One of My lost chapters
When I worked on The Diary of a Pedophile and also The Interstellar Incident, there was always so much I wanted to say that I was never really able to include. It is as though I was attempting to paint a picture with my words but I could only complete a portion of it because my canvas was too small. Regardless of how much I might want to concentrate on some particular issue or subject, there is always only just so much room between the covers.
There is an old adage that goes, "You can't see the forest for the trees." In a way, that describes what I am speaking about here. For if I choose to concentrate on the characteristics of some particularly beautiful tree in all its glory, I miss the wonders of the forest that it grows in, or the mountain or skyline just beyond. I cannot concentrate on both. I must choose the one or the other.
The following blog entry addresses a dissertation that I have worked on over and over again in my life. I wanted to put it in both of the previously mentioned titles but it simply would not fit. I tried anyway. I did not succeed. It is an ongoing challenge for all writers who must confront similar problems. It simply isn't possible to say it all, at least in one breath.
I include this topic here for two reasons. First, that you might understand a bit of my message and why I feel it is an important thing to say. But also so that you might understand how difficult it is to try and say everything at the risk of ultimately saying nothing at all.
If it had ever been published, it would have been appropriate to title this particular lost chapter by the simple word, "affliction." That word dates from the 14th century and is a form of the word, afflict. It is defined in several different languages and means generally to crush, cast down, defeat, or overthrow. It allies with words like trouble, suffering and distress.
Simone Weil wrote about affliction and you can read her on line here as well as in many other places. Simone was born in Paris, France to Jewish parents and died near the end of W.W. II having fled the Nazis and taken refuge in Ashford, Kent, England. She has been described as a Christian Mystic, a philosopher and an activist. Indeed, some of her work is centered on her quest to better understand the spiritual side of life and its association with different religions of all kinds.
But of her work, which I have had the opportunity to read, nothing strikes me as more profound then her words on the subject of affliction. While speaking about that condition, she makes a preliminary comparison between what she is calling affliction and physical pain. Briefly she says:
"In the realm of suffering, affliction is something apart, specific, and irreducible. It is quite a different thing from simple suffering. It takes possession of the soul and marks it through and through with its own particular mark, the mark of slavery."
She later goes on to say:
"There is not really affliction unless there is social degradation or the fear of it in some form or another."
The two points mark a poignant observation for myself because I believe they go a long way toward explaining certain kinds of seemingly incongruous behavior exhibited publicly by various individuals. But before I address the specific people and acts that I am alluding to, let me add one more bit of information for your consideration.
The very controversial figure, L. Ron Hubbard, developed a questionable self-help program, which he named Dianetics. Although there have been many well-informed people who have written about the program, both in support of it and decrying it as total fiction, I wish to address just one small portion of Mr. Hubbard's philosophy.
Mr Hubbard attempts to break everything down into some form of mental existence. The very term Dianetics is said to have been created from Greek root word forms, which basically translate to "through the mind." It was Mr. Hubbard's belief that everything within the human mind could be broken down into three basic categories.
It was his contention that all of our thoughts are either conscious, analytical or reactive. For the sake of brevity and without digging too deeply into his ideas, which you can read about here if you are interested in doing so, it was his belief that our reactive thoughts are what contribute to our negative experiences in life. He developed whole programs within the church of Scientology whereby an individual can reassign reactive thoughts to a more positive, mental state.
Within his book on the subject, Mr. Hubbard suggested that the smallest of experiences could form the basis of reactive mental memories. I was once told by a student of Mr. Hubbard's that he believed that a fight between a husband and wife while a child was still developing within the womb could indeed form the basis of a reactive memory and contribute many years later to problems in that child's life. Certain other traumatic experiences in a small child's life, after he or she is born, would similarly affect that child's reactive thoughts.
While I do not hold an opinion on the potential consciousness of a developing fetus and do not know how much mental retentiveness that fetus may or may not have, in essence I agree with Mr. Hubbard. It has long been my contention that we are the products of who we are. I believe that we all are the culmination of our genetic inheritance coupled together with our individual experiences. I use the phrase, "who we are," throughout this dissertation as a description of how we see ourselves both individually as well as a member of the society in which we live.
Do I believe that a fight between the parents of an unborn child could affect that child later in life? I do think that is possible although I don't know how it could ever be proven or even studied. Do I believe that the same fight when the child is an infant could have a similar effect? Absolutely. I also believe it doesn't have to be a fight to have such an effect.
I believe any event like a loud thunderstorm with flashing lightening can deeply etch an infant’s mind. So too could the cheering of a crowd or the screeching brakes of a crashing vehicle, even though that child may only be a distant observer of such events and not a participant. I believe before a child can form the thoughts that will ultimately lead to the ability to speak, he or she can feel emotion. That baby knows when the adults around him or her are in a high state of emotion, positive or negative. And yes, we are the products of who we are, and that awareness definitely affects all of us for the rest of our lives.
