Agape, Authoritarianism, Becky, Belief, Brett, Christianity, Citizenship, Class War, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Conservative, Democracy, Fantasy Based Community, God(s), Guilt, Judeo-Christian Tradition, Late Night Thoughts, Liberal, Love, News and Current Events, People, Philos, Play, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Progressive, Reality Based Community, Regret, Religion, Romantic Love, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Society, Work

Late Night Thoughts (Reposted from February 20, 2011)

There are few noises at this hour.   A car passes in the distance.  The house creaks.  The furnace starts.  I have not heard a dog bark in hours.

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…”It is really annoying when people, particularly those in positions of power, can’t even be bothered to take the trouble to lie well.” — Yves Smith.

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…To oppress a mother is to oppress a democracy, for it is mothers who teach the value of democracy to their children.

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…It seems what’s happening in Wisconsin is part of the class war in America that’s been going on for sometime now.  As Warren Buffett pointed out, the war was begun by members of his class, and his class is winning it.

Unfortunately, if rich billionaires like the Koch brothers win the Wisconsin round in the class war, that means they will have managed to break the Wisconsin public service unions.  And if they manage to do that, then the Democratic party will be left as nothing more than a paper man in that state.

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…The other day, I noticed an advertisement that claimed the Bible was, of all the world’s wisdom literature, the most profound.  Now, I’ve heard that claim made before in various ways and places.  But, I confess, I have never understood why anyone would make that claim.

As wisdom literature, the Bible seems to have been often surpassed. And not just by many of the ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, or Chinese authors.  But also by more modern authors.

To give some of the Biblical authors credit, though, their concern for social, political, and economic justice was remarkable for their time, and — thankfully — very influential on the West.

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…There seems to be a sense in which almost all complex, hierarchical societies — even going as far back as to the origin of complex, hierarchical societies some 5,500 years ago — have been scams.   Moreover, it’s been the same scam perpetrated again and again.  And, in essence, that scam has been to fool the masses into believing the society’s elites have the backing of a supernatural order.

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…There are many people in this god-drunk town who cast their blurry vision on science and declare that it, too, is a religion.  The last drunk to tell me that declared, as his reasoning, “Religions are based on beliefs. Science is based on beliefs. Therefore, science is a religion.”

By precisely the same “logic”, “Cats are furry.  Dogs are furry.  Therefore, dogs are cats.”

But, even if his reasoning was logically valid — which it is not, unless dogs are cats — what would not then become a religion?  Indeed, even one’s overwhelming desire to take a shower after hearing him espouse his drunken  “logic” would, according to his drunken  “logic”,  become a religious act.

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Just now, a motorcycle started up, then sped off.  In the day, it would be just another cycle.  But in the night, it seems a story in itself.

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…Humans are natural born cartographers.  We make maps of the world, which we call “beliefs”.   It’s what our species does.

Sometimes, our maps are more or less accurate.  And sometimes, they are fantasy maps, like the ones we made as children to show where a pirate’s treasure lay buried in our backyard.

The accuracy of our maps often matters less to us than the fact they are ours.  Because, for most of us, our maps are something we think of as us.

Now, when we fall in love, she sooner or later challenges our maps…

And, if our love survives those challenges, there’s a chance that our love is true.

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…Tonight, I came across in a faded notebook a line from a poem I once wrote to a woman: “No one has made me wish / To face with grace the challenge / of her morning breath like you, Joelle.”   And consequently, reading that line, I had a sudden and abrupt realization of precisely how it is that I have managed all these years to remain celibate despite the occasional woman who’s now and then been interested enough in me to even read my poems.

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…Once I saw a Seven-Eleven that was closed.  Locked up and abandoned.

Since everything inside the impossibly dark store windows was in place and intact, I eventually concluded it must be a clerk who didn’t show up for work.  But I at first thought: “Not even a president’s death can close a Seven-Eleven. It must be something.  It must be big.”

Perhaps there is inside all of us a thing — a strange, hard thing — that now and then longs for an event so big it will close even the world’s Seven-Elevens.

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…When I met Becky she was in her 30s and would now and then do something completely spontaneous: Always some little thing, but it was an attractive quality.   Even in a city, birds from a branch put to air like her.  So, though they live like the rest of us amongst the concrete and noise, you can see how those birds are beyond the artificial world we have created for them — how they are still native to the earth and sky.  Some people are like that.

