Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Chaos Kid








Okay, students: today's assignment is to select four words which best encapsulate/summarize your outlook, experience, and level of emotional development. It's a fun and telling exercise, and I'd enjoy hearing what you come up with.

Choosing my own four words was relatively easy:

1. chaos |kay-oss|, noun: complete disorder and confusion; Physics behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.

2. contradiction |kon-tra-dick-shun|, noun: a combination of statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another

3. egocentric |ee-go-cen-trick|, adjective:  centered in or arising from a person's own existence or perspective

4. melodramatic |mel-o-dra-mat-ic|, adjective: characteristic of melodrama, esp. in being exaggerated, sensationalized, or overemotional 

Putting them in order of influence may be a bit harder, since they often change position with little or no advance warning, depending on circumstances, and there are large areas of overlap and interaction.

Mild chaos rules my life. I am never completely sure of anything and there is so much going on at the same time, and on so many levels, that any sustained form of order is next to impossible.

Contradiction is an integral part of chaos and colors most of my life. I am, for example extremely insecure, bordering on needy, while at the same time utterly convinced that I have some special talent or ability which gives me authority to influence other people's thinking and outlook. I often sincerely frighten myself with my self-loathing while at the same time being utterly convinced that I am somehow very special, and my view of the world is the way everyone should view the world.

My egocentrism, which is pretty tightly interwoven with my other three key words, is rather like the 800 pound gorilla in the room, dominating these blogs and almost everything I write. But I really like to think that my apparent self-absorption really isn't so much a matter of that I think I'm so special (which I am, of course, as are you) but simply because I am the only human being for whom I can speak with any degree of confidence. My assumption that you share many of my views is total egocentrism; however, I find validation in the fact that you're reading my words now.

Because I still react emotionally to the world largely on a child's level, I've always been given to melodrama. Its air of unreality adds spice to my life, and I like to fool myself into thinking it allows me to vicariously experience feelings I cannot express. I do feel emotions deeply. And yet, ironically, no matter how intensely I feel—no matter how very much I might long to really, really cry, or cheer, or dance...there is something within me that does not allow it, and no matter how turbulent my inner emotions, externally I stand like a pillar of salt, watching others do so easily those things I cannot.

And there you have it: the four words—chaos, contradiction, ego, and melodrama—that underlie almost everything this writer…this one human being...does, or says, or writes. I do encourage you to take a moment to think of four words upon and around which your own life is built, and I, for one, would be delighted to hear them.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


Monday, May 18, 2015

The Endless Loop










Human beings seem somehow incapable of fully acknowledging the fact that the gift of life does not come without a price, which grows steeper with every passing year, or an end. Probably this is a good thing, since it keeps us from worrying too much about things over which we have no control.

We each develop our own philosophy―especially as we grow older―to deal with and shield us from some of the harsher blows of reality, of which none is worse than the death of a loved one. To me, the term "loved one" extends beyond partners and close relatives to include friends and pets. (Love, after all, is love, and the fact that the love was for a pet in no way diminishes the intensity or validity of the emotion.)

I recently received an email from a friend telling me of the death of his good friend whom I did not know, and the deaths of another friend's two dogs, with whom my friend's own deeply loved and recently deceased dog had played. He was truly and understandably saddened by both occurrences, and he may well have been hard-pressed to say which sadness was greater.

To shield myself from reality, I have developed and totally accepted the concept of time as being an endlessly repeating loop not unlike a cosmic Mobius strip of movie film, each micro-nanosecond being one frame of that film, and each repeating over and over throughout eternity. But because, like watching a movie, we are unaware of the individual frames, they appear to move seamlessly from one to the next. We are unaware that the frame just shown is still there, waiting to be shown again and again. 

Of course, this theory would mean that not only are we constantly reliving all the wonderful, loving, joyous moments of our existence, past and future, but that we also are and will forever be reliving all the pain and sorrow which comes as part of the price of life. And I suppose, by taking this theory one step further, one could say that the definitions of heaven and hell could be found in those repeating frames. If the total number of the frames of our life contain more joy than sorrow, that could be considered heaven; conversely, if the "movie" of one's life shows more pain and sorrow than joy, that is hell.

