Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The "Worthless" Syndrome

There are those who devote far too much time reflecting on their weaknesses and shortcomings, examining each through a magnifying glass as though they were so many insects-on-pins in a display case. Alas, I am one of them. And while, way down deep, I know I am not being fair to myself, and that I’m not really all that bad, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve always measured myself against others and inevitably come up short. And I’m talking about it here because, once again, I think I am not totally alone in these negative assumptions.

Though I cannot be absolutely sure from whence my lifelong, deep-rooted sense of inferiority and unworthiness come from, other than my tendency toward melodrama, I think I have put something of a handle on it.

It most certainly was not the result of my parents’ actions. They loved me unconditionally and never criticized me any more than I’m sure any parent criticizes a child. But I think it largely stems from the fact that I have always lived in a world of dreams. I don’t think I ever fully was able to separate fairy tales and Santa Claus and all the wondrous things that I found in books from real life. I expected myself to have all the sterling qualities, all the marvelous talents and abilities that the heroes in books and movies had.

I was, I felt, a great disappointment to my father because of my total inability to grasp the concept of organized sports, which he loved. The fact that I was also what I’ve always unkindly referred to as a “motor moron”—totally lacking in the hand-eye coordination which leads to physical grace—created a very real sense of self-loathing, echoes of which remain with me to this day.

I looked around me and saw how easily other people seemed to be able to interrelate, how effortlessly they understood what was expected of them by life and society, did wonderful things with astonishing grace, and comparing myself to them, how could I not have felt less than they. I could not understand why I could not be what everyone else seemed to be. So many of the things I ached to be, even as a child…graceful, talented, handsome, at ease in any situation, able to fit in anywhere…I knew I was not and never could be. Therefore, obviously, I was inferior and unworthy.

And of course growing up in a world in which the thought of a boy knowing he truly, purely loved other boys was inconceivably disgusting and perverted and disgusting and sick certainly didn’t help. (One of the reasons I had abandoned organized religion by the time I was twelve was because it was constantly drummed into my head that people like me were doomed to the fires of hell for all eternity for my sins. If God considered me to be an abomination, then by what logic should I believe in God?)

I suspect one of the reasons I concentrate so strongly on my own flaws is because I do not feel qualified to comment on the flaws of others. And besides, I know my own so very much better. And I truly do realize that I am not nearly as bad as I insist upon making myself out to be. It’s just that I expect so very much more out of life…and myself…than it is realistic to expect.

Which brings us back to the vast gap between the mind and the body. The mind can do anything. The body has to rely on muscles and nerves and joints and the infinite complexities of the connections between them all. Some bodies are better able to do things than others. And while mine has always been very good to me, and I am infinitely grateful to it, it is simply not able to meet the physical demands my mind makes upon it. And in the end…literally…it is the body which has the final say.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Chewing Gum

There are few words more guaranteed to have people roll their eyes to the ceiling than: “Now, when I was a boy…”, usually followed by a rambling account of how much better (or worse, depending on the teller and/or the circumstances of the telling—I’m sure good cases can be made for both points of view) life was than it is today.

But I do remember that at one time the worst thing in the world for a student would be to be sent to the principal’s office for a chewing gum in class. If there was an occasional altercation between boys, it involved fists, not guns or knives. I cannot remember one single incident of a girls engaging in a physical confrontation.

There was, I’m sure, a lot of hurtful gossip, since gossip seems to be in our genes, but there was no internet upon which to post gratuitous cruelty for all the world to see.

I often jot down a few lines for a prospective blog, then hit “save” and wander away. I began this entry on the morning of the shootings at NIU, and as I wrote the first sentences, listening to the then-breaking news, the reports were saying that 18 had been shot, but luckily that there appeared to be only one dead. I remember thinking “Only one”?, as if one didn’t really count. Well, that gradually changed as the deaths rose. Still, compared to Virginia Tech, only six dead, as though it were all some sort of grotesque game with a gigantic scoreboard: Virginia Tech, 32; NIU 6. Virginia Tech wins by a landslide!

As our world grows ever more inured to death, destruction, and misery, we as individuals also become inured to it. Six dead, or thirty-two dead, or 250,000 dead? Really too bad, but shit happens. Until it happens very close to home, to someone we know.

The harsh reality of life is that good news does not get anywhere near the attention of some tragedy or other. Perhaps it is because we consider our own lives so lacking in excitement that we look for it in the misery and misfortunes of others. And it can be argued that the news media, a bottom-line (and frequently bottom-feeding) industry, while frequently blamed for using whatever titillation it can to attract more readers or viewers and therefore more advertisers is only giving the public what it wants..

Still, there should be limits. I find it equal parts stupifying and infuriating when swarms of reporters, like pirana with microphones and cameras, swarm the home of some pretty young—usually blonde, always white—coed who has just been brutally murdered. What has become of our humanity when some bright-eyed reporter shoves a microphone in the faces of the grieving family to ask: “And how did you feel when you found out your daughter was dead?” There is no font or typeface large enough to print the appropriate “DUH!”

I freely admit that I find myself mesmerized by accounts of major disasters, but for me the fascination lies not in the physical suffering of the victims, but in the bravery and nobility so often displayed out by those involved. It is for me a reminder that all is not lost, and that we can, under duress, rise above our circumstances and show a glimmer of what we should all be, all the time.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Spam and Pond Scum

How many times have I said I don’t understand something? Too many to count, I’m sure, but it seems like just about when I think the pond scum of this life cannot possibly be more infuriatingly obnoxious they, like a mutant virus, come up with something new.

