Processes of Wearing the Other (His Response)

“Don’t try!” will serve as my mantra–I did not intend to “condemn” any process taking place internally to “unreality,” and I can only conclude that I did not make myself very clear–and my first conundrum presents itself as I wish to be more clear but “don’t try” to be so!

Besides, maybe being “condemned to unreality” is the equivalent of being thrown into the briar patch?

I guess if I summed up my “quest” it would be “the problem of meaning.” I am certainly not unique in such a quest as many have influenced (and criticized) such a quest. One of my teachers, long ago, told me that if I pursued the problem of meaning, I would, in effect, “hitch my wagon to a bunch of obsessive naval gazers.” Another humorless person, after asking me in an interview for a University position if I was “too concerned with meaning” did not laugh when I asked her, “What do you mean?” She said, “oh, I see what you’re doing–trying to answer a question with a question!” Ugh!

OK, but what moves in my head (and stays there) versus what leaves my head (and gets into another’s head) differ in regard to response, or lack thereof. I suppose I err greatly on the side of “the meaning is the response (by external others)” crew, rather than “the meaning is made by my own response (independent of external others)” crew…

In basic (and overly simplistic) terms it comes down to reality as a product of one’s own doing versus reality as identifiable in consequences that more than one person experiences…I could write that a lot better, but…don’t try!

I’m holding onto a duality that supposes or pretends that one reality (in the head) differs significantly from the reality acknowledged by two or more people (outside of their heads)…as you know, I tell a lot of old stories about the old Catholic school…in the old-School-Catholic-school, being sinful occurred in and out of the head…if one thought about lust, say, he sinned, just as much as if he engaged in a lustful act with another…one fantasizes, even in a dream, about an erotic act of complicity, and one sins, just as if that act (and all the “sinful spillage”) “actually” took place (or occurred “out-of-dream-reality”)…I remember feeling such guilt and shame for thinking about “sinful things” and then getting so tired of being ashamed I’d just burst…maybe I saw, in the duality between “reality out there” and “unreality in there,” a way to escape the shame/guilt? The duality becomes a defense mechanism?

Similarly, contending that “the meaning is the response (by external others)” could be tied to anxiety…when I began accompanying Maudie to treatment/rehab places, I met more than a dozen therapists, all of whom pegged me as “co-dependent” (which brings up another aspect of reality–observer/intercoder reliability!)…my interpretation of the term resembled empathy, but in a more selfish/attached way…I would get very nervous around people who exhibit nervousness; I would become anxious around those who projected anxiety…I remember feeling anxious around my parents when their marital problems would become observable…my desire would be to make them laugh (what the therapists call the “heroic impulse of the comedian”)…I would do anything to get them to laugh (they did like to laugh–for instance, the bought and listened to avidly many of the vinyl “LPs” made by stand-up comedians back in the day)…

I wanted a distinct response from them…I did not see myself as funny unless I could make them laugh, especially at particular times…of course, I could imagine them laughing (and I did), but that particular reality would not ease my anxiety…I needed the external validation of their “actual” laughter…the laughter that they themselves could hear…

Maybe you are nudging me toward acceptance…in particular, acceptance of what I can realize internally, without the assumed or perceived external validation…is this acceptance a necessary “step” toward being spiritual?

You wrote once that, “at the root of everything there’s violence” and I wondered if one could ever get under a root…what would be there?

I thought about the old social psychologist, George Herbert Mead, who taught at the University of Chicago and became (without trying!) the father of symbolic interaction via his book, “Mind, Self, and Society.” Social psychologists had just begun to talk/write about child development in ways that differed from Freud…Mead got one of the balls rolling by distinguishing the “play” stage (imitation, non linear thinking, impulsivity, fantasy themes) from the “game” stage (linearity, role taking, responsibility, distinguishing correct from incorrect)…he knew that the dualities represented fictions and thought of the possibility that each person could always be or represent at least two things at once–or exist in play/game modes at once…

He provide an example of a young boy traipsing around the house in his father’s shoes, lowering his voice, moving his body as his father did, and “taking the role of the other” as he also played with the possibilities of the non-role…I thought of you, wearing your father’s shirt and the liminal world you enter, literally and symbolically, as you put on this shirt–you are at once the daughter of the man whose shirt you wear, but also the non-father who had adorned the shirt in a way that makes his memory and your being different, for the time being…you being the past to the present and then take the present and renew the past, just as the child does in his father’s shoes…

Of course, the dynamics and specific contexts are very much different, but we do engage in processes of wearing the other…taking what you would call the other’s skin and putting it on…or seeing of you could even imaging wearing another’s skin…

We see the canyon between us and sometimes it seems to separate us…but then it also seems to invite an awareness of what we have in common…I wonder if one of the keys to togetherness is a distinct and appreciative awareness of separation?

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