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…So far, I have found only three things with power to redeem the human condition: Love, work, and play.  And of those three, love is the greatest.

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…Brett called to invite me to lunch the other day  (Brett was 15 the year we first met at the coffee shop.  I was perhaps 40 or 42).   So, we met at a tavern where the beer is watery, but the food is good, and I enjoyed talking with him so much the time slipped past on rabbit’s feet.

At some point in the afternoon, after we had exhausted half a dozen topics, Brett said he suspected the reason quite a few kids had hung out with me years ago at the coffee shop was because I was for the most part nonjudgmental.   So I told him that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard from a fellow human, if indeed he was actually human. So, I thanked him for confirming a suspicion I’d had.  Then, being an insufferable old fart, I told him a story he’d already heard at least twice from me, and one he probably didn’t want to hear again.

After we had parted for the evening, I reflected on the fact that Brett had certainly been one of the most intelligent people at the coffee shop, and very likely one of the wisest.  Yet, it had never been any one thing that led me to those conclusions.  Like a stream of gold dust, Brett is someone who stands out from the crowd not for any one big thing, but for the cumulative impression made on you by a thousand glittering details.

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…My second wife had a taste for dresses by Ungaro.  Is Ungaro still around?  That Italian knew how to make a woman wearing silk look like a nude.

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…This night, for the first time in ages, I recall once a woman and I spent nearly two years laughing together.  No, she was not my wife, but a co-worker.  We worked together in the evenings, and we’d spend every moment we could with each other.  Then, when I moved on to a day job, I still dropped by her workplace in the evenings to laugh with her.

One day, I invited her out to a movie.  But by the time she got to my place, it was too late to catch a show.  At a loss for much else to do, I tried nibbling on her ear.  Consequently, two years of laughing together led to her having three explosive orgasms: The best in her life, she told me.  After that, you might think she’d be happy.

Yet, somehow, by the next day, she had translated everything — all of it — into guilt and regret.  “You must think I’m a slut”, she said, “because I slept with you on our first date.”

“No, I feel as if I’ve been courting you for two years”, I said, “Besides I’m in love.”

“Even if you don’t think I’m a slut”, she said, “When I saw you this evening, it made me think of myself as a slut, and then my heart sank to the floor.  I can’t see you again.”  And she meant it.

It was much later I realized that, despite our rapport, only one of us had been in love.

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It is almost dawn.

Becky, Don, Humor, People

Winter Waits on No Man, Don

DON: Hello?

PAUL: Don, they need us.  They need us bad!

DON:  What?  Who?  Paul!  It’s two-twenty in the holy morning!

PAUL: Time is of the essence, Don.  Of the essence!  Winter waits on no man nor woman nor child.

Continue reading “Winter Waits on No Man, Don”

Becky, Belief, Delusion, Education, Eric, Friends, Knowledge, Life, Logic, Makyo, Observation, People, Physics, Reason, Science, Scientific Method(s), Skeptical Thinking, Spirituality, Subjective Verification, Thinking, Truth, Wisdom

Becky’s Belief in Spiritual Energy

(About a 5 minute read)

Eric is an online friend who took his doctorate in physics.

I don’t know if he took his doctorate anywhere other than that, but I think he really should take it to a movie or fine restaurant every now and then.  I mean, presumably Eric has mounted his degree by now — he might as well show his degree that it means more to him than a mere quickie.

I’ve told Eric as much, of course, but his phone must be one of those older models that barely functions because the line has always gone dead on me when I’ve encouraged him to be more considerate of his physics degree’s pheelings.

Continue reading “Becky’s Belief in Spiritual Energy”

Aaron, Art, Becky, Feminism, Human Nature, Hunter/Gatherers, Ideologies, Late Night Thoughts, Leah, Learning, Life, Nature, Poetry, Relationships, Wilderness

Late Night Thoughts: Magic, Leadership, Feminism, Poetry, and More

(About a 9 minute read)

There are places you can visit at night in the San Luis Valley and not see an artificial light for miles.  If you stand in one of those places when the moon is down and tilt your head back until you are gazing nearly straight up, you risk falling into infinity.

I have never know a daytime sky to appear as deep, as vast, as infinite as a nighttime sky, though some of the crisp autumn blue skies of Colorado do seem to have a touch of the infinite.  Nothing, however, quite compares to stars by the thousands set in the black ocean.

