Sunday, December 23, 2012

TCitR

"All right. Listen to me a minute now . . . I may not word this as memorably as I'd like to, but I'll write you a letter about it in a day or two. Then you can get it all straight. But listen now, anyway." He started concentrating again. Then he said, "This fall I think you're riding for--it's a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn't permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement's designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn't supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn't supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started. You follow me?"

"Yes, sir."

"Sure?"

"Yes."

He got up and poured some more booze in his glass. Then he sat down again. He didn't say anything for a long time.

"I don't want to scare you," he said, "but I can very clearly see you dying nobly, one way or another, for some highly unworthy cause." He gave me a funny look. "If I write something down for you, will you read it carefully? And keep it?"

"Yes. Sure," I said. I did, too. I still have the paper he gave me.

He went over to this desk on the other side of the room, and without sitting down wrote something on a piece of paper. Then he came back and sat down with the paper in his hand. "Oddly enough, this wasn't written by a practicing poet. It was written by a psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Stekel. Here's what he--Are you still with me?"

"Yes, sure I am."

"Here's what he said:"
The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause,  
while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.

He leaned over and handed it to me. I read it right when he gave it to me, and then I thanked him and all and put it in my pocket. It was nice of him to go to all that trouble. It really was. The thing was, though, I didn't feel much like concentrating. Boy, I felt so damn tired all of a sudden.

You could tell he wasn't tired at all, though. He was pretty oiled up, for one thing. "I think that one of these days," he said, "you're going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you've got to start going there.

"But immediately. You can't afford to lose a minute. Not you."

I nodded, because he was looking right at me and all, but I wasn't too sure what he was talking about. I was pretty sure I knew, but I wasn't too positive at the time. I was too damn tired.

"And I hate to tell you," he said, "but I think that once you have a fair idea where you want to go, your first move will be to apply yourself in school. You'll have to. You're a student--whether the idea appeals to you or not. You're in love with knowledge. And I think you'll find, once you get past all the Mr. Vineses and their Oral Comp--"

"Mr. Vinsons," I said. He meant all the Mr. Vinsons, not all the Mr. Vineses. I shouldn't have interrupted him, though.

"All right--the Mr. Vinsons. Once you get past all the Mr. Vinsons, you're going to start getting closer and closer--that is, if you want to, and if you look for it and wait for it--to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart. Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them--if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."

He stopped and took a big drink out of his highball. Then he started again. Boy, he was really hot. I was glad I didn't try to stop him or anything. "I'm not trying to tell you," he said, "that only educated and scholarly men are able to contribute something valuable to the world. It's not so. But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they're brilliant and creative to begin with--which, unfortunately, is rarely the case--tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end. And--most important--nine times out of ten they have more humility than the unscholarly thinker. Do you follow me at all?"

"Yes, sir."

He didn't say anything again for quite a while. I don't know if you've ever done it, but it's sort of hard to sit around waiting for somebody to say something when they're thinking and all. It really is. I kept trying not to yawn. It wasn't that I was bored or anything--I wasn't--but I was so damn sleepy all of a sudden.

"Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it'll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it'll fit and, maybe, what it won't. After a while, you'll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don't suit you, aren't becoming to you. You'll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly."

Then, all of a sudden, I yawned. What a rude bastard, but I couldn't help it!

Mr. Antolini just laughed, though. "C'mon," he said, and got up. "We'll fix up the couch for you."


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Emotional Handcuffs

I used to be elusive. I used to never let anyone know how I was feeling, what I was thinking, and I never wore my emotions on my sleeve. High school was the last time that applied. I smiled and joked and generally committed myself to a bouncy disposition.

It's been thirteen years, and since then I've gone to three colleges, toured all over the country, visited two others, and returned a lot more jaded, and with less care about who sees what I feel or hears what I think. And so I more or less say what I think and share what I feel, openly.

The only problem is, being an adult means you're supposed to have that filter installed. Now I get looked down upon for letting my emotions known. Telling someone about your bad day is burdensome, writing in Facebook status about a philosophy on love is childish, and not acting like everything is perfect as soon as you walk out your door is weak. My favorite part? This all comes on the feminist heels of how being a man doesn't mean you have to suppress everything and how it's okay to cry.


But don't believe it. Don't you ever, ever believe it. No matter how much a girl or woman may say she doesn't mind it if a guy shows vulnerability, or even if she says she likes it when a guy cries because it shows he can be sensitive, don't listen. Because while she may mean it in that moment, looking back, when she's in a bad mood or the waves in the relationship start getting rough, she'll remember you and how let her into that soft, delicate place inside you, and she'll see you as "whiny" - which strips away the main characteristics a man prides himself on: strength and security. And you won't be able to unring that bell.

So don't cry. Never cry. Never lament. Never let her in. She'll sucker you into a false sense of security then use your lapse in stoicism as a tool against you down the line.

Men: You are never free. That is the sad, unalienable truth. Men are raised to "suck it up and don't bitch" all their lives, and women are taught to see us that way from birth. A few months in a liberal classroom or a idealistic book she reads isn't going to reverse thousands of years of gender roles and expectations. Sure, some women may not like a quiet, enigmatic, silent rock type (though most do), but no woman will ever be with a guy that's as emotionally open and exposed as she is. They don't want to hear about our problems. Sharing our complaints makes them feel like they're suddenly mothering a helpless child. And we all know the double standard of letting them shed tears about their ex-boyfriends, the death of a pet, the loss of a house, being sick, or just simply venting during their "week". The capricious current of sympathy flows in only one direction between man and woman: From us to them.

Never be too proud to comfort, but never become too comfortable to be comforted.

We men get to be the physically stronger and faster sex, so the balance of that is that we don't "get" to sob and bemoan about life the way women do, no matter what persuasive words they may try to convince us with. It's unfortunate but it's true, and always will be.

And the ironic conundrum? While all men will know exactly what I'm talking about, women will see this entry about not being able to complain... as whining.

Thus, further proving the point.

-HKR