August 20, 2006 Sunday 1240.
I’ve been waiting for this moment, where I could talk to myself for a while. Do some writing instead of transcribing, and that makes me realize what it was that made the entry so short on the night Gary took the boys golfing. I was transcribing [old diaries].
Gary took the boys to the “Dew” competition, a sort of extreme thrill-rider’s show. So I have some time, though sadly it’s not unlimited. Reality tells me I need to do the grocery shopping, but I’m trying to cut it close to when they’re expected home, so that I’ll have used most of this time doing something I really want to do and not squander it on chores.
So a few thoughts have come my way recently and I wanted to explore them a bit. Brief conceptions that seem to tie in with other concepts. The idea of the quantum mechanic world—that at the essences of our atoms is mostly empty space, and in that space the electrons are, or might be. (And that’s not even considering the nucleus, which itself is composed of smaller particles). It’s very strange to think then, that the atoms that make me are mostly empty space, and therefore I am too. And that makes me wonder about the interfaces at the atomic and subatomic level, blood vessels made of mostly empty space containing blood cells that are mostly empty space. Muscle interfacing with bone, yet distinct—at the level of empty space what does that look like? Organs clearly delineated, yet at the level of empty space what do the boundaries look like?
(The idea of the different states of matter. I am here, engaged in all three states, liquid, solid, and gas—thinking of the respiratory system here—that all states are simultaneously at play because each has a different freezing/melting point, and boiling/condensation point, or moving to a gasseous/solid state. So if my skin and bones were warmed enough, they would become liquid as the atoms and molecules accelerate, and if heated further would break their bonds and scatter apart as gas.)
When I think of the interfaces, I’m not able to reconcile this chaotic, probability-driven state with the macro level that I live at. Here at the macro level things seem solid, with distinct boundaries between one thing and another. At the sub-atomic the laws are very different. How do we get to here from there? That’s where I start having imaginings of micro worlds inside at these smaller scales—perhaps an atom IS a solar system with living beings living on the electrons and experiencing THEIR world as a macro-world? Or perhaps WE’RE on an electron compared to something at larger scales that make ours seem sub-atomic. What if we are all only on an electron orbiting a nucleus in a molecule that’s part of the leg of a chair?
I’ve had conceptions like these, even as a child. Perhaps that’s why it’s in us as humans to have our collective stories riddled with “little people’, and giants. A sort of collective acknowledgment of this nature of reality, showing up in stories. Including religion…people who have glimpsed the immensity of the implications that it may be chance our very foundational elements are built on would I think inspire a great awe, and probably fear. My guess is that god springs from this apprehension of the core of complete mystery, and that doesn’t seem to reconcile with the “normal-scale” reality and the nature of matter that we see around us. I’m thinking about a passage from James Clavell in his book Tai-pan, where he described something called “joss”, which he says is god, devil, luck all in one. He ascribes that to Chinese religion, which I have no way of knowing if that’s for real or not, but it seems that comes closer to describing god and sort of the true nature we’re built on, better than other godhead religions.
I think most people in this world are not independent in this world. I believe that most of their thoughts, emotions, loyalties are an unchallenged submission to the authority they grew up in. Like Linda once said, ‘living thru the super-ego’. I think it is so much a background part of them that they don’t perceive it, that they are behaving and thinking in rote ways, in order to ‘be good’. When someone goes to church, it can be from a heartfelt desire to know God, and a belief that this is the vehicle that will take you closer, or it can be in obedience to a long ago message from authority that says, “Good people go to church.” And they “feel guilty” if they don’t, and feel proud of feeling guilty.
It may have been through the church that I began to have these revelations. As I think of it now I get a strong affirmation of the sense that we are truly alone, and we decide. I realized at some point that there was a vast amount of room between a “you should” and the number of possibilities left uncovered by that should. I think it was re-reading [while transcribing my old diary] about my thoughts as Rick [high school sweetheart] and I progressed toward more and more heavy petting that illuminates this: I hadn’t realized there were so many decisions open to make beyond the prohibition on sexual intercourse. In my very private self I noticed, at church, that the prayers and rituals left me with an unpleasant feeling, which I tried to resolve by forcing my emotions to line up. There was the feeling that that was required of me, but this is on so subtle a level that no one actually says it. (This is a part of me I’ve never talked about with anyone else—the place where I meet my experience and decide what to do with it.) Yet I think I assumed that that’s what everyone did, that is the people who chose to be good, and that everyone in their private selves were doing that too. That’s where I see that I’m really alone, and alone can decide my course and behavior from that very powerful place…I don’t know why I wrote powerful. I think it was from a sense of inhabiting and settling deeply into my cells, and more importantly into the empty spaces within those cells. To have my actions grow from that kind of intimacy within myself, and perceiving that intimacy. Thought self and morality on a micro, or atomic/subatomic scale. Anyway, it makes me wonder if that place, that is a mystery inside all matter, and ultimately seems to be a place of pure possibility—a sort of nothing that all we are comes from…is a source of the feeling and impulse that gave rise to the notion of god. I’m reminded of some of my thoughts on anxiety and emotion, and the notion that we all feel anxiety, it’s the force inside our nervous systems that impels us to act, but different temperaments respond or react to it in different ways. Where someone driving a car sees someone on a bicycle, in a flash comes the awareness that the bicyclist has made a decision to be biking whereas my decision was to drive and that difference creates potential energy that’s experienced as anxiety, which in turn can be experienced as hostility toward the cyclist, or guilt for not being on a bicycle (which can also lead to hostility toward the bicyclist), or I suppose even into a positive feeling about the bicyclist. (I’m thinking that may be the same mechanism that gives rise to god: the tension inside when one experiences this emptiness at our core—the force that causes us to personify that empty place, and reverence it, and worship it.) I’m remembering going with my grandmother and my great-aunt Mil for a walk in our Marysville neighborhood and my best friend’s father rode by on a bicycle. They didn’t know that I knew him. I felt a tension increase in the atmosphere between us, me and my two relatives. One of them said, “Looks like he needs to be exercising (referring to his large stomach) and the other one said, “That doesn’t do anything for the stomach. It only works for the legs. It’s his stomach that needs working on.” So they were sharing a criticism of this man they’d never seen before. Something about this man riding by raised the tension, or anxiety level and needed to be discharged with those remarks. I think that potential can be harnessed by charismatic people and it’s the impulse behind mob behavior. The collective orgasm of discharge of potential energy/anxiety—very powerful and usually destructive. That’s why association can be such a liability—just reminding someone of something can be enough to raise their anxious tension that makes them prone to see a neutral act as negative and a provocation. (I wrote ‘preoccupation’ first…guess my mind wandered. I’d replaced it with ‘provocation’ after realizing my mistake, and then felt compelled by my standard of honesty to include it. I wonder if that’s too rigorous a standard. I find myself doing it when transcribing my old diaries too—to try to get them as true to the original as possible including grammatical errors. (I suppose it can be considered as a way to keep myself honest.)
