“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind; Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” – Signs – Five Man Electric Band
An old desperado and sometimes accomplice obsessed with badgering an unfortunate list of victims with apocryphal urban legend fairy tales promoting fear and confusion; sends me nutso conspiracy porn advocating America as the great Satan; things like W and the Israeli Mossad perpetrated 911, the Boston Marathon bombing being a “false flag” operation and every imaginary mysterious cataclysmic event that the shadow government of the USA is supposedly responsible for; from Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicking over the lantern that started the Chicago fire to the scourge that was typhoid Mary and AIDS. Frustrated with my rejection of his host of wild theories, he sent me the following screed attached to yet another loopy Alex Jones/ Unabomber/ Timothy McVeigh style manifesto.
“Read and reflect (he writes) on another conspiracy fact. It is too bad that you have no conception that history is one giant “false flag” operation and all wars are created by central bankers. Until you understand that you are no longer my friend. It is where my road with you forks and divides. It is where you go your way and I go mine.”
I like a little imperfection of character in my friends. It makes them interesting, unpredictable and human. But this sub-genius logic was so far-fetched even for this fey fellow that I had to check and see if we were under the tidal influence of a full moon. Since we were not; I’m writing it off to a slip-up, a misstep in his medication mixture. Or perhaps; he’s finally gone completely mad.
Normally, when this charlatan posits his wobbly ellipsoidal theories he simply gains my antipathy and knowing from experience that his axiomatic autodidact ignorance can not be overcome with logic; I simply perform a classic Irish exit. But lately his harebrained speeches have come wrapped in a caprese of iconography; conflating Martin Luther King and/or John F. Kennedy with images of the 911 devastation and other catastrophes; implying that those great men would agree with his cockamamie beliefs and in the process transmogrifying my heroes; requiring I fire a volley across his bow.
To be honest, since I’m five years into my retirement; more accurately described as my hermitage, that warm blanket of seclusion just after my recluse period, and having chosen environs that suit my desire for Country Gentleman status and all the better to write my third novel, I have situated myself in the land of “all you can eat” restaurants; with “my car won’t start weather”; where “do you have jumper cables” can be often heard six months out of twelve; (Is that a six or twelve volt?) So with time on my hands I don’t mind the distraction of getting on the bus to carzytown now and again for a few stops. It delivers comic relief free of charge; a respite that breaks up the boredom and keeps up morale.
It also satiates my penchant for non sequitur distractions. As Woody Allen opined recently with juicy Jewish angst: “It’s just an accident that we happen to be on earth, enjoying our silly little moments, distracting ourselves as often as possible so we don’t have to really face up to the fact that, you know, we’re just temporary people with a very short time in a universe that will eventually be completely gone. And everything that you value, whether it’s Shakespeare, Beethoven, da Vinci, or whatever, will be gone. The earth will be gone. The sun will be gone. There’ll be nothing. The best you can do to get through life is distraction. Love works as a distraction. And work works as a distraction. You can distract yourself a billion different ways. But the key is to distract yourself”.
A few girlfriends back I entwined with a beauty that used to enjoy telling me how to think as well and more to the point; how to be. Not unlike my naïve America bashing friend, x-friend I suppose, her methods were equally coercive. Every time I watched the film Jaws and heard the captain of the Orca, Quint, give his harrowing speech about the aftermath to the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis that claimed 600 out of 900 sailors, eaten by sharks, it always reminded me of her.
“You know the thing about a shark, (said Quint), he’s got… lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high-pitch screaming, and the ocean turns red. And in spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.”
Her penchant was the normal girl to boy manipulation; talk therapy, separating my recyclables and endless focus on her perceived needs; wanting me to think and act certain ways that I suppose in her tortured mind, had I acquiesced, would have made me suitable husband material.
Besides the logic of the aforementioned lover I wonder why anyone cares what I think or believe in since the first rule of friends and lovers is they come without conditions. Any demands at all smacks to me of the rules for cult followers. Thinking about this and I’m no psychiatrist I landed on the notion that qualifying a relationship with demands for strict adherence to someone else’s imposed dogma springs from an insecurity so profound it would take the security at the DMZ and the Sochi Olympics combined to lock down those demands and vanquish the fear stemming from the weakness of the demanders.
Thinking back, we are bombarded with demands almost from the outset of life for this kind of religious group like following. Our parents, our teachers, the cops, priests and bosses all practice a kind of control, or try to, that my friend and lover were attempting to foist on me.
I’m fond of saying that no man can tell another what to do. This predilection is supported by the notion that to be truly free a man must tear away each day at his most deeply held beliefs in a genuine attempt to disprove them. Those that remain pass a rigorous test and can be relied on for at least until the sun sets. Tomorrow it’s a thing that must be repeated; that’s the discipline and not for the lazy or fearful
So much of life is filled with codes of belief that allows us to suspend that most important daily test; thinking. Being an acolyte locked into a pre-packaged set of beliefs without examining them daily develops in us over time a stench of hollowness; a strident, stringent unexamined set of beliefs that remove the need to think for ourselves. That most powerful of computers, the human brain, when subject to this ritual, becomes jaundiced and atrophied; preventing us from progressively realizing our inherent genius, best defined as knowing what to do next.
Moreover and insidiously addictive; once we lock on to these beliefs we are forced to carry them around on our shoulders like a weight, a disease that mandates we revert to them when any question of how to be arises; causing us to defend them. Those that do so and I speak for most, develop crazy hard defense mechanisms. One need only witness political or religious affiliations in the world to see that ethos leads nowhere; or worse, to the mess we find ourselves in globally in every argument, every war.
This dilemma, the demand to believe the way I do and think the way I do, lead to the demise of love for that very sexually hot girlfriend and devolved; leaving us connected only by familiarity and contempt; and the loss of lust that fueled our marriage. The same bad ending seems clearly afoot here with my megalomaniacal friend. The pattern of insisting on a kind of false loyalty; demanding your “friends” meet certain criteria of similarity in thinking closes into an ever more tightening and shrinking box; eventually finding themselves alone.
This might seem a harmless outcome and just rewards for those folks but when examining the ethos of isolated loners with strident beliefs from the slayer of John Lennon to every school and workplace shooting, shows us in vivid detail how that strategy ends.
He and she are and will be missed. Until another comes along I’ll guess I’ll just have to make due with the impassioned stories heard at the morning coffee spot; of the ice fishing, hockey and snowmobile adventures of my chilled comrades here in the frozen tundra.
I’ve seen too many good men who started out young and strong go along to get along and succumb to the RUN DMC lyric “walk this way, talk this way” and be rendered catatonic. Giving in becomes a habit. If we don’t stand for something we fall for anything. Better, for me anyway, to practice the philosophy of Muhammad Ali, who famously said: “I’m not gonna be who you want me to be; and I’m not afraid to be who I wanna be; think how I wanna think”
Anything else is not just giving in; it’s giving up.