November 2012 Archives

» This entry is PART THREE, continued from » Part Two. It was split into three pages in order to adhere to principles of web site optimization. Here you go...

» The Two Sides to the Denial Method of Coping

It may seem easier to simply deny the presence of a faulty circuit in our lives, and indeed, for the Fifth Grader, that may be his only option » to lock the sparking monster-of-pain in his closet and hope the ugly beast doesnt try to escape.

Monster hiding in the closetBut my experience has been .. that these sparking monsters, if not dealt with, continue to zap us thru-out our lives .. that these monsters never stay put.

They always escape .. and affect our lives (.. usually when we are least able to deal with them).

Then we grow up and develop skills, but we forget about the sparking monster that we stuck in the closet ..

.. or we simply get accustomed to him .. cuz he has been there so long .. even when he causes trouble and misbehaves.

They are never as scary as they seem. Tho they do indeed seem scary (.. especially for little people). But as adults, we now have SKILLS to deal with these things (.. and friends, and people who love us) .. that werent yet developed when we were small.

Some people simply rename their monsters, giving them adorable pet-names.

Me: "What the hell was *that*?
Them: "Oh, that's just Pookie. Isnt he cute?"
Me: "Uh, he looks pretty damn scary, if you ask me."
Them: "Oh don't worry. You'll get used to him. We're the best of friends. I've known him like forever."

Now yes, people can wallow in their misery. Yes, I've seen that. But I think you'll find it is rare, compared to the number of those who partake of the blessings of Denial.

I am not talking about the wallowers. Because far more people are in denial about their limiting problems than those who wallow in their misery, and all wallowers have much bigger problems than their wallowing.

[ There is a ditch on BOTH sides of the road .. that we need to avoid. ]

In general .. if you follow-the-fear .. follow the sparks .. it will lead to your monster .. to your bad, faulty circuit. Most people plant flowers along the path to their ugly monsters .. so it doesnt seem so bad.

Once you've found it, you can reach out touch it. Consciously. It's a conscious thing. Usually involving much emotion. But it's not about the emotion. That is simply a related function.

Don't wrestle with it; rather just reach out and touch it. Yes, it will zap you .. but that will be the beginning of its end. The rest will come intuitively (.. and Dostoevsky will suddently start to make sense).

[ What is the difference between denial and forgetting? ]

» This entry is PART TWO, continued from » Part One. It was split into three pages in order to adhere to principles of web site optimization. Here you go...

» Purpose of Jail » Convey the Message

Now you might think, as I once did, that the purpose of jails and the purpose of prisons is basically the same » to incarcerate (warehouse) inmates. And you'd be wrong.

Rotting in a jail cellWhile it is certainly true that jails do indeed incarcerate inmates .. that is not their primary purpose.

Prisons incarcerate, yes. Prisons warehouse. But the primary purpose of a JAIL is to » convey a message. And that message is [ drumroll, please ] » "You do not want to be here."

Jails (at least from my admittedly limited experience) do a good job at conveying this message. Very good.

They have a variety of methods and techniques at their disposal by which they communicate their message. (More about this later.)

Seems that JAILS are designed to warehouse inmates up for to 1 year. PRISONS, on the other hand, are designed for longer-term storage (> 1 year).

Now, you do not have to tell the man-in-prison that he "does not want to be here." No, sir. Because » he already knows. [ He GETS the message, which he has had plenty-of-time to ponder and interpret. ]

That is why inmates who come down to jails from prisons "upstate" (.. at least, the ones that I talked to) .. hate life in county jails. "They treat you like shit here," they say.

And treat you like shit they do. As a matter of policy .. sort of what you might imagine how slaves are/were treated.

And the younger kids are treated worst of all. So it seems that they obviously want to convey the message to them most clearly.

» Conveying the Message | Conveying it Clearly

The Sheriff Deputies, who run the jail that I frequent, admittedly have a tough job. I can't imagine anyone actually enjoying it .. cuz the environment suks. The polar opposite of a park ranger stationed at Yosemite.

Nelson Mandela, who spent 30 years in prisonAnd they do an admirable job at executing their duties. Professional, given the circumstances. Tho nice they are not. Not hardly. Oh, contraire.

They are mostly large men .. fit, muscular. Some are VERY large.

Now, in public, they bark orders and ride inmates. For example, I saw one deputy tell an inmate to slide down the bench ..

.. at the nurses' processing station .. in order to make room for more inmates who had just arrived (.. they never stop arriving).

The inmate STOOD UP in order to move down (3 or 4 steps). "Did I tell you to get up?" the deputy yelled.

He then went to considerable length to stress upon this man the importance of following orders. "Is this your first time in jail?" he inquired. "That's your last warning."