This idea would surely alienate organized religion, which relies to a great degree on the belief of there being something beyond death, and I readily acknowledge that there may be dimensions beyond the Mobius strip of time. But for me and those who do not hold with the concept of a specific heaven or hell, what happens after we reach the last "frame" of our particular piece of the loop of time means, in effect, nothing, since every instant of our lives still exists somewhere on the strip.

Another argument sure to be raised against the time-as-an-endless-loop theory would be that it negates the concept of free will, but I would counter that by saying that in the repeating loop of life, at each moment where a decision must be made, we of course make the same decision...but that we make it freely every time.

I try to avoid delving too deeply into philosophy, not only because I don't consider myself in any way qualified to do so, but because I too quickly lose control of my thoughts, which invariably start out slowly and methodically, but pick up speed with each factor considered, until the centrifugal force numbs the mind.

After finishing this blog and sending it to my webmaster and friend Gary for posting, he sent me this, which he found on Wikipedia: “Eternal return (also known as ‘eternal recurrence’) is a concept that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space. The concept is found in Indian philosophy and in ancient Egypt and was subsequently taken up by the Pythagoreans and Stoics.”

So, while I may not be the original thinker I assumed I am, let me just say that this is, nevertheless, what I truly believe, and while I will never know if I am right or wrong―another of the frustrations of philosophy―I am comfortable with it. If you don't have a philosophy of your own, you're welcome to consider this one. 

Or not. 

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).



Monday, May 11, 2015

The Losing Battle

I have been fighting a losing battle against reality since the first moment I became aware that the world was not what I expected it to be. The war between What Is and What Should Be is unrelenting, and I find myself increasingly engaged in fighting against another foe: the onset of paranoia.

Surely I am living in the wrong world, the wrong dimension, the wrong time. I have often quoted the story of the father who picks up his young son and tosses him high in the air. The child is terrified, but his father easily catches him, and tosses him in the air again, to catch him again. The boy soon grows to enjoy it: to delight in the sense of freedom and flying. And then the father tosses him yet again and lets him fall to the ground. Seeing the boy lying there, utterly confused, the father says, "You see, my son, you must never trust anyone."

I have always related to that story. Few human fathers would be so cruel--certainly not my own father--but Reality is father to us all, and Reality would, and regularly does, teach us this same lesson.

I am aware that if I fully acknowledged Reality it would chew me up and spit me out in the blink of an eyelash. One of the reasons I am an Agnostic is that I cannot...truly cannot...conceive of a god of goodness and mercy who could allow human beings to treat each other the way they do.

I watch TV and see aliens in human form standing in front of churches where parents are mourning their dead children, holding placards saying "He deserved to die"...and grinning happily as they do so. Surely they are not human. Please tell me they are not. Were I God, I would step down from heaven and crush them like bugs.

I watch our elected leaders and wanna-be-leaders solemnly making statements so blatantly and egregiously false, so hypocritically and calculatedly mean-spirited and hateful that I simply stare at the set in disbelief. Is it any wonder that if this is reality, I want nothing whatever to do with it? And my disbelief is compounded by the realization that millions of people, who so willingly give up any right to independent thought or to the laws of logic, actually believe what they are being told. The world is becoming a vast Jonestown, with millions standing in line to drink the Kool-Aid.

Our computer in-boxes are flooded with messages having only one purpose--to satisfy the sender's greed. They are conscience-less and merciless predators stalking the jungles of cyberspace, looking for the weak, the naive, the gullible. They are without shame, without morals, without dignity...without humanity. And knowing that I have absolutely no power to do anything about it rattles the cage of my sanity. So I scream into the tornado, the sound of which is reality laughing.

There are, of course, good people in the world, and I must constantly struggle not to lose sight of that fact. There is kindness, and love, and courtesy, and friendship, and loyalty, and dignity, and open-mindedness and caring and compassion. Every one who possesses these traits in any number and in any combination is like a bright, shiny apple of hope for humanity. Unfortunately, it is the rotting, putrid odor of the relatively few bad apples which gets the attention.

