Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Up Off the Canvas

I am trying really hard to get things together, to 'get my show on the road' (as it were). Never one to display anything but the most basic of organisational skills, I am making a real effort to pull the strands of my life back together again. To mix the metaphor, I am working on trying to get up off the canvas.

Following my hospitalisations, medical retirement and moving out of my unit I descended into chaos where I couldn't focus on anything and I drifted, fairly aimlessly, along with very little idea about what to do to try and help myself.

I think writing this blog has helped to crystallise a lot of my thoughts, and work through them by reducing them to writing. As I have been successfully able to maintain at least one post per week, I have found myself able to, little by little, turn my attention to other areas. I am keeping a to do list on my smart phone, and setting myself small but achievable tasks and goals. I can see, tiny but real, progress as I complete and tick off each one.

In my previous incarnation (as I describe my life prior the exacerbation of my disease), I would have scoffed at such a simple list of tasks and probably remark that I could complete a full week's worth of such items by mid-morning on the first day. Wow, how times have changed!

I haven't made much headway as regards my the next post in my Mechanised Man series, despite giving extensive thought to it. I think I have placed too much pressure on myself to make this post the definitive entry in the series (or least in Book One). Also I am coming up with a lot of thoughts on content, but I'm not jotting them down to retain them for when I start writing. I am also yet to settle on some issues of scope and direction, and I am also a little unsure about how far I want to go. I have no doubt I will get it done in the next few weeks, but I still need to think certain things through before writing begins.

But back to the boxing metaphor, I am surprised that I am rising from the canvas this time. I thought this time I was finished, that I didn't have the strength or inclination to pick myself up off the mat. I now think there must be an instinctual process that kicks in after allowing you some time to wallow in own despair and indignance. I think maybe this is another expression of the human instinct for self-preservation.

I have also begun to think quite deeply about what my basic needs and desires are as an individual, how they were met or not met in my previous incarnation and how they can be pursued and met, albeit sometimes in a different way, now in my present reality.

I think I will do a post on this in its own right. By writing about something, it helps me to better understand it and I think that there may be some value in taking a closer look at this whole area.

Yet I have a sense that I have reached a bit of a bottleneck, the ideas and themes that I wish to discuss on this blog continue to grow in number but I have found in the last fortnight that my (written) output has dropped off quite significantly. I originally had been a little worried about why this had occurred, but it isn't disinterest or lack of motivation. I think it is a resourcing (time) issue; I am spending more time on other aspects of my life, things that I had paid little attention to because of the depression I have felt in the last few years.

So almost paradoxically, through writing I have felt better about other things in my life which in turn has led to a reduction in my writing. This has been a collateral benefit, unforeseen. But whilst reducing my output, it must surely improve its quality because I am not drowning underneath an ocean of despair, regret and frustration. I have learnt to dog paddle.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Manual for a Mechanised Man - Book 1, Entry 4 - Masculinity

Men Hanging Out with Other Men, Doing Manly Things
I would classify myself as a garden variety heterosexual male. It would be erroneous to think that my disability has not affected how I experience and display my masculinity, but initially I didn't think this was an area where I had many insights. You see, I don't tend to ponder what it means to be male and in this body. Yet as I begin to unpack these ideas, I have found that I have surprisingly more to say than I initially expected.

Obviously, from a convenience standpoint, I think it is altogether easier to be male, than female, with this disability. Self toileting is an obvious example. Moreover, I would think that dealing with feminine hygiene issues, given some of my mobility restrictions, would be horrendously difficult. And there are a range of other cosmetic experiences for females which I, as a male, am glad I don't have to engage in, or resent not being able to engage in, on account of a non-cooperative body.

A truckload of Ph.D. thesis’s have probably been written to define, analyse and explore masculinity, but for me I suppose the starting point should be examining the experiences and interactions that I have been prevented from doing or experiencing fully because I am in a wheelchair. I am not beginning this discussion with a negative slant by approaching the task in this way, on the contrary, I feel that my disability has impacted my masculinity in only a few ways and it is far quicker to discuss and explore these than pursue the converse approach.

The most obvious area, I would suggest, involves physicality; playing sport or constructing or assembling things. I would dearly love to have played backyard cricket or Tuesday night touch football, but I am not going to shun sport because I can't participate in it. There are plenty of old, fat blokes in the stands at sporting grounds all over the country who would have a coronary if they ran the distance from their seats to the middle of the pitch - all the while trying not to spill the beer in one hand or drop the pie in the other. I have no problem joining them in the sidelines; I don't lay awake at night thinking that my life is not complete because I can't partake myself.

