One of the subjects that has been on my mind recently is process. Process, to gaze upon a definition from psychoanalysis with larceny in my heart, is the mechanism that advances us as human beings from one state to another. We are always in the midst of some process or another and for every personal goal we achieve we have to go through quite a bit of it. It is to emotion what learning is to intellect, but it can also encompass learning for those activities that involve both intellect and emotion. There is no process to learning that Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914, but for something like learning how to accept criticism gracefully it plays an essential role.
I understand that I'm being confusing, and that's partially because what I'm terming "process" is a broad phenomenon that takes many forms and is different for each person. Language isn't great when it comes to explaining emotional states and even worse when trying to explain the flux of emotions. We have words like happy sad and aroused that serve as touchstones for broad paradigms of feeling but fail us deeply when trying to get in depth about how we feel. Consider me, walking through the park in the daytime with Freezepop in my ear and a little insouciance in my step. I might be thinking of some future time and unidentified place where I'm riding up a ski-lift with an attractive female of some type, charming her with my New York style sardonic humor. Beneath us is a fresh dusting of snow on a rocky alpine mountainside and ahead of us an adrenaline filled swift descent. Further into the future there may be classical music, sinfully delicious French pastries, a tub of heated bubbling liquid and perhaps even some medium level petting if she agrees that shooting Vancouver for New York is sacrilege of a depressingly high order. I'm also drinking in the sunshine, worrying about my impending midterm, and secretly yearning for garlic bread with melted Parmesan cheese on top. I may have an erecting depending on how long I spent thinking about the whole medium level petting part.
How would one even begin describing the maelstrom of emotions in this fairly typical scenario? Physically I might be comfortable and riding a slight endorphin high if I'm exerting myself. I might be relaxed by the fantasy, but perhaps aroused as well. Arousal and relaxation as emotions are often in conflict, but the multifaceted nature of human experience means that we can go through both at the same time, with a certain aspect of self being relaxed while another is aroused. Sometimes, in fact, we need the one to bring the other about. Stress, which is a form of arousal, can cause impotence. Oh what a tangled web is wove by the billions of neurons in our craniums. If we add in other emotions brought about by the fantasy, perhaps sentimentality and nostalgia mixed with anticipation of anticipation and regret, we get a state too complex to fully comprehend in the limited space of the conscious mind. Most emotional states are like this, constantly shifting chimera composed of thought and biology and stimuli and subconscious stuff welling up into the mind. Emotionally we are almost always dealing with at least 10 things. Trying to get a full handle on what we're feeling is sort of like trying to ride a unicycle through a minefield while juggling eight butcher knives and remembering a phone number (with area code) while surrounded by bears. And the bears have shotguns**. Trying to describe emotions is even worse. I'm not up to the task, at least not in the space I've alloted myself. Since process is slightly more complicated than emotion itself I'm going to struggle trying to describe it as well, but I feel the need to at least make an attempt so people can try to follow along with what I'm attempting to say if they so choose. Some may choose not to. To them I say, enjoy your graham crackers. They are delicious when dipped in apple juice. Have you ever tried it?
Getting back to the concept of process, a simplistic way of describing it might be how we evolve as people to react to the same stimuli differently. When I was younger and I got upset I would crave food. Often I would give into this craving, justifying it as a way to deal with my emotional state. This was self-destructive. These days I (often but not always) try to intellectualize the craving and respond by eating something healthful and doing something else to make myself feel better. Eventually I'd like to be able to eliminate the eating reaction all-together as well as utilizing some other crutch and just deal with my feelings directly through writing or thinking or talking about them to my stuffed bunny rabbit named Renaldo*** Process is not just the change but how the change comes about, and what it means. It's a big big thing.
And what I really want to talk about, after all that, is one small aspect of it. That is the danger of falling in love with another person's life or process.
Other people are all around us, unless we're in some godforsaken place like Mercury, in which case we have more pressing matters than our emotional states like where we're going to get oxygen from and the fact that we're melting. We learn a lot from observing them, how they behave, what they say, etc... When we are young this is a huge chunk of how we build an identity, and as we age it becomes a huge chunk of how we make decisions about what to value and care about. Other people are a great boon to us in our development, but they also present a singular threat because each person is unique from birth, even twins, and each of us reacts differently to the world. You can't follow another person's path no matter how much it appeals, and you'll never reach your potential if you try. This is one of the reasons that jealousy is such a pernicious emotion. Not merely because it makes us feel like crap but because it inspires us to chase after the dreams and lives of others. That's bullshit. Life is an ocean, not a road. You must vary your strategy for navigating it based on the winds you encounter and the vessel you sail. Logbooks and maps are a great boon but ultimately if you try to follow one to the letter you will end up wrecked upon rocky shoals. If you don't stop me I will strain this metaphor to its breaking point. I'll start talking about mizzenmasts and shit.