All I can do is what I can do: to continue screaming into the tornado, in hopes of convincing others to do the same. I find reassurance in the fact that I think that this could actually happen, and that I have not yet surrendered to Reality. I shall continue my battle with it, while struggling to hold paranoia at bay. It is not an easy, or a fair, fight. But I know I am not the only one waging this war, and that it is infinitely discouraging and frustrating, it is also infinitely worth fighting.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).



Thursday, May 07, 2015

When Then Was Now

Every now and then I like to go back to the letters I wrote my parents while in the Navy—and which have been published in e-book form as A World Ago—a Navy Man’s Letters Home, 1954-1956, to see what I was doing on the same date nearly 60 years ago. I found this, and thought I’d share it with you. (The “Lloyd” referred to was a shipmate on whom I had a terrific crush, even though he was totally and irredeemably straight. Needless to say, though I’d been gay since the age of five, I had to be very careful not to let it be known.)

 6 - 7 May, 1956

Dear Folks
After several days’ silence, I rise from the dead and take pen in hand once more.  Today is the Greek Easter. Today is also the morning after the night before, though I am quite proud of myself, having come through the entire ordeal with what I consider “flying colors.”

Lloyd and I went on tour yesterday.  The tour got over about three thirty―we got back to the ship at five minutes to twelve.  Between the hours mentioned came God only knows how many bottles of wine.  If it hadn’t been for the goodness of three Greek sailors, we probably never would have gotten back.  We met them in the subway, and stayed with them a couple hours.  A grand time was had by all.

I suppose I should be ashamed of myself―I’ve been spending far too much money, but who cares?  This will be the last good liberty port we will hit until we return home.  Which reminds me―did I mention our month’s extension?  Now we’re not supposed to get back to the States until July sometime.  (And then again, I heard today that we’d received another dispatch canceling the extension.)  Oh, well, think what you will.

The guide we had on the tour did not have the gift of narration that would have been so helpful―I knew more of the legends and mythology than he, and carried on a sort of secondary running commentary on whatever he said for those who didn’t understand what he was getting at.  Still, it was interesting to see what I’ve been reading about.

And here it is still another day―I have developed a muscular tic in my left arm, which is going to town at this minute.  It only goes away when I concentrate on it.  There―it’s gone.  It will be back.

The weather here has been from warm to mild, with occasional showers and cold winds in the hills and mountains.  Other than that, it’s been excellent.  I shot another two rolls of film on the tour Saturday, and so when I get home we’ll have to spread them out over several evenings. 
I got a kick out of mom’s saying that the sea air might harm the film―they are inside a steel box in a metal locker three decks down in a steel ship.   They never even see daylight, let alone salt spray.

Tomorrow we leave Athens―it doesn’t seem possible that we’ve been here a week.

Someone has donated a tape recorder, to which we are now listening―the current selection is a classical gem called “Who Put the Devil in Evelyn’s Eyes?”―a question which remains unanswered through the entire three minutes it takes the vocal group to ask the same question one hundred thirty-four times.

Later this evening Lloyd and I are going to play canasta―for which we bought two decks of cards.

You know, Saturday night we tried to figure out just why it is we should be such good buddies―I’m not the kind to have tons of friends―in the Navy, anyway.  I came to the conclusion it is because he is everything I am not, or would like to be, rather; and he looks up to me for some reason; I’m a combination of big brother and conscience.  At any rate, we get along.  Besides, I always wanted a brother.

Oh―now they’ve got a real tear-jerker―a “mountain-William” with the heartrending repetition of the phrase “Dawn’t let me hang around if yew dawn’t care.”  (Excerpt from a conversation―highly intellectual―about  the new records of a friend―“Man, they got some terrific stuff―Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb―man, that’s fine music.”  The horrible thing was that he meant it!)

I’m getting several members of our little group highly irritated.  Now, I fully believe that “to each his own”―but why THAT?

                                             Love

                                                Roge

Monday, May 04, 2015

The Price


The “gift of life” is not actually a gift: it is a balloon-payment loan which can be rescinded at any time.

It’s been said that no one can fully understand something until and unless they have personally experienced it. This is certainly true of me and growing old, and it is only as I grow older that I have realized that the longer one lives, the more expensive the “gift” becomes.

