more; I attributed those to the other person’s limitations, the boundaries they had previously defined for themselves when dealing with me.

I also tested subjects for whom I had no sentimentality, to see if they held any sentimentality toward me or if interacting with them might provoke some sentimentality in me. In these subjects the reactions varied from hostile indifference to enthusiastic, yet superficial, interest.

In only one case did I get a lively and genuine reaction, one indicating a depth of feeling that had been covered over by scar tissue. This was a relationship that I needed to carefully remake and revivify, one that counted for something more than the amount of time I could devote to it.

In all the other cases, I concluded that any sentimentality was delusion and vanity. I could realistically evaluate the actual significance based on the other person’s authenticity, but there was no need for me to inflate the significance with some kind of artificial importance. The emotional impact had passed and any memories present to me now might as well be fictitious, since there was no “relationship” as such.

So much for sentimentality. Now I work to expunge it wherever it grows on a surface. Whenever it is applied to people, it objectifies them, and they despise it. If anyone did not despise it, I should suspect that person of unalloyed idealism, a kind of fainting, self-indulgent romanticism that would not support interaction or growth.

Moreover, I cannot assume that a lack of perception on my part means anything other than a lack of interest on another’s part. Unless, perhaps, they want to sentimentalize me. I don’t need that either.

Ungrateful for Personas

I have been corresponding with someone who felt free to show me a set of opinions I hadn’t been aware of. These opinions seemed to me to be in opposition to the persona I had constructed for this person. So, now I am less likely to trust this person’s opinion on things outside of their area of expertise. In one sense, this may seem tragic, to lose my sense of the old persona; yet, now I have a fuller understanding of the person.

That seems to hold generally for relationships throughout life. The longer we hold on to a relationship, the more likely we will move from a persona-view, a two-dimensional facing of one side of a person, towards a three-dimensional view that will be more complicated, less comfortable, more difficult to articulate, more emotional, less comprehensible, more comprehensive, more offensive, and more risky. Trust will become less a matter of our ability to rationally analyze the persona based on the person’s ability to compartmentalize their thoughts and behaviors; it will depend more on our ability to accept the other person’s will to maintain integrity with us despite their own contradictions and missteps.

Likewise, I have tried out alternative parts of personas on people, to see how they react. Generally, no one likes it, perhaps because it is too disorienting for them. I have also tried eliminating my use of a persona, stripping down to a kind of existential skepticism. It leaves me with a feeling of free-fall and it is exhausting to communicate while in such a state of mind. I’m not sure it is possible to maintain, except as another persona, a kind of brutally honest persona that is able to articulate what seems to be genuine. Maybe pseudonymity is the natural state of mind for humanity, or maybe it is just me. Maybe there is something Freudian or Nietzschean going on, an encounter with my hidden animality that is supposed to impel me towards overcoming the man of today. No, we’ll have none of that.

The Davison model of true identity posits that integrity and civil discourse is maintained by asserting the primacy of a single persona, the “real” one acknowledged by civil authorities, and letting all referents accrue to it. However, most people seem to believe that the legal persona is the least likely candidate for true identity, and it’s obvious that it is the least interesting. At base, it requires the approval of the civil authorities and, reciprocally, one’s own approval of the civil authorities as arbiters of identity; so right away it is contrary to human nature. But far less appealing is the implication that somehow the presentation of the “whole” self, in the form of multifaceted referents, will somehow relieve everyone’s anxiety.

On the contrary, it is unlikely to relieve the anxiety of the person in question or of others who interact with him. It is not truly possible to be fully consistent in one’s person, since the self in itself is not axiomatic, but is rather organic, consisting of irrational assumptions and unconscious accretions. An axiomatic self, one that fully agrees with local convention and always functions predictably, is rather merely a persona. This persona may maintain the fiction of integrity and civility only so long as nothing disturbs it from behind, such as conflicting priorities or mixed feelings.

If the person in question has a strong will, favorable circumstances, and rigorous discipline, then the persona may accurately reflect this fact. That doesn’t change its status as merely a persona, nor does it guarantee consistency, which continuously depends on the will, the circumstances, and good habits of mind. Nevertheless, such a constructed persona could be trusted on a transactional basis and held accountable to a public ethic, as indeed public figures are.

This, it seems, is what the Davison model is driving at:  to make us all into public figures whose lives are openly accountable, with all contingencies and motivations flowing into the facing side, hoping that everyone we encounter will accept us holistically and forgive us for incontinence and imperfection. Yet, the human tendency seems generally to be in the opposite direction, towards flatness and reification of a persona until it is worn smooth, so that no one will have to encounter unexpected bumps or blemishes. Too much intimacy and contrasting feeling is disturbing, not because every persona is robotic, but because every persona is constructed in order to meet expectations. When expectations are met, trust is established, and people can go on without having to evaluate every interaction for subliminal meaning.

This works as long as life is divided into spheres of influence and privacy is maintained. Without privacy, personas bleed into each other accidentally, trust is lost, and there can be no implicit personal contract. The truth is that all contracts depend on the maintenance of a persona that performs the expected actions, and that this contractual persona is not necessarily the same as the person himself, unless the contract stipulates complete submission of the whole person. There are such contracts, but generally with the modern (Euro-American) notion of the self and private property, the whole-person contract seems anachronistic:  it evokes slavery, vassalage, marriage, Biblical covenants, eternal salvation, military duty, genetic determinism, blood brothers, mystical affinities, and tribalism. There is no necessary contradiction, but it runs counter to the entropy of modern living.

I Wonder Why

“Still,” said the poet, “I wonder why.

The frozen one, he lives a lie.

Nothing can disturb his sleep,

The gentle numbness, dark and deep.

Feeling for the lack of sensation,

See the emptiness, desolation.”

—-

Power acquired is emotion outcast,

Power sought-after is sought to the last.

Power beckons, so answer the call;

Attain the highest and take it all.

Then find the answer for the feeling

That knocks you down and leaves you kneeling,

Kneeling before the grace of your needs:

Love, upon which everyone feeds.

But, only man, you still deny it,

Steady yourself, and walk on by it.

Deny the savior of mankind,

That which the wisest yearn to find.

—-

Nothing else disturbs the sleeper,

Except the dark and subtle Reaper.

[1980]

One Night in Texas

Down the wide street
The Texan strode
He walked like thunder
While lesser men rode.

From his long view
To the fair field
He could see mighty clear:
“What a burger!” he squealed.

How could a sub
Commandeer his eye?
Or a mangled chicken
Mask hunger so high?

No, only one meal
Could satisfy him–
A late-night repast
That wasn’t too slim!

This king in raw wrapping
Was ready to eat
A barbeque cheddar
With plenty of meat.

As he neared the joint
He picked up speed
Trying to outrun
His rumbling need.

Now, pal, a din could be heard
From out of the gravel
As he leaped for the curb
And gunned it to travel.

But he thudded against
A door, strenuously leaning,
And gasped as he read,
“Sorry, closed for cleaning!”