Similarly, just because I can't do carpentry in the back shed or reassemble an engine doesn't mean that I am devoid of a sense of mechanical curiosity or desire to construct or alter physical objects. As a child, I was always playing with Lego and building things with wooden pop sticks or small pieces of timber. Now I immerse myself in computing, and am constantly tinkering and reconfiguring my computers on an almost daily basis.

Yet I often think that without an outlet that tests me physically, I am not best able to release pent-up emotions as I could if, for example, I played football, went on a long run or punched a bag (or better yet, someone who annoys me). I don't consider myself to be a violent person, but I have had to sit back many times and watch situations unfold where, if I were physically able, I would have entered the fray.

Over the years there have been many people I have wanted to pound into the pavement, if I could. And whilst it may well be that if I were able-bodied I may have not been much of a fighter, I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had have been born in a different body and with different gifts.

I'll be honest, I have quite a temper. There is an undercurrent of buried rage that is always bubbling below the surface in me. 99% of the time, it stays hidden – even to me – but occasionally it gets stirred and rises to the surface.

I abhor family violence of any kind, so please don't take what I am saying out of context. Nor am I suggesting I would run around belting my friends, colleagues or random strangers; what I am saying is that on the occasions where I have seen people (grown men) behaving poorly, or threatening or intimidating others – the best example being drunk guys in bars or occasions when I have felt I had need to stand up for myself (in an metaphoric sense) – I wonder how would I react if I were able to resort to violence?

If I were able-bodied, there seems to me to be only two possibilities; I would have a temper less than I presently do or it would be of a similar intensity. What I am questioning is whether my disability has either directly or indirectly contributed to the quantum and/or severity of the semi-dormant rage I carry around inside of me.

Perhaps there is a connection; being as I am does cause or significantly contribute to my anger, but it is also possible that this is just part of my make-up and there really isn't any causal relationship between my temper and my physical capabilities. I am not sure, nor will I ever be, but I suspect the former of the two alternatives is most likely correct. What I am reasonably certain of, though, is that I could not envisage any scenario where my underlying anger would be greater than it is now if I was born with a normal body.

What I'm driving at is that perhaps by being in this wheelchair, I have been restrained from doing things that could really have destroyed my life (or somebody else's). In moments where I have felt threatened, and I can think of a number, rather than extricating myself from the situation or relying on friends to intervene on my behalf, I shudder to think what may have happened if I were able to really unload on someone.

I am not sure that in situations where I have become totally enraged and furious if I could bring myself under control once I passed a certain point. In an alternate universe where I had a normal body, would I be serving 14 - 21 years on a manslaughter charge? Or would I have been a far more passive person if I didn't feel my body was conspiring against me?

One clue that there is a causal relationship between my physical circumstances and my anger and frustrations at being as I am concerns how I have felt about 'competition' for the attention of whoever has been the object of my affection at any given point in time.

I will be able to say more about this and my next post, but what I can say here is that when I have been interested romantically in a woman* and she has preferred someone other than me, I have often tried to remain friends wherever possible (where we have had some sort of prior friendship). This is not to say that every female friend is someone who has spurned my advances, nor is it true that everyone who has rejected me romantically has remained my friend, but I generally become attached to someone because I find there are certain personality compatibilities, and they simply don't vanish because the person decides to pass on my offer of something more than friendship.

Yet, the cumulative effect of having played out this scenario on more occasions than I'd care to admit is that there has been a rising apprehension in me that I am sometimes seen as a handbag of sorts, a eunuch. Emasculated.

I remember consciously making the decision many years ago that if I were to drop punt from my life anyone and everyone that I was sexually attracted to, or wished to pursue a relationship with, I would become very lonely indeed and miss out on a whole host of rich and rewarding experiences, and a great deal of fun. I chose practicality over principle, I suppose. I don't regret it either, but it has come with a price by devaluing to an extent how I saw myself as a man.

Almost inevitably, those who I have seriously wished to be in a relationship with often find for themselves somebody else. At this point, I then need to make a decision as to what to make of 'he who is better than me'; is he, honestly and on balance, a better choice than me or not?

