Reflection from February 12th, 2008 @ Age 26
You know, it’s so funny that just one day ago, I sat down and wrote my heart out, and here we are one day later, and I’ve so much on my mind to record—I almost don’t even want to start, for fear, I’ll forget something important that’s been on my mind in the meantime. I think, accordingly, that the reason I want so terribly to be a writer is because, then, whenever I had an insight, day or night, happy or sad, manic or depressed—it would be my job to sit down with my lappy or a good ol’ piece of paper and pen, and record the thought. And even more than that, I would have my entire life to feel my feelings and increase my knowledge—and, the time to record the discoveries of my conquest.
If I were a child and an adult told me to dream, said that, I could be anything in the world that I wanted to be—I would, hands down, want to be a writer. So, how then, can it be, that I am sitting here at the age of 26, with a high school, college and doctorate education—eight years of “higher” education, and I feel like my dream to become a writer, if shared with others, would make me appear delusional? Why is it that we allow our children to dream to their heart’s content, when they are young—only to rip their heart out and pour salt in the wound, as the years pass by? How can adults be so cruel?
Anyhow, hold on, let me shut my door…
Apparently, I need privacy to write. Hah! I need privacy, to sit here alone in my room—in my towel, half-showered, to write. Ahh, yes, the snores are chiming in—I, further now, need my earplugs as well. Ahh the delights, of living with my parents—they, somehow, never seem to get dull.
Alright, here I am ready to go, ear plugs and door in tact, and all—and I’m not damn sure what to write about. I think beautifully inquisitive thoughts all day long—and it’s so disappointing having to wait, to write them down. When the passion has passed—the thoughts never come out so fluidly, so melodically.
I seem, only, to be thinking of trivial things at the moment. For instance, as soon as I am done, I want to watch ‘One Tree Hill’ tonight—so, I won’t be here for long. Paul kept me late after work tonight—45 minutes, and I didn’t really even mind. Work has been challenging, but, I feel like I’ve already learned so much—I can’t wait to see where in the world I will be, in just four more months! I finally asked Paul to reimburse me for my mileage, if he wouldn’t mind; and, to my delight, he said he would, and explained the whole IRS tax-thing—where they actually come up with a figure-per-mile for you, and it’s pretty good I will tell you, at 48.5 cents/mile. I’m still nervous about asking Paul the following, but, find that I can handle it—if I space them out, and hit Paul up on a good day:
If I can dress down on Fridays—i.e. wear a nice shirt, with a nice pair of jeans;
If he’ll pay for group dental and vision insurance for Judy, himself and myself—at only $105/month for the lot of us (I did the research and computation; it’s really a bargain!);
Ohh yes, and I want to tell Paul that I really, rather like, probate and estate planning law (the tax bullshit, and all!)—and I would prefer more than anything, to continue on working with him and learning the law, and restricting my focus to this particular discipline. I mean, I’m sure bankruptcy law is fine and all, but:
No.1. I really don’t want to have to take the damn federal bar exam, or whatnot, after I’ve taken and passed the damn state bar exam; and,
No.2. I really don’t want to subject myself to the massive disorganization that is Mr. Gunner’s bankruptcy law practice. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I know he’s an excellent attorney in that area, and I would be lucky to learn from him—if I were interested in that area of law, because he’s one of the best around; but, I really kind of like probate law—what with the morbidity and all, and I want more than anything to stick with that. So, that’s been weighing on my mind.
Another thing that’s been on my mind, I will tell you, is that I never imagined it would be this difficult to become a lawyer. I mean, for some reason, I really did think that I’d get my law degree and then pass the bar, and then, magically—poof! Become a lawyer. Turns out, becoming a lawyer—is quite, the treacherous endeavor. I mean, automatically, you start out with the premise, that people hate you because of what you do—an ideal place to start the journey, don’t you think?
People think, if you’re a lawyer, then, you make too much money—because they can’t seem to understand what it is, that you do. Well, turns out, there’s a fucking reason we get paid what we do; quite frankly, the reason that nobody understands what we do—is because its motherfucking hard to learn all that you have to know, in order to do it (i.e. law school); then, you have to take the mother of all exams (a.k.a. mother bar); and then, you have to start from ground fucking zero, with enormous school loan debt and pretty damn shitty pay, constantly worrying how the fuck you’re even going to pay your goddamn bills—just, to start out at the goddamn bottom of the totem pole and realize, that you ain’t learned nuthin’ yet.