For those of you whom I have revealed nothing to today I think that's great. You've already set out upon your path towards enlightenment. Uhh...good luck with that. Tell me how it turns out. Drop me a line from Nirvana, tell me how the whole being and nothingness thing treats you. I'll probably have been reincarnated as some sort of arthropod by then, but I hope to be a high functioning arthropod at the very least. For the rest of you I implore recognition that the seeds to our own destruction are sown not merely within ourselves but within those around us as well. If we pay too much attention to what others do and say we can lose sight of how they differ from us, the problems with them, and why diversity can be as important as genius. If everyone was Shakespeare life would be very boring. In addition to there being nothing to eat and way too many openings for cross dressing actors, Shakespeare, brilliant as he was, only had four basic plots and a few styles to present them with. We need lesser playwrights and one hit wonders and unpublished authors and...well...we don't really need O-Town, but the legacy and lesson of O-Town is that while one needn't be Shakespeare one should not be a totally soulless corporate sell-out jackass either, unless you're bagging some REALLY hot chicks. We're talking Catherine Zeta Jones but with firmer breasts here.
A lot of what I've said might seem incomprehensible. I expect it to be to others, but the lesson here is primarily for myself. I seek to create. I would like to create something of lasting value. As of yet I have not and I have not demonstrated the skills necessary to show that in the future I probably will. That's okay. It's part of my process. I've always expected to be a Wunderkind but maybe that is not my fate. That's fine too. Many of the greatest advances and artistic works in the world have been created by non Wunderkind. Even our esteemed president was a raging alcoholic until his late 30s and a dangerously unhinged moron well into his 60s. Acceptance of process is part of the process. So much of life is recursive like that. In life you don't know the destination until after you've arrived there, and it's damned important to respect and enjoy the trip because that's the vast majority of what there is. Most of life is driving your car through strange terrain admiring the scenery and stopping for the occasional blowjob (Or to give the occasional blowjob if you're one of them girlcreatures.) Resent the path you take and you resent your own living. Then you end up like my father, obsessed with self-destruction and finally enacting it. That's not something anyone should emulate, in any way.
Every breath you take every step you make has something spectacular buried in it. Don't just stop to smell the roses, learn to smell them while you're whizzing by at 100 MPH. That's process.
*Despite the whole writing sucking thing I've still been increasing my list of people who read this thing. This is a phenomenon I don't quite get. What is going on in the heads of people who choose to add this journal during a downcycle? "Look, this guy writes a lot and it's depressing whiny and bordering on incoherent. It reminds me of the scribblings of a functionally alcohol academic in one of the soft fields. Oh look, a misogynistic passage where he misspells cloture and mistakes Lichtenstein for a philosopher. I must have more of this syntactic ambrosia." I suspect a lot of people who willingly inflict this on themselves are working through daddy issues. Of course that's a pretty good bet with ANY group of people, but it doesn't pay to make bad bets, now does it?
** I am well aware that bears lack opposable thumbs, along with sufficiently high cerebral function, and can't use shotguns. These are metaphoric bears and possess certain abilities that your garden variety real bear does not. In addition to an outstanding aptitude when it comes to obtaining picinic baskets they can grasp the weapon in the crook of their left foreleg while supporting the barrel on the right and using the left paw to activate the trigger when necessary. Physiology may have to be altered in order to allow this feat but that is allowable. Why do the bears need shotguns when they have claws and vise-like jaws? They don't want to be running into a minefield to chomp on some unicycle riding jackass who's juggling butcher knives. They're BEARS, not moose. A moose would just charge in and try to gore said jackass. A bear prefers to use a ranged weapon.
*** I do not have a stuffed bunny rabbit named Renaldo, so you PETA pricks can just STFU, thx, XOXOXO
*V Congratulations, you read through the end. I warned you at the beginning that the writing was horrible but you did it anyway, you rebel, you cock-eyed optimist, you crazy cat. What, you want a cookie? Then go get yourself a cookie. Don't wait around for my permission. When it comes to chocolate chipped delights, I always approve.