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Failure of Imagination: Rants on Porn, Depression, Love and Tragedy

The first time I really thought about the concept of Me, involved eating a chewy handful of mushrooms in my first year of university.

I was 18 years old, playing the friendliest game of NHL 94 in the history of time with my best friend.  I was thirsty but all I had was orange juice and it wouldn’t go with the shit flavor in my mouth.

We refused to check each other and try to score points and frequently passed back in forth between teams. My face was lit with a mushroom smile, where you can feel the muscles in your face, breeding a second smile made of poisonous plant matter. He looked like a gigantic and peaceful gorilla.

“I have been having this thought,” I explained.

“Just one?”  my friend replied.

“Yeah I think it’s brilliant in a stupid way.”

I’m sweating so much.

“You just checked me.”

“Instinct.  I was thinking about how wonderful this is.”

“Can I check you back?”

“Sure. I was having this thought….”

“Yeah, I have feel like I am at a zoo. Everyone is wonderful and in cages.”

He might have been referring to my friends who decided to mix their shrooms with mescaline and acid and were periodically laughing, crying and kissing each other in the rooms upstairs. Through the open door, you can hear that they have settled on braying laughter for the moment.

“It’s about cages. Sort of about cages. I mean no metal. I mean the cages in our mind.”

High hyenas. Manic monkeys. Purple Pandas.

“I don’t really understand bars. People getting drunk and stupid. They should be playing hockey. Doing sports. Lifting weights. Getting a real job. Paying for dentistry.”

“It’s not really about that.  Though I see how you went from cages to bars. Nice wordplay. I am talking more about how wonderful this is. How happy I am right now. How if I had the choice to be like this I wouldn’t.  Not all the time. I’d rather be me than be happy. I like happiness but I want more from life than that. I like being me. ”

“You just scored a goal.”

“And I am a dick.”

Knock, knock.

A friend enters the room. She is little, and her face is delightfully animated. Like an adorable puppy. We beam at her and welcome her into the cave of friendship. We can see the tears in her eyes.

“I think I am an alcoholic.”

“That’s intense,” I reply, feeling like we are having a very important moment.

“I don’t understand bars.”

**********************************************************

Flash forward, through years of experience and different friends. I am in a bar wondering if I am drunk enough to dance with a pretty girl.  I am biting my lip to look sexy. The white man overbite.

“I don’t usually talk about this with people.”

I am guessing I do.

She is wearing red pants and has elaborate eyebrows.  She also has red hair, which makes her pale features somewhat exaggeratedly beautiful, like you know how people look skinnier when they wear black and more innocent when they have a fire crotch on their head? I think to myself it is a pity that in a few generations there will be no more redheaded girls and decide not to go into further detail about the article I read on the Internet that predicts her people’s extinction.

“I am sorry that we are talking about this,” she says.

Me too.

Not because she is talking, but because of how she is feeling.  I get into a lot of these conversations. With her, it doesn’t feel like an intrusion into my life, where a stranger is demanding that I act as their unpaid therapist, but where a friend is becoming someone I actually know.

“I have this nightmare. It’s a really strange one.”

“I have this one about Big Bird trying something unsavory.”

She doesn’t laugh. We aren’t in that place right now.

“It was about one day waking up totally happy.  That one day I wouldn’t worry about anything anymore.”

“Nightmare?”

“I was sad for like ten years, depressed I guess. I just figured it was sort of who I was. I didn’t want to go on medication because I felt like maybe it would all go away. Everything about me seemed so negative, it was who I was. One day I’d wake up and I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be anything. I’d just be happy.”

This nightmare sounds familiar? When did I have it?  Bars.

“Antidepressants don’t do that,” I reply. “I thought the same. That I’d become a robot. You will still be you.”

“I just couldn’t imagine what I’d be without that feeling.

“You realize you are more than you think you are, right?’

She is smart enough to realize that what I have just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

“Huh?”

“What I mean to say is….”

****************************************************************

Flash forward a few weeks.

“Why do I even like that?”

I’m deleting the porn history on my computer, contemplating Judgment Day when Google releases our Internet histories to the public and every single person is exposed for being a deviant pervert. People are agreeing with me online. For some reason that makes me angry because I didn’t say what I really meant. I wonder how many people masturbate while they are on Facebook. Something about status updates and depraved porn go together.

Many people I have never met are under the impression that they know me.  What we believe about others tends to serve our own interests. For many people I am a symbol, a voice raised against oppression for the mentally ill. My blog is a cause rather than a way for me to bring clarity to my tangled thoughts. I am not me; I am the you that you see in me. When you like my status, you are cheering for yourself.

Many assume I have answers when I have questions.  My job is to get you so outraged you demand answers from someone who might have them. A few weeks ago someone demanded I stop sharing certain erotic types of clips on my blog, because she didn’t want her like to be seen as supporting such filth.  She saw her Facebook “like” as an important tool in my repertoire. This might give you a precise statement on the present state of Facebook activism.