So anyway, I just feel a disconnect inside when I consider juxtaposing a world that feels so solid, tangible, and real with the conception that it is at its core emptiness and probability. Where does one change into the other? When do the ‘laws’ that apply at one scale stop applying there and different scale laws then apply? I don’t see the connection between “there” and “here”.
But I sense that there is an analogous place to that in me emotionally, and cognitively. And I suppose that’s what accounted for my anxiety when I was writing those diaries earlier—the fear that a possibility that my motives might be less than pure causing me to accuse myself that they weren’t pure. Yet it didn’t feel right, but I wondered if even that doubt could be trusted, since I stood to benefit from it. Anyway, I get a glimpse of some relief from that anxiety when I consider accepting that at its core, anything is possible. It’s possible that my negative feelings toward my MIL are grounded in my own selfishness and immaturity. I have to acknowledge that possibility, as well as the possibility that I’ve been unjust in the ways I’ve regarded her. Just set it on the table as a possibility in a range of possibilities, and don’t feel compelled to assign it to myself just because I fear it might be true…at least wait til the other possibilities have also been considered.
I’ve been watching “The Up Series”—a series of films beginning in 1964 when a group of 14 children at the age of seven (essentially my age) were interviewed by the researcher, and then filmmaker of the project. He said it didn’t start out to be a series, it was only going to be a one time project, a sort of indictment of the class society in Britain. I don’t remember at what point he said it had become “A life work”. As I transcribe my diary and through it have access to the memories from myself at a certain age, and to a certain extent the experiences, as I read some of this stuff I’ve written and then never read later, the term “Life’s work” resonates with me. These individual diaries have already accreted quite a body, and I feel good thinking about it as a life’s work.
Back to the film. I’m surprised at how I’ve been captured by the series. The last one I had was the one that ends at age 42, so filmed in 1999. I went online and saw that 49-Up will be coming out in theaters in October. So I get to see another one before having to wait another 7 years for 56. Anyway, there is something very compelling to me about having before me a span of a middle-aged lifetime, with different stages in development portrayed. It seems to be in harmony with this whole “taking stock” thing I’m doing in closing in on my 50th birthday—transcribing my diaries, and now this series. I suppose part of it is the notion of a life caught on time-lapse photography and then replayed sped up.
A phrase that stands out to me in a parenting book: how can we keep our behavior from making things worse in a frustrating and angering situation with children? And I extend that to the notion of how can I not make a situation with Gary get worse. I think there’s probably something about the insight of living in my cells that might be helpful. It is definitely my reaction to something that he does or a manner that he has that takes it from bad to worse.
One other notion: the idea of an ideal being a very good thing, but if you follow it to its logical conclusion it can lead to some undesirable outcomes and demands. As in religion, when there’s a difference in opinion historically there’s often a schism, and with both sides sticking to the letter of their law, they are compelled to brand each other heretics and fight religious wars. The letter of the law says we can’t accept homosexuals and its ok to harm them; but a higher spirit teaches tolerance and respect for everyone. But most fundamentalist Christians feel that if they are going to be following Jesus and living Christian lives then they must take it to its logical conclusion and bar gays from clergy, enable people to refuse to rent to them—in other words consider it lawful to discriminate which opens the way to many mean-spirited acts. For example, what if gay people have children? What if the birth parent dies and the other’s rights to that child are trumped by “family”—blood relations who may be hostile to a gay parent. If you take an ideal down to it’s nitty gritty, and it’s details, in order to be able to stay with it, you have to do it down to the nth detail. And the nth detail doesn’t work. The nth detail is inhuman, unkind, self-righteous. So is there a way that a law or ideal applies on one scale, but when getting into details it does not?
Maybe there’s no unifying theory. Maybe there are different laws for different scales, and part of the randomness, probability, and ambiguity of that situation applies to the point where one set of laws apply and another do not.
Ok, I’ll get a little more transcribing in before I need to go run my errands. I was at a part that’s interesting to me.