Views from the Gutter: Literary Therapy

It’s all a manic dance between everything and nothing. I can’t say that I have any answers for it, other than to say it’s everything to me. But if my everything is nothing, than what do I want my it’s to be. When everything is everything, it’s quite easy to know, but I have a great power to devalue everything.

I am lucky—I have love. I’ve had it for a while now, but what else? I write, but about what? What matters? Anything? Will anything make a difference? Am I pretending that things are important or are differences really made? Is it just a race to power and is that race to power simply a quest to a spot that will be filled by someone…anyone, because people are who they are and things fall into place?

In the days I have, where everything is nothing, people are going to be what they are going to be. Faces will be used for what people want them to be used for. No one is actually changed by anything—they simply attach themselves to people that feel the same.

If it hadn’t been Gandhi it would’ve been someone else, because that is what the times and the moods called for. If it hadn’t been Hitler, it would’ve been someone else etc…. This is my thoughts in nothing times. Hell, how many wars have been waged in the names of men who preached peace? Their memories carelessly used, tarnished and exalted and everything in between.

As always, there are infinite number of ways to view things and an infinite number of ways to justify things one way or another and this internal debate wages on for more than just meaning.

Nature vs. nurture, nature vs. nurture, if no on one can be changed that would mean it’s all nature. Well, not even in my times of nothing do I believe it is all nature. The one constant I feel is, if there is any difference to be made it is with fresh life—it is with the fragile eggshell minds. Traits are instilled in a person’s life during a time that is never remembered. Nurture then appears to be nature. And nature, if it was nurtured or not, is hard to change.

It all starts in the very beginning. I look into the searching eyes of my baby boy. They are hungry—hungry for love, knowledge and comfort—they are hungry for cause and effect. This is how he learns of the world in which he inhabits. These are the things that shape reality, as he will know it.

As his innocent cries leave his virgin body and mind and fill the air around him, I pick him up. Bombarded by pains of hunger and gas and sleep and frustration, his brain does not know the source of the assault on his senses or the reason for his internal alarm or longing and quicker than he learns the source of these causes he learns that I or his mother will be there to help him through it.

Our presence offering the soft security of comfort to his world of unknowns and our attention overwhelming the sense of his discomfort, his eyes shine with love at the sight of us.

Sometimes our presence isn’t enough. He is either over tired or the gas isn’t passing or whatever else that is troubling him persists and he continues to cry, but he knows that we care that he is crying. This makes all the difference.

He is coming to view a warm and nurturing reality, a reality of soft landings, warm smiles and pleasant outcomes. He expects even the bad times to turn out well and the fun times to come often.

Some babies don’t. They stare out of from the same place of longing and hunger and they let out the same screams, but those screams fill empty air. No one cares or more likely care just enough to get the baby to shut up. The only attention some babies receive is when voicing frustration.

The domino irrevocably tips. The baby grows to expect a cold world. It is a different reality. It sets a different definition of love and sets vastly different expectations of what life is and can be.

The impressionable mind begins to form its pathways, destinations and homes for the stimuli it receives. They can either go to the part of the brain that creates worry, anger, frustration etc. or hope, happiness and love etc.

People get comfortable in these pathways and stimuli get filtered through to them as they are the paths of least resistance. Two events happen exactly the same to different people and they are going to inspire them in two unique ways. In short, people are going to look for ways/reasons to hate and people will look for ways/reasons to love. This isn’t as much a conscious decision as it is a habit or an acquired reality.

Different realities and different universes are established from the get go. We can inhabit the same realm as each other, yet we can all live in our completely separate and unique realities. This difference affects everything.

There is so much I could never understand about another person, because when they tried to explain it to me, I would have a completely different base of understanding. A completely different reality of the words used to describe the feelings and inherently different reactions and expectations to the same course of events. These pathways, this nutured nature, color everything, from the depths of laughter to the onslaught and ramifications of pain.

These pathways can be re-trained, but this is a long and an all too rare process. The essence of which is the only basis for any real hopes of reform. It is easy for people to cast judgments and levy punishments upon others when operating from a platform of opportunity that was never available to the other. Again this goes from the simple to the extreme. From the shallow person casting hidden hate remarks to people waging wars. One person says murder the other says war.

I am not foolish enough to believe that everyone will adopt an altruistic nature if treated right a as a baby, but I believe we are talking about a huge percentage shift, which would lead to an entire different reality. A shift we may already be experiencing.

It’s been a long evolutionary ride from a cold world. Survival of the fittest is always at the doorstep, but at the same time is unnecessary.

I can’t understand where anyone else is coming from. Too many assumptions are made in this regard. We are all our own universe. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes. It is from Einstein, “Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.” It seems simple, but then again it should for me.

It’s easy for me to say. It’d be easy for me to cast judgments upon others. I learned the revisionist history of the country I was a part of. I held no grudges, because I was the grudged and I was sheltered from that. I was secure.

