I Am A Dancer I

(MY MOTHER DIED Aug 29 2018)BOLD_Owen_07

friends
(most are women)
have told me,”you think
too much”, “you ask
to many deep questions”,
“You’re a bit weird”
“not like most men”
I’ve always felt
that was up for discussion,
obvious.

I’m a dancer

my mother died in August.
we had an awkward relationship

I like science fiction.
I’ve always wanted to understand
quantum physics.
I heard that Albert Einstein’s
theory was proven
in the trenches of WWI.
and before that you needed
a graduate degree to understand
the physics of the universe.
and since that E=MC2
is understood by highschool students.

I’ve wanted to translate
my knowledge
into simpler formulas
for easier relationships.

I’m a dancer.

When I was 16
I watched my mother storm in
pick up a length of wood
and head my way.
A quiet voice
stood me up
and commanded
unflinching resolve
I held her eyes
she brought it down
on my shoulder.
‘Maybe it broke’
My father quiet
to my resolve.
“Don’t hit your mother.”

I walked 20 miles
through the night
to see a nun
in a convent
avoiding car lights
on country roads
I arrived at dawn
I waited until 7
I was hungry
She made me tea.
I told her my story.
She asked me if
there was anything
else.
I was 16
I was devastated
I was steel
I was the wolf
scouring forest trails
I said “No”
I got up to go.
She said, “Goodbye”.

I went to university
and studied physiotherapy
and asked deep questions
and joined the Baha’i Faith
and the new earth order
and that was a bit weird
and even there,
still not like most men
and not like most women.
and married
and begot 3 sons
and spent some hours
each week helping
on my father’s farm
and burning out at work
and getting fired up
and for fifteen years
taking holidays
to have conversations
with politicians
about rural health

I saw a signpost
Performance Community
and something glimmer
in the distance
like a bright new
city of the future
and took that track

I’m a dancer

These past 14 years
I’ve had lunch with my mother
and father, or coffee
every week
helping around the farm,
being frustrated with them
finding a way to accept
no apology
finding a way to say,
“I love you.”
finding a way to tear them
away from their farm
his workshops,
her orchards.

In his dementia
in a house in town
my father remembered
“that bloke came around again”.
he fell and broke his hip
I sat with him in emergency.
He said, “It’s time”
I glibly, “Time for a cuppa?”
He gave me a sour look,
a ‘fuck off’
I felt I’d disappointed him.
He died.

There’s not much for a wolf
in a modern society
– pickings at the edges

I don’t know whether
my mother knew
I am a dancer.

My mother died in August.
We buried her in September.
Her friends noted to me
how lovely she was
to be with.

Sadness tinges
I didn’t forget
not to go around for lunch
or coffee.

 

Advertisements

Malcolm X Boulevard Harlem June 2018

NY_Harlem_0026

A long lean room
bound by an unclad red brick wall
and a smoothly painted plaster board
wall with hanging art and plants
and advertising coffee and food,
was a short step of relief
off the broad street and footpaths.

The summer sun and humidity
climbed with the circuitous
walk through the panhandlers
and the fast movers out of the 125
subway stop to the Markus Garvey park,
up the small hill and back
to the Malcolm X boulevard
towards Central Park.

The crowd thinned to a
few retailers sitting under
apartment buildings.
In Il Caffe Latte pairs of white people
took coffee and brunch.
Two black women ran the kitchen.
A young white man served patrons.
Jazz played quietly thru speakers –
Miles, Coleman and others.

A black man came in, ordered coffee to go.
I wondered if he was busy
or whether I / we left a bad impression.

A white young yuppie type
came in, ordered coffees and
rushed out.
He had ginger hair.
I didn’t care what he thought.

Down the road
outside Harlem Coffee Co,
two young black yuppie types
stretched their legs at the sidewalk
table, drinking lattes at ease.

I JUST WANT A GUN

Sitting in convivial conversation
at the evening meal in west Asheville

pop …….. pop. ……. Pop….

‘How was your day?’’

Pop… pop…. Pop… pop …. Pop..