At this point the reader might be thinking a couple of things, which I should address before going further.

- Yes, I realise it is none of my business, really, who somebody that I am interested in decides to date or be in a relationship with; and

- Yes, I also realise that he who is better than me may have qualities to which I am unaware, and as such I don't have a complete picture of him as a person upon which to make my assessment.

I know these things intellectually, sure, but what I think in my mind may be different to what I feel in my heart and as a fairly emotional sort of person, my mind – the rational and logical side of me – usually loses any battles for dominance over my heart.

The truth is that from time to time, I have looked at certain individuals who have dated or been with women that I have adored - and would have given both kidneys and half of my lower intestinal tract to be with - and I have been left utterly dumbfounded, confounded, flummoxed, bewildered, confused, bemused, bamboozled and befuddled that they had been able to worm their way into that particular woman's life.

There have been occasions when I, honestly and objectively, and quite independent of whatever feelings I may have had for the woman in question, have been left absolutely gob-smacked, astounded and incredulous at the, in my view, poor choices I have seen some women make.

I am not saying that these characters are necessarily a worse choice than I. Certainly, I concede that the consequences (for breeding) of my error ridden genetic sequence is visible for all to see and I suppose I am not exactly in a position to point my arthrogryposic finger at another for being less than ideal, but notwithstanding that I still find it difficult to understand that if said woman wanted to (quite obviously, by her choice of partner) date well below the high calibre of suitor she, in my opinion, deserves - that if she wanted to go slumming - then surely why couldn't she have looked no further than me? I am just as big a dunce as anyone else!

If she's in the market for someone at the lower end of the spectrum, then, surely, must I not come into consideration? This is a question that keeps me up at night. This is a question that I have never been able to get my head around. I can't find the answer to this to put the matter at rest, nor can I park it and leave it be. It gnaws at me.

Yet, I'll simply say that this does have an impact upon how I interpret my masculinity to myself, and I'll leave all other issues arising from this until my next entry.

I find this issue just so emasculating, because it has become a re-occurring feature. I think far more deeply about things than some may expect and when I look across the spectrum of attributes and qualities that make up a person, any person, if I am to be honest and not feign modesty, then as far as a self assessment goes, I do not think I am necessarily bereft in too many areas.

I have a reasonable intellect, I feel I have appropriate social skills, I think I can instigate and maintain conversation and, at times, I can even be funny. Prior to my fall, as I call it, I had a job, I had a home and I thought that I had something to offer despite the obvious drawbacks.

Yet time and time again, the women that I have been interested in have, it seems to me, preferred anyone (with a pulse, who wasn't in the final stages of brain death) over me. I seem to have been witness to a cavalcade of freaks and weirdos, those with the intellect of a house brick, or the social skills of Rain Man or the sex appeal of a crate of haemorrhoid cream.

I have even wondered, in my darker moments of self contemplation, whether I have been running around for years unwittingly, unknowingly and indiscriminately ruining lives through my ability to subconsciously (or supernaturally) compel single women to immediately latch on to the nearest tool, tosser, fool or loser and that crosses their path through the sheer power of my romantic interest.

When this happens over and over again, it does wear on you and it does deplete your confidence. It makes you feel less confident around other men, because every time your self-esteem takes a hit it affects how you see yourself as a person, and as a man. You know that your friends know that you can't get a girlfriend, and I'm sure they feel a little uncomfortable for you. 

Sometimes I get angry at the world and at our society which seems to place physical attributes above all else. However, I suspect that there is more going on here than simple social conditioning. I think there are several factors at play;

1. Self perception

2. Peer interactions

3. Societal conditioning

4. Biology

5. Individual qualities.

A deeper description of these five areas - which I have categorised myself - is more appropriately dealt with in the next entry however, suffice it to say, I do believe that we humans, as with any other mammals, do tend to select partners with some influence from biological factors based on the instinctual drive to procreate with healthy partners possessive of desirable attributes of which to pass on to successive generations.

To be clear, I am not trying to suggest that this is the primary force at play when people pair up – I am not an expert in anthropology, biology, sociology or psychology nor am I trying to console myself by saying that it is all a matter of genetics and primal urges and, therefore, the whole issue remains out of my control or influence. I am simply saying that this is one factor among a number, and I think the relevant science supports this. But I know, or have seen, many people with disabilities – some more severe than mine – in relationships and having families, so there must be other factors at work, and I think I have stated them above.

