Of Rust Cohle and Njall’s Saga

Gunnard

I recently finished watching the first season of True Detective.  Wow, what a great show.  I really enjoyed it.  I like the murder mystery aspect, but also the relationship between the two detectives.  The character of Rust Cohle was the perfect epitome of Chaotic Neutral–or of the King’s Fool.    He was calculating and smart.  He had been good once, but in fighting evil, he had sacrificed part of his humanity.  He was willing to play the part of the bad guy in order to achieve his objectives–objectives for the greater good.

Often, that’s the way it goes.  There is good and evil in the world, and some of each in all of us, but the ratio varies.  I am grateful to live in an island of light, where my children are not exposed to violence or cruelty.  I wish that was the way of all children, but sadly it is not.   And because it isn’t, there are people that take on evil to spare others not just of evil acts, but also of losing some of their humanity in the process.  But those that live on the border between both often have the most power to sway the balance.

In True Detective, there is a saying, “Time is a flat circle.”  That similar events have occurred and will always occur.  That in our four-dimensional lives, if you understand not just the space component, but also the time component, you would see patterns, the patterns that rule us and bind us all.

I am not quite so pessimistic.  I believe in a slow outward spiral, personally.  I think things are getting better, that humanity is improving, even if in a jagged and stilted manner.  That we are like a toddler learning to walk, but taking a step backwards in other areas–because a large improvement in one area means a small step backwards in another.  It is the pattern of the stock market, you cannot get obsessed with small time progress, you have to look at the big picture.

However, understanding the big picture means knowing who we are and who we’ve been.  How can we avoid the sins of the past if have no insight into our true nature?

I was reading this article about “Ask a Jihadi,” about an ISIS fighter.  What they’re doing is horrible, and yet it useful to understand why.  And perhaps it is harder to understand, because I for one, have not grown up in a war zone.  My childhood involved no bombs or war, so I feel unequipped to understand all of the threads of this.  But as the human race proceeds, we have to decide which road to take–that of vengeance or that of justice.

A truly just society feels uncomfortable, more than what you would think. Justice is not about the individual, but what is good and rational for society for a whole.  That is why in response to a murder, capital punishment is not always the answer.  It may fulfill individual justice, “an eye for an eye,” and all that; but it neglects the price paid by society to lower ourselves to that level.  Every life taken takes also a piece of our soul.  That is why you have iconoclasts like Jesus saying, “Turn the other cheek.” It is only by removing ourselves from the emotion of it all that we can change the future.

We have seen the past.  Just look at Njall’s Saga from a thousand years ago.  It’s widely seen to be historical in nature, but, of course, those who write history also get to define it.  One of the main themes is that of violence masquerading as justice, every victory demanding a price of money and blood.  This is our true animal nature, one that cannot see the long-term consequences, only satiating what we feel in the here and now.

But our potential lies in the boundary of reason and emotion.  Our strengths are our tools–we make machines be stronger than us, and computers to memorize data.  Wisdom, though, is all our own.  Knowing how to make tools, how to interpret data, how to feel our emotions without being ruled by them.  We have the potentiality of greatness if we can navigate all of this.  Otherwise, we’ll simply doom ourselves.

Of Dreams and Fantasies

johnalden

I have recently been watching Salem on Netflix, due to a recommendation.  I’ve really been enjoying it.  It’s definitely not historical – it deals with an alternate history where there really were old-school witches and not just mass hysteria – but I love the sets, the light horror, and the men.  The hot men.  The character who plays John Alden, Shane West, omg.  The longer hair, the beard, the dark rasp of a voice; oh yes, it takes me back to my vulnerable teenage years.  Just to see him walk with that furrowed brow and those dark, purposeful eyes–well, mind if I don’t get the vapors.

It can be fun to get lost in fantasies.  For women, there are many classic ones; the rape fantasy (which is really about giving into dark desires without being responsible for your libido and without the trauma of real rape); the fantasy of the guy who’s pined and waited for you for years;  and the fantasy of the man who’s mostly wolf but only tamed by the right woman.  The man who is always in control but only loses it to you because he cannot control his desires–the facade of civilization crumbles away, and you know, dear god, it is me that rouses him so, it is I that has that kind of sexual power.  It is why romance novels are very explicit about their description of the man (so that you can choose what you like) and the description of the woman is purposefully vague (so that you can insert yourself easily into a fantasy).

But all fantasies grow tired and old in the end.  How many of us are a 10?  By definition, we are all mostly average.  I came from a different perspective so I am very grateful for where I’m at.  I grew up thinking of myself as Mary from The Secret Garden or Jane Eyre.  Wanting to be wanted and wanting to be seen.  When I was younger, I was also afraid of censure, but the nice thing about not being in my 20’s anymore is that I’m more afraid of not being heard.