Such introspective feelings lodge themselves deep within our consciousness. In my opinion they never form concrete thoughts as such. In fact it is often impossible for even a well- schooled psychiatrist to dig such experiences out of us. That practitioner might indeed sense there is something deep within us that would better explain our condition, and our actions may betray some deeply held past experience. But putting a definitive description to that energy is often impossible and those experiences are most often simply lost in time.
When Simone Weil wrote about affliction, I can't help but believe that she was focusing on the most obvious source of inequity in her life at that time. Of course, that was the terrible suppression of the Jews by the Nazi regime she had fled from in occupied France. Considering the conditions that existed among the Jews at that time, I see a perfect set of circumstances for better understanding the whole concept of affliction. And those same conditions exist today in many places including within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender ( LGBT) community.
I have this image in my mind of a small Jewish boy, 6 to 8 years old. He has watched in horror as his family has been torn apart by the Nazis. His grandmother and mother have been ripped from his arms. He has been subjected to unspeakable horrors as he has been transported away in a cattle car to a concentration camp.
Inside his young mind he had to be asking himself over and over again, what have I done? Why am I being treated like this? I am a Jew. That is how I was born and that is how I was raised. Does that mean I am forever cursed? Are all of those around me correct when they say that I am worthless simply because of my birthright?
Of course he would not have had such specific thoughts. It would require a lifetime of experience and education in order to form those kinds of advanced mental images. But the energy behind those kinds of thoughts is present and that is precisely my point when I consider affliction.
No one who is afflicted is ever aware that they are being afflicted. All any of us know is that who we are has made us somehow unacceptable. It doesn't take long for us to realize that the only hope for freedom from the pain associated with that unacceptability is to either die, flee, hide, or change.
All of the experiences in that little Jewish boy's life would be telling him that everything about his very being is wrong. But at the same time all of that would also be totally out of his hands. That horrible internal conflict silently battling over the very essence of who he is would plant itself deep within his soul and remain there for the rest of his life. That is true even if he survived the persecution and was freed in the liberation that ultimately followed.
That is the essence of affliction. One cannot simply forget what has happened. We might forget the specificity and the memories might fade, but the deep affliction lives on forever. We, as members of the LGBT community, know that only too well.
We are who we are. We were born this way. Like all human beings on the planet earth we wake up one day to realize we are here. Having been coddled from birth we suddenly come to realize that we are a freewheeling, independent entity and from there we begin to learn just who we are.
If we are born into the LGBT community at a very early age we come to realize things are not just right. As we develop toward puberty we being to understand the specifics of our individuality. We never really understand it but we come to recognize it. And each of us learns to handle that recognition in his or her own unique way.
I like to think that I was a bit of a rebel. I say "bit," and I use that term loosely, because as I found myself in a very conservative and highly competitive environment within which I was largely disqualified to compete, I didn't simply knuckle under, hide or attempt to change. I did recognize that some of those around me were at least somewhat bisexual and others were obviously homosexual. And these I pursued following my natural, biological inclinations even given the terrible recriminations I suffered because of that.
I didn't understand any of it and I really didn't know what I was doing or why. Nor did I have anybody around to talk to about any of it. In a way it would not have mattered much had I had someone to talk to. I didn't understand enough of what was happening to me to be able to speak to any of my confusion even to myself let alone anyone else. I was on my own, very confused and following impulses that made no sense but which were very very real and coming from a place deep within me.
For my efforts I was rejected and belittled. I didn't suffer physical violence only because I was born huge in a small world. Those who would exact a physical vengeance on me were dissuaded as they considered the consequences of engaging someone of my size. I was lucky and they were fools. I did not know how to fight and I would have been an easy defeat for any of them.
Nonetheless, although I rarely but occasionally "scored," I was never able to move those intimate encounters from a bump in the night to a long-term relationship, which is all I ever really wanted. And herein is the most important aspect of all of that. I was never able to shed the terrible guilt I felt at doing what I had done.
I had been preached at in the Catholic School I attended, and I knew that what I dared to do, however natural it may have felt on the one level, was considered by Catholic theology to be very very wrong. I had all the consequences stamped into my subconscious and I was admonished that should I die before I confessed and begged forgiveness, I would certainly burn in hell for eternity.
Around me there were others who felt the same call that beckoned me, but who responded very differently. I asked myself, silently, inside, over and over, is it the devil that is calling? Am I being taunted and led to hell by some invisible malevolent force? That is what I was taught. Could it be true? Within those kinds of questions you can find the true essence of affliction.
Others, seemingly, had no such difficulties. They resolved the problem by buying into the theology we had been taught and then used that theology to answer those very same questions within themselves. Those same people, men and women, were never any less homosexual than myself. But instead of allowing themselves to experiment to try to learn who they are, they threw up a wall around their very being and began instead to attack everything about the very community of which they were born an inextricable part.