I must admit, he was good at what-he-did. I mean, he only had to tell that one guy and all those other new-recruits (inmates) got the message.

The volume of inmates they deal with remarkable. So the multiplication factor becomes the key to efficiency.

I am totally impressed every time they return my clothes (.. when it's time to get out). If they said, "Dude, we lost 'em. Sorry." .. I would certainly understand. Jails are a serious machine.

But in private they can also be surprisingly kind, even tenderhearted, trying to find a solution to your legal dilemma. [ Everybody wants to know why you're there. ]

How they can go from one mode to the other .. interests me. Cuz I don't think I could do it. And they seem to do it so effortlessly .. like sipping a Coke .. or not sipping it.

One of the ways they communicate their message .. is by taking ALL NIGHT to get you into your cell. So you spend all night moving from one temporary holding cell to another. By the time I finally got to my cell, they were serving lunch (.. the next day).

So you're pretty much up all night. Interview with the nurse, fingerprints, mugshot, chest x-rays, classification interview (my favorite part) where they give you your hospital-like wristband, assigned jailhouse duds and bedding.

No medals would they win for speed. No way would the Hilton, the Marriot, or even Motel 6 hire them. Imagine arriving at the check-in desk at two or three in the afternoon .. and finally getting into your room around noon the next day.

» What happens to the avalanche of feelings that engulf the boy who is suddenly confronted with things too terrible to handle? .. by things too confusing and too overwhelming for a little guy to deal with?

I'm talking about [ for example ] the Fifth Grader .. who learns that his parents are divorcing .. that his elementary little world is coming apart at the seams ..

Wolf howling at the moon.. the very same boy .. who learns that the guy who he *thought* was his dad .. really isnt.

.. that his REAL dad (.. who he now realizes that he never knew, that he never met) .. never-never wanted anything to do with him. (His own flesh-n-blood.)

Those kinds of feelings.

Perhaps the boy, in an attempt to salvage what's left of his family life-as-he-knew-it, courageously adopts a position (.. not unlike what you or I might attempt) ..

.. with a cri de coeur that says » "This man will always be my dad," [ regardless of the divorce ].

It aint long however .. until the only-dad our fifth grader ever knew .. wants nothing to do with him (either). Both the dad-he-never-knew .. and the only-dad-he-ever-knew. Neither one .. want anything to do with him.

Those kinds of feelings. Psycho mind-fuck feelings. One piled ruthlessly atop another .. in rapidly-devastating succession.

[ » Lance's Dad Dies of Cancer at an Early Age

A dying parent is bad enough. I grew up across the street from a boy (.. who later became an All-American wide receiver) whose dad died when we were young. It was obviously difficult. For everybody (us friends included).

I remember wanting to, but feeling powerless to comfort him (.. while he was crying, as all us kids sat silently, watching cartoons) .. that morning when all the neighborhood parents had left to go to the funeral ..

.. cuz I was a little freaked out myself. (Death has a way of freaking out the living.) We're talking grade-school age.

Over the years all the other neighborhood dads tried to pitch in here-n-there .. to compensate. For example, they took him on vacations with them. And when we were going for pizza, a parent would usually say, "Run across the street and see if Patrick wants to go."

Utopia ManBut a dad who doesnt want anything to DO with you .. with his own son. I cannot quite wrap my head around that ..

.. I can only imagine what it must be like (» crushing).

That must really mess with a boy's sense of self-worth, no? His self esteem. His self image. His very sense of self. ]

The kind of shit that can eat you alive .. little by little .. by gnawing away at your soul. Until you don't even know that it's gone.

Until you don't even remember what it's like to have one. *Those* kinds of feelings.

I am not talking about the emotionally-distant concept of 'abandonment' and its associated 'issues'. No. I am talking about real-life emotional trauma .. the kind that can crush a 10-year old beyond all repair. [ Only the truly fortunate don't know the difference. ]

I'm talking about the particularly vicious storms-of-life that are too much for anybody to handle .. even the most mature adult .. which makes the prospect of our 10 year-old weathering such a storm .. seem sadly remote.

Things that most Americans, I suspect, would be hard-pressed to even imagine (.. much less be prepared to walk-a-mile in-the-shoes thereof). Because these are wounds that cut deeper than any knife. No stitches will sew up those wounds.

We'll return to our Fifth Grader and his newfound life-in-a-whirlpool .. but right now, let's shift gears .. to something a bit more cheery. =)

Tolstoy, Anna Karenina & Moral Judgment

» What makes so many writers consider Anna Karenina the greatest novel written? .. in any language .. ever!

The short answer » Tolstoy. A better answer » the Tolstoys .. which includes his WIFE » Sophia [.. and not unlike the Hitchcocks, who directed the greatest FILM ever ].