‘’Is that?’’
‘’Yeh, sounds like gunfire’’
‘’Oh, the police just turned up…

Pop..pop..pop..pop..pop..pop..pop…

at my daughter’s place’’

Poppopopopoopopopoppoppopopop

‘’What ARE they doing!?’’
‘’Can you even shoot in a neighbourhood?’’
‘’Must be the new guys that moved
in down the road.’’
‘’Someone from her apartment complex
made a complaint. She’s freaking out’’
‘’Yeh, we are outside the city limits, here.’’

Popppoppopopopppopppopppppppppppppoppopopoppppoopopopppopopooppop!

‘’They are probably target shooting
against the hillside behind their house.’’

Epigenetics is the environmental encoding
onto DNA after significant events. It can
express itself several generations later.
620,000 of the ancestors of eastern US Americans
died in the (un)civil war.
The north sustained more casualties than the south.
The south lost the war.

‘’(I) just want a gun.’’

GUILT IS A FORM OF SHAME

I previously wrote, decrying the modern tendency for personal development gurus and psychologists to deplore the emotion of shame. Shame stands alone, among all the emotions, as being known as the ‘wrong’ emotion. These same professionals of the emotional state, tend to honor guilt, although they may make a distinction with extreme guilt. I believe the confusion around the vital emotions of shame and guilt lies in a failure to fully appreciate the internal affective state that we experience as shame and guilt.

Unable to appreciate the affective states of guilt and shame has lead to some exerts asking about shame, “What’s it for?” Previously I discussed how shame is a very important human emotion to our ‘fitting in’ to the tribe from the earliest human evolutionary period. This is very important for the survival of everyone in a tribe whose real power and security is found in the collective. The weaker the tribal member, the more necessary they must ‘fit in’ and in fitting in, be submissive to anyone else in the tribe who might ultimately protect them. Submission includes all types of usefulness such as skills and sexual favours, but also the appropriate courtesies toward the tribal leader. It is more than likely that tribal leaders have always been, and still largely are, of a psychopathic nature. A slight against such a leader is very likely to lead to swift justice only too readily enforced by sycophantic seconds whose desire to curry favour has no boundaries. Shame is an emotion of attitudinal checking, shutting down any impetuous behaviour that might attract negative attention from protectors or the leader, least that protection is immediately withdraw or worse.

Shame and guilt are not two distinct emotions. They are founded on the emotion of shame, with guilt having the added emotion of remorse. Shame is an inherent emotion activated by the child’s observance of ‘how things are done’ by their parents and siblings. It is foundational to the child behaving as ‘fitting in’ without any other necessary education although parental and sibling reinforcements through language and demonstration are certain to enhance the shame feature. The shame emotion is setup as a predictive emotion. It has an activation through future thought and imagination. Shame is like a tonus running everyone’s life. Building on early objects of shame, such as nakedness or talking loudly and freely, other complex objects eg sex outside of marriage, doing well academically at school, might be raised in family or social education. Indeed, in our complex society, there appears to be competing shaming among children, youth and adults, in the organisation of economic and social sub-tribes or cultures. Ridicule is the main form of complex shaming designed to elicit a ‘fitting in”. Low level ridicule is a constant and obvious tone from the mainstream of society. For those who don’t ‘fit in’, the shame elicits an avoidance reaction leading to the person finding another ‘tribe’. The ‘right tribe’ is the one that will utilize a ridiculing of characteristics that don’t apply to the person enrolled into that tribe, but may apply to the mainstream social group.

Some objects of shame can apply across all social groups eg not murdering others, not stealing from others. Not all objects of common shame are felt equally. For example, people have greater or lesser shame responses to being naked in public or on stage. At one end of the human shame spectrum are people who are burdened by deep bouts of shame that incapacitates them. At the other end of the spectrum, are people who have little shame around a certain behaviours. Psychopaths are people who are genetically predisposed to a lack of empathy, manipulate others to their personal ends, and exhibit a lack of shame and guilt. Psychopaths have a capacity to act, quite literally, shameless. Intelligent psychopaths are found in control roles in, probably, all public and private sector institutions and businesses, large and small. However it would be inadequate to blame shameless behavior on psychopathy and most acts of: bullying, damaging, over use of reward stimulation, and a falling away of responsibility for the social group, is performed by very ordinary people as part of the natural ridiculing tendencies. Some shameless behavior is quite harmless and may even have a contributive role in society eg in artistic expression as a mechanism for looking at the implications of specific taboos. Social and cultural taboos are noted for their inducement to shame.

