WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

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He:

She is crazy about me, a fact I find puzzling because we have absolutely nothing in common. Her idea of a good time is watching game shows on television, while mine is playing baroque music on the harpsichord. I can’t tell if she really enjoys the sex we have, or is simply faking it in order to please me. The more she fakes it, but more I enjoy it. But that’s just the way I am.

My years incarcerated taught me nothing. Years inside meant that whatever natural instincts that led me to formerly trust others were now obliterated. That might not be such a bad thing. People should earn your trust. Most don’t make the effort. Fine, you can’t be all things to all people.

I began to wonder if she were a decoy, a shill, someone sent to trick me by an enemy. I have many enemies. Too many to count, and they lie in wait for me to let down my guard. I found it implausible that a women would naturally desire me. Any woman. Even the most deranged woman would find it impossible to want me.

She bought me an expensive birthday present. How did she even know it was my birthday? I certainly didn’t tell her. Again, such an incident speaks of hidden wheels turning. The important clues are hidden as insignificant details. I looked back over the last few years searching for incidents. That time in Panama when I booked a room in a whorehouse and then simply took a nap. The lady in Argentina whom I talked about forming a business partnership with but then abruptly stopped communicating. Might these people have harbored grudges?

Could these be the clandestine agents of revenge who were skillfully and secretly weaving their web?

She:

He is so lost, so alone, so clueless. Every instinct in me cries out to protect him, nurture him, care for him until he can care for himself. True, I don’t find him attractive, but so what? I have been conditioned to shelter those who need it, to love those whom others dismiss as unlovable.

I see a good person hiding inside a troubled soul. My reward for taking a chance on him will be his undying gratitude and devotion. OK, I know there’s a good chance I’m lying to myself, but I might be at least partially right.

He’s a clumsy lover. I pretend to enjoy out lovemaking, but most of the time I find myself waiting for it to be over. I try to imagine other lovers, suave, self-assured men who make me feel desired. If he is aware of my lack of emotional presence, he hasn’t let on. I don’t think he’s capable of such an awareness. He’s too self-centered.

I saw his passport and learned that his birthday was coming up, so I bought him a present. He was stunned, flabbergasted. It’s as if no one had ever bought him a birthday present before. If I can make him happy so easily, I am duty bound to continue to try. Most of them men I meet are spoiled and have high expectations. He is just the opposite.

I think I can make a difference.

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Waiting for Recognition

Endure and thrive

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All my life I’ve pretended to be a genius, and treated myself as if I were one, expecting others to climb on board as soon as the truth is generally known. Now that I’m approaching my 69th birthday, it occurs to me that maybe I have been presumptuous. Mistaken. Maybe I’m just a moderately talented person, bright and quick in certain areas, but not in others. The reason I’m not better known is because I’ve been lazy and unfocused for most of my adult life.

The irritation I felt with the world for not recognizing and honoring my prowess has been very real, and constant. I’ve been waiting for that call from the MacArthur Foundation for some time now. The knock on the door announcing a telegram from the Nobel Prize Committee. I get many more emails from Nigerian princes who want to share their wealth with me than…

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FLORIDA MAN

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He sleeps in a pile of cardboard in an alley. The police know he’s there, but they usually don’t disturb him, because he’s less of a problem when he’s unconscious. It’s when he’s awake that he bothers people.

His ex-wife has a restraining order prohibiting him from coming within a hundred yards of their former home. The last time he came by he tried to steal the lawn mower in order to sell it, but she had changed the locks on the garage door.

When he drinks he quickly becomes angry at perceived insults and slights, eventually provoking a confrontation. Even though he’s clearly in the wrong, the net result is that someone else ends up paying for his tantrums. Always the victim, he nurses resentments and plots revenge which he can never seem to enact because he forgets his plans the moment he makes them.

A REVERIE ABOUT BEING ME

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TOO RETIRED FOR COMFORT

He found it hard to stick with any one thing. More than a short attention span, he manifested a terror of committing to a singleness of purpose. His life was a pastiche of unfinished projects, halfhearted dabbling, unfocused whimsy.

He was born that way. Often he would tell a friend who realized the depth of his affliction “It isn’t my fault. I was born this way.” Had he tried medication? No, sadly there was no cure for what ailed him. If there were, maybe he could have amounted to something, but since there wasn’t, he would have to be content with who he was, a person who left behind a trail of half-finished business.