In my mind and heart, I am somewhere in my mid-20s—that time when mind and body are both young and work together effortlessly. However, after reaching a certain age (which varies from person to person), one becomes increasingly aware that the gift of life does indeed come with a price tag. 

The mirror and the calendar tell me I am 81 years old. I can accept the fact that I have lived 81 years, but there is no way possible that I am 81 years OLD! I sincerely believe that I am, sadly, a young man trapped in an old man’s body. And as such, I am forced to watch, in something akin to horror, as my mind and body lose their effortless synchronization. My always-serviceable, always-dependable body becomes less and less serviceable and less and less dependable.

My largely-unjustified vanity has turned against me and become a curse. I cannot bear to see myself in any reflective surface. I am truly embarrassed by my physical appearance and avoid social situations with people I do not know well, and even with those I know, I am ill at ease. It may not bother them to be in the presence of an old man, but, oh, how it bothers me. I know it’s irrational and emotionally unhealthy, but I can’t help it. To inadvertently catch sight of myself reflected in a store window never ceases to shock me. Who IS that person? Most certainly it is not me. 

In an attempt at self-protection, I have developed the ability to have my mind step aside and become a detached, objective observer of my physical deterioration. To realize that I am as young today as I will ever, ever be again does not help.

Having, more than a decade ago, adopted the namesake Dorien Grey from Oscar Wilde's novel, I find myself relating with the fictional Dorian Gray’s portrait. The residuals of radiation received 12 years ago, like the interest in a savings account, have accrued over time to render my entire mouth all but useless for the purposes for which it was intended. My speech is nearly unintelligible—to others and to myself. And although my salivary glands were destroyed by the radiation, my mouth still manages to produce great quantities of liquid which, with my head permanently bent forward by radiation-induced arthritis, pools in the front of my mouth, causing me to drool frequently without my even being aware of it. Whenever I try to speak, the liquid pours out. This horrifies and embarrasses me, and as a result, I almost never speak.

I cannot whistle, run, or—having totally lost my senses of taste and smell within the past year or so—eat more than two bites of any solid food, and I’ve lost the ability to even care. I now take all my nourishment in the form of liquid nutritional supplements—exactly the same thing  in exactly the same amount every single day. And because there is absolutely no pleasure in even trying to eat, I don’t.  It gets a more than a little boring.

Of course, I don’t have to worry about becoming obese. 

The price you will be charged when your balloon payments start coming due, and what forms those payments may take can’t be known until they begin. There is no one set price. What I pay is almost certainly not what you will be charged…but you will be charged.

And after saying all this, I will willingly continue to pay the price for the gift of life as long as I can afford it.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Goulash

I never cease to be fascinated with how the mind—and, of course, my mind specifically—works.
I admire those whose minds and thoughts are like a well organized closet where there is a place for everything and everything is in it’s place. Mine is much more like a “Help Yourself” bin at a yard sale. Thoughts suddenly appear from absolutely nowhere, and disappear just as quickly. 

I was thinking about goulash this morning (see what I mean?). And that thought immediately took me back to my childhood, when goulash was a frequent meal, and was often served (in my household, at least) when guests came over for dinner. America was just emerging from the Great Depression, and times and money were still tough. In 1938, the year I turned five, the minimum wage was reset by the government at twenty-five cents an hour; the average annual wage in the United States was $1,750.00. I’d imagine that’s just about what my father made as a manager-training instructor for the Western Tire Auto Company. My mom didn't work at the time...I'd just recovered from a badly broken leg which required her full-time attention, and I was a pretty high-maintenance kid at best.

Goulash, just in case you don't know, is an extraordinarily flexible and nourishing dish.  It is most usually made of beef (Mom used hamburger because it was cheaper—less than 20 cents a pound), onions, stewed tomatoes, and almost any other vegetables you have on hand, spices--primarily paprika powder, without which goulash is not goulash--and pre-cooked elbow macaroni. It originated in Czechoslovakia, where the word means  "mishmash," and depending on how it's made it can be considered a soup or a stew. 