Guilt is a subset of shame that occurs on the actual trespassing on the object of shame. Guilt is an emotion that rises from a past event as a combination of shame and remorse. The shame comes from the ‘knowing’ that the trespass has been committed. In a sense, shame is felt by moving the memory of the past event into the present or future. If the shame registers without remorse, then it cannot be said that guilt has been elicited. Sometime remorse is elicited as an internal state, and sometimes only with the disclosure to others of the trespass.

Guilt as an emotion should not be confused with legal guilt. Legal guilt defines an objective state of trespass. The ‘guilty’ party may or may not feel guilty or may experience any of the combinations of feel shame or not feel shame, with feel remorse or not feel remorse.

Shame is a valuable social tool for assisting people to fit into our complex society in a workable manner. Like all emotions, shame works best at low to medium levels, and can set up behavioural dysfunctions at medium to high levels. If there is a problem with shame, it is that our complex societies continue to add competing objects of ridicule as a point to that we should be behaving or allowing certain previously taboo behaviours to become mainstream, without that we really can evaluate which of these objects are unworkable or workable. Therefore we might be persuaded to enter activities that conflict with more important values or just be shown to be unworkable. Shame is mediated by have a clear set of socially bonding values that can be applied to all circumstances in social life. For most people, this means being raised by those values so that, not only are the values part of our internal locus of control but that we are privy to a ‘tribe’ of our family and others of like-minded values who can support us against the ridicule of others who hold to other values.

Mistakes

“Mistakes were made (but not by me)” by Tavris and Aronson is a punchy 240 pages about a fundamental driver of our human identity: cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the state of discomfort that occurs when we have two opposing ideas operating in our mind. For example, I think I am a good person, good people don’t yell at their neighbours, I yelled at my neighbours: so, either I am not a good person or there must be something about my neighbours that justifies a good person to yell at them. And thus also determines the way to war.

Cognitive dissonance seems to sit at the interface between our higher mind and our baser mind. The higher mind is a great space for virtuous idea and creativity. The base mind is all our instincts for survival. Both of these minds interact through our language centres and therein become our thought and our being. However, our baser mind provides hard wired outputs so that we can survive. Our higher mind requires educational sources, nurturing. So our baser mind can express in action almost quicker than we can think about what we are doing ie putting it into language eg be angry when feeling threatened. When an action from our baser mind expresses itself, we will most likely find ourselves at odds with our own higher mind. We experience a terrible discomfort, perhaps a deep guilt. This is cognitive dissonance. However, because we don’t like the feeling, we get rid of it by justifying our behaviour.

Self justification is behind good people doing even more terrible things. A man embezzles a million dollars from his company to pay his gambling debt. He starts by just a small amount which he pays back. But as he gambles, he takes more, and he can’t pay it back. Yet, he justifies, I will win big and all will be restored and I am a good person and I will give up gambling. But he never wins and eventually he is discovered. The small mistake, when justified, will lead to a greater and greater misdeed. Tavris and Aronson’s straightforward unfolding of the elements of Watergate, provide a strong lesson for all of us.

Tavris and Aronson identify several ways to deal with cognitive dissonance.

  1. Don’t be too ready to resolve it. Have sleepless nights. Turn your discomfort over and over. Where might you be self justifying, being right, making someone wrong. Where might you need to make a hard decision that is ethically the right one.
  2. If you have made a mistake, own up to it as soon as possible. If the mistake made a mess, you have to clean it up. You have to take the consequences. But the early mistake and consequences will be mild compared to an escalation of mistake and consequence through self justifying.
  3. Learn from the mistake. In fact live for the mistakes you make, the people who can alert you to them, and what you can learn. This will ensure that you become a great learner, a successful person, and avoid making very big mistakes with big consequences.
  4. I would add, encourage others for the effort they put into trying things, making mistakes, and particular, learning from them. Help others see mistakes, not to be right, but that they can try again, even if they fail again. This is accountability, this is empowerment. This is the place in which there is no failure, just (paraphrasing Edison) a million discoveries of what didn’t work so well, and, in looking at each one clearly, finding a great opening of possibility.

Remember, says Tavris and Aronson, you are a smart, capable person who made a mistake. You remain a smart, capable person. The mistake remains a mistake.