Beyond that, I had people in my life that weren’t just decent, but actually and actively let me know that I mattered. I don’t want this to come across as a statement that the way to world peace is to placate and spoil. The point is to actively listen and get to know people. This whole process will be easier if it is done from the start.

Until then, what do I do? Does any of it make a difference? Sometimes it seems to and other times it doesn’t. Right now, in this night as I view the news and the ocean is hemorrhaging and the land is burning and we are all just a few suitcase bombs away from oblivion, it doesn’t seem to matter. I tell myself, “Do what you can. Live for no regret.” And I hope. Hope for this life and the next and the next after that. A fable that I hope is a reality, an upward staircase that climbs a sideways 8.

No tears fall if I cry for everything at once. I’ll never see anything if I try to see it all. If it is only me, I can process and relate. One moment at a time and someday I’ll be a god, able to taste everything, shared experiences of everyone and back into me. Pieces of my infinite soul will fall like rain and the drops will splatter as they hit the ground. Cracking open with the birth of new life. People to live, love, hurt, scream, fuck, wonder and cry and I will see it all through their eyes. I will view the spectrum through the lenses of each color.

Until that point, I want my hands in the dirt and my eyes seeing through the color of my emotions. Give me the filthy mess of this experience. Give me love, give me pain, give me love and give me more pain. I can take it. I had the love first, which allowed me to find it again in the midst of darkness. It’s the foundation. It doesn’t leave and it permeates. It is the first ripple sent out by the splashing pebble. That is the gift there for us all. That is the gift that needs to be reinforced. That is the pathway in the brain that needs to be trampled. That needs to be the path of least resistance.


27 thoughts on “Views from the Gutter: Literary Therapy

  1. Yes! Noontide is back! I jump-edited your post, see if the location is good.

    You know what I think about babies crying? They are mad at adults for misinterpreting their thoughts and moods. Imagine how you’d feel if you couldn’t talk and squirmed because of a pimple on your butt, and then someone comes and starts feeding your patting you on your neck. This is what I think is going on with babies. That’s why we all grew up with insecurities.

    1. …and that’s why He-Whose-Name-Must-Not-Be-Uttered, aka Jamarcus Russell, behaves like he does. He feels guilty for having been so angry with his mama, so now he’s trying to overcompensate.

      1. Ha! Ol’ #2 is going to be riddled with guilt, if he is lucky and doesn’t end up like another famous almost #1 overall Russell that the Raiders picked.

        Nature vs. Nurture would be a great debate in regards to he-who-shall-not-be-named.

    2. The jump looks good to me.

      You bring up a funny and true point about babies, I think. Also, people make assumptions of what they won’t understand. Just because they can’t verbalize something back doesn’t mean they won’t understand what is going on.

      Of course, how much would be helped if they could vocalize it. I know all kinds of adults that go on complaining about things that really aren’t the source of their troubles.

      1. Babies are incredibly smart, and I speak from experience (not only my own, but that of a mother as well). I am sure a baby can figure out those wicked Avery templates which I, with my embroidered mind, can’t…

        1. No luck with the Avery templates, but I improvised, and now I have the coolest business cards I’ve ever seen. What can I add to the back of the card? People, I rely on your marketing acumen.

  2. Love? The best advice comes from Douglas Adams: “Avoid it, at all costs.” You make it sounds as though love and pain alternate with each other. In reality, they are one. When I was in high school, I had to write a journal for a literature class, and I wrote these words: “Love is the mother of all pain.” In retrospect, I’m surprised they didn’t send me to a shrink, but I also marvel at the wisdom I had at such a young age. Love means dependency; dependency opens you up to abandonment and betrayal. Even if you don’t wind up with some grand betrayal on the scale of adultery, people who love are under a constant barrage of mini-betrayals: death by a thousand cuts. When I feel the slightest tinge of love creeping up, I stamp it out, like a rhino who sees a fire. You’re lucky because you have love? I consider myself lucky because I don’t. How’s that for a view from the gutter?

    1. That is a great view from the gutter. The pain of love and loss and heartbreak. Love does set us up for more to lose, but love does not have to have expectations. Love can be its own reward. You can give love and be rewarded by that very act of giving love.

      This is a topic suited for its own post or many posts actually. A brief summary of how I wound up at my definition. I had my heart stomped and betrayed. I fostered regret and animosity. Then love popped it’s head back into my life and the floodgates were open. Love for others, love for life, love for art etc. This was before my son.

      In a flash of an instant forgiveness washed over me. At that point, I was free to truly love again. That forgiveness was the true light of love. Love for love’s sake. This probably sounds a bit like a beatles song and I could go on…believe me. I am trying to be brief.

      It was at that point, that I became unafraid of the pain and vulnerability that love can open ones self up to, because at the end I will have that forgiveness. The forgiveness that comes from knowing this is a fucked up mess of a reality etc… I am not saying anyone should let themselves get trampled.

      Great response. It is exactly the response I get from one of my good friends when we start talking about this and we have gone on and on about this.

      I wasn’t so much referring to romantic love in this post, but what I was talking about in this comment helped me add depth to my personal definition of love.