One mistake I have made during my teenage years was to push a very significant part of the way I saw myself as a man on to how successful I was (or wasn't) sexually. I saw that many of my friends appeared to be in relationships or having plenty of casual sex – at least, that's what they said anyway! – and I thought that this was necessary in order to be a proper man. That may have been fine when I was 15 or 16, but when you turn 18, 19 and then 20 and you still haven't lost your virginity, it can fuck your head up enormously if you let it. And I did.

Unfortunately for me, it was at this time that it got too much for me to continue to carry around and I buckled under the pressure. It wasn't about sex, it has never been about sex really, it has always been a struggle to reconcile how I feel internally with how I experience the world externally.

Shortly after my 21st birthday, I fell into a very deep depression brought about for a number of reasons. I just couldn't reconcile how I saw the world with how I knew the world saw me. I was sick of what I saw as some people's duplicity, how there seem to be no correlation between what they said they wanted in a partner and the choices they then made.

I kept being told that the right girl hadn't come along and that she eventually would, but nothing ever seemed to change. I grew to resent that there seem to be one rule for everyone else, and a different one for me. I lacked the life experience to understand that perhaps sometimes what I interpret to be my own failings could indeed be a reflection of someone else's insecurities, at least partially, projected on to me.

I quite literally saw myself as worthless, essentially unlovable and a failure as a man. Nearly 2 decades later, some of my thinking has changed but the damage done then has been permanent and I have no doubt the consequences of this have permeated into every area of my life.

What essentially happened was that I have perpetually judged myself against the standards of 16 and 17-year-old girls. That was erroneous when I was the same age, and is simply crazy to take this along with me as I have moved through the last 20 years. But I guess this is a similar sort occurrence to what some people who are abused as kids continue to relive in adulthood and let it seep into areas of their adult life.

Yet, this didn't occur in isolation. The teenage brain and personality is, in most cases, quite fragile and malleable. Mine was no less sensitive, I'm sure it had to be more so. I was already deeply into a process (that I have only just in the last year or so begun to break free from) where I would create fictions around my physical capacities.

I am sure many people must have realised that in those days I couldn't bath or dress myself unassisted. I needed help to get on and off the toilet. I couldn't even get out of bed myself. But I didn't want people to know that, to me that was a sign of weakness and I went to great lengths to try to hide or obfuscate or otherwise concealed my level of physical dependence on others. This was not in keeping with how I saw myself and more importantly how I wanted other people to see me. I felt so child-like.

I used to think to myself sometimes;

How can I try to get into someone else's pants when I can't even get out of my own?!? (Granted, that is little coarse but you can see my point)

And how can I feel like I am developing into a man, when I am still shopping for clothes in the children's section?

Yes, I realise my hands are little and soft and probably quite cute though that is not much of a consolation given that I can't very well hold anybody with them.

I have always been vacillating between wanting to keep friendships whilst also trying to at least acknowledge the validity of some of my feelings. When I have given in to some of the thinking around being angry that I have been luckless in love and resentful of how I perceive I have been treated, it is not only the friendships with the women concerned that I have been conscious of trying to protect.

Although I have not always succeeded, I have never wanted my friends - of either gender - to be annoyed by, or ashamed or disapproving of how I have conducted myself when I have personally felt rejected, dejected or unfairly treated (by my subjective criteria). I have never wanted to lose or push friends away because of how I have behaved towards or treated others and when I have behaved badly or in a manner which I acknowledge may have been short of ideal, I have retained enough self-awareness to think about the consequences.

Unfortunately, all reason and logic has on countless occasions evaporated when I have been worse for wear from drink. That is when my anger can manifest, almost as if it is a separate and distinct personality. I'm not trying to shift blame, I'm solely responsible for the many times when I have behaved disgracefully when under the influence, and I regret quite a lot of things I have said and done. During these times, it is as if every filter, every emotional restraint, that I possess fails catastrophically and I burn with the intensity of 1000 suns.

I don't drink now, it doesn't agree with my medication, and when I was socially drinking it didn't always go pear-shaped. Yet when it did, when it went badly and when I surrendered to my perpetual fire, I was vicious, venomous and dangerous to know.

