Anonymity and Thermostat Control (10/09)

What am I to make of this glaring disparity between the gravity and scope of the ideas I daily attend to, on the one hand, and the unremarkableness and insignificance of my actual personal existence, on the other? It is certainly tempting to view much of my writing as a kind of psychological compensation (or retaliation?)—a rather suspicious method of dealing with resentful feelings of impotence that I might harbor because of my public insignificance. As far as the general public is concerned, I am a ‘nobody’—a fellow who has little to show for himself—a quiet little nebbish who privately wiles away the hours in whimsical reading and scribbling, coming out only at night to sing for his supper in various Houston wine bars: I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo.

Why am I not bothered by this? Do I genuinely feel neglected? Am I bitter over the world’s apparent indifference to these strange pursuits that ground and animate my life? I cannot honestly say that I am. Or, at least not anymore. I used to be susceptible to such feelings of perplexity and indignation over the cool or dismissive reception my little essays received from others, but things have changed a bit. What happened?

It seems I have come around, at long last, to an acceptance of the fact that these ‘pressing concerns and questions’ have never been shared by a large number of persons. I am not a purveyor of popular goods. In fact, these questions and concerns occupy only a negligible place in the lives and minds of most persons, as I have somewhat grudgingly come to see…and to swallow. My passion is not widely contagious or infectious. There will always be a relative handful of individuals who share an authentic and vital interest in these questions and concerns, and I will henceforth be content to address my thoughts to them—my spiritual kin, wherever and whenever I may reach them.

Nevertheless, for many years I felt certain that ‘my’ questions and concerns were in fact quite relevant to the lives of many others, and not just a few of them. Unlike the central questions and issues which absorb the interest of specialists in some narrow field, say, of polymer chemistry or 12th century ecclesiastical law, those of ancient Greek philosophy and modern depth psychology seemed to me to have direct relevance for every truly conscious human being in this ailing culture—a pathologically ailing culture which apparently is, indeed, widely contagious, globally infectious. Well, I was mistaken and there is no telling how much ‘spirit’ I frittered away in my vain attempts to get a fair hearing from the deaf.

Why did it take decades of defeated expectations with many otherwise intelligent and well-meaning persons before I finally accepted the sobering conclusion that perhaps most of us instinctively resist becoming truly conscious of ourselves and of the inherited furniture within the musty basements of our minds and souls? Why did it take me so long to learn that our all-important sense of well-being normally depends on our maintaining only the barest minimum of self-awareness? Why did it take me so long to realize that what I was saying and writing about tampers with the ‘thermostat’ setting that most persons are comfortable with? Why was I so resistant to admitting the fact that I thrive at a temperature most persons find unbearably chilly? And why, when I would spend more than a day or two in their comfort zones, would I invariably break out in a cold sweat and gasp for air before dizziness would overtake me and cause me to swoon? And yet, how terribly educational all this swooning, sweating and fretting were!

 

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