"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Introduction to Don Quixote and Other Rantings

Prelude: Portions of this will look VERY familiar to a few of you; particularly those on my email list. It's a work-in-progress that, originally, began as part of the 9/19 post. I quickly retracted when I realized that this Quixote idea was going to have enormously long legs and run far... even up my own leg! Much of this was written in early- mid October. It's been edited, re-edited, and will likely change again in the near future as I add and condense ideas. When I'm relatively certain it's done, I'll add it to the link-bar at the top. While it's sure to offend some and disquiet others, as it should, it's by no means a manifesto... at least not yet!

Don Quixote is a wonderful book. If you're enjoying my little perspective on things, I highly recommend it as companion reading, for the perceptive reader! In fact, highlighting my business cards, along with this URL, is this famous Picasso painting of Quixote, Rocinante, and Sancho Panza. I chose it for 2009 to remind myself not to "go fighting windmills." In other words, fight to see things as they are; not as I would choose them to be.

If you've read Don Quixote, you know that the wisdom of following he and Sancho on ANY shortcut would be dubious at best. With that in mind, Chris and I had a short conversation in Port Townsend about the iconic Alcoholics Anonymous phrase, "Fake it to Make It." The conversation ended when I expressed a vehement disgust for the notion and it was obvious that we would have to agree to disagree. If you've read the Cervantes classic, you already know where I'm headed.

"Fake It to Make It"

I endured having this cute, infantile phrase, Fake It to Make It, beaten into my skull years ago while a young, state-ordered, A.A. apprentice. At the time, I loved it because it relieved my drunk, lazy, frightened and diluted ass of the responsibility of actually becoming the person I wanted to be. "Are you saying that if I just dressed up in pretend, mental armor and acted like that person, faked it, I would appear to myself to be so! Then, I could imagine everyone else saw me that way too! Halloween for the self-esteem!" Sweet.

It's The Don Quixote Folly: "If you want to be a knight, just act like a knight!" Fake It to Make It. Rather than making the necessary internal changes to actually "become a knight," it suggests to the desperate or lazy soul that the external & superficial acts of "dressing up" in imaginary fantasy or doctrinal costumes will result in these desired changes magically seeping in from the outside, until one day you'll supposedly wake up with an invitation to the Round Table. Taken in this context, the base idea is obscene.

I concede that it provides a useful, temporary sanctuary for those who are too (understandably) frightened or ill-equipped to confront their dragons; as long as it's presented as temporary. Unfortunately, in my experience, it's not and typically encourages blatant self-delusion as a watered-down substitute for authentic self-confrontation; addressing the external symptoms rather than attacking the internal cause. "You too can make rationalization work for you!"

Been there.

Playing "make believe" is something we discourage children from after t a certain age, yet we encourage it in addicts? Odd. To my knowledge, Wendie and A.A. have never been introduced, and to be clear, the conversation Chris and I had did not involve her at all. But, after watching the daypack fly the day I left Port Townsend, combined with the entire tapestry of my experience with her, that silly "Fake It To Make It" phrase popped came to mind, and immediately reminded me of Don Quixote & Sancho!

To understand why, you first need some fundamentals.

From Chris's descriptions, I had highly elevated expectations of Wendie from the beginning. They have an incredibly close bond but, beyond base ideology, where I expected similarities, they are nothing alike. Chris is never visibly upset and takes pride in that, externally at least, he likes to appear to feel nothing but somatic peace, joy, & happiness. I've never seen Wendie exude any sense of calm. Yet, she is a practicing Buddhist: the dogma of meditation, forgiveness, and an inner serenity! Including our short time together in New Jersey, I've always perceived an obvious, amusing, and glaring inconsistency: a cavernous disconnect between her professed, abstract belief system and her tangible energy, vibe, and persona: an unexplained negativity channeled into non-stop, frenzied intensity. I often wanted to ask, "How's Buddha working out for ya?" but I was entertained, and feared my health would suffer from such a query.