I would tap into something deeper that just fuelled me in an entirely different way. A little bit of fire in the belly can be a good thing, it can push you to achieve, to prove people wrong and to reach for your goals and leap at your dreams. I have said elsewhere, it is like a campfire; it can warm and sustain you. If, however, you get too close and catch alight, things can get dangerous for you very quickly and you need to put out the flame fast.

To me, that is a metaphor for depression and when it happens you need to take better care of yourself to make sure you don't drift into the abyss and lose yourself. But if you take a person, whose clothes might be smouldering (a metaphor for mild depression) and if you douse them in jet-fuel, then that symbolises me on the drink and on a rampage. It gets very ugly, very quickly.

I was always a very social person, I liked going out, I liked being with friends. Yet every time I went to a party, or to a nightclub, or other similar sorts of gatherings there would always be a part of me that wondered if this would be the opportunity to meet that special someone. Then I would get slightly self-conscious and uncomfortable when I looked around and saw everyone else, and I would then start to feel deep down inside of me that I was wasting my time and deluding myself.

At that point, I would usually get completely tanked. That is not the only reason why I drank, but it is a reason. And it pushed more people away than it ever drew in, of that I am certain.

I don't know whether this anger I speak of in these vulcanous terms is an inherently male feature, but I always felt it was. This is probably because, to me, it has felt tied to testosterone, given that I first started to really experience this sense of emotional burning when I hit puberty.

Coupled with the urge I have often had to tear other men limb from limb, I have always thought it part of natural male behaviour (a normal impulse). I think I am reasonably cerebral, but I also think there is a caveman inside every man.

I have written often of the need I feel to reorient, or reinvent, myself and in the thinking that I have been doing whilst writing this entry I have concluded that the role I have now as an uncle, to my niece and soon-to-be-born nephew, is a manifestation of how I can channel the positive aspects of my masculinity.

Hopefully, as they get older, I can be a positive male role model for them once they understand why I'm not as well as their other uncles.

Although I am not one for ball games and things of that nature, there are many aspects of play and learning that I can help with, and hopefully I can share some of the knowledge that I have picked up along my way through life.

I might still have time to become the man I have always wanted to be.

* It sounds strange to say woman, but at my age girl sounds a little bit creepy. I could say person or someone but that, to me, sounds like I am gay and trying to hide it. I see nothing wrong with being gay if that is who you are, but I'm not gay and I see no reason to sound ambiguous about my sexuality when I am trying to write about it honestly and openly. It's a credibility thing; well, it makes sense to me anyway.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Manual for a Mechanised Man - Book 1, Entry 3 - Sex and Gender Issues

Introduction: Maybe, Now, You'll Understand
This is most certainly not the way in which I had envisioned doing this. For a long time now, I have wanted to write about sex and gender issues as they have pertained to me and my experience. I have always imagined that I would write a marvellously complex, intertwined and multilayered novel through which I could channel the most personal and guarded aspects of myself and dress them in the veneer of a fictional story.

Of course, the protagonist would be a thinly veiled version of myself and the situations and themes explored in the novel and through the eyes of the protagonist would be carefully designed and contrived to open a window through which to view my world and glimpse many of my thoughts. Once published, I had intended to mail a copy of the work to a number of women from my past. The first page following the cover would be inscribed: Maybe, now, you'll understand...

But, alas, fiction is not my forte and, besides, I've never had the patience to undertake such a project, especially since I knew that my goal was not to produce a novel per se; it was to commit to writing a part of myself that is little understood and always pushed aside.

What follows is my sincere attempt to distil into words many of the hidden but always present influences on my behaviour and motivations behind many of my actions. I am not asking the reader to believe that this illustrates the sole rationale behind every thought or deed I've ever had or done, that would be too simplistic and, indeed, wrong. Instead, what I will share is a further dimension to my personhood that I have never denied, minimised or avoided even when it has seemed that everybody else has.

Frankly, I am surprised I have not developed any strange sexual fetishes given the rather odd manner in which I grew and developed from a boy into a man. I most certainly, however, have a somewhat different perspective on sex and its role and meaning in life. In many ways, I guess I am rather stunted and limited in my sexual development and am probably stuck in a high school mentality but I am beginning to understand the reasons for this which I shall discuss at some length.

I never planned to ever share this information publicly but I see no real reason to keep it all within me anymore. My life now is dramatically different to what it was only a few short years ago, and right now I am in the midst of a period of enormous change and adaptation. For me to have any quality of life moving forward, I need to drop as much of my emotional baggage as I can and recycle myself as a very different entity to what I was in times gone by. 

