empathy-influence

"I’ve become convinced that a big part of learning to be a mature adult in your relationships with others is knowing when to empathize, and when to influence. If you’re all influence all the time, people will eventually catch wind of it and you’ll wind up with no friends. On the other hand, if you’re all empathy, people will only value you in relationships to the extent that you validate them at your own expense. And when the tough times come around and you’re getting the short end of the stick, you will lack the requisite power to influence the relationship’s dynamic. And if you try and speak up once the power dynamic has been thrown way off, the relationship will begin to disintegrate. And they will blame you.”

- Caspian Collins

I don’t think Caspian Collins is a famous relationship expert or anything. Just a friend of a friend of a friend. I found this on Facebook. It reflects something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. After my last relationship ended, I felt so badly hurt that the “empathy” part of a relationship, whether it be with friends, family or potential romantic partners, felt really beyond me. I just didn’t have it in me to be empathetic. So I’ve spent a lot of time as the influencer. Seeking validation to account for what I (felt) I didn’t have for a while. It’s a forgivable crime, but it’s good to be aware of things like this as you mature. I’m grateful for the insights of others.

gather the children and hide your pride
we’ve got a lonely night
sing the spindle from tack to thimble
i might, i might

from where flies that light in your eyes
slow dive sweet hot and sharp my senses
the past, the future and similar tenses
spy on the maker the lowly creator
i might, i might

so here i am baby
come and take me
take me by the hand

i know you’re a rational man
he said don’t breathe just take my hand
once you are my favorite friend
everything will become different again

gather the children and hide your eyes
i’ve got a real surprise
sing the spindle from tack to thimble
i might, i might

here i am baby
take me by the hand

i know you’re a rational man
well we all do what we can

you know that it is the end
when quietly everything becomes secret again.

For those of us whose vision is ineluctably drawn toward the mystery dimensions, life requires not explanation, but attention.

Stephen Larsen

Julie Mejia and Matt Luczak, The New York Pop Conceptualists

command piece VI

Imagine for me 

A spiral staircase rising from a marble floor.

You climb it and appear on a flat roof. A dirigible descends from the sky; its bottom partition slides open and an ambassador invites you in. He indicates a castle lodged between the clouds. 

If you come with us, he says, the castle is yours forever, and you’ll only confront death if  you so choose. That’s our magic. 

The entryway to the staircase, meanwhile, is swelling shut. The clouds rapidly obscure the castle (it’s storm season). The ambassador is checking his watch.

Do you

A) Join him aboard the dirigible?

B) Go back down the staircase (while you still have time)?

C) Shoot the ambassador?

Choose wisely!

aporia

I decided I’d have nothing to say to him until I wrote the story out.

My computer is crashing, my body is breaking, the nerves in my hand crisp and tighten ‘round my palm. They freeze and thaw with no seeming logic. A shame because my ability to write and play piano depends on them. If I can’t make, I can’t think.

I navigate the means through paralysis and cash in my yang-impulses, generative energies, at the leather drum. No articulate motions of the fingers necessary.  It’s an instrument of Apollo.

I give up drinking. I’m always in the sun. Without announcement Dionysus became nothing more than the devil on my shoulder. He who dissolves into the background when you meet his gaze.

I get stronger, I tone my muscles. The vigor required to keep a beat atrophies if you fixate on harmony and proper intonation. I eat lamb to brighten my blood, and I’m in the sun all day long.

Fortitude and its discontents. I read Yukio Mishima’s Sun and Steel.

I wrote the story of how I found my spirit husband in the Earth realms by accident. I wrote about falling into the oceans of the mythical unconscious. How to buoy another person in those waters as they do you. In the house of the Jungians it’s perfectly natural. I wrote about psychosis, an inflammation of the psyche, about how schizophrenics are closer to the spirit realms than we are. He says

I don’t want to speak because words have too much meaning

as the diagnosis goes, 

schizophrenics are slaves to language; poets are a master of it.