Although you cannot possess the vastness of the night, you can long to possess it.  Long just as intensely as ever someone longed to requite an unrequitable love.  Long because its beauty makes you feel alive, and you want that feeling to stay with you forever.

It is wiser, though, to set aside any feelings of possessiveness.  Let them pass by you like winds without trying to cling to them or nurture them anymore than you would try to cling to or nurture those winds.  For possessiveness clung to kills the heart, kills love, even in human relationships, let alone in our relationships to nature.

To love the night so intensely that you might be in some sense renewed, reborn by it, you must be willing to let it go.

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Some years ago I took Becky’s children, Leah and Aaron, to a public Easter egg hunt.  Watching them and the other children dash about unsystematically exploring one possible hiding place after the next, and often the same hiding place they’d explored only moments before, I suddenly realized there was a sort of logic to their apparent randomness.  The logic of magic.

They were, it seemed to me, selectively picking “good” spots to explore, while ignoring “bad” spots, spots that perhaps did not seem to them magical enough to hold an egg.   And they would return to those good spots time and again, because, of course, magic.

The little legs of Easter
All hunt the same bushes
Each pair runs to check
And recheck the same spots

It’s the logic of magic
It’s found in good places
And appears where it wasn’t
Just a moment ago

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On a blog I recently came across a post by a young woman in which she expressed pride in being a leader.  She so reminded me of myself many years ago.  Had you asked me back then if I was proud of so often being the leader, I would have told you that I was, and I probably would have recited the choicest passages of my résumé, whether you wanted to hear them or not.

Then, in my 30s I finally got enough experience of people to have two or three modest, but still significant, insights into — not leaders — but followers.  It seemed to me then that there were two main (but not only) reasons people follow other people, and that neither reason was all that good of a reason for me to be proud they were following me.

Perhaps the best reason people follow is because they think their leader is going where they want to go.  People who harbor that reason won’t allow you to lead them down just any old path you want to take them.  They only go down the path they themselves want, and they stick you out front largely so you, and not them, must take the risk of being pounced on by a tiger waiting for its next meal to come loping along, full of pride at being allowed to play leader.

The second reason people follow seems to be that they themselves feel too insecure or threatened to lead themselves.  Such people would follow a chimpanzee if it promised them security.  And they are often so frightened of something that they would follow the chimp down any path the chimp chose to take, even the path to hell — just so long as the chimp kept reassuring them it was the safest route.

In either case, being a leader has less to do with special you, and much more to do with them, than your pride constantly tells you it has.  But add to all that the fact that about one-quarter to one-third of all people are such poor judges of character that they are incapable of distinguishing a wise leader from a damnable fool, and you end up with a pretty poor foundation for taking much pride in the fact people will follow you.

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On my second night in Colorado, I left my motel room to drive to a high place in the mountains where I got out of my car and witnessed a moon so seemingly huge that I had the absurd, yet remarkably visceral desire to see if I could touch it.  And I actually did stretch out an arm to it.   It appeared, then, to be just beyond my reach.

At the time I felt I was a refugee.  Earlier in the year, I’d gone out of business, lost my wife, my house, my friends, and most of my possessions.  It seemed to me that night that all my accomplishments in life were behind me, and that I’d been a fool to have for decades valued all those things more than I valued simply loving life.

On this mountain I’m alone
The moon a foot beyond my hand
And there’s nothing that I know
Do I ever understand?

I just wonder how it is
That all the things we ever did
Could mean so much more to us
Than the love we freely give.

For I am but a passing thing
From one moment to the next,
And with each moment’s passing
There is nothing left.

On this mountain I’m alone
The moon a foot beyond my hand
And for all the things I know
Do I ever understand?

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Few movements are as misunderstood these days as feminism.  Which is a bit strange because the movement is by and large based on a simple, easy to understand, ideology at its core.  That is, it’s a form of egalitarianism.  Specifically, the form of egalitarianism that asserts women ought everywhere to have the same rights, freedoms, and liberties as men.

Unfortunately for feminists, decades of anti-feminist propaganda have convinced vast numbers of people that the true core of feminism is misandry, the hatred of all things male.  And even more unfortunately, there are a few self-described “feminists” who feed and inflame that image of all feminists by themselves being actual misandrists.

What’s true of feminism, though, is true of all large movements, for every such movement has its lunatic fringe.