For a good 12 months now, I have almost totally isolated myself socially but lately I have begun to think more about reintegrating with the world again. I am feeling a little better, physically, than I have for a while and – provided I can surmount the remaining psychological roadblocks in my way – I see no reason why I can't rebuild some of what I once had and, more or less, end this period of enforced seclusion.

Yet what emerges from this process will be different to what existed before as I have a number of 'issues' (for want of a better term) that I have to deal with in order to move forward in my life. I have some baggage I need to drop that my feet and, metaphorically at least, walk away from. To be blunt, there are some things I need to say to the universe at large and some matters I need to get off my chest. Maybe someone reading this finds some areas of commonality and is helped by, at the very least, knowing that they are not alone in having these thoughts. If so, I would be pleased because I never did find any parallels to myself during periods of great turmoil as I looked outwards for someone who spoke or wrote of the things I thought of and felt. 

Also, there is a more selfish part of me that feels that because I have needed to carry this stuff around with me for so long I might find some consolation in externalising it and that maybe people may recognise that things haven't always been easy for me and that there was more going on in my head than perhaps it sometimes seemed. In essence, I feel a need to justify myself and, at times, my actions. I don't want people to pity or feel sorry for me, but I suppose I am searching for some understanding and maybe even some validation. I can't expect other people to accept me unless I am willing to accept myself, right?

Moreover, I don't feel as if I need to fear exposing these thoughts and feelings any longer. There is freedom in my life now that I didn't have before. Of course I hope that most people I encounter like and/or respect me, but I no longer worry or feel badly if that is not the case. I see no adverse consequences to opening myself this way, better said; keeping this stuff bottled up inside of me extracted a terrible toll and so, therefore, releasing it must surely be more healthy. I am already leading the life of a social outcast, even though, largely, this is of my own making. Telling my story or exposing myself to scrutiny or ridicule cannot lead to any greater sense of isolation and alienation than that to which I feel right now.

If this makes you uncomfortable, then I suggest you stop reading. Otherwise, I trust what I write will not be met with too much criticism. I am not trying to tell another how to live their life, I am just describing how I have had to live mine.

The next entry will focus on issues of masculinity, which I hope to have completed in the next couple of days. Following that will be the big one, sexuality. I feel under a lot of pressure, entirely self-imposed, to make this second entry my opus; my pièce de résistance. It may comprise one large, uber-entry or be split into parts; I am still working on the structure.

A final word, no one need worry that I will embarrass them or use this medium as a podium in which is to air grievances, levy accusations or spray invective. I would hope that to those who know me this assurance is unnecessary, nevertheless it doesn't hurt, I suppose, to offer it.

My thanks if you have made it this far, I trust that what is to come will be of some interest.

Monday, 15 August 2011

(Ancient) History Repeating

I keep having a recurring dream, and I wish I knew what it symbolises. I have had dreams of this type for close to 10 years now, and I'm still no closer to working out what they represent. I say 'dreams of this type' because each one is unique (I am not having the exact same dream over and over) but the basic 'plot' or narrative of the dream, is I can call it that, remains the same each time.

Basically, I am back in year 12 and I am at school having just finished what I thought was my last exam before I find out that I must sit one more exam to be held the following morning. The subject is always the same, Ancient History, but it dawns on me to my horror that not only have I not been to any lesson on this subject all year but that I also have no textbooks (the internets not being around back then) or any notes whatsoever to cram with. The unsettling dream then becomes a nightmare when I realise that I am now guaranteed to fail that course, which means I will not get into uni, will not get a job and will be immediately jailed to be executed by lethal injection!

Leaving aside the abject silliness surrounding the apparent severity of the 'punishment' for academic failure, I find it odd that it is always Ancient History that seems to instil this terror in me when in reality I took the subject and did reasonably well in it. The nightmare would ring truer (I'm not sure whether this - truer - is actually a word, but I'll go with it) should the object of my fears be Advanced Maths or Physics.

Once the full and complete horror of my predicament dawns on me I wake up. It is odd because I get this dream on average once every two or three weeks. In fact, it predates by about seven years my decline in functioning experienced in the last couple of years so it can't be related to my present circumstances.