It’s unbearably frustrating, working from the premise, that people assume you get paid lots of money for doing nothing—when, in reality, I’m in the process of learning all of that “nothing,” and it’s truly an experience I wouldn’t wish on my own worst enemy. I think it’s cruel, that people hate lawyers, just because they’re lawyers. Every profession has scam artists and evil, greedy, selfish assholes involved. It’s just annoying, that people assume we get paid too much for doing nothing, and they think we do nothing because they don’t understand what it is that we do—when, in actuality, the reason we get paid as much as we do, is because it’s so goddamn hard to learn what it is that we do; and, because, in order to get to that point, where you do understand what it is that we do—takes abominable amounts of time, money and energy. So, that’s my rant and raving; do with it what you will, my friend.
Alright, I was thinking about this today:
Is it mean to point out, for instance, that someone in your office (not someone you have to work around, thank god, but nevertheless, someone who works in your office)—smells awful, and is just kind of disgusting with oily hair and lack of personal hygiene? I mean, maybe it could be more tactfully said, but, even so—is it mean, or, is it mere observation and therefore neutral? Is it automatically not neutral, even if it’s mere observation—because it’s a generally, negative attribute?
It’s funny, because, that actually is the case at my work—and it really annoys me a lot of days when I have to walk past the office, and smell that smell on the way to the restroom; but, do you know what it makes me wonder? It makes me damn wonder, whether I smelled that damn bad back in my good ol’ college days—when I constantly could be found three-days dirty. Dirty hippie—that’s what I wanted to be; a damn, dirty ol’ hippie. Still do, a lot of days. I think, though, bohemian—would be more the concept I’m thinking of.
Anyways, I was thinking of the above, and it led me to speculate on the negative health-impact—all this hiding from our own humanity, must induce. I mean, I don’t know what the hell I believe at this point, when it comes to god; I know I don’t pray, because I tend to take things to an extreme, no matter the object—and as with praying, I think, I really tend to get a little delusional. I think praying makes me manic, or something—I’m not sure. But, back to the point, it really irritates me that my initial instinct, in so many instances, when I am writing—is to hide the honest to god truth about my own humanity.
When I’m dealing with difficult, cruel, and just plain ugly emotions, my instinct is that I cannot share them with other human beings—because if I do, I will be labeled as a mean person with mean thoughts. It just seems funny to me, that we spend so much energy hiding the truth, because we fear its ugliness—its bluntness, will isolate us from other people. Funnier than that, it’s pretty much true in this society (except in a few isolated circumstances)—that if you possess these kinds of negative thoughts about the world, other people, yourself and just life, in general, and you share these thoughts with others—their natural impulse, is to run away like the goddamn wind. People avoid the truth—they avoid their humanity because it’s uncomfortable to face; and, they have to admit that, amidst all the moral scruples—we’ve all made mistakes, and not a one of us has ever lived up to all that it is we believe in.
Ideals, are just that; ideas—that human beings can strive for. We can never have them, though; it’s a constant struggle, we must endure our entire lives—if we are truly committed to the search for truth, love, and the meaning of life. It makes more sense to me, everyday, why people leave these ideas by the wayside. It’s a hard fucking road to walk, and I walk it everyday; and, look where it’s led me! It’s led me, time and again, to a place where I literally want to kill myself—because I do not feel I can face all the evil and cruel aspects, of this world. But I’ve found, that, in this endeavor for truth—forgiveness is a necessary element, and I will tell you why.
We are all imperfect beings; we are born that way—we will live, and we will die that way. Imperfection is the nature of humanity. We cannot be separated from our imperfection. Consequently, our imperfection binds us to the inevitable conclusion, that each and every one of us will fuck up our own morals and values—and in most, if not all occasions, we will fuck up on far many more occasions than just a few. When we fuck up—what do we want? We want others to forgive us; but, it’s nearly impossible to admit our wrongs to others, and to ask for and accept forgiveness—when we cannot admit to our own imperfection, in the first place. I’m running in wordy circles, here; and, it’s almost 11pm and I need to get to bed—and, I want to go watch One Tree Hill. So, I’ll try to enunciate more clearly, later—but, at least the idea is down, for now.