I hand-copy the story of Cupid and Psyche. I linger on the tasks of Psyche, the girl who gave her heart to Cupid. Who sustained the wounds of an iron bow. Cupid can elevate an arrow at a perfect right angle to his shoulder, can apply the perfect degree of tension to the bow with inhuman exactitude. Cupid can make an arc so elegant and speedy that the air near his target barely shakes.

In the footnotes I say that I’ve tuned my guitar to the scale of Cupid’s arsenal of bows, the resonances of iron.  I don’t remember how the myth unfolds because I fell into a trance while transcribing it. I wrote the story by hand in cheap ink, my hands shook and froze. Word for word as it was originally committed to the encyclopedia of folklore. Word for word with the detached observation of the psychoanalyst, that was the goal, but I fell into the rhythm of this particular translation and found myself at the end not remembering the beginning or the middle. Into a story-trance again.

happy tuesday

speak / memory

New York City is the best place to forget.

theory

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I read and write theory because it protects me against loneliness. In a way, the work of “doing” theory or “doing” philosophy is an egalitarian project—it’s a mode of rendering accessible the numinous elements of a situation or context by the process of articulating them, calling them out. Granted that I hold dear that great quote by Nietzsche — “that for which we find words is already dead in our hearts.” So it’s a sacrifice; you kill off a certain air of mystery in order to provide the groundwork for the continuity of the object of your theory. To write the blueprints for a magic castle so that others may live inside it.

When I read philosophy I realize I’m not alone in the way I regard our gonzo culture, and knowing that other people think the same way I do is what keeps me going in the face of no small degree of bullshit.

I was fortunate enough this morning to take a long enough drive down a stretch of road dotted with enough McDonalds, Starbucks, auto dealers, etc., that I remembered the feeling of how most of America lives, this web that traps people and produces so much waste and absurdity. And reproduces the frustration necessary to sustain the idiot culture that fuels it, from generation to generation. I say “fortunate” because it’s good to be reminded of these things.

Living in the woods I find it easy enough to cultivate a Zen attitude toward political opinions, all of which are borne from anger and frustration. No anger — no opinion. Not when most of the sounds you hear at night come from mating owls and moth wings. When your body is weary from doing physical work or trekking through the forest. There it doesn’t make sense to deal in ideology, which draws its strength from its rigidity — its capacity to move across a number of contexts and preserve a functional structure. The thing that gives ideology its vigor is also what makes it too inorganic to have a home in nature.

Returning to the mindset of the constructed world and thinking toward August, when I’ll be back in New York City, back in a town that isn’t lily-white and somewhat intoxicated on its own natural beauty, much of the likes of which have been preserved by the state (I’m referring to land in the Catskills, here), I have to distance myself from my present surroundings, which call me away from the critical mindset that so many, myself include, develop as a tool to grapple with so much that doesn’t make sense about culture today. The true end of criticism is in enabling critics to move gracefully through a whole slew of ugliness. If there’s no ugliness to be seen— or if you just don’t regard a lot of culture as being ugly and deadening— those tools become dead weight, ugly in and of themselves.

But I have to keep those tools sharp nevertheless. When I relocated to Brooklyn last fall, I experienced a little bit of culture shock, despite only making a three hour move. Even though I was already somewhat aware of it, the damage of gentrification is really difficult to put into words, and I responded by feeling  angry a lot of the time (and yes, I say this as a white, upper-middle-class college student e.g. a gentrifier; no small part of the schizophrenia of the situation). I don’t want to forget that anger, because in forgetting it, I risk living through it again.

Not that there’s always a swift translation of theory into practice—in fact, there rarely is—but without a basic framework for action that can be shared between people and groups, action becomes obsolete. And difficult for outsiders to interpret, which makes it easier to be misconstrued and criticized on false grounds.

I’ve been trying to avoid theorizing too much, in my own thinking/writing/conversing with friends, because I hate to be seen as pretentious and I hate to alienate myself from folks who view it as an egotistical impulse. It’s a strange trade-off and I’m not sure what to make of it, except maybe to keep writing. Because my heart is in the right place, I’m pretty sure.

i need to tell the story of how darkness fled from me
nobody heals you like i heal you
but everybody beats their retreat

i want to be the knife thrower
the jovial archer
with shoulder blades like wings.