So check this out: I need a J-O-B bad, so I applied for a job as a stock clerk. I was turned down — twice. LOL! Really?
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I’m on an introspection trip these days.
The thirst for knowledge is like a piece of ass you know you shouldn’t chase;
in the end, you chase it just the same.
— George Pelecanos
One day when I was very young, my aunt was called to a store. I was caught stealing books and rather than call the police, the owner wanted an adult to come pick me up. I couldn’t have been more than eleven-twelve years-old. I still remember the books. One was a used copy of The Complete Works of Aristotle. Yeah, while my friends were out there stealing hubcaps, I was stealing books. They thought I was weird.
My aunt was so embarrassed, she couldn’t bring herself to look the store manager in the eye. We walked home in silence. The next day, my aunt, who was a washerwoman, reached into her purse with fingers stripped raw by the harsh chemicals of her work and came out with some crumpled bills. She asked me the cost of the books I attempted to steal. When I tried to rationalize the issue, she suggested I be quiet and patiently asked again in a firm voice, “How much did those books cost?”
When I told her, she gave me the money and instructed me to go buy the books. I went back to the same store and paid for the books. The store manager didn’t know what to say, she seemed confused. Eventually, she would come to know me well.
When I returned with the books, my aunt, with tears in her eyes, told me that there was nothing worse than ignorance. She told me if I ever wanted a book, to just ask and she would try to get the money for me. I’ll be honest and say that I continued to steal books here and there. Not a large amount, but books I thought I needed to read. My goal was to read all the great books. LOL
In case you haven’t noticed, I am a lover of knowledge. Actually, that’s a pretty good definition of philosophy. And please! We all are naïve philosophers in some form or another. Respect for knowledge, truth, and beauty were values instilled in me during my formative years.
I was either born with this hunger or it was embedded in me at an early age by my parents and reinforced by the other adults during my formative years. Whatever the case, if I were to turn my back on this gift (as if I could), it would be more than a waste, it would be the only true sin.
Books, as with my other teachers, have always taught me to look for the contradictions — the paradoxes — because it is there where the truth can be found. I had hard a hard time figuring that one out. How can one find truth, or even anything useful, in things that seemingly have no connection?
But we don’t have to look too closely to see that our existence is full of contradictions. For every negative, there is a positive: night follows day, there is sadness and happiness, rain and sunshine. If you look still closer, you will observe that the web of life itself is made up of the interconnections and relationships between opposing forces. Like the tai chi symbol of yin yang, we all contain the rhythms reverberating from the play of dark and light, male and female, “good” and “bad,” awareness and ignorance.
I think about this web of connections when looking at and attempting to work with my character defects. Growth is optional and for many people and a critical outlook, or even looking within, is something alien — something to be avoided at all costs. Instead, we are conditioned to consume that we become our material possessions. Even those of us who profess to be introspective truth seekers (or “truth tellers”!) often fall short because we are too busy defending who we are. Too often we rail on about the defects of others while ignoring our own.
If you look deeper, there is an essential unhappiness, a bitterness, driving this attitude. We all know at least one overly critical insensitive who tramples over people’s feelings under the guise of “truth” or “self-expression.” This kind of shit often backfires. It’s a bitch: when you deny life, it has a funny fuckin’ way of sneaking in through the back door. The baggage you carry will manifest itself through whatever form you consciously or unconsciously choose to express it.
In any case, many of us live our lives shuffling back and forth between two identities that seem to conflict: the rational and the emotional. My rational self, for example, tells me I really shouldn’t act out on an impulse, while my emotional self urges me to say “fuck it.” we all experience these two conflicting identities, and, though many people deny this, it’s how our mind/ brain is wired.
The rational self says “I should,” and the emotional self says, “Even though I know I should, I can’t.” Today, I have a better grasp of this paradox, these conflicting urges within me, but I’m still working on it. It’s a process, not a race. It’s also about practice and not perfection. I have found that I’m a deeply flawed man. So flawed that, by necessity, I need to have a process in place that keeps me moving, at the very least, in a good orderly direction. My path is more of a zig-zag than a straight line, but that too is ok.
The point being is that I (we?) have to find a way to balance these two natures. Some of us take the rational approach which often has the effect of leading to a denial of the emotional self. I see this all the time: people will say things like, “It doesn’t bother me,” as if reason can be used to stifle feelings. However, shit always comes up, somehow. Ultimately, denial is not a good coping mechanism no matter how logically you want to dress it up. Others take the opposite tact, and indulge their emotions. This is just the flip side of the denial coin.
I am at a point in my life where I am comfortable with who I am and how I embody my expressed values. I am comfortable with expressing my anger and confronting actions or behaviors that I find offensive. Is it always nice? No. Life isn’t nice. It is wrought difficulties and it is often within the crucible of conflict and turmoil that true growth happens. Avoiding conflict is like sticking your head in the sand. Conflict is an unavoidable and oftentimes invaluable fact of life.
This makes for many challenges and contradictions, but for one to live relatively happy, we need to find a way toward integration because that is the direction of all life: all life seeks to integrate fully somehow, it does this as surely as there is gravity and the sun sets and rises. Understanding how this all works can help many achieve some integration, some measure of comfortability and acceptance amidst the chaos and mass of contradictions that we all possess within.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…