Arriving in Port Townsend, I had recently experienced something similar thing in Idaho, so it was still rather top-of-mind. From my own history, I'm hyper-sensitive to disguised, seeping anger and have always noticed it gently oozing from Wendie; the tension Chris warned me about? It was always just... there. The difference in Washington, I suspect, was that it had intensified due to an infringement upon Daniel's turf. I never saw it, but Wendie was probably forced to juggle and soothe much more of his polite-yet-keen annoyance with visitors than I/we were privy to. Still, I can understand having me sleep outside, but even letting her brother? For the better part of what turned out to be a month? When there's an empty couch?!? I doubt that came from Wendie, and it doesn't take Dr. Phil to phigure out phrom whence the added "tension" sprung.

Quite honestly, I' not concerned with any of the personal, internal dynamics of Casa Wendie y Daniel, nor are they my business. It's the pretense of to the-letter Progressive Pamphlet Ideology and the accompanying affection for eastern theology that piqued my interest. To be more specific, touting philosophies that claim peace, love, & contentment... while exuding quiet anxiety or anger when you laugh!

Next to baseball, people watching is my favorite spectator sport. Most of my best insights come from moments when I'm not involved in setting (like watching backpacks fly); when I can forget bantering and silently study linguistics (beyond language), as well as body language, attitude, ego indicators, tone (dominant/ submissive?), and just feel the tangible energy exchange referred to in the fictional fable The Celestine Prophecy.

I hold no preconceived notions of "I'd like to think all people are good/ bad," so I'm not hampered by rose/shit tinted glasses and can tell quickly who I'm dealing with. The process begins before we even speak; with that "energy." You may laugh, but this INITIAL wordless assessment is accurate 80-90% of the time! And after engaging in or listening to a conversation? I am almost always right in the end. Call me arrogant, but it's a fact. Ask Laina!

After intently listening and watching her, my intuition (and that's all it is) has been unwavering from the beginning: that there's something much deeper not-so-gently working Wendie. It appeared to me that (admittedly after only limited interaction) that she's likely hiding, protecting, ignoring, or coming to terms with something frighteningly powerful and that this "something" is probably old, ugly, and clawing to get out. There were similar elements in Boise, but Wendie invokes in me a disturbing resemblance to by estranged half-sister, Christine. Where exactly does that familiarity flows from? I couldn't say.


With all this said, and keeping in mind the theology/ ideology, I began a long time ago to speculate if, rather than turning to REALLY face it, perhaps she had tried to find peace like so many others: "Playing with [insert deity]"; hoping to "fake it to make it;" hoping tranquility seeps in from "out there" and suffocates the beast while escaping into external agenda and the frenzied, non-stop activity to avoid the monster... in case it's not working.

Instead of allowing hard-earned, original, organic beliefs be the fruit of fearsome introspection & their unique experience, many people of all theological or ideological persuasions cloak themselves within the Jesus/ Buddha blanket, or mimic their approved "Books of Chivalry." They then stand proudly on the mountain for the world (and themselves) to see; and conveniently further conceal what still lurks beneath. It's common to read eloquent words and want to feel that they are the "magic bullet" or the "cure." Once you do, from there it's an easy step to simply place these ideas atop a dangerously active seismic foundation without first really applying the ideas internally.

This whole process is blood for my shark's nose; I can smell it miles away because I've feasted on it, and when I do I'm keenly observant and sometimes relentless in outing it... often to a fault and the end of my more shallow relationships! But, from my own experience I am comfortable declaring that The Quixote may momentarily work, but only as long as your emotional tectonics are stable and you can completely control your environment (reality?) allowing no one to mirror or challenge you, while most importantly refusing to challenge yourself. Inevitably however, once there's enough built-up stress, discomfort, or tense conflict, the core rumbles and fault lines ultimately appear... sometimes flying down the steps!

