My imagination. My emotions. I was born with more of each than most men have in a day. They just about destroyed me on more than one occasion. I spent a goodly period of my adult life suppressing them, dulling them, and violently forcing them to stay stuffed in an imaginary nether region of the mind.
By denying my imagination and my emotions when dealing with others, I developed a way of being that could only be described as surviving in the modern world.
I got by.
I was never fired, but I was rarely promoted. I finally found a woman who would sleep with me, and I remained mostly in a relationship, but I was always looking back in time at the great loves I’d found and lost in fantasies.
I didn’t know how to interact in social situations to a degree that would enable me to get past the stage of polite, platonic friendships. Once I renounced the life of making friends solely due to the drink, I found it almost impossible to get properly in sync with my eye contact, body language and words in order that I might forge more lasting friendships with those around me.
I didn’t have a career to speak of, but I did better than many in our economy who were struggling to find their next job. I built up a skillset around technologies related to doing business on the Internet, which remains a useful one to have, but it’s not the kind of skillset that will make you into a manager of people, much less a Director or VP.
On more than one occasion, I’ve read passages from the great thinkers who argued in favor of Man using Reason, because why would God give Man Reason if He didn’t want Man to use it? These were written in times like the Rennaissance and Enlightenment, when the Church still had a chokehold on everything we did. The Modernists came to see the limitations of Reason, and argue for the need of men to tap into something more primal and of the gut.
But, emotions and the imagination, when taken as most of us perceive them to be at face value, remained mostly in the domain of women, children, dreamers and crazy people. Poets, artists and musicians could dabble with such, but too much time spent with the emotions and imagination would render a man effeminate and/or insane.
The Eastern schools of thought sought to strike a more effective balance between the feminine and masculine, and keep one whole by recommending ways of being where both forces are not denied.
Of course, I need to recognize that I can’t go back to being twenty years old again. I’ve learned too much about the world to successfully wipe almost twenty years of real-world education away in favor of dreaming again of a fantasy life where I am able to meet and have deep conversations with truly open-minded, tolerant people in every single coffee shop I enter.
My take on the state of the world tends to be one of sheer pessimism with a streak of hopefulness that I will be proven dead wrong about the fate of mankind. Do I want me or my children (or even my grandchildren) to end up in a world like the one in The Road or The Book of Eli? Of course not. But, how do I put a stop to a destructive culture and deeply polarized mindset that pervades our country and seeps out into the rest of the world?
I’m never completely sure that I’m right about anything I say. I’m a human, after all. I’ve received imperfect information from questionable sources, and carry about a highly fallible memory inside me. I seek systems of thought that are absolute and all-encompassing as I grow older to have a bedrock of reassurance to rest upon when I become close to death. I want there to be an exacting God who hands out punishment using a razor thin, binary decision rule: you either accepted my son as me in the flesh, or you did not. The end.
Except, then I go out into the real world and find that such an exacting, judgmental God in all likelihood does not exist. I’ve had enough experiences, personal ones, that I could never be an agnostic or an atheist. Even if I hadn’t had these experiences, I find their schools of thought to be much like the aforementioned violent suppression of the emotions and imagination.
I would tend to think that if we do remember anything of this life when we die, and we are permitted to take it with us into another life where we have the opportunity to “get it right” again, then I would say that such memories are like housed in the emotional places of our being, rather than in our intellectual ones. Which is why I would love to discover a true taxonomy of the emotional states of being and knowing–some kind of way of systematically classifying those vague things we call moods and feelings and making them more distinctly visualized.
I would love to be able to have control over my imagination and emotions without the need to take some kind of chemical substance at times. I still require the assistance of alcohol and antihistamines most nights so that I’ll wake up in the morning not completely bowled over by anxiety for all that the coming day might throw at me, and all of the problems left unsolved from the previous day.