A dream, a memory, and yesterday:Last night, when I settled into bed, a dream brought be back to a wtf-moment in my life - not really wtf because I was wtfing at the time, but rather because it's a memory I still don't know what to make of.
In high school and my first year of college, I was, like every teenager, trying to pull the its of who I seemed to be into an identity - from middle to high school I was almost exclusively oriented towards guys, I knew I didn't hold christianity but still had some superstitions, and my political beliefs were beginning to move from christian morality to libertarian philosophy.
Throughout high school I still went on church service trips because I thought they were clearly real and a good thing and also because people I liked went (more on that later) - we spent a week or so each year somewhere in Appalachia repairing and extending homes, digging outhouses, etc. After a year at University, I came back for a final service trip (this was not that uncommon - there were always a few slots left open on the ASP thing for people who had done it before). I had mixed feelings because although I knew I didn't believe some time before I was confirmed (and told this to the family that was assigned to helping me study for the thing), my identity as an atheist came to be a solid statement during that time - there was some awkwardness in my head in being there (although I didn't trumpet it to others).
This year was a bit different in a few ways. As expected, there were a few people I particularly wanted to hang out with while there - there was a boy I had a huge crush on for years (that crush was starting to fade - yes, this is a lousy thing about my "heart" - my crushes tend to last years, tend to bring me lots of pain, etc), and also a girl whom I also liked who was a year older. The week went mostly as expected for the work - digging outhouses (which I particularly liked - shovel + hole = happy pat). With a bit of manipulation, I ended up on the same team as both of them, and was too shy to really talk to the guy but had some good conversation with the gal - I took her to prom one year and knew her through the Challenge program (she was one year older). The difference was in the social activities after the work day - we typically worked 9 to 5ish, then went back to the high school gym in which we all stayed, showered off, and then there were social events - this year we all went down to a nice parklike area, they did the praying and meeting type stuff, and I got the impression that they were getting a bit weird with it (although this part may have been my losing my acclimatisation to the church). Later in the week I told the girl that I had something to confess, and she immediately guessed that I was gay. That wasn't quite right (at least, the way I use and used the terms - I don't see being bi as being gay and straight) and wasn't what I wanted to tell her - I told her that I didn't believe and never really had. She wasn't really put off by this at all, and said that she had serious doubts on the topic and knew a lot of people who didn't believe. The next evening, which I think was the second last day we were down there, there was a big campfire and a lot of other service project groups were there as well. They had a ritual (which would've been odd for the Methodists alone) where people would walk up to someone and offer to wash their feet as some kind of a recreation of some event in the life of Yeshua ben Yosef (as I provisionally refer to him now, not how he was addressed by the church). I thought this was kind of kooky, us all sitting in the dark, while pairs of people came up into the lit area in front of everyone else and one person washed the other's foot. I then had a tap on my shoulder - it was that girl. I did rather like her - she was brilliant, more outgoing than I am, and we had common interests, but I was far too shy to ask her out, and ... more importantly I was intimidated by the weird ritual (moreso by my being definitively non-Christian), stage shy, and I had no idea what I was supposed to do or what it was supposed to mean that I had been selected to have my foot washed by someone. It all added up to it feeling wrong so with a heavy heart I refused, not really knowing what that would mean either. She tried to convince me for a bit and went and sat back down. The whole event left me with another thing in my list of remembered moments of possible screw-up in life (that is quite a long list and I often look at it for clues as to why things are as they are now).
I sometimes wonder as well if I was trying to compensate for having gone through confirmation while not believing - the upcoming event of that set the stages for my needing to understand who I was, but not in time for me to decide never to participate in rituals in which I don't believe (a stance that is a lot more nuanced now - positions are like trees, and the event provided me a seed to plant). example nuance: Marriage - often claimed by the religious as one of their institutions. I reject that claim, and claim it as a cultural institution that happens to have religious content to the extent that religion and culture entwine. Would I marry a religious person? Very doubtful. Would I marry a nonreligious person in a religious venue? Very doubtful. I recognise that they might have reasons to want such a venue that would not mean they're religious in some way (pleasing family, for example), but there are some personally-defining events where it is inappropriate to wear a mask. I can, have, and would attend others weddings in religious venues, and might partake in whatever parts of those events that would not define me as something I am not (there is a lot of potential nuance in this). That all understood, did I make the best decision? I am not entirely certain, and even if I decide it was right by my values, at the very least it is a *lonely* decision. I think this is often intrinsic.
Yesterday: kindasorta hung out with chrisamaphone in Bloomfield, then wjl and someone else showed up to take her to other things, so I walked to India Garden for dinner. On the way, there were many interesting scents. Tacky gals whose perfumes made them smell like ground-up tic-tacs, others with a faint mix of alcohol and tobacco that is mildly pleasant (unlike either smell alone). These smells and others stirred memories. Random encounter with AGrishman, AlexR, then standard dinner, walked home in a bit of a daze. My basic social instincts are a bit off, in that I tend to draw the worst conclusions from how I'm treated in any interaction. knowing it's off doesn't, alas, provide an alternate, non-broken version of these instincts. It's generally possible to think around instinct, except when one's thoughts have a similar slant and one feels snubbed. I think often one can reason through something to draw the correc conclusion with one's mind but that doesn't replace the gut instinct of feeling hurt. maybe the basic lesson is that one's instincts are systematically distorted, intellectual arguments and inquiry are both working from weak ground.
I don't know why it's so fascinating how smell and memory are engangled. Maybe of the senses, smell is one that's less accessible, less quantifiable, etc. than the rest, and so it's one of our more "primally abandoned" senses.
Dutch people called Cheese-shoes by Germans...
Reading the biography of Trostky I picked up recently - interesting, and not surprisingly I find more areas of philosophy where I disagree with T. At the time, the use of the word Communist, within the movement, has a lot of nuance and manipulation - those who aligned themselves with Moscow and the Third International considered themselves the only real Communists, while others had mixed opinions on the term. This is a general "design pattern" of humanity - becoming hung up over terms and using their differential definitions as weapons. I suspect that my notion of Marxist Communism is much broader than that used by the Third or Fourth International, and am reasonably certain that I should not consider myself within the bounds of the Fourth or the broader Trotskyite faction. The idea of "scientific socialism" is too hard for me to swallow, and dialectical materialism is not central enough to the way I think. I sometimes wonder how much any of these movements were ever cohesive because of arguments, or whether social factors in fact account for most of the banding into tight coalitions. Given the basic need for some variety of socialism, we can easily imagine as many flavours as there are people except that people talk, that there are natural leaders, and that infrastructure starts to form like dust seeding raindrops around particular ideas. Supersaturation can't last forever..
I have not left the house yet today, although I probably should. Perhaps a jog, perhaps a lonely evening in a coffeeshop.