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Gaslighting that's for fun

Before you and I get to the matter at hand, I just want to remind us both of the importance of coordination. You know, being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Now, that’s never been a problem for me. But I do have a problem with something else, and I’m sure you’re just the one to help with this. Being able to walk and fart at the same time.

The word all over is that you can do anything and fart at the same time. I’ve worked so hard at this, and I just can’t seem to do it. I hope I never see another can of beans! They say you don’t even need to eat beans; it just comes naturally. What an incredible talent! I’m so jealous. I wish I could be just like you and sit down to dinner with a room full of people all dressed up in white tie and tails and evening gowns and light up the place. Awesome! Everyone looking shocked, disgusted, holding their noses, excusing themselves to go throw up or just throwing up right there in their Vichyssoise.

We should wait to get your sister's opinion because she’s really good at describing vomit. Maybe it would have a more dramatic effect if people threw up in their caviar. What do you think? But, of course, I’m talking to the world record holder for throwing up and farting at the same time. Now, that’s coordination!

Next week I hope we can have another great discussion like this. Maybe about how important it is to always be grown up and display good taste. That would be very timely because I have no talent for that, and you don’t either. Being really coordinated is no help here at all. Anyway, I don’t want you to change. I’ll never be grown up and have good taste, and if you’re grown up, we can’t be friends. So, I’m counting on us both being rotten little kids forever so we can be best friends forever. Here – have a nice steaming hot bowl of beans. Let ‘er rip!

Gaslighting that's not so much fun

People who think they’re bodies call themselves “realists.” People who identify with their minds think of themselves as “idealists.” There are a lot more “realists” than “idealists.” Still, that’s one of the main ways people divide themselves up because their differences show up everywhere. Like in how things are explained, how they’re governed or managed, how they’re decided. Realists being more numerous doesn’t make them right, but then the way things are going it doesn’t look like either one is right. Body-realist or mind-idealist = perfection to some, a big mess to others.

Have you thought about body vs. mind since I brought this up? Once a person decides which they prefer it’s pretty hard to change. It has consequences for themselves and others, too, because what will prevent consequences we don’t want may just be if idealists make better use of their minds. Body-realists tend to be OK with things as they are, and since they let their bodies do their thinking for them, they’re not likely to change. If idealists using their minds do change and get it right, maybe there’s hope.

The part of the body that does the thinking for a lot of “realists” is the base of the brain that sits at the top of the spine. It’s the part of the brain that connects us to our ancestors who swung from trees and lived on bananas. It’s actually called our “reptilian” brain, so I guess dinosaurs figure in there somewhere, too. It’s never evolved, and it doesn’t actually think. It directs us to act from instinct. You know, forget about being fancy with clever reasoning: just pounce on prey or snatch food or a mate, or beat up an enemy. Or run away if your enemy is bigger. “Fight or flight.”

King of the beasts

You’d think even realists who identify with their bodies wouldn’t want their behavior to be ruled by something so primitive. But there was a time and a place when a lot of them made a point of it. When they caused a whole lot of trouble -- 1930’s Germany. They associated instinct with action and action with having a will of steel and a will of steel with power that always dominates. That puts the “winner” on top with no more competition because everyone else is defeated. All by letting themselves be ruled by their bodies – by instinct acting -- instead of by their minds and hearts – by reason thinking and affect feeling. Letting themselves be ruled by instinct rooted in a part of the brain that links us to animals. That’s how Nazis “thought,” and when they let it turn them into an unthinking mob that attacked its neighbors, they started World War II.

The way they glorified their awful attitude was calling it “The Triumph of the Will.” You can Google it. It sought to put all of humanity under the yoke of one person’s mindless animal instinct. Its name was “Hitler.”

You’d think that everyone would be horrified but they aren’t. There’s a whole strain of art, music, literature, philosophy, and political ideology that glorifies “blood and soil,” tribal loyalty, racial supremacy, right-brained mysticism, and such. It’s what motivated the mob that attacked the capitol in Washington on January 6. All friendly to body and hostile to mind. All dangerous nonsense. But if you identify with your body instead of your mind, this is where it can take you.

Let's be rotten little kids forever

So, with your principal’s honor roll mind and talent for writing, maybe becoming a mind-idealist will make more sense and someday they’ll erect a statue in your honor at Andrews Park. To attract pigeons, and it will be engraved “Tomb of the Unknown Nobody.” OK, I’m being silly. Of course, it will say “World Class Coordinator.”

I’m sorry. I was trying to set an example for mindful idealism and got distracted. Not growing up is so much more fun. All the same, “World Class Coordinator” sounds pretty cool!

I have to go now. My limousine is waiting. I’ve been invited to a Hollywood dinner party where everyone will be dressed in white tie and tails and evening gowns, and they’re serving Vichyssoise. They told me there will be a young guest who will demonstrate her special talent. I can’t wait!

During one of his stemwinding Sunday sermons, the Reverend A. Graham Baldwin paused for dramatic effect. It was at this precise moment that a slack-jawed day-dreaming student in the pew in front of me let loose with a belch, so deafening it could be heard from the fitting room at Elander & Swanton. The poor guy followed this up with a startled “Oh, I’m sorry!” so loud it would have bounced off the carillon at the far end of the campus.

The guy seated to his left, Peter Herrick (’56), wanted to laugh in the worst way. But of course this would have further distracted the Reverend’s rapt audience and gotten him a demerit. So, as I watched from directly behind, his neck swelled to a reddish purple like a magma chamber in a volcano while he valiantly suppressed it.

And that was it. The service and the sermon continued without further incident. Nobody got a demerit. We all continued on our way; our grasp of religious profundities forever punctuated by a resounding belch. And I got to share the memory of it with day-dreaming classmates who probably never noticed.

Honestly, you mention anyone’s name and if they farted in my presence I’ll remember it. I still remember sitting at a long table in the cavernous, hushed reading room at Widener Library, at Harvard, when a poor ‘Cliffie let one loose you could hear in the next county. Situation like that the human fight or flight response kicks in, right? Everyone at the table has to get up and leave holding their noses. Or the perpetrator has to pull out an AK-47 and order everyone to lie flat on the floor with their hands behind their backs. I mean, you can’t just leave it – pardon the expression – hanging in the air!

Somewhere in Japan there’s a super-computer calculating the value of Pi, the mathematical constant defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. There’s another computer doing the same thing somewhere in Manhattan. They’re both on a fool’s errand, of course, because the value of Pi will never resolve to a whole number. On the other hand, I think they’re on to something incredibly important. I think they’re confirming with one calculation what might be the controlling condition of all thought, all possibility, and all creation. That would be the condition that none of it can ever come to rest.

If we think about what energy is all about, where it came from and what it’s up to, my answer would be that there are lots of explanations, but the source that these idiots calculating the value of Pi are pointing to is restlessness. Energy is force born of philosophical-ontological questions that can’t be resolved, questions that involve conflicting answers and the tensions between them. Energy fueled by titanic tensions then goes off on a tear looking for some way to come to rest.

We are part of a construct of “reality” – our real Parents and their real Child, not us noodniks making fools of ourselves in our pathetic bodies and world of material weirdness – that’s an experiment, to see if “creation” can achieve resolution and peace. And it can in theory if the Child stays out of trouble, but of course we and that poor ‘Cliffie are proof that things can go horribly wrong. How can energy come to rest when someone just farted?