The funny thing about when you end a long term relationship, such as ending up divorced, is that you go back to who you were 10, 15, 20 years ago, and try to see how that fits.  I thought a lot of it would no longer fit.  In fact, after my divorce, I vowed to date someone totally different from the kind of man I dated at 22.  And I did. . .for awhile.  I had some great sexual fantasies come to life.  In those moments, I was ecstatic.  I am different now, I would think, I have learned from my mistakes.

But sometimes our 16-year-old self knows us in ways that we don’t want to admit.  At 16, l had just read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.”  I loved it.  It broke open my mind and I was in love with feeling the perimeters of things I didn’t know.  I wanted to be an astrophysicist, but I wasn’t as smart as half the people in my class.  What could I even contribute?  So I gave it up and went into Chemistry instead.

I also read tons of fantasy novels, all about beautiful exotic women and wild, yet logical men.  Mostly men with pointy ears and long, flowing hair, and then I would wake up to the reality –what could I possibly give a man?  Look at me, I am tall and gangly with big feet and a big nose and no boobs.  Wow.  I’m really going to win the American Beauty Pageant on this one.  But I did not realize how much control we have over our own reality.

What I wanted at 16 was a life that was full of interesting possibilities.  I wanted to unlock the secrets of the universe and I wanted to be desired.  And I figured it was useless to want either of those things because I knew so many beautiful and smart people, and it either arena, I was merely average.  Always average.

But most of us are in the same boat, and we all have the same problems.  We are flawed, but we want to be loved and respected regardless.  We are not a Nobel Prize winner, but we still want to feel smart.  We are not as hot as Hollywood, but we still want to know that we are sexually desirable. We want a life worth living, and if we are honest, worth envying.

The problem, of course, is that life is messy.  We focus too much on results and feelings.  There is a lot of life that is just slogging through annoyingness.  Life doesn’t owe us anything–not to be fun, or hot, or interesting.  We have to build that into our life by design.  We have to know that we are animals just reaching sentience–it is wonderful and horrible because we now we can see and interpret patterns beyond facts.  Each of our internal lives is different.

It is fun to read books, or to watch movies about interesting lives that our not our own.  But at the end, we each get our own reality, bounded by our beliefs.  We have to wake up into who we are, and make due with who we are.  But it is satisfying, and often surprising, what we can do with our own mundane lives if we just give it all we’ve got.  That the boundaries we give ourselves are mostly imaginary.  That we live in story-tale fables and give up on our own greatness when the only difference about who we are and who we want to be are our own blockages and glass walls.

 

Of Gratitude and Thanks

Magical forest

I have been musing lately on love, like, and sacrifice.  This time of year is one of my favorites – the grey skies, the sharpness in the air – but it is not yet the unending cold of winter.  It’s a time for watching sunsets and moonrises from within a warm house, grateful for the beauty of the skies without and home within.

I went and had Thanksgiving with my proxy parents.  They are really my brother’s in-laws, but then again, I consider my brother’s wife my sister, so it all works out.  I have family by blood and family by spirit, and both are important.  I try to spend my time with people I love, in whatever strength of love that happens to be.  I hear horror stories of people having to get together during holidays and faking intimacy and I feel grateful that there is little of that in my life.  The people in my life now are mostly there of my design, the result of my conscious yes or conscious no to spending time.  I don’t want my life to unspool one thread at a time in unconscious decisions.

But what is love?  What does it mean to love?  And I think it comes down to whatever you are willing to give for the person you love.  My girls, for example, I love them beyond all.  It is the curse and the grace to love children the way parents do.  In the beginning, I didn’t even know them, and yet even then, I would have died or killed for them.  My life or my humanity, the most I have to give anyone.  Luckily, I have not needed to give either.  Instead, I give my time, my patience, my silence when my brain is too annoyed to be nice, and my smiles and kisses when I cannot hold back on how much I adore them.

Taking that as the upper boundary though, everything else is a gradient.  I am graced and fortunate that I have good friends – friends I will gladly give my time and my effort.  I can say that I love them – not to the extent that I love my daughters, but it is still love to me.  It feeds itself, because I want to feel good about the person I am, and some of that is taking pride in making other people happy.  I want to make the people in my life happy.

And all of life is like that – what is it that you want?  To be altruistic, to be a visionary, to be smart, to be rich?  What is it that you’re willing to give?  Your time, your money, your weakness, your morality?  And are you disciplined enough to hold on to what you want most rather than giving in to what you want now?  Are the people you love the ones that build you up, make you more of the best of what you are, or do they bring out the worst of what you can be?