Friday, November 2, 2012

A Post Full of Crazy

A Post Full of Crazy

I’ve been analyzing why I like certain themes – in fiction and in life. 

On the heels of last night’s nutty post about things I want to believe in, but feel weak for doing so, I’ve realized… that yes… there are reasons that go well beyond fluff-bunny and sentimentalism and other things of “weakness.” 

I think I really want to believe in the duality of the soul / the existence of the “soul” because I fear conformity.  Yes, I am aware that sounds crazy, but I really have analyzed it out, mulling over my thoughts, and that’s where they lead back to.

Whether or not a “soul” is even “eternal” is beside the point, ultimately, I just want there to be *something* beyond the chemicals and the meat.  Even if a person’s “soul” is merely “the sum of their experiences” I want there to be *something,* *anything* about us that the world *cannot get its grubby hands on.* Ironically, my desire to believe in an esoteric “something” inside of us, or about us that’s “more than the dance of flesh, fats and acids” comes from how little material evidence for there being anything more than that. 

I know more intimately than most just how chemistry can affect the brain, moods, personality.  I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (mixed type) at the age of 26 after a lifetime of “trying to figure out what was wrong with me” – being bounced between teachers, school staff, child and adolescent psychologists, getting an “avoidant personality disorder” diagnosis and a “clinical depression” diagnosis (bipolar is notoriously tricky to pin down) and getting put on Paxil (a medication that has been found to make bipolar symptoms WORSE).  When I was first diagnosed (apparently properly, finally), I started taking Lithium and it was like night and day.  I remember being on the phone with my family telling them that I “finally felt like myself again” – more “in control than I’ve been in years.”  Its’ not a cure-all, though. I have to remind some people in my life when I get “uppity” or “antsy” that “YES, I TOOK MY MEDICATION TODAY, DAMMIT!” 

I also occasionally take an anti-anxiety medication, sparingly, as-needed as it has an addiction-risk associated with it.  It doesn’t always work.  If I’m presented with something like acute physical pain or a fear of mortal danger, that stuff will burn off quicker than lightning, but it has helped me through a few of the periods I’ve been in of constant “grinding” anxiety.   

I recently watched an episode of “Dark Matters” on the Science Channel (I love that show… it deals with some of the darker and weirder experiments in scientific history, some of which lead to breakthroughs)… the subject of the recently-aired show being the man who invented the frontal lobotomy.  Apparently, his first victim (patient) was a severely bipolar woman whom no one cared about because she was just one of the many poor creatures locked away and forgotten about in a mental institution because people just didn’t *care* in those days.  (Before anyone thinks that Science is a pure shining good of holiness that has never been used to justify anything “bad” – take a look at the breakthroughs and backups gained from a history of experimenting upon the vulnerable – mental patients, prisoners, the poor, Black people…)   Anyway, seeing that, (and, well, anytime I watch or read something about lobotomies)….scared the poo outta me.   People were made “calmer” and “easier to manage” through the procedure… before it was found to be barbaric.  I remember a article on the subject describing it as “people getting their souls cut out.” 

The fact that we are so vulnerable to changes in the physicality and chemistry in our brains makes me really *want* there to be more of “we” there… deep inside, or made of our experiences or some other thing that, no, cannot be touched by a lobotomy, or by someone giving you a cocktail of drugs, or by the ravages of age, or even by yourself as you try to take the edge off.   

Whenever I read about or hear people talk about the quest to understand the Brain and to figure out just where and how consciousness arises, on one hand, I think it is a noble pursuit because we, as a species, are curious monkeys who want to understand everything and because a lot of the motivation is “helping people.”  (Even the guy who created the lobotomy was motivated by trying to help his patients).  However, the idea that “all that makes us people” can be understood makes me wonder just how long will it be between the understanding and the manipulation?  It seems to me that everything Humankind has begun to understand has been something we have tried to *control,* and if you think that those of us who live in “free” and “civilized” societies are tolerant, accepting, diverse and totally into at least the illusion of free will enough that we’d totally respect it and never create the land of ye olde goose-stepping, think again.  It seems to me that most, if not all of us, if we had the power, would mold people and the world into *our* image and “force people to be better” than we think they are.

From what I’ve read/heard, lobotomies, in their heyday, were once used to try to cure everything from homosexuality to “uppity wives.” 

It’s not so much that “we are only meat and carriers of genes” scares me for its “robotic coldness” – it scares me for the idea that someday, people in high places might be able to *program* us like robots.  I’ll happily be an unaware meat-puppet for my genes, but not for “The Man.”    

