The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bush and Clinton—separated at birth?

Regardless of which you hold in more esteem, there is an interesting way in which these two former presidents (oops! Did I say that? I must be engaging in a bit of wish fulfillment…) have accomplished the exact same thing: degrading the English language. I mean, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” and “We do not Torture” are functionally exactly the same kind of sentences. Both are based on the fact that no word exists in a vacuum, that no word means exactly the same thing to two different people, and that there must be an intent to honest communication between speaker and listener.

Clinton took advantage of a linguistic peculiarity I’d noticed maybe twenty years ago. That is that, among a wide swath of Southerners I’ve known, the term “sexual relations” means, specifically, genital intercourse. Everything else, and I mean everything, isn’t “sexual relations.” Its oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, whatever. But the term “sexual relations”, much to my amusement, means only an act that can cause pregnancy. It was explained to me that a bride could wear white at her wedding even if she’d gone down on half the men in church. Nice image. But as soon as he said “sexual relations” I knew the game he was playing. There was no intent to honest communication. But it wasn’t exactly lying, either. That’s probably why he didn’t get convicted—too many of the men and women in Congress understood the game.

Now, Bush has defined “torture” as something very, very specific, allowing him to say “America does not torture.” To my knowledge, his definition was not the generally accepted definition prior to 9/11—in other words, if someone had done those things to our soldiers, we sure as hell would have defined it as torture. And the Geneva Convention certainly seems to define it that way. But nonetheless, by using that definition, and sticking to it, there is a queasy echo of the Clinton testimony. No intend to communicate honestly. But not exactly a lie, if he really believes that. Does he? I can’t read his mind. I know what I think, but I can’t prove it. So those who love him have their wiggle room, their gray zone. Just as Clinton’s fans did.

Sigh. I hate politics. I really, really do.
##
A student who has been in personal crisis for a while was advised to try the “Fear Removal” process. He started by saying that he pretty much couldn’t find anything he was afraid of. Then he dug deeper:

“I've got it.

My greatest, deepest and most secret fear is of finding that I am correct in my
internal assertion that I am completely inconsequential. Of not mattering to
anyone or not having any purpose. (even though I do understand now that purpose
is all internal, nothing external could ever really 'create' purpose for me, its
all in how I decide to act)

It's why I stopped writing, it's why I can't connect with my kids or my wife,
it's why I won't pursue an obvious increase in pay and happiness by doing my own
business. It's why I started drinking and stopped bodybuilding.

I have slowly convinced myself that in the scheme of my own life I don't matter.


Hell it was easy. I tend to allow people to ignore me anyway so making the
intuitive leap from - ignore = doesn't count - wasn't a stretch at all.

It also explains the disconnect within my own feelings. If I don't matter, then
neither does how I feel. It becomes a self-fulfilling cycle.

Hmm. Lots of work to do yet...

I'm not going to try the exercise yet; the stuff above came to me while
meditating.”

##
This is excellent, excellent work. He is very close to the core, existential realization of “nothingness” that lives at the center of so much of our damage, hate, and anger. My advice: do NOT try to deal with this directly. He’s not balanced and focused enough to take that ride and keep his sense of priorities and dynamism in this world.

Can you deal with extinction of ego and not decrease your motivation, joy of life, ability to express love? Can you grasp the non-dualistic position that nothing and everything are two sides of the same coin? I don’t’ blame you if you can’t. But until or unless you can, best to stay away from that edge of the reality map. Don’t pry it up.

Start with self-love and self-esteem. The ability to live to give love and support to others, and then learning to accept it as well. The BOTTOM of Maslow’s hierarchy, up to the 4th Chakra. When ALL four bottom chakras are lit up, then you have a foundation to lead to full and honest expression, deepening your grasp of reality, and finally letting go of all material expectations and surrendering to spirit.

Try to do these things without proper rooting, and many people spiral into despair, disconnection, and even a bizarre “spiritual amorality.” Hell, you could be an enlightened serial killer. No joke. So…first root. Then grow.

To my student: damned good work.

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