I had this dream again last night and I can't seem to get out of my head today.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Transmission Interrupted

Words fail me at the moment. I have fallen back into the abyss. All I feel at the moment is intense, burning rage. It is my overwhelming, and sometimes all pervading, anger that pulls me into the abyss. It's extremely tiring to hold things together when I feel like this. I have been trying for the past two days to write some posts, on a range of topics, as I thought that writing may have a therapeutic effect. Unfortunately, there came a point in each instance where, irrespective of the topic at hand, I would start to trail off into a vitriolic rant about how much I hate the world and everyone in it. Or something like that, dark and angry.

Sometimes, I'm just your friendly neighbourhood misanthrope. I am sitting here, outwardly quite calm and contemplative, but inside it is a real battle to keep everything contained. I don't express my anger externally very much anymore. I rarely summon forth Lucifer himself to act as my agent. Sure, short term, the Prince of Darkness can appear as a useful a conduit or interface with the wider world, but after you've trawled the depths of hell for energy to fight your one-man war you realise that however justified you feel it is, white hot rage exacts a heavy toll when carried around.

I'm speaking metaphorically of course, but I find dark themes analogous to, and illustrative of, my inner life. I am a light mask over a dark face more than I am the reverse. There are shards of glass in my mind, it is as if my brain has been wrapped in coils of razor wire prior to packing inside my skull. Yet I know, physiologically, the brain feels no pain - it lacks tactile receptors - but what about the psyche?

Who am I, and why don't I know? Am I an electric field interfacing at the quantum level with a biomechanical brain? Or is my consciousness a mere by-product of neural activity? I am either substantive or illusion, but which one? What was my first thought and what will be my final one? Will it all make sense in the end, even if the sense of 'knowing' is only the result of a massive flood of endorphins in a compromised brain? Do we each get a final sound and light show as the curtain falls, or to we move past the curtain to explore what lies behind?

The world as I see it doesn't need a God for there to be a reality beyond this one, not that I am sure there is either. My search is for meaning, that's my deity. That's my holy grail.

The killer, though, is inner discord. I suppose I am a diverse collection of people who all reside in a ramshackle, rundown dump of a building (representative of my body). The abandoned squatter house in Fight Club comes to mind. If my body was a building, the council would have torn it down in pretty quick time. But it isn't, and they haven't, and so my internal tenants are still free to roam around, causing mischief and mayhem and fighting each other for control. Sometimes they set fire to the place, hence the headspace I am in now.

I am caught in a labyrinth that I don't remember entering and don't know how to exit. I suspect a lot of it may be caused by the thoughts and concepts I have been mulling over in anticipation of writing the next few entries in my Mechanised Man series. I want to write these posts, and I feel I need to write them as well, but to do so I need to think about a lot of things that I prefer not to dwell on these days. Yet I need to address and come to terms with this stuff, so I'm dammed if I do but even more dammed if I don't. There is a need to articulate why I feel the way I do. I have felt like this since I was a teenager, I need to lay this stuff out. There's no big secrets that I need to reveal, it's more that I wish to express myself clearly for once.

All this torment results from cognitive dissonance; my head is jam-packed with it. I eat it, I breathe it, I sleep it and I'm swimming in it. Always. It's disintegrating my mind and poisoning my world view. Hopefully, in the next few days I can produce my missive and I can see it in text before my eyes. If I can capture thoughts and feelings and drag them out from inside me, if I can bottle lightning and lasso the wind, I think then I might find more peace. 

But I am going to have to sweat blood to produce this.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Say Heil! to the Census-Man

As a general rule, I don't read a lot of fiction. I never have. Don't get me wrong, I am not welded to the ever-present now. I love being taken on a journey to some place far removed from the here; to an alternate moment, a different present. But if my mind and my own thoughts don't take me there, I prefer to take an easier route through film and TV than through the written word. I don't like to have to work for my fantasy, I like somebody else to paint the picture for me. I find reading enjoyable only if it teaches me something, something real and concrete - facts and details, dates, places, people and events. Whilst I realise there can be learning in fiction, for too long have I associated reading with work. Law school can do that to a person.

But occasionally, I will read a novel. I average around one or two a year. I do try and read one or two non-fiction books a week, easily, but I rarely read fiction and when I do I tend to quit around halfway through.

