Last Updated: January 25th, 2019
It’s been some time now since the committee got rid of me! Every morning, when I wake up, my first thought is, “I’m a martyr for the cause!” But then it takes me some time to remember what the cause is.
It all comes over me in a little while, like a suit of clothes: what I was fighting for, who were my friends and my enemies, what they did to me. Then I spend the rest of the day thinking about the past.
Actually, that’s not completely true anymore. For a few hours, every morning after I remember, I’m consumed with wrath and chagrin.
“The system is rotten! They throw you out if you speak the truth!”
My mind plays these lines over and over, as though they come agitatedly from a bullhorn only I can hear.
This stridency used to go on all day. Lately, though, I catch myself thinking, around noon, “My God, you’re limited! If you were an actor on a stage, your audience would long ago have walked out of the theatre!”
I still see the whole scene being re-enacted before my mind’s eye: Ericksen’s humiliating speech, the faces of all of them as they vote to purge me, my own highly emotional rebuttal, and my walkout. But instead of the characters continually going back to the beginning and starting the whole scene over, yet another time, something new begins to go on inside me around noon. I begin to question. I find myself thinking, “Maybe you’re not as pure as you believed, Mr. smarty-pants.”
I don’t know where this new thought’s coming from. But after all, what’s easier than to get tossed out of something and spend the rest of your life posturing in self-justifying rage about what some persecutors did? So maybe—this sounds nuts—maybe they were just my means of getting the only, pathetic kind of pleasure I’m able to experience: the pleasure of feeling wronged.
What if I have a disorder that keeps me from sharing in the social process, and from participating in group decisions where everybody wins, and where we wind up as friends, not enemies? How much simpler it would be if we were all “reasonable men, reasoning together.”
But are any of us reasonable men? What about the energies of the unconscious mind? The appeal to reason works fine—if all the members of the committee are the upstanding, good-natured people they would have you believe they are!
They smile, in a practiced way, like all of us who are engaged in any form of this game of politics called life. I see them again around the table: Ericksen, Lendoff, Suarez, Livingston, Peppes. They’ve rehearsed for years to make their smiles look offhand, guileless, trustworthy. But what do they think and feel—who are they, really—behind those smiles?
And for that matter, who is anybody? You see? That’s the question.
So my “political” ruminations are taking a broader tack now. Who is, what is, really “out there” in this world? Are my persecutors really the wonderful souls their smiles advertise? Or were they always schemers, plotters, maybe even demon-infested, behind those masks? Or—are the demons…in me? You see, one minute it’s an apple-pie, robins’-egg-blue-skied world. And the next, the very next, a shadow of suspicion comes from out of nowhere! It only takes an instant! And then nothing is to be trusted: not the trees in the city square, not the curves on the backs of the chairs at the cafes—and especially, not the words or smiles of anybody on any committee!
But if the demons are in me, how can I even trust my own thoughts? Am I a scapegoat like Christ? Even taking this idea too seriously could lead me to delusions of grandeur. Or am I just a poor, deranged fool—the victim of his mad projections?
Well, the drama played itself out back then. Ah, I was fiery that day! I’m sure I touched a few nerves. My friends all told me I was eloquent.
But are they really my friends, or just flatterers? Maybe my true friends don’t speak, for fear of injuring me with the truth. Or maybe my true friends are that very Ericksen, Peppes, and the rest, who by vilifying me, gave me the gift of their honesty.
I remember the way I pointed my finger, the way I emphasized the most damning words, the way I raised my head high, turned abruptly and walked out!
That was my last “performance,” so to speak, under the bright lights, with an audience. Now the lights are dim. Now, instead of fiery speeches to crowds, I run these soliloquys through my own head only.
Now I sit, offstage—well, it feels pretty far off of life’s stage. I sleep late, have a second and a third cup of coffee, read the papers.
My supporters have stopped calling. The news pages never mention me anymore.
And the questions swim like sharks, round and round my head! Were they the Boy Scouts they tried to look like? Was I wronged? Or was I just covering them with my fantasy-plot, to find villains so I could be a persecuted hero?
How will I ever really know? How do we ever really know anything at all, until we’ve penetrated beneath appearances and the mind?
What is that tree whose branches are waving in the sky across the street? And who—not just what is his name, I mean who really is that old man with the cane, walking by it?
Can I know the parked car he’s passing now? Or even the phantoms that people my own memories? Or this voice, that cries out so helplessly here in my lonely room, like an eye, trying to see its way out of darkness?
image: dimitridf (CC BY-SA)