I wonder why.  Indeed, I quite often wonder why every movement has its lunatic fringe.  But I have yet to arrive at an answer that satisfies me.

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Have you ever reached the cardboard backing of a paper tablet only to find yourself torn between throwing it away and saving it for some use only god knows what?

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I had an uncle who grew up in the Great Depression when frugality so often meant the difference between eating three meals a day or merely two or one.  He taught me around the age of six or so never to throw away a bent nail.  “It’s a perfectly good nail.  Just hammer it out so it’s straight enough to use again.”

Shortly after my eight birthday, he taught me to shoot a rifle.  “Here’s your one bullet.  There will be no more bullets today.  Now aim well and carefully, Paul, so you hit the can with it.”

I took forever to aim, but I hit the beer can.

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As a rule, the more convinced we are that we are right, or have got hold of the truth, the less likely we are to have seen deeply into the matter.  So often, to look deeply is to become aware of how uncertain the truth is.

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The notion that our minds at birth are Tabula rasa, blank slates devoid of any innate knowledge, biases, instincts, etc., is an ancient one, dating back to at least the ancient Stoics.  It basically asserts that almost the whole of what we are as persons will be ultimately derived from our experiences in life, or from what we learn from them.   It is also a perennial idea in the social sciences.  And, last, is almost certainly nonsense.

For instance, humans have just too many ubiquitous behaviors for us not to be, at least in large part, an instinct driven species.  Moreover, we seem to be born with talents — that is, with aptitudes or predispositions — for various things.    We also seem to be born with inherent cognitive biases.  And there is at least some evidence that we even have in us at birth the rudiments of arithmetic.

All of which suggests the notion that we humans are connected to our past in much more profound ways than merely through the continuum of time.  Our DNA is ancient, and we are in so many ways, the manifestation of our DNA.

Throw Your Rockets Far

I shall not tell you Aaron at eight
Somewhere we walk in the yellow grass;
The sky huge, but our feet owning each step.
Somewhere we hear the shorebird’s cry
From a beach in Africa we never left.
Somewhere we are shaman, warrior, gatherer,
Women and men intimate with our past.

No, I shall not tell you Aaron at eight
What at eight you simply feel
On your lawn at dusk when you throw a bottle rocket
With a warrior’s grace — and hard at the moon.

Becky, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Jeff, People, Relationships, Seduction, Sexuality, Theresa

50 Shades of Jeff: Profile of a Promiscuous Man

(About a 14 minute read) 

Jeff and I had an oddball relationship.  We were not truly friends, we certainly were not enemies, but we were more than casual acquaintances.

We met at a coffee shop where we were both daily customers.   Luke introduced us one afternoon.  I noted that Jeff was a handsome, rather short man, with a somewhat deep, slightly husky voice.

A few minutes later,  a couple of people walked up to Jeff with one of them saying something along the lines of,  “Jeff!  You’re back in town!  When?”  Luke promptly took advantage of Jeff being distracted to take me aside a few paces. He whispered, “He’s always carrying. Just so you know.”

“What does ‘carrying’ mean?”

Luke very briefly looked surprised and then whispered again, this time slowly, “He conceal carries a Beretta 9mm pistol in a holster strapped under his left arm.  You will never see it, but never forget about it, because it’s always there.”  I nodded and then we rejoined Jeff, who was no longer distracted.

About a quarter hour later, Jeff said something to Luke that I no longer recall, but in response to which Luke laughed loudly and said, “You’re a sick, sick man, Jeff.  But we all love you!”

It was the first time I ever heard that cliché and so I thought Luke was being witty but serious; and it stuck in my head as a first impression of Jeff: Something was wrong with the man, but he seemed well liked.

I soon enough learned that Jeff saw himself as some sort of pick up artist.  He had a little two or three sentence long speech that he told anyone at the coffee shop who’d listen.  The part I remember went, “I lost count of the number of women that I’ve slept with at 200 women.  When I reached 200, I thought, ‘Why should I count anymore?'”

One night during the summer I met Jeff, I was sitting on a park bench at two in the morning one night, enjoying my insomnia by savoring the night air,  when two teens jumped me without either one of them making even the least discernible effort to politely introduce themselves beforehand, an appalling lack of manners that I found rather alarming at the time.