One of the books I do enjoy – and have read cover to cover, three times I think – is George Orwell's 1984. It is allegorical but it is an over-simplification to call it a work of fiction. It isn't, and it is becoming truer by the day. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do think that we as simple citizens are losing control of our society and our rights of self determination. It's moving away from us at an ever increasing pace, like a fully laden shopping trolley rolling away down a steep hill – pretty soon it will hit the intersection and be slammed side on by a speeding Mack truck. Afterwards, it'll be nigh on impossible to put everything back together again.

I have no pretensions of being a social or political theorist, I can't even articulate my political views in even the most generalist of terms. The far right scares me, in fact the entire spectrum of politics on the right run counter to my political sensibilities. But at the same time, I do have concerns about the left and the kind of government that leftist politics brings.

Ultimately, I believe in social justice and equality of opportunity. I believe most passionately that there should be a welfare safety net and that the state should provide basic and essential services to all irrespective of race, class, background or ability to pay.

The American model of ultra-capitalism is wrong, unfair and broken. No wonder America has such high crime rates, drug abuse and violence. They have created such an exclusionary society that it is little wonder that so many of their people are disaffected and angry. They have become worse than their former colonial masters, the British who now look egalitarian in comparison. With the exception of perhaps the caste system in India, this ultra-capitalist model with so few haves and so many have nots, is of unsurpassed manifest unfairness and in serious danger of one day collapsing in on itself.

In many ways I wonder if the present day United States is becoming like Rome before it fell to the 'barbarians' 1500 years ago? Is a steady diet of celebrity culture and fast food all that dissimilar to the bread and circuses of Nero's time? When it implodes, it is going to be ugly. The dismantling of the USSR and the social and economic upheaval that caused will pale in comparison to what will happen when the clock runs out on the USA's excess.

On the other hand, I don't think big government is the answer either. It seems that government of all persuasions continue to grow and expand their areas of control like a virulent strain of bacteria left unchecked over the Christmas holidays - to grow out, over, around, through and from a petri-dish left behind and forgotten in a university laboratory. Government is making it their business to control more and more of what people do, or do not do, in their lives. They want to censor the Internet, they want to almost give people a colonoscopy before they can get on an aeroplane and the list of current or planned encroachments both here and overseas continues to grow exponentially.

This is a discussion for another day, but it has always fascinated me that marijuana is illegal yet it is a naturally growing plant! Regardless of the merits or otherwise of using marijuana as a recreational drug, I simply cannot understand how people can take a law seriously that prohibits a form of plant life! This is not heroin or cocaine that needs to be manufactured from an organic base, or a synthetic drug like ecstasy or methamphetamine, marijuana is a fucking plant! It's bizarre, when you think about it. But like I said, it is an argument for another time.

My point is that the steady creep of government control and regulation is always advancing, never retreating. Once a right or freedom is lost or 'temporarily' surrendered it is never regained, in the overwhelming majority of cases.

It is in this context that anybody who has not sealed their head in a concrete block for the past month would have noticed that it is census time yet again. I am practically bursting out of my pants with excitement! I haven't been this overstimulated since I took the Accounting for non-Accountants course at work a few years ago; what a blistering ball-tearer that was! I needed a Mogadon IV drip to calm me down after that ended, you have no idea...

But yes, the census taker called last week. A very charming fellow, I must say. And how informative are those TV advertisements? They certainly put me at ease. It was really helpful to learn how absolutely necessary the census data is, particularly as it helps governments to plan and respond to future challenges...

What a load of utter bullshit!

As for basic population data, surely if Medicare, ATO, CentreLink and other government agencies' data was properly referenced and cross checked an accurate geo-social model could be constructed without the need for this blatant and unwarranted intrusion? What the warm and fuzzy ads do not say is that compliance with the census is compulsory and fines of up to $110 per day can be levied against anyone who dares to ignore it.

Are these people for real? I guess one should scoff at these little beige-cardigan wearing, mini-minor driving, Mr Bean-clone statisticians at one's own peril! These nerds are packing some serious heat in their pocket-protectors! Although, as you would realise, I am not one to make sweeping generalisations...

Yet, I can't help but think about the censuses conducted in 1933 and 1939. In Nazi Germany. The ones that IBM helped to tabulate. The ones that made it easy to find and exterminate all manner of 'social undesirables'; the disabled, homosexuals and, oh yes, hundreds of thousands of Jews.

But of course that was so long ago, and nothing like that could ever happen here...

And, so, on August 9, say heil to the census-man...