Monthly Archives: April 2014

I don’t want to be someone’s audience unless I bought a ticket

Some people don’t relate, they perform. You are but an audience member to them. What you might have to say or add is of little or no interest, unless it’s a springboard they can use. 

Who are they? They’re the ones who aren’t really looking at you – searching your eyes and face the way someone does when they are engaged and engaging – except perhaps to make sure you’re being a good audience member. Their eyes look past you and through you. Should you open your mouth other than to make appreciative noises, they cut you off mid-sentence. If other people are around or enter into their sphere of vision, you, the good audience member, can be disregarded and tossed aside pronto, forgotten in favor of fresh meat audiences.

But it’s not always so obvious. A couple years ago I was having a conversation with a man I didn’t know too well but who I believed was genuinely interested in talking with me. Conversation was going along okay, when he launched into a story with dramatic and funny bits, or bits I knew he intended as funny and dramatic. As I listened a thought appeared clearly in my mind: [He’s told this story before. Probably exactly this way. Many times.] My opinion of the conversation we were having dropped a few notches while my insincerity radar heightened.

It isn’t that I think everyone is obligated to offer only original commentary or stories at all times. The older someone gets, the harder it is to not repeat things said before. It takes concerted effort not to rely on shtick or what’s been favorably received in the past. And I know a degree of self-conciousness, insecurity, or social anxiety might make a person want to rely on the tried and true (and not take any risks). My issue is with someone who chooses performing over relating when it isn’t necessary, cutting short – if they even let start – a genuine interaction where two people play and build off, one another’s words and ideas. Where nobody is assigned the role of audience member.

I feel like I was born knowing certain things

There are concepts or ideas I feel I was born knowing. It’s been quite awhile, but when I went to college I took plenty of Social Sciences classes where I studied the basic theories and philosophies of personality/character development. None of them truly addressed what I mean.

I have long been profoundly interested in the ideas of truth and fairness. We can rule out these being emphasized in my childhood at home or school, because they weren’t, not really – I heard oodles of rhetoric and dogma, but in relatively short order saw and experienced the hollowness of both. I didn’t know the word then, but had a front seat and a bowl of popcorn for repeated viewings of Hypocrisy 101. Even though I was a child, many things I saw didn’t sit right.

A second obvious possibility is that I became interested in truth and fairness as a reaction to their absence, i.e., I witnessed or felt impacted by their lack, and so made the search for them my life’s mission. I’m not going to toss anyone out of the room for suggesting as much because there IS an element or three of that at work in my psyche. I experienced things then that I’m still trying to correct now as I go about my life in the greater world.

What I’m talking about however, transcends mere reactionary railing against perceived wrongs, whether against me or others. There are just certain…things, for lack of a more eloquent, spot-on word, I feel I’ve always known. For some readers, that assertion could skew too closely to Mysticism or New Age beliefs. I don’t think of myself in those terms and don’t typically relate to much of what I hear from their respective camps. (If nothing else, my skeptical, smart-assery and irreverent natures would deny my membership.)

Whatever that quality was in me, whatever I was born knowing or being, I can tell you there was no guile in it. I was like a little laser when it came to all things true and fair, and it never occurred to me to hide it or otherwise be manipulative. My life probably would have gone smoother if I had been slicker because adults, the ones I dealt with anyway, were not so enamored of these particular qualities. Let me revisit that last statement. The adults were okay with it so long as they thought I was reflecting their mantras and dogmas, so long as my qualities, including this profound attraction to truth and fairness, “passed” if you will, for something that fit into their schematic. The older I got and the more I threw off the (artificial to me) belief systems that I was surrounded by, the more obvious it became that this kid isn’t like us (and is therefore wrong). I never believed it. The power of feeling you’ve always known something, were born knowing something both right and good, is sturdy stuff.

My father and NO TRESPASSING signs

P_20140504_152632 My father was generally unconcerned with signs saying NO TRESPASSING or KEEP OUT. This meant it wasn’t unusual for him to be driving or walking around somewhere with his wife, i.e. my mother, and a couple of us little kids – or just the little kids – and decide to poke around an area despite such aforementioned signs. When one of us piped up, “But Dad, there’s a No Trespassing sign,” his common refrain was a disdainful, “Aww stuff, they don’t mean us.” Uh, who then did they mean? Elves? Swedes? Cyborgs? We knew not to ask.

He took us places that were kind of dangerous too, if only for being abandoned. We’re lucky none of us pitched down a well, or picked up a mousetrap out of curiosity, or got a rusty nail embedded in our foot (although my sister DID do the last one, it wasn’t on one of these Dad-driven outings). Had any of that befallen us on his watch, he’d quite likely have been annoyed for the inconvenience.

One of these places was a ratbag former home of a famous jockey who was from the same rural area our father spent his childhood. I guess the man was the local claim to fame because our father mentioned him a lot (him and Mitzi Gaynor and Jimmy Cagney. We younger kids in the family had no idea who the hell he was talking about.). The jockey’s boyhood home wasn’t exactly a tourist destination. Our father had to hunt through overgrown brush to find it. There was no placard, no souvenir shop. The only signs in evidence were the KEEP OUT ones. But we were going in there damnit!

I was always waiting for police officers to show up and maybe arrest us: “Sir, you can’t go in there. Take your children and go. This is private property.” But they never did. Not once did we ever get caught on the wrong side of one of those cautionary signs and get sent packing. Well, stuff. I guess they really didn’t mean us.

Short Thought 14

I heard the saying, “Do what you love, and the rewards will come.” Sounded good to me. It never occurred to me until very recently, those rewards might not be cold, hard, cash money.