This "seismic activity," while painful, is in fact a blessing for those who have the courage to both acknowledge it then look deeply into their core. I'm convinced it's the soul kicking and screaming to be heard; refusing to be suffocated while simultaneously struggling to expose the problem. But, unidentified or ignored, it can also manifest itself in many forms, including alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, anxiety...

The Splinter in the Mind

It's quite a simple idea once you strip away plain rhetoric and agenda. You feel physical pain in your body when somethings wrong. Would you trust a doctor that treated your broken bone by only drugging the afflicted area and telling you to alter how you use the limb? Fuck no! You'd demand he find the break and set it! Then you'd let it heal and move on. You'd treat the cause, allowing internal healing to relieve the pain AND renew functionality. Why, then, is it so unnerving to think that we may feel psychological pain when something's off course? Why do we assume the person's defective? Could it be, perhaps, that it's the culture that's flawed?

Why is it unacceptable to discuss or even consider, that maybe we were never intended to give 1/3 of our lives in exchange for living inside what, to many, becomes a comfortable, sterile cage? Maybe the imposed hamster-wheel of "Produce-Consume-Repeat" should cause some discomfort. Perhaps those that can't deactivate that pesky nerve to numb the Splinter are actually "healthier" than the assimilated. You may disagree and that's fine, but I'd retort by asking: Why are more & more people like Wendie, in varying degrees, becoming aware of and leaving the construct behind in whatever ways they can? Chris and I, along with many others have both seen and noticed it. Let me guess... the financial "crisis?"

**Fun Fact! This general idea began as my working social-thesis (Survivorman) but seems to have shifted & dovetailed into a related theological-thesis somewhere around Randleman! My political-thesis will be short and simply titled "Fuck 'Em All."

This simplistic little analogy is obvious: Attack the cause, not the symptom. But the problem is, where it takes a specialist to set a bone, only we ourselves can be certain to locate, AND TREAT, our internal fractures. We can gather guidance & insight as to how, but with no X-Ray or standard anatomical schematic, the procedure is ours to perform with only honesty and courage as instruments.

Unfortunately, we're usually afraid to even look at the wound for fear of what we may find. So, we'll cover it up with a blanket like a child hoping that if it's concealed it will either vanish, or we'll forget it's there. To compound things, you may hear people eager to tell you, for a fee, that they have the elixir! More cultural assimilation. Or, a higher dose of escapism: You need to work harder to buy more shit! Perhaps a shot of Responsibility Relinquishment: Completely submitting to man's doctrinal version of Jesus/ Buddha/ Mohammad, Inc., thereby externalizing all good and evil! "The Devil made me do it, dad!"

Or... when they just are tired of bothering with you... "You need pharmaceuticals!"

With all the mental-flak and distractionary cover-fire, the ones who are subconsciously and violently fighting not to be lobotomized stand starkly in contrast to the masses that have docilely accepted role of numb, neutered consumer. There's a rare, third breed: those who have considered carefully and chosen their states willingly, often due to circumstances like familial concerns or even an admitted sloth! For them, comfortable consumerism may HAVE to work, and they deserve respect for at least taking responsibility for their own minds.

Many of the zombies will loudly try to convince us that they belong inside this little haven. A conversation and few well-placed questions later, the standard cliches appear. These folks illicit different reactions from me at different times, ranging from pity to disdain, depending on my mood, and I will usually disengage this brand of conversation quickly, unless I feel combative. It feels like arguing physics with Forest Gump... in Greek. Especially when the defensive egos kicks in! That's when you see the Quixote phenomenon in all its glory.

I am beginning to take many more of my cues from nature. I love to watch it work at both a macro and micro level, because there are stunning consistencies throughout and I believe that's how you can to some degree watch "God" work; it's as close to something tangible as we'll ever get. One of the primal laws is "Adapt or Die," and my canary-in-the-coalmine is this "Culture" blindly obliterating one of its fundamental tools for generations, choosing instead to hide beneath technology's flimsy tent, while furthering ignorance and infantile dependence with each spawning event. Meanwhile, we collectively hurdle toward Idiocracy. Think I'm wrong? Let's kill all the power for a month. Then, since no one has any real sustainable skills, we'll see another of Nature's laws go to work: "Survival of the Fittest." Scarey, aint it? We're a catastrophic power outage and ammunition supply away from becoming prey. That should speak to "technopoly" and our dependence:? we've traded comfort & convenience for self-reliance. Should we be pitied for that?

