Suzy said, "There are no accidents" in reply to a post of Doug's.
I have been worrying, off and on about the activity of blogging. I've been writing less in my diary; sometimes I'll be writing there and feel an impulse break off and take the theme I'm writing here. I've not been sure if that's a good thing--if blogging represents a distraction from more "important" work. Often I feel restless inside, with the result that I simply have not been drilling as deeply in my journaling. And I miss the feelings of warmth and pleasure as I did so. I continue to wonder if some of the restlessness has to do with no longer augmenting my explorations, and if blogging has been the default distraction.
But now I'm getting a hint that blogging may be expanding and enriching the search. Today I realized that some themes that have come up in blogging have been informing some fruitful movement in my counseling.
The approach of the type of counseling I've been doing, Archetypal Pattern Analysis looks at patterns, how they influence and perhaps ensnare us. Thoughts and feelings that we may believe arise from within us may instead be part of a larger pattern of energy whose influence we're unaware of in shaping us.
Last week in my counseling session I told Sharon about a dream I could only remember the smallest bit from: my father had tickets to Olympic events in the Soviet Union. It was snowing and he was driving us in a car on winter roads. It was very slippery. Perhaps this is what initiated the talk about my father having been a bombadier aboard one of the planes that circled the globe, carrying a payload of nuclear weapons.
A direct result of this conversation with Sharon was my mentioning it in my blog to Doug, who reminded me of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). I did a little reading at Wikipedia this morning about MAD, and entered the world of tortured logic of nuclear deterrence. I see that my father was part of the doctrine of "Second Strike", which was the deterrence part. He was to be the 'consequence/punishment' of a Soviet "First Strike"--which was meant to keep a First Strike from happening. If my reasoning is correct the logic of 'second strike' required that a certain tonnage of bombs that had been calculated to 'assure' destruction had to be in the air at all times. (This must have been wild logistically to coordinate.)
I think this is the first time I've come to grips with the fact that my father was trained to drop a nuclear weapon and was prepared to do it. I think I'd had an idea somewhere that his planes carried conventional bombs.
I've in my conscious mind felt very separate from my father's profession. I see now the contradiction in this: it put food in my mouth and put me through college. It's an illusion that it had nothing to do with me.
Years ago I asked my father if he'd felt any personal repugnance at some of the CIA personnel he must have had some contact with. This was in the 80's when it was becoming public the role that the CIA had played in South America, in propping up dictatorships that had resulted in the 'disappearing', torture, and murder of thousands, tens of thousands. I don't remember how his reply led to his disclosure that he, by himself, in one of the planes he crewed on, could have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and he was fully prepared to do this--and was convinced that this was not immoral. Even then I did not connect nuclear weapons to him.
I was a weird kid. I felt connected to living things like animals, to plants, even to inanimate objects. I felt nagged by a sense of responsibility for suffering, and it was a very heavy weight. Turning away from suffering I think was the crux of this. I could be reading a book, and remember that there were plants outside that hadn't been watered for a while. I would feel nagged by this, the personal feeling that these plants were thirsty and I could not rest until I'd (unwillingly) gone to them and watered them.
I suppose this is why the whole issue of 'collateral damage' has been looming so large for me. It's the idea of acceptance that some suffering is inevitable and must be turned away from in order to accomplish a greater objective (while ignoring that it is someone else who is paying the price for this greater objective) that I'm stuck on.
At 12 and 13 I was tortured by the feeling that insects might be in pain. Along any sidewalk I might travel would be bugs that had turned onto their backs and their legs were flailing. I couldn't turn away and I often felt paralyzed by this responsibility. I felt I had to kneel beside them and gently (so patiently and carefully) turn them back over onto their legs so they could go on. But then sometimes they'd flip back over onto their backs. Generally by now there were people calling to me impatiently: "Come on!" "We're waiting for you!" This was a very anxious time. I couldn't stay, my sense of responsibility wouldn't let me go. I might give the bug another chance, and if that failed my final responsibility was to euthanize it. I'd place a leaf over it and step on it as quickly as I could to give it an instant death. I hated this. I hated the feeling of the exoskeleton crunching underfoot.
To anyone who may have been off observing I probably appeared to be cruel and cold-blooded.
I think it was this part of me that resonated in reading McCarthy's The Road.
Some weeks ago I told Sharon about some family folklore. My mother laughs and tells the story of when she nearly divorced my father. I don't remember in the story if I was newborn or a few months old, but she said my days and nights "had gotten turned around". I slept in the day and cried at night. This was during the times my father worked on the flight crew holding the threat aloft. I suppose his hours may have been punishing, and he needed his sleep. My cries must have been very frustrating for him. It's so sad that there was no flexibility in those days to the rules that a child must shape his/her behavior to the convenience of the adults around. It's so sad that there was no place for exception in the belief that a "child must sleep in his own bed". Mom said one night my father got up and came into my room and spanked me. Later she amended the story to say that he 'patted' me, once, through the diaper on my butt. She said she was so furious she wanted to leave (which is saying a lot because my mother has always adored my father and has always been very dependent on him). The caveat of the story is that I "never cried at night again"--what's implied is that he was vindicated and she was a fool to have been so angry.
That story was part of family lore and would be told spontaneously. For me to ask for it to be told now would have to be approached carefully--my family has learned to be wary of my 'excavating', even though I try to exclude intimations of blame. The point is, I never really thought much of this story, besides the merits of it: how would a baby know to not cry again? Surely a baby wouldn't have the wherewithal to realize cause and effect in such a sophisticated way?
A week after I told Sharon about this she said she was still trying to 'get her mind around' the idea of someone spanking a baby--for crying. That's when I thought some more about my experience with my children. I was very lucky to not be challenged with colicky infants; my guys soothed pretty easily. I think this is because going in our favor was a relaxation of some of those 'rules' I referenced above. They slept in our bed so I hardly had to awaken for feedings; I never felt sleep deprived. There was a lot of peace that we wouldn't have had had the old rules been in force. There was also a general cultural awareness that there were certain expectations of baby behavior that were unrealistic and cruel.
That said, I still can't blame a parent who might want to spank a baby. I had plenty of friends who did have colicky babies. One friend of mine, a psychologist said she'd had a fantasy flash before her eyes on yet another night of needing to walk a wailing Nathan, of dashing his head against the wall. Another talked about wee-hours walking around and around four floors above a motel courtyard that surrounded a pool, looking down at the pool, and then at her son's screaming face, back down at the pool.
They thought it, they didn't do it. They got support, they redoubled their efforts to give this baby what it needed.
With that in mind I looked at the family folktale with a different eye. And it's hard to imagine a circumstance where it would make sense to apply a doctrine of punishing a behavior in order to shape it, to an infant. How cruel that would be, to not only leave an infant with the pain of an unmet need, but to punish the expression of need.
My father was very young, 23 when I was born. He probably needed the precious few hours of sleep he could get, because he was expected to wake up in the wee hours and get on a jet that was going to circle the world with a monstrous payload that he'd already rationalized to himself its use. Perhaps whatever it took to reconcile this to himself, denial, compartmentalization, rationalization, minimization (of whether or not the suffering of the 'enemy' even mattered), disabled the moral sense that might have kept him from hitting a baby. Results were enough.
And to get back to the idea of patterns, and energy behind patterns, is it possible that his pushing his responsibility to other living beings into his unconsciousness pushed that same responsibility onto me? Or, is it like a child wandering into a room and finding some adult material there--a gun, perhaps, or pornography--and picking it up?
Perhaps I've been wondering what to do with it ever since.