One last thought, though, unrelated (at least, consciously):
When Marty told me she loved me, when she called—I told her it was very nice of her to think to call, and goodbye. It makes me sick, to think, that this woman wanted me to hug her, or wanted to hug me—after every therapy session, and got to the point where she was telling me that she loved me. It just seems so inappropriate; like a breach of trust—and, most certainly, a clear crossing of some professionally ethical line. She crossed a lot of lines, this woman—as people do, in this life. They cross lines, and they hurt you—when they really do intend to help. People are good for nothing, if you expect perfection. If you expect perfection, you doom yourself to a lifetime alone. I wonder, sometimes, if that’s why I feel so alone.
Anyways, all people fuck up, and to bring this around full circle—that’s precisely, why forgiveness, is so essential. In order to continue learning, to allow yourself to continue opening your heart and your mind and your soul to others—you have to be able to forgive others, for trespassing against you. If you choose to live vainly, and blindly in the pain—you inevitably close your heart off to the world; you become cold and distant and disconnected, and, what’s far worse—I’ve found, upon stumbling into this condition, that this is the point at which a human being is most vulnerable to the promotion of evil.
You cannot love if you live in darkness, and choose not to search for the light. All of us wander blindly through the dark; perhaps, most of our lives—I do not, yet, know. All of us find ourselves in the darkness, alone; but, those of us who are redeemable, who are truly free to love and to be loved—are those who wander through the darkness, not aimlessly, but in search of light.
I’m overreaching, again—can’t you tell? Drives me craazzzyy!
Most of my generation were reproved as children for saying that we “loved” strawberries, and some people take a pride in the fact that English has the two verbs love and like while French has to get on with aimer for both. But French has a good many other languages on its side. Indeed it very often has actual English usage on its side too. Nearly all speakers, however pedantic or however pious, talk every day about “loving” a food, a game, or a pursuit. And in fact there is a continuity between our elementary likings for things and our loves for people. Since “the highest does not stand without the lowest” we had better begin at the bottom, with mere likings; and since to “like” anything means to take some sort of pleasure in it, we must begin with pleasure.
Now it is a very old discovery that pleasures can be divided into two classes; those which would not be pleasurable at all unless they were preceded by desire, and those which are pleasures in their own right and need no such preparation. An example of the first would be a drink of water. This is a pleasure if you are thirsty and a great one if you are very thirsty. But probably no one in the world, except in obedience to thirst or to a doctor’s orders, ever poured himself out a glass of water and drank it just for the fun of the thing. An example of the other class would be the unsought and unexpected pleasures of smell—the breath from a bean-field or a row of sweet-peas meeting you on your morning walk. You were in want of nothing, completely contented, before it; the pleasure, which may be very great, is an unsolicited, super-added gift. I am taking very simple instances for clarity’s sake, and of course there are many complications. If you are given coffee or beer where you expected (and would have been satisfied with) water, then of course you get a pleasure of the first kind (allaying of thirst) and one of the second (a nice taste) at the same time. Again, an addiction may turn what was once a pleasure of the second kind into one of the first. For the temperate man an occasional glass of wine is a treat—like the smell of the bean-field. But to the alcoholic, whose palate and digestion have long since been destroyed, no liquor gives any pleasure except that of relief from an unbearable craving. So far as he can still discern tastes at all, he rather dislikes it; but it is better than the misery of remaining sober. Yet through all their permutations and combinations the distinction between the two classes remains tolerably clear. We may call them Need-pleasures and Pleasures of Appreciation.
The resemblance between these Need-pleasures and the “Need-loves” in my first chapter will occur to everyone. But there, you remember, I confessed that I had had to resist a tendency to disparage the Need-loves or even to say they were not loves at all. Here, for most people, there may be an opposite inclination. It would be very easy to spread ourselves in laudation of the Need-pleasures and to frown upon those that are Appreciative: the one so natural (a word to conjure with), so necessary, so shielded from excess by its very naturalness, the other unnecessary and opening the door to every kind of luxury and vice. If we were short of matter on this theme we could turn on the tap by opening the works of the Stoics and it would run till we had a bathful. But throughout this inquiry we must be careful never to adopt prematurely a moral or evaluating attitude. The human mind is generally far more eager to praise and dispraise than to describe and define. It wants to make every distinction a distinction of value; hence those fatal critics who can never point out the differing quality of two poets without putting them in an order of preference as if they were candidates for a prize. We must do nothing of the sort about the pleasures. The reality is too complicated. We are already warned of this by the fact that Need-pleasure is the state in which Appreciative pleasures end up when they go bad (by addiction).
