Friday, February 21, 2014

When Your Inner Critic Thinks You're Bat-Shit Crazy.

For some considerable time, your proximity to neighbors has been minimal, at most the rare shared single wall.  Even now, with your landlady directly above you, there is only the faintest sense of your awareness of her or hers of you.

When you do hear neighbors arguing, the great certainty is of the inner neighbors, your own roomers, at brisk squabble.  You perk up immediately, your interest drawn to see which of your multifarious selves is at issue with which other.  Or others.  These sorts of neighbor arguments often turn into the kinds of schisms you're more used to seeing in novels and plays than within yourself.  

You listen with close attention; the signs often herald the arrival of a new project, one sure to override any potential you might have for such longed-for activities as reading a longish book you've been wishing to read, re-exploring some notional cycle such as the late Beethoven strong quartets or, for that matter, the early ones of Mozart, the ones he dedicated to Hayden.

Inner calm, the sort promised by such things as meditation, gardening, Tai-chi, jig saw puzzles, and fishing tend to produce prolonged bouts of lassitude within you.  Books and articles by authors you normally consider exciting and provocative inflict a morbid sense of dreariness within you, reminding you of times you've waited for an individual you had no real interest in seeing, each successive elapsed minute reminding you that when the individual does appear, you're more or less committed to at least an hour of visiting.

You have nothing against the concept of inner calm, so long as it comes when you're asleep.  Sometimes on your evening walks, you will pause if you hear anything remotely resembling an argument, hopeful the opposing sides are in the combat of a significant, well-orchestrated, passionate exchange of ideas as opposed to something as  ordinary as, "I refuse to be seen with you if you insist on wearing that tie with that shirt," or "Why did you have to wait until I had my hair cut to tell me you prefer it long?"

But even these tend to bore you because these are only the low-key dynamics of individuals who have not yet accepted the reality of their own preferences for serious, knock-down-and-drag-out debate.

The yowling and caterwauling of your inner neighbors becomes for you the implied outcome of the ads you see for pheromones in a variety of publications for whom you'd think such ads would be a misfire.  Inner arguments ignite the fire under your conversation mechanisms to the point where, from time to time, you find yourself in arguments with strangers, targets of opportunity, really, because the circumstances have whetted your appetite to listen, expound, analyze, and respond. 

Many times you've had the experience of wanting to shake the hand of this stranger/opponent at the conclusion of the discussion.  How grand it is to go forth about your planned activity, energized by a civilized exchange with a complete stranger.  Of course the individual and you are no longer strangers.  

This predilection goes well beyond the argumentative nature of the culture into which you were born, raised to a degree, then nudged by parents and a sibling to the library, where you began to realize you could in effect pick a fight with some historical character.

You've heard numerous names for this inner bickering.  What has vanilla ever done to you that you slight it with such consistency in favor of chocolate?  Why should you of all people think to order gelato instead of ice cream, and spare me the crap about gelato being richer in protein, will you please?  Some refer to it as interior arm wrestling.  Others have called it the contest between pairs of opposites.  Still others describe it as dialectics.

"See, I told you," one of your inner selves will announce after you've dropped an hour or two into the vague process called research, which means verifying, establishing trial hypotheses, bringing in known supporters of your own position, even going to the extreme of consulting individuals for whom you have little or no respect, just in case they might strike some plangent note that changes your mind, turns you around as though you were a whirling dervish.

You've heard and read of others arriving at this state, where you have at best a mild tolerance for mere fact, say that a cheetah can run at the rate of seventy miles for an hour.  What matters is the limitations on the amount of time the cheetah can run at this speed until his body temperature rises to a point where the animal is well advised to slow fucking down lest he experience a stroke.  The state you've arrived at is one of pragmatic cynicism; you are not so quick to trust any more because you in the past trusted things that were not good for you, they were not meant for you.

You've gone through a number of internal arguments where one side of the debate team propounds the thesis that any number of your connections of things that seem unrelated are bat-shit crazy as opposed to the aura of interesting universe you'd prefer to invest them with.  There is some sobering back-and-forth with an opponent who considers you bat-shit crazy; you are forced to be on your toes, work hard at resisting the argument ad hominem, the post hoc ergo proper hoc, or the appeal to an irrelevant authority.  Win or lose the argument, there is humbling reality to face in the knowledge that you might, at times, be a lunatic.

You do not so much wish to win as to be able to cope with reality the way a plumber on a house call or one of those appliance installers from Sears does, Well, what have we here?  Leaky faucet, you say?

Sometimes you fear you've brought this on yourself; if you were not determined to learn how to tell stories or write about them and what they represent to the human condition, you might have settled into a satisfying degree of competence building model airplanes or fussing over model train layouts.  But these activities would be the equivalent of developing expertise with such beverages as beer, ale, Manhattans, pinas coladas, and the occasional rum punch or tequila sunrise, engaged to deaden the deadly calm of whatever it might take to pay your rent so that you could continue to hear your landlady overhead on occasion.

This argument sometimes finds its way into your inner squabble: You do not pay close enough attention to your  usage, which is bad enough, you are often spotty in the logic of your composition.  Look at Francine Prose.  Look at Colm Toibin.

You would think to have clever ripostes at hand for such thrusts, but you have used them up.  Francine Prose has a new book forthcoming in May.  Amy Bloom has a new collection of stories.  Fucking Banville has a new novel forthcoming in the manner of Raymond Chandler.  Bad enough you have to put up with him as himself, now you have to put up with him as Chandler.

Quick, say something on your behalf.

Not crazy.

Was hoping for something better from you.  But that will do.  For the time being.

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