Posts Tagged ‘glasses’

Reflections

Monday, December 19th, 2016

dancing in the shadows

Dancing In The Shadows painting by Nolan Winkler

“As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.” — H. L. Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1921.

Since the election of Donald Trump, I have been haunted by aphorisms. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Everything is connected. There are no accidents. Life is but a dream.

More and more, as Trump’s inauguration approaches, I am reminded of the days following the election of George W. Bush. Okay, so George wasn’t technically elected the first time, but he was elected the second time. Remember? He won twice. His cabinet was a horror show. Yet so many people seem to have forgotten that, along with everything else that happened before last week.

Trump’s election is hardly unprecedented when it comes to electing narcissistic morons. Does the name Ronald Reagan ring a bell? And though he was not a moron, Bill Clinton would give any other narcissistic ruler in history a run for his or her money. Marie Antoinette may have said, “Let them eat cake,” but when Bill Clinton pushed through NAFTA while dismantling Welfare, thus relegating millions to poverty, he essentially said, “Let them eat nothing.”

Oh but Trump is worse. Worse than what? The Obama administration, it is now revealed, subsidized dirty coal and dirty oil all over the world to the tune of several hundred billion dollars, yet Obama-wan calls himself the Environmentalist President. Reminds me of Trump calling himself a feminist.

But more interesting to me than our general forgetfulness and gullibility is the question posed by the Mencken quote at the beginning of this article: do these narcissists and liars and morons we keep electing represent the inner soul of the American people? Are we essentially a nation of dishonest narcissistic morons?

What is a narcissist? Narcissus, so says the myth from whence comes the term narcissist, became enamored of his own reflection to the exclusion of all else. He did not fall in love with his essence because he had none. He could only see and relate to his reflection—that which he appeared to be, not what he actually was

Narcissists are incapable of empathy because empathy requires an inner-self capable of bonding emotionally with others. And why would so many people in America repeatedly choose emotional ciphers to be our leaders, our lawmakers, and the stewards of our futures? Why would we choose people incapable of being kind and generous and thoughtful?

There must be something we, the general we, mistrust about genuine kindness and generosity and thoughtfulness; and there must be something we find attractive and reassuring about narcissists. And I think these tendencies begin very early in our American lives.

Do you remember the first time you realized that being smart and creative was appreciated by your teachers, but not by all of your peers? Do you remember seeing someone being teased for wearing glasses? Or maybe you were teased or bullied for being smart or wearing glasses.

In high school, I hung out with a gang of people who loved poetry and music and art. They were sensitive, thoughtful, empathetic, self-effacing, and appreciative of each other, while the general high school population looked upon them as strange and flawed and weak. As you may have guessed, none of them pursued careers in politics.

We, the general we, also do not like complex solutions to complex problems. Nor do we like complex explanations. We don’t really want to know the details. We are an impatient people. We want instant results, and if not results, then the promise of results. Or maybe we just want promises. Maybe because we were raised on promises, not results, we learned to value promises more than the fulfillment of promises. Trump promised to build a wall to rival the Great Wall of China. Now that is an amazing promise, one he will never keep. But maybe we like being amazed by impossible promises that can only come true using special effects in super hero science fiction fantasy movies.

Maybe we, the general we, no longer distinguish between reality and fantasy, between promises and the aftermaths of promises, between what people say and what people do. Maybe we choose narcissists to rule our country because they are not constrained by truth, and those who are constrained by truth seem weak and might wear glasses and listen to classical music and have complex explanations for why something will take more than a minute or two to fix.

Jimmy Carter, who was not a narcissist or a moron, told the nation we needed to start taking action to address the limits of natural resources. We needed to stop plundering and start regenerating. He talked about complex things, such as the interconnectedness of everything. Huh? This sounded strange and weak, so we replaced him with Ronald Reagan who said we could have anything we wanted without limits, that there was no reason to worry about the environment, that America was the strongest and the best in the world, so go for the gusto. Have it all.

And if you were poor and disadvantaged, that wasn’t Reagan’s fault. Just as nothing will ever be Trump’s fault and Trump will never be wrong, just as Bush and Clinton and Obama were never wrong. Narcissists are never wrong. They look in their mirrors and see knights in shining armor.