      1. I absolutely, unconditionally love your response! Forgiveness is not getting trampled – forgiveness is acknowledging the wrong but getting over it nevertheless, and loving without thoughts of recompense!

        My worst heartbreak (in the conventional sense) happened in high school. The boyfriend in question was a real friend and that’s why I took it hard. I couldn’t make myself hate him though – he was a great friend, despite of the betrayal. And I appreciate friendship.

  3. Love is nothing more or less than attraction towards something good. Love hurts when we either have to sacrifice some other good(s) for the sake of the more desirable good or when the good we love is unobtainable or difficult to obtain. Still, there is no happiness (“what all desire” – Aristotle) without the possession of the desired good, at least, with respect to that particular good. All love related pain is therefore a form of frustration or being thwarted. The Buddhists would eliminate the pain by eliminating the natural desire towards the good while the Catholic, for example, would attempt to achieve all possible good by arranging all desirable good in a hierarchy, a calculus as it were, so as to safeguard the higher good from being usurped by any lesser good. Nb. the reversal of the latter structure necessarily yields unhappiness.

    1. It is there to be felt and it is there to be given. I have to go cook my steak now, I love steak 🙂 so this reply is shorter than yours deserves, but I will say don’t you think you can love without wanting anything but that feeling of having loved?

      This really is a platform for more posts and great conversation we have found ourselves in.

      1. Skirt steak is my favorite, what’s yours? I omit the filet mignon, b/c it’s conventionally good. But the skirt steak – oh! You have to be master to prepare it right. It’s fickle, it’s finicky, it’s the world finest!

      2. “Can [one] love without wanting anything but that feeling of having loved?” Yes, but that also is attraction to good, ie, a recalled good feeling. And because we are all hard-wired to desire good we differentiate, or vary, from each other precisely in the manner in which we place value on the competing ‘goods’ in our lives.

          1. For Coleridge perhaps, but not for other poets whose poetry was not composed in tranquility. At any rate, poetry is a separate good whereas, mine was a general observation.

        1. You are absolutely right. It is just further attraction to the good. There is no truly altruistic behavior. The hard-wiring concept is interesting. While I don’t disagree that we are all hard wired for it, it is the way it takes form that is interesting. Some also become more concerned about avoiding the negative then seeking the positive.

          The will to power takes different forms. This is why I mentioned the pathways that people form in their brain. We may be wired but I think we have control of the switches. What do you think? Those switches largely control the value’s placed on things. And those switches take shape early out of the learned reality.

          1. It seems that, people are considered altruistic when their attraction to the ‘good of others’ causes them to sacrifice what for the majority is held dear, such as financial and physical security, and time and effort spent for self. But doing charitable or philanthropical deeds results (I am told) in a degree of happiness that exceeds the degrees of happiness attained by possessing financial and physical security and reserved time and energy for indulging self. Now, beneficence means doing good to someone so it is common (or should be) among friends. The acts of friendship, normally, do not attain the level of self-giving attributed to the altruistic person who does good also for strangers and, perhaps, enemies – be they hostile or simply repulsive and annoying. But, more on point, the altruistic ones do get compensated in some commensurate degree of happiness for their beneficence. So it seems we are hard wired to desire good and only different from one another by what goods we cherish.

            1. I couldn’t agree more and props to you for admitting: But doing charitable or philanthropical deeds results (I am told)…It’d would take great lengths to know this as a fact. I’d be lying if I said I had anything more than brief glimpses of this.

              What I am pondering though is the way people take in stimuli. Something happens to one person and it goes to the part of the brain that causes more of a depressed or angry or self-loathing reaction and feelings. The same event may happen to another and it will go to the place of the brain and met with empathy, understanding etc… The switches or the pathways control where the info goes and they get trained.

              People get comfortable filtering these things one way or another and it is hard to retrain the brain.

        1. I hadn’t thought about that, but I like it. So, from now on I am just going to say that is my imitation of the non-mentioned-one’s “I could care less long bomb!”

          Also, I don’t have much experience with the flank. I have only cooked it when making Carne Asada and in those cases it was pretty heavily marinated. How do you prepare yours?

          I went with a rib eye tonight. Filet’s are delicious, but I usually go for the big slap of NY, T, or Rib. Conventional grillers. I am an equal opportunity steak eater.

          I am currently trying to master my own seasoning.

          1. Skirt steak and flank steak are different. I have much less experience with the flank. I do all my meats in a similar fashion – salt and pepper only. One of my colleagues is a meat specialist, and I follow his advice. You could google him – he has a lot of books on meats. Denis Kelly is his name. What is your seasoning?

            1. Oh yeah, they are different. I don’t know why I saw skirt and in my head it just registered as flank. I don’t have much experience with skirt either. Maybe I should try. So my latest seasoning went with Paprika, garlic, salt, pepper those pretty much stay in any variation of my seasoning, then cayenne, dill, coriander and a pinch of dry hot mustard.

              I need a meat specialist colleague! Why does he only like to salt and pepper?

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