My Facebook message box is filled with people telling me I need to defend Andre Noel Denny’s rights as public opinion reaches the boiling point. Politically correct Mike would go along with the rising wave of sympathy, where blames is put on everyone and anyone besides Denny. It’s the mental health system, it’s the police who abuse aboriginals, and it’s homophobic Nova Scotia. I need to support Denny even if he does seem like a piece of shit.  If I were a better person, I’d have more sympathy for someone who slits a dog’s throat and beats a man to death with his fists. I’d understand that his illness is untreated and there is some delicate line where you can divide him in half between his disease and his identity.  The thing is, I am not a caricature of the Michael Kimber that appears in this website. I know lots of people who live with schizophrenia. I don’t think he is a statement about what it’s like to live with schizophrenia. He did it because he is Denny, which is a mix of a bunch of things I don’t quite understand.  I don’t know Denny, thus I find it immensely difficult to get beyond what I have heard.  Thus I am unqualified to speak on his behalf.

I wouldn’t put me on his jury. I’m not impartial. I would be using one man’s death to push forward my own agenda.

I find it strange that so many people feel that they could tell us what Taavel would think on this situation. Mainly because if I was Taavel I would be more pissed that someone took my life away, than I’d be eager for sympathy for my murderer. I would be the least impartial arbiter of this whole situation. It’s why victims, victim’s friends and family aren’t allowed on juries. It’s why Facebook activism is about being heard, rather than having something to say.

I also can’t speak for Taavel, as I only know him through the media and through some friends of mine who had some good and bad experiences with him.  I don’t think the rise and fall of public opinion is necessarily a friend to justice.  As we all know, the mob is not an impartial jury.  If the mob were about truth and justice, Clinton wouldn’t be a dude who got a blowjob, but someone who balanced the US economy.  Nowadays we could kill nonviolent resistance by saying that Gandhi beat his wife and hung out with naked teenage girls.

Ultimately since we have made this death a debate about politics regarding homophobia and mental health, Denny’s motivations and Taavel’s personality become meaningless.  Because even if Taavel isn’t the Saint we have made him, it’s wrong that he was murdered, just as wrong as if he had happened to be a dick instead of a civil rights hero. Even if Denny is a dick, the mental health system in Nova Scotia is a joke, and there is a need for serious change. To do so we are going to need our imagination, because what we have done before hasn’t worked.

We have a difficulty in separating our private and political lives.  As a result, we have made the grief of a man’s family and friends into a political affair, which doesn’t do justice to politics and doesn’t do justice to grief.

You might be wondering why I have talked about doing mushrooms; a pretty girl’s depression and sometimes watching depraved porn on the Internet in conjunction with Taavel’s murder.  It comes from my rather confusing feelings about certainty and self.  Because I want to be more than just filled with incapacitating-mushroom-fuelled euphoria and revelation.  Because we all base our identity on our things we hate ourselves and hold onto our own flaws like they were precious possessions. Because what is familiar is killing us. Because I don’t want my eventual death to become an internet meme.

Instinctually we abandon analysis in times of grief, it’s normal, and when something bad happens we want to have something nice to say.

We paint simple beautiful pictures that help us survive, yet don’t help us live.  We try to live inside a movie of the week, ruining our lives; trying to live up to what someone else imagined life should be like. For me one of the greatest terrors of humanity, is that in our greatest grief it is considered impolite to withhold judgment. That within grief we look and find a certainty that leads us to greater pain.  For safety.  Tyrants are born out of this desire. Where it’s wrong to disagree. They bring us together and people suck when they get together.

The problem is that the thoughts that make us safe are the ones we are most familiar with, and as such most comfortable. It’s why for no good reason I’m not supposed to eat bacon covered lobster on the Sabbath because I am Jewish. It’s why a lot of bad shit happened to my people and the mumbo jumbo survives.  It’s why many Christians rant about homosexuals, or abortions, because their parents did it, and we don’t feel comfortable going against tradition, that there is intrinsic value in doing as we always do.  For anyone has hated themselves for any period of time, they will recognize that it was familiar is not necessarily what is healing.  For anyone who has ever had a substance problem, we can say that what makes us feel better is also often what kills us.  Certainty leads to a lack of compassion. When we use the part of our brain that is utilized for moral judgments, the rest of our brain shuts down.  This might be why George Bush was such a fucking moron. My goal in this article is to make you uncomfortable. To get your imagination going, even if I offend you.

Because I understand what happens when our imagination fails. When you give unlicensed heed to certainty. It almost killed me.

I have my own legends, my own strange gods that protect me from being vulnerable. One of them is this blog.