Then they stand before us and say, “I am a knight in shining armor. I’ll slay the dragon, build a giant wall, give everyone jobs, lower taxes, rebuild the infrastructure, and make you happy. I promise.”

And despite history and reality, many of us will believe those narcissists, over and over again. Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe the tendency goes back a million years to some crucial moment when a big stupid narcissistic ape appeared to save the species, when our real savior was the little ape wearing glasses and writing a poem.

3-D

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Photo by Marcia Sloane

(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser November 2011)

As the local and state and national and global economies continue to stagger under the weight of debt, real and imagined, and seven billion hungry humans vie for space and food and air and water on the besieged planet, and the Haves continue their eternal battle with the Have Nots, Hollywood has, in the last few years, been rescued from financial ruin by the advent of huge budget movies made in 3-D to be shown in special 3-D theaters and on special 3-D screens for audiences wearing special 3-D glasses. Yes, it was a close call. People weren’t going to the movies much anymore, preferring to wait to watch the junky new films at home for pennies on the dollar or pirating them off the interweb. Why drive to a multiplex and pay a small fortune to see crap when that crap can be delivered right to your doorstep, so to speak, like bad pizza?

But crap in 3-D is amazing. 3-D crap looks fifty times more real (and better) than real crap. And little kids, the second largest engine of movie ticket sales after kids slightly older than little kids, love 3-D, probably because their brains aren’t fully formed yet and the impact of watching massive multi-dimensional animated penguins and cartoon characters and toys and gigantic super heroes killing and killing and killing and everything exploding and mutant robots eating buildings is equivalent to multiple orgasms in adults. I don’t know. I’m not a little kid anymore, so I’m just guessing about the multiple orgasm comparison. But Hollywood knows very well the effect of 3-D on children and adults, and they can’t crank out this 3-D crank fast enough. I’ve only watched previews of 3-D movies on my computer since I don’t get out much anymore, but let me tell you, once you’ve seen a preview for a 3-D movie (even without the special glasses or special 3-D home movie screens that are selling like hotcakes and currently rescuing the electronics industry), non-3-D movie previews are pathetic. Soon, I predict, even low budget films will be made in 3-D. Or maybe even 4-D.

Despite my contempt for mainstream American cinema, not to mention American culture, I am currently a fanatical fan of 3-D reality because for the first time since I was a little kid, I have excellent vision in both eyes without the aid of glasses. Yesterday I walked on Big River Beach and I might as well have been inside a 3-D movie—everything was so amazingly multi-dimensional and beautiful and clear. The waves rolling in and crashing on the shore were more amazing and multi-dimensional than any waves I’d ever seen. Ditto the sea gulls, the clouds, the sand, the stones, the seaweed, the dogs, the earth and sky.

I walk outside and the huckleberries on the bushes are so round and blue and obviously real that I want to eat them. So I do. I understand the appeal of 3-D on a visceral level now, and I thank the laser gods for this miracle of clear vision with nary a frame around that clarity.

My mother was extremely nearsighted and three of her four children inherited that trait. My sister Kathy got our father’s eagle eyes and was thereby spared the shame and ignominy that befell my other siblings and I when we first wore our glasses at school. Indeed, I first heard the word Homo used as an epithet in reference to my wearing glasses. I was in the Seventh Grade in 1960, in northern California no less, when Homo was flung at me; and I did not yet know what a homo was. The little cartons of milk we bought at lunchtime in the cafeteria were labeled Homo, so at first I thought the slur might have something to do with dairy products. I soon learned what Homo meant and thereafter got into several bloody fights defending my honor and heterosexuality.

For some years in the 1970’s my mother was a Special Education teacher in East Palo Alto where the little boys and girls, especially the boys, who had to wear glasses were routinely harassed and beaten up for wearing glasses; and those precious and expensive glasses were often stomped to bits by the thugs assaulting the nearsighted ones. Indeed, many of my mother’s students were having trouble in school precisely because they could not see the blackboard and were afraid to wear their glasses or let anyone know their vision was weak. My glasses were never stomped on, but they were frequently snatched from my face so I had to chase down my abusers to get them back.