For us at any rate the importance of the two sorts of pleasure lies in the extent to which they foreshadow characteristics in our “loves” (properly so called).
The thirsty man who has just drunk off a tumbler of water may say, “By Jove, I wanted that.” So may the alcoholic who has just had his “nip.” The man who passes the sweet-peas in his morning walk is more likely to say, “How lovely the smell is.” The connoisseur after his first sip of the famous claret, may similarly say, “This is great wine.” When Need-pleasures are in question we tend to make statements about ourselves in the past tense; when Appreciative pleasures are in question we tend to make statements about the object in the present tense. It is easy to see why.
Shakespeare has described the satisfaction of a tyrannous lust as something
Past reason hunted and, no sooner had,
Past reason hated.
But the most innocent and necessary of Need-pleasures have about them something of the same character—only something, of course. They are not hated once we have had them, but they certainly “die on us” with extraordinary abruptness, and completely. The scullery tap and the tumbler are very attractive indeed when we come in parched from mowing the grass; six seconds later they are emptied of all interest. The smell of frying food is very different before and after breakfast. And, if you will forgive me for citing the most extreme instances of all, have there not for most of us been moments (in a strange town) when the sigh of the word GENTLEMEN over a door has roused a joy almost worthy of celebration in verse?
Pleasures of Appreciation are very different. They make us feel that something has not merely gratified our senses in fact but claimed our appreciation by right. The connoisseur does not merely enjoy his claret as he might enjoy warming his feet when they were cold. He feels that here is a wine that deserves his full attention; that justifies all the tradition and skill that have gone to its making and all the years of training that have made his own palate fit to judge it. There is even a glimmering of unselfishness in his attitude. He wants the wine to be preserved and kept in good condition, not entirely for his own sake. Even if he were on his death-bed and was never going to drink wine again, he would be horrified at the thought of this vintage being spilled or spoiled or even drunk by clods (like myself) who can’t tell a good claret from a bad. And so with the man who passes the sweet-peas. He does not simply enjoy, he feels that this fragrance somehow deserves to be enjoyed. He would blame himself if he went past inattentive and undelighted. It would be blockish, insensitive. It would be a shame that so fine a thing should have been wasted on him. He will remember the delicious moment years hence. He will be sorry when he hears that the garden past which his walk led him that day has now been swallowed up by cinemas, garages, and the new by-pass.
Scientifically both sorts of pleasure are, no doubt, relative to our organisms. But the Need-pleasures loudly proclaim their relativity not only to the human frame but to its momentary condition, and outside that relation have no meaning or interest for us at all. The objects which afford pleasures of appreciation give us the feeling—whether irrational or not—that we somehow owe it to them to savour, to attend to and praise them. “It would be a sin to set a wine like that before Lewis,” says the expert in claret. “How can you walk past this garden taking no notice of the smell?” we ask. But we should never feel this about a Need-pleasure: never blame ourselves or others for not having been thirsty and therefore walking past a well without taking a drink of water.
How the Need-pleasures foreshadow our Need-loves is obvious enough. In the latter the beloved is seen in relation to our own needs, just as the scullery tap is seen by the thirsty man or the glass of gin by the alcoholic. And the Need-love, like the Need-pleasure, will not last longer than the need. This does not, fortunately, mean that all affections which begin in Need-love are transitory. The need itself may be permanent or recurrent. Another kind of love may be grafted on the Need-love. Moral principles (conjugal fidelity, filial piety, gratitude, and the like) may preserve the relationship for a lifetime. But where Need-love is left unaided we can hardly expect it not to “die on us” once the need is no more. That is why the world rings with the complaints of mothers whose grown-up children neglect them and of forsaken mistresses whose lovers’ love was pure need—which they have satisfied. Our Need-love for God is in a different position because our need of Him can never end either in this world or in any other. But our awareness of it can, and then the Need-love dies too. “The Devil was sick, the Devil a monk would be.” There seems no reason for describing as hypocritical the short-lived piety of those whose religion fades away once they have emerged from “danger, necessity, or tribulation.” Why should they not have been sincere? They were desperate and they howled for help. Who wouldn’t?
THE FOUR LOVES—An Exploration of the Nature of Love:
‘Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human.’