One day he resolved to come up with a solution. He would devise a task so simple that follow-through would be effortless. He would simply count his breath as he went about his day. If he lost count, he would start over again, but he would always be counting. It would give him a sense of purpose and a plan he could stick with.

He found that counting grounded him. Counting your breath is so effortless that it doesn’t stop you from doing something else at the same time. You can’t easily talk and count your breath, but you can keep count on your fingers while you’re talking and then add that sum to the grand total once you’ve stopped talking.

Once he had improved his abilities to concentrate, he found that he could come up with new ideas that were popping up from some strange place inside him. A font of creativity with no known source, but it must come from a synthesis of what he was taking in. Things he’d read, movies he’d seen, conversations he’d had, all entered his psyche and then exited later as something different, improved, or at least mutated.

Now he needed more than just the ability to pay attention. He needed to find something worthy of that attention, something to pay attention to over a long enough time period to matter. He could learn a foreign language, master a musical instrument, take up oil painting…there are lots of activities that take years to achieve any sort of competency. He needed to choose.

TRANSFORMATION AT LAST!

 

 

When I was in Dubai, we were befriended by an Emirati couple who tried their best to convert us to Islam. I thought that was odd, not knowing that any religion other than Christianity in its various forms and Mormonism, which sometimes claims to be Christian, did such a thing. Just like Christians, Muslims believe that they gain a higher status in heaven by finding converts to their faith. Buddhism certainly doesn’t try to make converts. They don’t want to save you soul from damnation, they just want you to stop hurting yourself in this life.

The central premise of Christianity seems rather strange the older I get. God had us torture and kill his only son so we could be reconciled to him after our first ancestors disobeyed him. Any way you rephrase that it sill doesn’t ring true or make much sense.

All the forms that twisted story took over the last two thousand years make even less sense. Unbaptized babies languishing in limbo, purgatory avoided through indulgences earned and bought, miraculous interventions by saints, bodies of the especially holy who have escaped corruption after death, the Rapture, the Mark of the Beast, the Battle of Armageddon, exorcisms, rosaries, holy medals, holy water, scapulars…the list goes on and on.

I’m sure if I’d listened to my Emirati friends I could have found out the quirks of their religion, but such details bore and depress me. I take no delight in the prosaic inventions of frightened minds.

Maybe the hall-of-mirrors effect of the social media artificially compounding my beliefs by exposing me to Facebook “friends” and their opinions has make me think more of us agree than is actually the case, but I really do have the feeling that people are getting ready to throw off such primitive notions and the prejudices that accompany them. Jingoism, nationalism, racism, even sexism may be posed for a hasty exit. Maybe Donald Trump is the last buffoon to act out on a world stage and his obvious limitations will suddenly cause most people to come to these realizations at about the same time.

 

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Different Yet Similar

 

 

Capitalist countries at relatively the same stage of development are pretty similar. They all think themselves democratic, yet only a handful are. Money talks more loudly in some places than other, but everywhere if it’s not shouting it’s at least mumbling in the background. Supposedly communist countries like Russia, Vietnam, Laos and China have some of the greatest disparities of wealth of any country, and no one is shocked by the special privileges enjoyed by the super rich.

There are many places in the world that do not entertain notions of the right to free speech. Asian countries put a lot more value on honoring and respecting your superiors than do western ones. Here in Thailand, discourse is suspect and debate is considered sedition. You can’t really have much of a democracy in a setting like that. You can call yourself a democracy. The “Peoples Democratic Republic of…” but Dear Leader always gets ninety-nine percent of the vote.

Everybody claims to value education, but what they mean by that varies from place to place. In many places teachers are expected to be autocratic. No Socratic discussions allowed. Student opinions are neither encouraged nor valued.

As writer Ivan Illich pointed out in his book Deschooling Society, “With very rare exceptions, the university graduate from a poor country feels more comfortable with his North American and European colleagues than with his nonschooled compatriots, and all students are academically processed to be happy only in the company of fellow consumers of the products of the educational machine. The modern university confers the privilege of dissent on those who have been tested and classified as potential money-makers or power-holders.”

It’s not education that we prize, but the stability of the power structure. We claim to exalt in freedom, but we work hard to deny it to those who deeply threaten the status quo. This is not just true of advanced, capitalist economies. They are simply better at hiding the true motives of the power elite, and corruption is less obvious, though no less prevalent than in banana republics or obvious dictatorships.