Despite my attentive ranting and beyond disgust (or pity), I'm just not generally concerned with (or for) most of them. The Zombified are content to be social & economic prey, are snoozing while fused to their La-Z-Boys, and there's no arousing the obese, content, lobotomized masses... unless there's a Doritos shortage or a new reality show for them to star in! Then, watch the fuck out! Balloon Boy and the Heene family are the perfect examples of American priorities. Rather than vilify, we should revere and honor them with a postage stamp! They're our creation AND our perfect reflection! Our Falconstein.

As for the self-professed "enlightened" ones: Even if you are "enlightened," you will NOT be heard over the cackles of the Sarah Palins or Ryan Seacrests. No social-revolution is coming. There is no "mass-intervention" capable of rendering The Biggest Loser, Dancing With the Stars, Survivor, & *cringe* American Idol impotent. Accept it, treat 'em as a spectator sport while seeking each other out and trying to remain functioning within the framework of reality. It's those who scratch at this Splinter in the Mind that are worth engaging.

Escaping Enchantment

Introspection and self-directed critical thought (Andre's 'Inner Dialogue'), will, eventually, come naturally to a person seeking only simple truth; treating their lives like a research project rather than a role-playing game. It's generally hampered in those clinging to (identifying with) a comfortable, yet tenuous agenda or point-of-view: those desperately needing to believe they've "free the maiden." The ego prevents considering the possibility, even to themselves, that maybe they really were just attacking muledrivers. Feeling right is more important than being right. I've been guilty; all of us have. No one "wants" to feel "wrong" and in most people this tendency runs deep; well beyond ideological or theological boundaries.

It's important to just remember the simple difference between being clever & being correct AND the clever techniques for confusing the two. If you're not simply terrorizing antiquated Dutch technology, you should be able to easily prove it, with a little effort. Yet, fearing that they may actually "see the windmill" keeps most from really opening the eyes and looking...

While I understand fear, once exposed I have little tolerance for intentionally clinging to an antiquated, self-delusion. Pretending, professing, or even praying to believe something because it's an easy solution; a ready-made, convenient, external answer to your questions simply wont work for those with truly tuned-in, focused or developing sense of self and self-purpose. For those intentionally mistaking engineered consumerism or delusion for "Knight Errantry?" Point it out, then enjoy the show. It's all you can do! Some will never leave Plato's Cave and others will actually want to kill you for trying to expose their comfortable illusions. Right, Cypher?

Everything has to begin and grow from within with an unwavering focus on truth, reality, and self-honesty. And, in my opinion, it's better to read nothing- to know no philosophy- than to get lost in it by sacrificing our own personal compass; being consumed by pre-packaged doctrine while being reduced to incessantly parroting and re-enacting what amount to Quixote's Books of Chivalry. Jefferson put it best:
He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.

Or, not.

Addendum:I've learned that Wendie ended her & Daniel's co-habitation, and I feel a twinge of persistent apprehension about sharing some this, particularly (and perhaps unfairly) using her as a symbol; the same I felt surrounding Andre. However, the Quixote idea sprung from my visit there, and its nexus is important. Even on an abstract level, I think it serves as a powerful illustration as to how clever & conniving we can be with ourselves.

It took more than a month to fully grasp the scope and depth of this simple idea, and while not a comfortable process, applying it to myself has provided a most powerful tool! One becoming immediately indispensable and eventually assisting from beginning to completion in my most difficult accomplishment to date. It also helped to put to rest nagging self-doubts and set the table for the next chapter of this mini-epic... All while making me a little more less congenial! How was that even possible?!?