I was an excellent and highly competitive athlete in junior high and high school, and the prejudice against those of us who wore glasses was so profound that our coaches frequently started lesser athletes ahead of us. It seemed clear that these fools would rather lose games than feature athletes who wore glasses, probably because the coaches feared the derision and scorn of opposing coaches. I was on the second string basketball team as a consequence of my spectacles, as were two other superior players, and at practice scrimmages we so routinely dominated the starting team that even the starters lobbied our moronic coach for our promotion.

I have been told that things are better for myopic kids today, in part because a number of high profile celebrities beloved by the young, including Justin Timberlake, wear glasses in public. Contact lenses have improved greatly since the 1960’s and are more affordable now. Laser treatments for nearsightedness are common, and young athletes undergo such procedures routinely now.

I used to wonder why there was such a fierce prejudice against children who wore glasses, though not so ferocious an antipathy to adults who wore glasses. Certainly the wearing of glasses still got a person classified as a geek in college in the 1960’s and 70’s, but the violent animosity we experienced in childhood seemed to largely fade away by the time I was in my early twenties. I thought this prejudice must be genetic and have to do with the ability to survive in the caves and jungles of prehistoric times when being among the fittest must have included having excellent eyesight to avoid being eaten by lions or killed by snakes and other aggressive humans.

I theorized that the priests and shamans of ancient times were nearsighted people who figured out that the way to survive with lousy eyesight in a ruthless world was to invent captivating myths and fiery hocus pocus to harness the strength and loyalty of stupid people with good eyesight. And to this day I note that many of the smarter people in positions of power around the world wear glasses.

When I was twenty-three I got contact lenses for the first time, and a fascinating thing happened to me, a thing as fantastic as my walking on Big River Beach yesterday and feeling like I was inside a 3-D movie. And that fascinating thing was that women took notice of me as never before, so that for the first time in my life I was perceived to be, relatively speaking, a hunk. By the age of twenty-three, however, I was hardwired to think of myself as unattractive and unworthy of the attention of any woman I found attractive. I had been rejected by innumerable women I felt sure would have loved me if only they could have seen past my glasses. Which is to say I was wholly unprepared for the invitations, both subtle and overt, that came my way once I was no longer seen as a four-eyed nerd, if seen at all.

One woman who chased me down, literally, had theretofore shunned me as if I wore visible proof of leprosy. I can still vividly recall lying in bed with her in a post-you-know-what haze, marveling that such a gorgeous gal had not only consented but emphatically insisted we make love, when she said without a trace of guile, “Yeah, when I saw you without glasses I thought, ‘Better grab that fox quick before somebody else does.’”

It was true: when I wore glasses I was invisible, sexually and otherwise, to most women, and when I did not wear glasses, many women saw me in 3-D and wanted to learn more about me. And I do think that phenomenon is primal and about choosing a sperm donor and meat provider in those ancient times when our genetic infrastructure evolved. A man who cannot see might make a baby who cannot see, and will certainly not see the scorpion coming to sting us, or throw his spear as well as that big ugly guy named Eagle Eye. And so…

I was married in 1984 to a bright, ambitious woman. A year into our marriage, I was struck in the eye by an errant tennis ball going a hundred miles an hour and thereafter found it impossible to continue wearing contact lenses. And so I began wearing glasses again full time, which prompted my wife to say, “You know, I don’t think I would have given you a second look if you’d been wearing glasses when we met.”

Which brings me back to 3-D being the salvation of Hollywood and all the rage this holiday season. I wonder if our current version of human society, our hyper-technical, digital, staring-at-screens reality has attained such a high degree of unnaturalness that our inner human, the one that evolved as a naked ape in those times before agriculture and electricity, so deeply craves the feeling of being alive as we evolved to be alive, that 3-D, in powerful visceral synapse-stimulating ways, connects us to how we once perceived this miraculous world. I wonder this because as I walk down the hall or write these words or pull carrots or watch Marcia read the newspaper, and I do so with clear stereoscopic vision for the first time in my life, I feel much better equipped to do what I’m doing, not to mention more excited about doing it.