I suppose they wanted money.  Unlucky for them, I miraculously mucked my way into somehow gaining the upper hand. They fled down the street, and I –without really thinking it through — instinctively chased them for a few yards like an idiot before realizing that they were both faster than me and — after all — still outnumbered me.  I decided not to tempt the Goddess of Luck, Spontaneous Erections in Men Over 80, and Durable Chinese Goods any further.  Besides, my usual policy is to back out of any confrontation unless I’m forced to fight, then I try to fight like a wildcat and just as dirty as river mud.

The next morning I woke up with a gorgeous black eye.  When Jeff saw it at the coffee shop later that day he asked for the particulars.  I told him the story and thought it would end with that.  But Jeff wasn’t content.  “Can you tell me anything, Paul, anything to identify them?”  I described the kids as best I could recall.  Jeff pressed for more.  I couldn’t recall anything more about their looks, so I speculated about their habits, “They’re most likely local kids and night owls, Jeff.  So I bet they hang out at the Denny’s”.   That seemed to satisfy him.

A day or two later, Jeff had some news for me.  He had decided to indulge himself a bit of good old-fashioned vigilantism.  Reminding me of my speculation that the teens were night owls, he gone to the Denny’s in the wee hours of the morning.  As it happened, he’d overheard two teens talking about encountering an “old man” [Author’s note:  “OLD man”? The nerve!]  in the park the night before.

Jeff waited until the teens left the restaurant then followed.  Presently, the two split up, most likely on their way to separate homes.  Jeff trailed the boy he’d overheard claim credit for “popping one right in the prick’s eye”.  He caught up with the unfortunate boy, attacked him, reduced him to the ground, and then jerked and twisted the boy’s right arm up and in way that Jeff knew was pretty sure to rip tendons.

“I want to make this clear Paul.  I didn’t do it for you.  I did it because this is my town.  My town, my home, and I take it personally when someone messes with the quality of life around here.

“By the way, I watched which hand he used to pick up his soda glass at Denny’s.  I wanted to make sure I tore up the correct arm — the arm he used in punching you.  He won’t be punching anyone else with that arm for a few weeks now.”

That night I myself went to the restaurant.  I wasn’t looking for the teens, I didn’t think they’d be around after what had happened.  But there he was: His arm raised up in a cast.  As I passed his table he looked up at me, “Is it over?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s over”, I said, feeling an improbable empathy for him, “It’s done if you’re done.”  The boy nodded and assured me he was done.  I secretly hoped Jeff thought it was done, too.  If he didn’t, I aimed to have a word with him.

Jeff and I didn’t start hanging out daily with each other until a few weeks later.  It soon seemed to me that he had an opinion on nearly everything, and that he delivered his opinions authoritatively, as if thinking himself equally well-informed on all subjects.  I seldom more than half-listened to him.  Still, I wasn’t in the habit back then of avoiding people, and Jeff always came over to sit with me when he saw me at the coffee shop,  so we spent considerable time together for awhile.

His single most intense, sustained effort to get his opinions across to me came about due to a miscommunication.

A couple days before the incident, Becky had introduced me to her younger sister, Theresa, who was visiting from Los Angeles.  Theresa was an erotic dancer so drop-jaw, stop-in-your-tracks gorgeous that a bad night for her as a dancer was to earn only $1000 in tips.  She was also, I thought from the moment I met her, obnoxious.

I tried to hide my instant distaste for her, which was almost solely based on her use of the word “darling” when first addressing me.   But Theresa picked up on my feelings.  Instead of firing back at my momentary insanity, however,  she much more reasonably decided to simply change my mind.

The next day, she invited me to breakfast at Becky’s house.  I went, Theresa cooked a delicious breakfast for me, and I left in honest admiration of her clever “hash browns diplomacy”, and also feeling rightfully guilty for having put her to it.

Later that morning, I was sitting at a sidewalk table with Jeff and three other men when Theresa walked by, dressed for the summer weather in a tank top and tight pair of shorts.  When she saw me, she burst into a huge, friendly smile, waved, and called to me by name.  But she didn’t pause, and instead kept on walking.  Every eye at the table followed her receding figure raptly.  Then, once she was well down the street, every eye almost at once turned to me.

“How do you know her?”, someone demanded.  “Can you introduce me?”, someone else laughed.

Without thinking through the impression my words would make, I answered the first question, “That’s Theresa.  She’s a new friend, I just met her.  She made breakfast for me this morning.”  I looked around.  Everyone had knowing smiles on their faces, and some were nodding approvingly.