Where I am strong and able to save the lives of strangers.  Rather than someone who is often overwhelmed by strangers and their suicidal desires. Where my difficulty with human connection is assuaged by how I touch others without being able to feel their touch in turn.  Where I maintain the illusion that I am someone who is going to change the world and the world won’t change me in turn. The thing is I hurt the people I am trying to help when I try to pretend I know answers rather than an emotionally manipulative method of raising questions.  And they hurt me in turn, when they send me letters about their experiences that I have no training to deal with.

But let’s be honest, this started along time ago.

For years I was more writer than human, dreaming of a world where I would have earned my humanity and could control my frailty.  And there are deeper myths beyond this.  Lies I told myself in fear and hatred, where I could be safe. Like I wasn’t meant to be loved, I was meant to be a writer. These thoughts were familiar, so deeply embedded under the surface that I wasn’t even aware of them. I didn’t even notice I was unhappy.  I was me.

When suddenly love made me live I felt passions moving through me that were beyond my control, and I tried to form myths to make them safe. Love was a new God to pray to.

Love was a young and vulnerable, unprepared to face the myths I had spent my life believing in. See the thoughts you think are more vulnerable then the ones you have put beyond question. That I wasn’t meant to be loved.  That it was always going to be poetry and never prose, hopes and dreams rather than breath on my cheek and an extremely beautiful girl in my bed. It takes imagination to love, as when you actually find it, it is unlike anything you have ever experienced.

I lacked imagination.

Even when the revelations are wonderful, it can be terrifying to be told that you don’t know the depths of yourself, that the content of your past isn’t an explanation of your future. We prefer solid ground to walk upon and for this reason, we rarely fly.

There is a safety in madness, of living in the smallest endlessly grinding wheel of our own fear.  The certainty that you are pathetic, weak and monstrous, that you know yourself because you intimately understand how to make yourself suffer. It’s like going home and never leaving your bed, comforting in the most terrifying way.  It is a truly terrible thing, that our comprehension of how to make ourself hurt exceeds our knowledge of how to make ourselves happy.  My madness involved a failure of imagination. I couldn’t feel that someone so lovely could love me. My myths eclipsed my reality. Depression in the strangest way is incredibly safe. Because we know exactly who we are.  We knew we were pain, because how else could you explain that when the world went away, it was the only thing left alive, the cockroach that survived the apocalypse. Gradually your imagination dies, and your delusions are unchallenged. Only in all that darkness, I remained desperately in love. It was that feeling that kept me going, that got me writing even when I couldn’t even sleep, that dragged me out of hell, kicking and screaming in a storm of prose and poetry. I believed there was more to my life than I could see.

I was right. We always forget live is more than what we are living right now. We forget to trust in mystery.

I understand why we fear love, why we protect ourselves from it. Love is chaos, a place where there is no ultimate certainty, only a bet you both make to jump off a cliff, fly for as long as you can, and hope that neither of you brought a parachute.  You hope the fall doesn’t kill you. And if you do hit the ground and break your bones, you hope and pray that you will remember how great it felt for those moments you left the ground and won’t develop a serious fear of heights. Because love’s life exists in our imagination, as soon as we consider it a work of art, it becomes history, admiration will turn to contempt. To love is to admire a mystery.

Most of us, when we lose our memory of what it was like to fly, hold onto our fear of hitting the ground and the fullness of the pain of impact. We don’t want to let go of our pain, because it is the most visceral memory of our happiness.   The hardest part of love’s ending, is not being in love anymore, even if it is the tortured kind. When we lose someone we fill in the vacant space, with the pain and eventually we can’t let it go, because we lived with it so long.

The hardest part of being in love is to leave it undefended. What parent doesn’t want nuclear missiles to protect their children from hurt feelings?  What person hasn’t been lost in passion and felt the demon of jealousy take away what they most needed in the world?  How many of us have gone back to the love that hurt us, because we couldn’t imagine something better.  I used to love girls that hurt me and didn’t love me. I infinitely prefer being hurt by a girl who loved me more than I thought possible.

Familiarity breeds contempt because you proceed under the false conception that people don’t change, that they’d prefer to be seen as they used to be.  Love dies in the thoughtless certainty that you know what someone else needs.  We neglect what we are sure about. We stop being loving, when we start believing that all of our actions are loving simply because we are in love.

We can forget how beautiful people truly are. How often do you think back to the end of relationships and think we should have fucked more at the end? How did that even happen?  How does familiarity breed blindness? Who hasn’t said in the words of Jus Frais, “I’d beat that pussy like it stole something from me” as they remember what it used to be? Is it forgetting the bad parts or were the bad parts simply because you forgot what the good parts were worth. There is something in us all, where the longer we look at something the less we see it. How many articles describing the Taavel tragedy were even about what happened but instead about a desire to find someone to blame for it?

We don’t need more saints to die for our sins. We need more people to live with imagination, to believe that we can be better tomorrow than we were today. To go to places where thinking can become terrifying.

I want to see you. I want you to see me.

I want you to imagine.

There’s more here than you think.