(I actually explored this in one of my bad stories here… in a magical world, no less… once people of a certain culture learned the secret to controlling people’s dying dreams/near-death experiences, they started sending people to a contrived “Hell” just for the fun of it, because they thought “certain people” deserved that kind of torment).  I think it would happen… because, while my views on individuals vary and can be quite optimistic, my view on Humanity is quite dour. The character in that had “something in him” that escaped from that brain-manipulation.  He did not know whether or not his experience was “real,” but he still had the “override,” something in him that the horrible people and the world in general *could not touch,* even as he didn’t have full control over it, either.   – The story is “Overriden” for anyone who wants to search for it here.

A lot of my stories are like that – isolated characters, non-conformist characters, people who stand apart and/or must face the pressure of the “world” around them, suffering for it and/or defying it… Or else, the world has ended and they are quite happy to be alone… as the case may be.  In other words, “World, get your nasty hands off my soul. I don’t want to be “one” if I must imagine only want you want me to imagine!”

Which brings me to another theme:  I recently blurted on a comment on Slacktivist that I’d realized why I was able to read the (first half of) the Left Behind books and be a genuine fan for a while, despite the unlikable “heroes.”  I also expressed a desire to tour Pripyat, Ukraine.  I’ve always liked apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic settings… Heck, I got to walk around in a disaster area – aka, my neighborhood – just after weather events.

Analyzing my love for this particular theme, I first go back to my childhood.  I grew up in Arizona where many a school and family trip was spent touring ancient ruins left by extinct Native American cultures.  – Anasasi ruins, Sinagua, Hohokam… Also, Old West ghost-towns with their mining-tails left.  I’d always wondered what it was like to be one of the people living in a high cliff-dwelling back in ancient days. 

What I go to in further analysis is … dark. To but it bluntly…dark, as in I think I may just be a little bit evil.  When I was reading LB, it was just after I’d gotten out of high school.  Now, as I said above, I was a kid who had “something wrong with me” without being able to pin-pointed.  Everyone knew there was “something wrong with me” and acted accordingly – that is, as beasts do when they find out someone in the herd has a defect. Frankly, I didn’t have a whole lot of attachments to people and thought “yeah, the world can totally go to Hell / Hell can happen around me and caring for only my own and maybe not even some of them because, honestly, some of my family and church-family sucks, will be the only thing on my mind.”  It’s been years since I read any of that series, and even then, I thought the protagonists did turbo-jerk things, felt sorry for some in their “party” (poor Hattie…), would skim through protagonist chapters to get to the Antichrist chapters because he was a more interesting character, and was generally “reading for the explosions.”  Looking back while reading the eviscerations on Slacktivist has me wondering why I put up with such horrible “heroes” for so long and, yeah… I think I was coming out of an “angry at the world” time that a worldwide-revenge-fantasy tale really fed. 

I like to think I’ve gotten kinder, but the fact that I love watching “Life After People” on History Channel and think “Land devoid of Humanity, what a paradise!” I realize that I still don’t have much love for the majority of my own species / my species as a whole.  Caring about people in the abstract (as in, I hope there’s a “God” who really does ultimately love us and we all get “Heaven” in one form or another, wanting an ending to war and disease…blah, blah, fluffy-fairytales…) is a lot easier than caring for people in the concrete (“You cut me off in traffic!  *Middle Finger! Middle Finger!* Crash into a ditch!”).   Or even, (“Lookit that tree that fell on that stranger’s garage! Keer-poosh!”). 

I read a self-help article about betrayal today… it made me realize that I’m so used to it in my life (between actual betrayals and people trying to “edge away from me in the nicest way possible because they cannot deal with my crazy”)… that I just kind of expect it to happen and have this notion that most, if not all people (including you and me) “hide fangs behind our smiles.”  The novel I’m trying to get published now is one that I’m not sure I actively set out to write “trust no one” as a theme, but it turned out that way… In the end, the two main characters do learn to trust each other and they have each other, but… everyone else is gone. Everyone else has either betrayed them, was against them from the beginning, or cannot help them. (A friend of theirs who was genuinely good?  Too busy holding his own severed head in a criminal’s grave by the end).  They wind up “just having each other, but maybe that’s enough” and feeling damn lucky for it, because “if you only find one person you can trust, you are fortunate.”  It’s not even complete, either, as some earlier events rocked their trust for one another…

Meh… who needs healing from the crazy?  It leads to some entertaining themes to write.  I currently have an idea I’m mulling around involving mind-uploading to an Internet-type system, the possibility of it becoming “eternal life” for some people who don’t mind being inundated by cat-macroes, but the “powers that be” who created the system are vastly disappointed that all attempts to rewrite and “cure” the mind-patterns of crazy people who’ve been uploaded have failed, and run a danger of infecting all in the system… eh. If I do it, I think it will be a tale of philosophy, flamewars, and random annoying cats.

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