“She’s just a friend”, I said.  Someone mumbled, “Sure”, and there were a couple short laughs.  I decided to remain silent and thus dig no further down in the hole I’d made for myself.

Jeff had remained silent through all of it.  But the moment the last person at our table save him and me had left, Jeff stood up, removed all the chairs from the table except our own (“So we won’t be interrupted”, he mysteriously said), and then sat down opposite to me.  Leaning forward, he demanded with unusual intensity, “Truth!  Did you two fuck?”

“No!”, I was a bit pissed he’d even ask, but I added, politely enough, “I’m voluntarily celibate, Jeff.”

“Voluntarily. Celibate.”  He slowly repeated, while looking at me like I’d just then told him “roses make great lawnmowers”.

Jeff then launched himself into what can only be described as a two hour pitch directed at selling me on becoming a pick up artist.  I simple zoned out, leaving him to ramble on while I enjoyed the beautiful weather.  Today, I don’t recall a specific word of what he said, but I do remember the passionate intensity with which he spoke.

From the day forward, he seemed to feel a need to save me from my incomprehensible celibacy.  I sometimes thought he was behaving like an Evangelical preacher who can’t restrain himself from proselytizing atheists, and that I was the king of atheists to him.

One thing Jeff never did is tell anyone who he slept with.  Even if the woman herself openly claimed she’d slept with him  — and a few did — and Jeff knew she openly claimed it, he would refuse to confirm it.  I once, and once only witnessed Jeff “pick up” a woman.

I’ve come across websites that teach step-by-step methods for picking up women.  Jeff’s approach was nothing at all like theirs.  Sometimes those sites recommend that you attack a woman’s self-esteem in order to tear her down psychologically and thus make her vulnerable to your advances.  I think Jeff would have reacted to those sites like he once reacted to my telling him I preferred to be celibate.  What I witnessed  was Jeff doing the opposite of what those sites recommend.

Watching him was, to an extent, like watching a chameleon change colors.  I stated earlier that Jeff usually came across as opinionated and perhaps even arrogant.  Normally, he would talk to both men and women that way.  But all of that dropped like a mask the moment Jeff got serious about someone.

Suddenly, he was the woman’s favorite brother, or her most trusted confidante, or her most down to earth friend, or her oldest friend, as comfortable to be with as worn shoes.

Moreover, Jeff did nothing that came across to me as “making an effort to impress”.   He seem  to put his ego aside and was instead attentive to the woman.   He displayed unforced, effortless curiosity about the woman and an easy-going respect for her.

It was quite the tour de force, and it reminded me of an extraordinary salesman I once knew — a man who had broken 100 year sales records for a Fortune 500 company that he’d worked for — and who had mentored me when I was relatively new to sales.

Over the years, a small number of women  — maybe five or six — have either mentioned to me, or at least hinted to me, that they slept with Jeff.  Only one of those women had a wholly negative view of him, claiming that Jeff had gotten her pregnant.  Jeff himself claimed that he’d had a vasectomy, and he was rather proud that he’d “never left any unwanted bastards in this world”.  One woman spoke of him as if Jeff was some fondly remembered, but hopelessly crazy friend that she kept at arm’s length.  Another confessed to me that she thought herself “superficial” for wanting sex with him, but she loved it anyway.  The rest, so far as I can recall now, had wholly positive views of him.

Did Jeff really sleep with “hundreds of women”?  Naturally I don’t believe that for a moment.  But for various reasons, I suspect that Jeff slept with more than his fair share, as they say.  Yet, despite the women in his life, Jeff was a fundamentally unhappy man.

In addition to his little speech about the number of women he’d slept with, Jeff had another little speech he seemed to have memorized from repeating it so frequently to so many people.  “I’m giving myself until the day I turn 45 to get myself straightened out.  If I still cannot hack anything but a twisted, fucked-up life on that day, then I’m going to put an end to it.  One way or the other, the mess I’ve made of my life is going to be over.”

I never knew whether to take Jeff seriously or not when he’d say that.  I knew almost nothing at the time about the psychology of suicide.

What did Jeff mean by his “twisted, fucked-up life”?  I think it’s most likely he was referring to two things at once.  First, Jeff seemed unable to keep a steady job.  Mostly he did  piecework for people, such as painting their house.  There were often long periods between one job and the next.  I knew Jeff to now and then go for a few days without food, or to live in no more than his pickup truck for up to months at a time.  And I know from remarks he made to me that his instability bothered him.

