There are truths in dreams that only come around once in a while. Dreams speak to us about ourselves. Others' dreams about us can be even more revealing. They reveal inner truths like any artist might - by degrees, obfuscated by metaphorical imagery, and shadow, and a tinge of madness.

Someone else dreamed about me twenty years ago and it foretold my deeply fractured psyche. I saw a glimpse of it then, in what she told me, though I was largely blind of all things me. I knew there was truth there, though I couldn't have even seen such truth at the time.

In my dreams I am but a gaping blackness. There is a concave space there, where the vacuum and its gravitational pull meet. I observe and yet I am defined by lack of space and definition.

She didn't even know me very well, but the dream disturbed her enough to call me and see if I was okay. At the time, I could not describe what I was thinking or feeling when she told me about it. All I know is that it spoke a deep truth to me, even then, one I neglected to understand until much later.

"I'm worried about you." she said, before launching into a description of what she'd seen.

She described my face as it looked in the dream. It changed before her eyes. It shifted and transformed, and would not stop. A parade of different identifies whirled past. It was a disturbing sight to behold, a shifting of the face to reveal a different identity, one after the other after the other.

As I changed there in front of her, I struggled to control it and failed. It was like Tetsuo in Akira struggling to control his new powers. No avail for success. Just an irreparable uncorking of the magic lamp. What disturbed her most was that I changed despite myself, and was unable to hold onto one sense of myself for more than a few moments before the next identity swept over me.

In real life, at that time, I was in pain. I felt rejected by someone who I had no right whatsoever to feel rejected by; someone who had given me every blasted opportunity to demonstrate a glimmer of purpose or direction, with no success, and had at last taken charge of her life and gave up on my aimless ass. I was careless and stupid, and irresponsibly naive, but when she finally gave up on me, I was suddenly the wounded, prideful victim, hamming it up for anyone who would listen.

I was angry, and I was hurt, but what I couldn't see then was that it was my fault, and that I was just the sort of person who would drive anyone in their right mind right toward the brink of crazy. I only felt sorry for myself, though age changed it eventually.

The truth is, I am still incredibly angry. Whereas once I might have summoned the victim card any time something didn't go my way and on my terms, I now either deny my anger or over-study where the fault is mine. I examine the cracks and imperfections; I dwell on my inaction, on my stubborn refusal to see myself one way all the time, on my ability to compartmentalize myself so thoroughly that I lose sight of what I stand for. The daily self examination rituals I put myself through bleed me dry. I'm highly self critical and I cringe at the thought I haven't changed, at the secret fear he's still there, pushed back by the years but still bawling like an infant and hamming it up for anyone who will listen.

I am also angry because the person I secretly wish I could be is someone I know I will never, ever be, and that kills me. The kicker is that a person who bothers me most is he who has become that person I will never be, and carries the weight effortlessly. He's a sleepy lidded dude with no worries at all, and a photographic memory. He's a laconic, confident know-it-all, he never has to look up facts and figures, and always has the perfect sound bite for any complicated issue. That will never be me, and I hate that those people are out there who serve as beacons and reminders of what I can never be.

I am angry, too, because beat my skull bloody thinking of a ways to say something the perfect way, then I stand back and watch, frustrated and defeated, as people scratch their heads. I don't talk like people are expected to talk. I over explain shit. I get into too much detail. I forget the big picture. I spin my wheels. This is me. It can be improved by degrees but I will never be some marvelously prolific juggernaut. I have five drafts of stories and essays piled up in this blog, and it speaks to my state of mind that they're all unfinished.

And finally, I am angry and frustrated because I believe in nuance and depth and heightened conversation, yet I am immersed in a world where the zippiest, quickest line gets the most applause. I'm surrounded by a culture where the cleverest, most marketable ideology is embraced over the most workable. Where intransigence and fanaticism is lauded as 'sticking to one's core values.' Where compromise means sacrificing purity and honor instead of an act of political courage, as it should be. I watched in horror as the unhinged conspiracy nut, Alex Jones, exploded in an irrational, thoughtless, gutless, disrespectful tirade, and was celebrated as a truth teller and a hero for 'speaking his mind.' I am angry because the qualities that get people like Jones where they are - showmanship, brevity, charisma - are valued over self examination, and holistic examination, and peace, and love and tolerance.

Any time I want to read an online discussion about an issue that matters to me, and I make the mistake of reading users' comments, either on Facebook or CNN or Politico or even Reddit, I feel as though I'm trapped in an endless, no-way-out Comedy Club on open mic night. Everyone's trying to get that prime spot. Everyone's looking for the best zinger. Everyone's hoping for the most laughter. All at the expense of real conversation. And it kills me, people. It fucking kills me because the people who get noticed there at that nightmarish, obnoxious Comedy Club go on to become the next Alex Jones. It's the collision of entertainment and serious-as-a-heart-attack cultural self examination, and the result is self examination that sounds practiced, clever, and totally devoid of humility or reflection.

So, I can rant about this stuff, about how I'm angry, and it feels good to get it off my chest, but at the end of the day I'm not here to change any of that. I'm here to change my reaction to it. That's where the real problem is. I focus too much on the problem, on the criticism. At the end of the day, the only realistic solution for me is to set a good example, and stick by it. To chart a path that feels like solid footing, and stay on it as best I can.

Doing this requires me to revisit that dream my friend had twenty years ago. That spinning of identities over my face - it scared her, and it scares me still, even now. I must stop letting outside forces - perceived injuries, cultural frustrations, personal insecurities - shift me so much and spin those faces across my head so quickly that I can't grow. The truth is, sometimes, I am too adaptable. I change to fit any situation, or any cultural norm so much that I allow it to dominate me, and in some cases, usurp my values. I'm better than this. In some sense, I feel that I've spun my wheels most of my life merely adapting to various situations, as my fractured, sensitive psyche strains to pin itself down in the face of enormous pressure. I haven't grown as fast as I hoped I would precisely because I haven't summoned the courage to embrace corporeality once and for all.

Doing this is not so much a trick as it is a continued practice, like meditation. I look into myself and see a face like water, fixed but fluid, coporeal but rippling. It's an analogy far past anything my friend might have intended when she saw me struggle in her dream, but its one that serves me now, as I try to reconcile the fractured pieces.


Jon said…
Joseph, I encourage you not to be so hard on yourself. You are a braver man than I for sharing as much of yourself as you do. I often think I haven't the time to say so much, but it is the steel I lack.

The phrase "arrogance is just lack confidence" comes to mind when thinking of all the scared little Alex Jones-es of the world. All humans do this, some much more than others.

Do you know the blog: the League of Ordinary Gentleman?

Therein might be the level of discourse you seek on political/social/cultural issues. It is by no means an echo chamber, but you may still find resonance. I like it because it challenges even those in agreement.

Happy New Year sir.
Starkraving said…
:) Your comments are very much appreciated Jon. Happy New Year to you too!

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