The people I am speaking of here are the very ones who stand before their congregations today as ministers and loudly cry out against everything that is the LGBT community. And as they cry out they are having sex with some altar boy, a parishioner or a male prostitute someplace. A percentage of these individuals are caught in the act and discredited in public. But a very large number of these people continue business as usual.
They don't want the laws to change so there is equality for the LGBT community because if that happens they must look inside themselves at the terrible affliction they have suffered from for all of their life. They were afflicted not by an unknown evil. It was their father, their mother, their grandparents, their minister or some other important members of the community who imprinted on them just how terrible they are.
Just like myself, the people I am talking about knew from birth who they are inside. And for as far back as any of them could remember, all of the people whom they had grown to trust, judged them and condemned them. That judgment and condemnation were not overt, but simply the result of the words that were spoken, and the events that occurred which were in opposition to the person who was suffering the affliction.
Thus we can see another aspect of the condition of affliction. Being afflicted is not like getting a sock in the jaw. It is not an overtly physical act. It is instead an invisible cloud of darkness that envelops the soul bit by bit until it has lodged itself deep within never to be extricated.
When I think of myself and those other homosexuals, I can see that the only difference between us is those others retreated within themselves and threw up an outward persona to represent something other than who they are as a defense against the constant assaults. Although at first I did try to hide behind a false front, I was at the same time secretly experimenting and attempting to learn.
At first I too tried to be someone other than who I am and found that didn't work. So I slowly and gradually attempted to discover who I really am instead. The result is that today, even though because of the affliction I suffered I feel continually guilty on an older emotional level, on a higher intellectual level I have finally come to grips with it.
Those others cannot allow themselves to do that. To admit that they are who they are would require that they reject the people they admire even though those very same people support the standards which have afflicted them in the first place. In order to maintain the respect they once held for those people and their harmful standards, they harm themselves instead.
When I wrote Diary of A Pedophile I introduced the character, Roy Barker. I described him as a preacher who had gained status and respect from condemning homosexuality in every respect. I then went on to point out that his personal, sexual predilection was for adolescent young men. I wanted badly to connect his behavior to the affliction that I feel is the motivating source behind such incongruous actions. I think that I fell flat in that respect.
I reintroduced Roy Barker again in The Interstellar Incident. By introducing his father this time, who, I suggested, liked to masturbate while watching the Lennon Sisters perform on video tapes of the old Lawrence Welk show, I felt I came a bit closer to sharing what I really wanted to say. But here again I came up short in my attempts.
The problem with trying to paint a picture of affliction is its amorphous nature. Without shape it defies the brush which is my verbiage. I cannot describe that which cannot be seen, nor can I explain to someone that they are afflicted as they vehemently deny that any such condition even exists.
In many respects this whole exercise goes back to the words spoken by Cyril Connolly who said, "Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self." Perhaps no reader ever wants to really understand why people do what they do. Perhaps most folks alive today would rather just make determinations based on might or the ability to outwit their opponents. I have observed that almost everyone wants to categorize everything as good or bad and let it go at that without ever really giving anything any deeper consideration.
It is hard to love someone who has caused us so much pain. But I am truly sorry for those whom I have singled out in this dissertation, who have been afflicted so deeply, and who have compensated for that affliction the best way they know how. They are often in the public eye and they have often worked hard to obtain the positions they hold all the while supporting the very causes and individuals who have afflicted them. In doing what they do they have demeaned me and stripped me of my rights and dignity. In my pain it is very hard to love them as I see them as the source of that pain. But having been cut from the very same cloth, I feel that I understand them even if they may never fully understand themselves.
As a writer I have to protect myself against becoming too introspective while at the same time cutting myself short because I don't suppose anyone wants to read the depth of my convictions. But as an individual I can only write what I feel inside regardless of what vehicle I choose to use to convey that message. And I believe that it is only through understanding why our opponents do what they do that we can ever hope for a permanent, long lasting change.
When I wrote about Irving Dart Tressler in my previous blog, I said that he had nothing to feel guilty about. I added that neither do I. But it is obvious that we were both taught to feel guilty as far back as we can recall. So far I have survived it and I know what I have survived is affliction. Affliction killed Irv. And it kills thousands more everyday, a predominate number of whom happen to be LGBT children.
As a writer I must try to address that condition at its very roots. But I am also aware that very few people will choose to read my words. These are not fun words. They are not easy words to understand. The concepts they support are not easily digested, particularly by those who afflict others out of hand and those who have been so deeply afflicted but who refuse to recognize the nature of their internal suffering.
Does that mean that I should not waste my efforts and never write such things? I think not. I think it means that I should continue to write such things over and over again in the hope that one day I will discover the key to presenting these truths in a way that others can understand them as completely as I do. I believe that the greatest of writers are those who have discovered a way to say the most complicated of things in a manner that others are driven to read and maybe even understand.