The second thing you might find ironic.  In the time I knew him, Jeff fell in love with three or four women in widely spaced succession.  Each time, he tried to make a life together with her.  Get a place, keep a job, practice monogamy; that sort of thing.  It never worked out for him.  I think the longest relationship he ever had with someone he loved lasted less than six months.

Jeff took the breakups hard.  And whenever he spoke to me about them, he blamed himself.  The sad irony, of course, was that the guy who could get all the women he wanted could not keep even one.

Jeff hanged himself on his 45th birthday.  Either on that day or very near to it, so far as I can recall now. There was a memorial set up for him at the coffee shop, with a jar for donations that would go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.   For a couple weeks to a month afterwards, people brought him up in their conversations, saying for the most part the usual things that people say after someone kills themselves.  Then, the conversations about him dwindled in number, faded into time, and he became rarely spoken of.

 

Agape, Authoritarianism, Becky, Belief, Brett, Christianity, Citizenship, Class War, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Conservative, Democracy, Fantasy Based Community, God(s), Guilt, Judeo-Christian Tradition, Late Night Thoughts, Liberal, Love, News and Current Events, People, Philos, Play, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Progressive, Reality Based Community, Regret, Religion, Romantic Love, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Society, Work

Late Night Thoughts (February 20, 2011)

There are few noises at this hour.   A car passes in the distance.  The house creaks.  The furnace starts.  I have not heard a dog bark in hours.

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…”It is really annoying when people, particularly those in positions of power, can’t even be bothered to take the trouble to lie well.” — Yves Smith.

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…To oppress a mother is to oppress a democracy, for it is mothers who teach the value of democracy to their children.

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…It seems what’s happening in Wisconsin is part of the class war in America that’s been going on for sometime now.  As Warren Buffett pointed out, the war was begun by members of his class, and his class is winning it.

Unfortunately, if rich billionaires like the Koch brothers win the Wisconsin round in the class war, that means they will have managed to break the Wisconsin public service unions.  And if they manage to do that, then the Democratic party will be left as nothing more than a paper man in that state.

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…The other day, I noticed an advertisement that claimed the Bible was, of all the world’s wisdom literature, the most profound.  Now, I’ve heard that claim made before in various ways and places.  But, I confess, I have never understood why anyone would make that claim.

As wisdom literature, the Bible seems to have been often surpassed. And not just by many of the ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, or Chinese authors.  But also by more modern authors.

To give some of the Biblical authors credit, though, their concern for social, political, and economic justice was remarkable for their time, and — thankfully — very influential on the West.

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…There seems to be a sense in which almost all complex, hierarchical societies — even going as far back as to the origin of complex, hierarchical societies some 5,500 years ago — have been scams.   Moreover, it’s been the same scam perpetrated again and again.  And, in essence, that scam has been to fool the masses into believing the society’s elites have the backing of a supernatural order.

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…There are many people in this god-drunk town who cast their blurry vision on science and declare that it, too, is a religion.  The last drunk to tell me that declared, as his reasoning, “Religions are based on beliefs. Science is based on beliefs. Therefore, science is a religion.”

By precisely the same “logic”, “Cats are furry.  Dogs are furry.  Therefore, dogs are cats.”

But, even if his reasoning was logically valid — which it is not, unless dogs are cats — what would not then become a religion?  Indeed, even one’s overwhelming desire to take a shower after hearing him espouse his drunken  “logic” would, according to his drunken  “logic”,  become a religious act.

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Just now, a motorcycle started up, then sped off.  In the day, it would be just another cycle.  But in the night, it seems a story in itself.

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…Humans are natural born cartographers.  We make maps of the world, which we call “beliefs”.   It’s what our species does.

Sometimes, our maps are more or less accurate.  And sometimes, they are fantasy maps, like the ones we made as children to show where a pirate’s treasure lay buried in our backyard.

The accuracy of our maps often matters less to us than the fact they are ours.  Because, for most of us, our maps are something we think of as us.

Now, when we fall in love, she sooner or later challenges our maps…

And, if our love survives those challenges, there’s a chance that our love is true.