The latest thing seems to be the deliberate planting of computer viruses via “Comments” on websites. I”ve caught three in the past week on my photo blog alone. Fortunately either I or the computer have caught them, but in one case not before I had to sit and wait while my computer examined every single file (some 154,000 of them).

There are two clues: one is, when someone legitimate wants to post a comment, the computer tells me so, and asks if I want to publish it or not. With the outhouse-overflow crowd, it just automatically shows up, and anyone opens the comment at his or her own peril. Fortunately, just clicking on “Comments” will take you to a window which says something like “click here.” The moral is, do not “click here”. I catch them as soon as I can, and I just don’t get that many comments (I’m not sure if that is good or bad).

I’m truly curious as to what motivates these sub-humans? Do they think they are being clever by trying to disrupt other people’s lives and damage their computers? Probably. Or are they just showing off their self assumed brilliance by doing something no one with any sense of decency or concern for other people would ever consider doing? Someone once said: “Those who can’t create destroy.”

Your average, run of the mill “Make her scream with pleasure” and “Our pills cure all disease” or “Genuine Rolex Watches: $4.25" spam messages, which are received by the hundreds each week (I recently read that 70 percent of all internet traffic is spam), are generally spotted and automatically set aside to be thrown into the cyber sewer. But some get through,, and I suppose it’s rather on the same principle of its taking millions of sperm to have just one fertilize the egg. I cannot for the life of me conceive how or why these spammers think anyone with a single living brain cell can fall for their garbage, but obviously someone, somewhere, must. The tens of billions of dollars sitting in Nigerian banks awaiting your response to Barrister M’Gombego’s urgent post must be going somewhere.

While I would love nothing better than to be appointed Ruler of the World, I fear I would be perhaps just a tad harsh on these people. We (note I’m using the royal “We” already) would begin by duct-taping their hands to their thighs, and forbidding them, under penalty of death, to get within 100 miles of a working computer or any other form of electronic device.

But I think the thing that bothers me most about spam and spammers and those who with total impunity wander around trying to make other people’s lives miserable is their anonymity and the sense of helplessness I feel knowing that there is absolutely nothing I can do to prevent them from doing whatever they choose to do.

I like to think of myself as a compassionate man, but I have my limits, and on the other side of those limits rage the fires of hell.

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Monday, February 11, 2008


For someone whose life revolves around words, I find the inability to put emotions into words to be infinitely frustrating, yet there are so many fundamental pieces of myself that I simply cannot express. My feeling of alienation, for one. And yes, I realize that I am hardly the only human who feels alienated.

A lot of it goes back to a recent blog entry on my infinite capacity for being unable to understand so much of life.

I live in a world of heterosexuals, yet I am not heterosexual. I have never been heterosexual. I never will be heterosexual, and I have never for one minute of my entire life ever wanted to be heterosexual. And while I have been raised and lived and worked and socialized with heterosexuals all my life, I have never understood them. All those things heterosexuals simply accept as perfectly normal: grow up, get married, have kids, go to weddings and baby showers…are totally alien to me.

It of course all boils down to the latter half of the words “heterosexual” and “homosexual”: “sexual.” While I consider my lifelong attraction to men to be perfectly natural (for me), I honestly and in all sincerity simply do not and cannot comprehend the physical attraction between men and women and how profoundly it affects their day-to-day functioning. And it is the multiple and complex ramifications of that attraction which rules our world.

Recognizing that heterosexuality is at the very foundation of our race only serves to emphasize that I am not like everyone else. Because of the fact that without heterosexuals our race would perish, and that were it not for my parents being heterosexual, I never would have been born rather strongly sets me apart from the rest of our species. (Yes, I also know I’m not the only homosexual in the world, and I’m sure that many if not most gays and lesbians share my sense of alienation. We are, after all, outnumbered 9 to 1.)

Perhaps this sense of alienation is something inbred into everyone, and we, being individuals, simply don’t realize it. The old saying “No man is an island” isn’t exactly true. We are all islands in a vast sea of the unknown. Each of us goes through life only really knowing ourselves (and it can be effectively argued that most people can’t really even say that).

I suppose it is only natural, because we each experience problems and frustrations and an infinite number of stumbles and glitches and niggling little irritations, not to realize that everyone else goes through the same thing. Few people, forced to resorting to using a pipe wrench to open a stubborn jar lid, mention the fact to others. So we look around at everyone else happily holding up opened jars and never give an instant’s thought to how many pipe wrenches might actually have been involved.

We are led, from infancy, to believe that the world is a far more homogenous place than it is, and that anything out of what we are led to believe is the ordinary, means we and we alone in experiencing this or that particular situation. Nobody else seems to have any real problems. Everybody else seems to breeze through life calmly, always knowing how to react in any given situation. Few people seem to question the status quo. (“I can’t do this? Okay.” “That isn’t allowed? Okay.”)—in fact, few people question anything. Saves a lot of thinking that way.

All of which does little to change my belief that I am truly set apart from the rest of the world.

As James Thomson's wonderful poem “Once in a Saintly Passion” says... “Then stooped my guardian angel, and whispered from behind: 'Vanity, my little man: you’re nothing of the kind.'”

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