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina starring Keira KnightleyThe movie / film is being released this Friday (the 16th) .. starring Keira Knightley & Jude Law.

The book has been made into film at least a dozen other times .. the most critically acclaimed version coming in 1935, starring Garbo.

I may go see the newly updated release (.. with Count Petraeus & Princess Paula in mind). [ Petraeus' Light Punishment. ]

Anna Karenina is what made Tolstoy Tolstoy. Certainly a big part of that making. Anna's unspoken subtext .. concerns the moral judgment that people (society) tend to cast on their fellow (wo)man ..

.. when we should perhaps REFRAIN.

As you surely know, this 'refraining' business can be terribly difficult. A feat of sorts. Maybe even impossible .. especially for judgmental, holier-than-thou types. The self-righteous.

[ Back in my nuclear days, I used to be critical and judgmental of the imperfections of others .. cuz I myself was flawless (.. and of course, I knew better than everybody else).

Today however, I am more forgiving and understanding. More compassionate. Much more. Not because I am more flawed, but because I "understand" more.

"I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now."

Tho there are still a few things that really frost my ass. Even Jesus had limits to the bullshit he could endure (..tho adultery doesnt seem to be one of them). ]

» Portrayed Not as Guilty, But as Deserving Only Pity

Tolstoy began his story .. in the spring of 1873 .. with the express intention .. to portray his heroine (Anna) NOT as guilty .. but as deserving only pity & compassion ..

Tolstoy's Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley.. hence the biblical quote he sticks at the very beginning .. as a tone setter (quoting God Himself) » Vengeance is Mine. I will repay.

Pity & compassion for an adultress? Really? How do you do *that*? That would be a good trick.

[ Having grown up Catholic, I know all about both guilt and guilt-trips. Both parents attended Catholic grade school.

The nuns taught them well. Excellent students were they. So you could say I was raised by experts. =) Makes me qualified to comment on the subject. ]

In the Bridges of Madison County, for example, Waller condemns both his characters to live out their remaining years in dreary, yet dutiful nostalgia. (After you've been to the summit of Mt Intimacy or Mt Ecstasy .. what else is there? Where do you go from there? Because nobody can stay there, permanently.)

You will have to read Tolstoy's novel yourself .. to determine whether you think he succeeded. Tolstoy himself "struggled bitterly" with the story [ .. published in the Russian Messenger, in 8 serial installments, from 1873 to 1877 ] .. wanting to punish Anna the Adulteress for her infidelity.

This is why the translator [ Richard Pevear ] includes the following tone-setting passage from Yeats at the beginning of his intro.

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric.
But of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.

Anna Karenina is Tolstoy's poetry. His "first true novel" .. where being 'ordinary' suks [ is considered "most terrible" ].

It was as tho one part of him [ the part that loved her ] wanted only pity & compassion for her .. while another [ the part that hated her ] .. wanted to throw her under a bus .. uh, I mean, a train.

Leo Tolstoy | 1828-1910And these two went to war .. in Tolstoy's soul. And the compassionate part won. [ We'll call that part 'Anna'. ]

» Tolstoy the Ultimate Family Man

You must understand that life, for Tolstoy, was all about » family.

Family happiness, he felt, represented the "highest human ideal."

Nabokov [ who taught classes on Anna Karenina, both at Wellesley and later at Ivy League Cornell ] said that Tolstoy "considered two married people with children as tied together by divine law forever".

In other words, Tolstoy was Old School .. what some might call 'conservative'. And he purposefully went after the Liberal Intelligencia (nihilists) .. who were badmouthing the family.

But he didnt stop there. No, sir. Rather he went after countless other purveyors of bullshit. He was definitely in the mood. Definitely inspired.

Something about Anna obviously inspired him. He named his "first-ever novel" after her. That is no ordinary honor. Your name on the cover .. of what has come to be known as the greatest novel ever written.

Dostoevsky, for example, the only author to place 4 titles on the list of the 100 Greatest Books of All Time - in any language [ the same list upon which Tolstoy and Shakespeare each placed 3 titles ], and who was 7 years older than Tolstoy, called Anna Karenina a "flawless" work of art.

Tolstoy wrung out his soul for her. And Anna rewarded him .. with inspiration and insight. And in the end (.. tho he surely loved her) .. he killed her.

Did he kill her because he HAD to? .. or because he WANTED to? In other words, what was his » inner motivation?

Tolstoy has already stated from day-1 that his intention was to present Anna NOT as guilty .. but rather in a light that cast only » pity. So .. if Tolstoy really did intend to portray Anna as NOT GUILTY .. why is she dead? =)

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