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…Tonight, I came across in a faded notebook a line from a poem I once wrote to a woman: “No one has made me wish / To face with grace the challenge / of her morning breath like you, Joelle.”   And consequently, reading that line, I had a sudden and abrupt realization of precisely how it is that I have managed all these years to remain celibate despite the occasional woman who’s now and then been interested enough in me to even read my poems.

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…Once I saw a Seven-Eleven that was closed.  Locked up and abandoned.

Since everything inside the impossibly dark store windows was in place and intact, I eventually concluded it must be a clerk who didn’t show up for work.  But I at first thought: “Not even a president’s death can close a Seven-Eleven. It must be something.  It must be big.”

Perhaps there is inside all of us a thing — a strange, hard thing — that now and then longs for an event so big it will close even the world’s Seven-Elevens.

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…When I met Becky she was in her 30s and would now and then do something completely spontaneous: Always some little thing, but it was an attractive quality.   Even in a city, birds from a branch put to air like her.  So, though they live like the rest of us amongst the concrete and noise, you can see how those birds are beyond the artificial world we have created for them — how they are still native to the earth and sky.  Some people are like that.

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…So far, I have found only three things with power to redeem the human condition: Love, work, and play.  And of those three, love is the greatest.

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…Brett called to invite me to lunch the other day  (Brett was 15 the year we first met at the coffee shop.  I was perhaps 40 or 42).   So, we met at a tavern where the beer is watery, but the food is good, and I enjoyed talking with him so much the time slipped past on rabbit’s feet.

At some point in the afternoon, after we had exhausted half a dozen topics, Brett said he suspected the reason quite a few kids had hung out with me years ago at the coffee shop was because I was for the most part nonjudgmental.   So I told him that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard from a fellow human, if indeed he was actually human. So, I thanked him for confirming a suspicion I’d had.  Then, being an insufferable old fart, I told him a story he’d already heard at least twice from me, and one he probably didn’t want to hear again.

After we had parted for the evening, I reflected on the fact that Brett had certainly been one of the most intelligent people at the coffee shop, and very likely one of the wisest.  Yet, it had never been any one thing that led me to those conclusions.  Like a stream of gold dust, Brett is someone who stands out from the crowd not for any one big thing, but for the cumulative impression made on you by a thousand glittering details.

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…My second wife had a taste for dresses by Ungaro.  Is Ungaro still around?  That Italian knew how to make a woman wearing silk look like a nude.

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…This night, for the first time in ages, I recall once a woman and I spent nearly two years laughing together.  No, she was not my wife, but a co-worker.  We worked together in the evenings, and we’d spend every moment we could with each other.  Then, when I moved on to a day job, I still dropped by her workplace in the evenings to laugh with her.

One day, I invited her out to a movie.  But by the time she got to my place, it was too late to catch a show.  At a loss for much else to do, I tried nibbling on her ear.  Consequently, two years of laughing together led to her having three explosive orgasms: The best in her life, she told me.  After that, you might think she’d be happy.

Yet, somehow, by the next day, she had translated everything — all of it — into guilt and regret.  “You must think I’m a slut”, she said, “because I slept with you on our first date.”

“No, I feel as if I’ve been courting you for two years”, I said, “Besides I’m in love.”

“Even if you don’t think I’m a slut”, she said, “When I saw you this evening, it made me think of myself as a slut, and then my heart sank to the floor.  I can’t see you again.”  And she meant it.

It was much later I realized that, despite our rapport, only one of us had been in love.

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It is almost dawn.

Art, Becky, Don, Drawings, People

A Drawing of Don and Becky

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I found this old pencil sketch when taking inventory of my drawing papers last night.  It’s of my friends Don and Becky.  In it, I recall I was trying to describe a contradiction, and that I had a difficult time doing it.

First, I wanted to describe — in emotional terms — the timelessness of romantic love.  The way it is taken up again and again by every generation. Or at least something like that. I was more guided by intuition than by reason here.

Second, I wanted to point to — in emotional terms — the uniqueness of romantic love.  The way it is each time new and unique to each couple and individual.   Again,  this was more intuitive than reasoned out.  I’m not very good at planning, but I usually work from an intuitive sense of where I want to go.

I guess as far as I’m concerned, I succeeded.  Because that is what this image more or less conveys to me.  But I certainly don’t expect it to convey the same meanings to everyone else.   In fact, I would be surprised if it conveyed any meaning at all to most people.