Monday, December 08, 2014

"I Hear the Mermen Singing..."

We can’t change reality, but we can change our perception of it. I’ve been doing it since I was a child and it has served me very well. Our bodies are bound by the laws of physics and time and we are all but powerless to change them. But our minds are not subject to those laws. It is our mind which makes us who we are. How we perceive our lives and the world around us is largely up to us. We may be confined in the cage of reality, but we are free to “decorate” it as we choose. When it comes down to it, perception is simply imagination, and imagination can make the world a far more tolerable place.

Those like me, who have never really understood how or why the world works the way it does and who therefore feels inferior because of it, altering our perceptions to fill in the gaps left by reality makes life, in our minds at least, easier to deal with.

I tend to look on life the same way I view books and movies—concentrating on those aspects with which I am comfortable and ignoring the rest. I refuse to read books or watch movies that I know do not have at least a ray of hope at the end. Even Schindler’s List, which was agonizing to watch, ended in hope.

Though you, I, are each only one of billions, we are totally separate, unique individuals. And each of us, surrounded by billions of others like us, goes through life alone. We learn whatever coping skills we develop through observation of our fellow humans; by reading and watching and listening to their individual experiences. We can easily be overwhelmed by the sensations of being hopelessly, helplessly outnumbered.

Life is a board game I play without having all the pieces, but I do the very best I can with those I have. I am gay (I know…you never suspected) living in an overwhelmingly heterosexual world. I am not comfortable in an overwhelmingly heterosexual world. So in my mind, the world is overwhelmingly homosexual. Every attractive man on the street is, in my mind, gay. Whether he is or not is totally irrelevant, since the odds of my having the opportunity to find out for sure are pretty close to astronomical unless I’m in a predominantly gay area. So what’s the harm?

And that phrase, “so what’s the harm,” pretty much sums up my entire philosophy of perceiving things the way I wish to perceive them.

And I do reach certain reluctant accommodations with reality. The reality of time, having “aged me out” of active participation in the gay world, I no longer feel comfortable…or welcome…even there. I think of my favorite line from Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: I hear the mermen singing, each to each. I do not think they sing for me.

And yes, I changed the gender. What’s the harm, if it gives me pleasure? 

While one can learn of the world in many ways, it is only our own personal experiences and perceptions which matters in the end.

Dorien’s blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

I like when the mermen sing. Heck, I have their Greatest Hits on my laptop.

But who's to say life isn't exactly how we imagine it to be anyway? Can it really hurt to remain optimistic that it is?

Helena said...

Yes, I've never understood why "he lives in a world of his own" is considered a criticism. I control my inout as much as I can, too; I will not read books with any of the things I don't like, and I watch very little TV and see very few films because I will not tolerate violence or misogyny or homophobia, and don't need any more angst. I see the news headlines online but only read a few in detail.

I just enjoy beauty when I can, and try not to remember how I too have ben "aged out" of so much!