My folks, still under 30 in 1938, had lots of friends, all of whom were in the same financial boat as they. They'd get together often, and social gatherings then consisted mainly of just friends sitting around talking, or playing games. I don't remember that beer, wine, or any type of alcohol played as much a part of social life as it does today. And very frequently, friends would just stop by, unannounced. If it was near dinner time, or if they stayed until dinner time, Mom would make a large batch of goulash. If there was any left over, we'd have it for dinner the next night. And if someone else showed up while she was cooking, it was easy to just add a little more water, or toss in more cooked macaroni or whatever happened to be around.

My family was what was considered "lower middle class," but I was completely unaware of it. To a child, whatever conditions you're used to are, simply, the way is—you don't miss what you’re not aware of. Goulash was to me what prime rib or filet mignon or lobster tails was to those more wealthy. I was largely unaware of the financial pressures my parents were under, or the sacrifices they made for me. It is with considerable shame that I remember the time my parents had to take the money from my piggy bank to buy something they did not have enough of their own money to cover, and how angry I was with them. You have no idea how I wish I could have my parents back, even for an hour, to tell them how much I appreciate what they did for me.

I'd love a bowl of my mom's goulash right about now, and to hear the talk and laughter of friends long gone. But that's all right: all I have to do is close my eyes and open my heart, and they're here.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).



Monday, April 27, 2015

Obsession

Obsess (verb): preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent

I don’t like to think of my emotional growth as being stunted, but I freely admit to its having slowed to a crawl by the time I was six. All children want things they cannot have, but most learn, as they grow older, to accept reality and move on. I, too, have indeed moved on…but I have never fully accepted the fact that I cannot have what I want, and this has been the albatross around my neck all my life.

I knew I was gay before I ever really knew what the word meant. By the age of five, I knew I liked other boys, and consider myself truly blessed that never for one single moment of my life have I regretted or been ashamed of being who/what I was. When I was a boy, I was been obsessed with other boys—those who clearly had what I felt I lacked. When I became an adult the obsession changed from boys to men, and fixated on those who possess physical, social, and mental characteristics I so desperately wanted, but did not have. My chest quite literally aches with longing to be like them…to be them. Being a homosexual is not all I am, but every aspect of my life is sternly related to it. I am gay because I am so strongly attracted to those who are, to my mind, physically beautiful, who possess grace and poise and charm and intelligence and the ability to blend easily with others…none of which, I feel, I have ever done.

I have for several years now been obsessed with male ballet dancers, who epitomize and combine my concepts of beauty, grace, and talent. I spend hours…hours I should be spending on my writing…wandering around the internet seeking photos to place on my www.pinterest.com/doriengrey “Nothing More Beautiful” boards. So as not to overwhelm anyone who chooses to view them, I limit each “board” to 125 photos. I now have 12 of them…roughly 1,500 photos, with another 650 or so I’ve not yet posted. And I am constantly adding more.

Interestingly (to me, at any rate) this particular obsession stems directly from an earlier obsession, which in turn was resolved by the most significant epiphany of my life. When in 1999 my friend Gary told me to be sure to watch PBS one night because they were putting on a version of “Swan Lake” with males dancing the parts of the swans. It was of course Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and from the moment I sat down at the TV I did not move until well after it had ended. It was the most beautiful and moving performance I had ever seen, and I was instantly obsessed. Immediately after the program ended I called to order a DVD of it and watched it at least a dozen times. When the stage production came to New York from London, I went to New York twice to see it…four times the first trip, five times the second. (And I’ve seen it subsequently in Chicago and in a movie theater “live” broadcast.)

The story is of a prince who falls in love with a beautiful male white swan who has an evil counterpart. The ending is both tragic and agonizingly beautiful. I could not understand why I was so obsessed with it…until I attended the last Broadway performance of one of the leads, and the epiphany hit me as I left the theatre: I was the prince and Ray, whom I still think of as the love of my life despite being an irredeemable alcoholic who had died of AIDS as a result of his  alcoholism, was both the white and the black swan. I had been so angry with Ray for dying that I never grieved for him. But I realized now that, with each performance I saw, I was reliving our relationship, and I was grieving. 

As I say, it was the most profound epiphany of my life.

Life is infinitely complex, and infinitely confusing to those, like me, who expect everything to be simple. Our obsessions…for those of us who have them…are signposts pointing to some often unrecognized thing within ourselves. We should follow them.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).