The Picture of Dorian Gray, film 1945. Photo courtesy Wikipedia
I thought I would pass along some insight into my writing style. I write off the top of my head, just as I mentioned before. When I sit down to the white screen before me, I usually have no idea what I will write about until I finish. This is, afterall, not a formal paper requiring an outline and logical sequence. Nevertheless, it may explain to the reader why my blog entries sometimes take “a left turn at Cucamonga.” You probably noticed in reading the blog that things work a little differently in my brain. How one progresses from writing about illness to Easter is a prime example. It is the way I think.
I blame it one hundred percent on my parents. Hey, why not? Everything was their fault!
It was their “fault” that I learned to ask ‘if I do this what will happen?’ from a young age. It was their fault I learned to apologize if I did wrong, hurt someone, or stuck my foot in my mouth. It was their fault I learned compassion, empathy for others, concern for the less fortunate, and to think beyond myself– to have a true sense of altruism. It was their fault I learned that taking something without its owner’s permission is the same thing as stealing– it is NOT borrowing, nor is it acceptable because I think my own needs are greater than the owner’s needs. It was also their fault that I learned “I wanted to” was not a sufficient excuse for anything. My parents could not help teaching me those things, they learned it from their parents and the community around them.
Many today lack these moral tools because, in their pursuit of happiness, parents around the world shirked their reponsbilities for teaching moral behavior. In many cases, moral lessons taught were undermined by opposing practices. It certainly was not always intentional, but the results are the same. The Me Generation produced a society fraught with a whole lot of desire-motivated individuals who were incapable of responsible reasoning. I mean, if a person decides to steal from someone, say copper wire, do they really stop and ask themselves what happens as the result of their actions? Hardly. There is no necessity, empathy or forward thinking involved. A thief’s only lame justification in this country is always “I wanted to.”
A drug abuser epitomizes the selfish and self-centered individual. He is the face to “I wanted to.” Everything a doper does, from buying his first joint to stealing from his neighbors, or from sleeping with her boyfriend-supplier to selling her body for drug money emerges from narcissistic desires. “I wanted to”– with the emphasis always lying in the word “I”– becomes the sole motivation for all activities. As it grows like a cancer, “I wanted to” becomes the justification for any desire or action taken. Why did you steal? Why did you kill that man? Why did you beat your grandmother in the head with a hammer? Why did you abuse or neglect your children? Regardless of other excuses, the reality is “I wanted to” answers each question because the drive for self takes on the shape of animal instinct for those mesmerized by its power.
Empathetic, caring, loving, and giving people do not become drug abusers, period. Some will debate that statement, but while many people may try illegal drugs, not all become addicted. Their “If I do this what will happen” over-rules the temporary and base control of “I wanted to.” They view with contempt the abandonment of responsibility for a short-lived ‘high.’ They abhor those that take it upon themselves to infringe on the personal space, freedom, and property of others. They find those that center their entertainment, non-working hours, and financial means at the exclusion of TRUE friends and family reprehensible and foolhardy. And in some cases, they feel extreme anger and resentment towards the drug addicts and their enablers who cry out like wimps, “He can’t help it. It’s the drugs.”
It is NOT the drugs…the drugs are not the diagnosis, but the primary symptom. Drugs feed and nourish the “I wanted to” mindset. They do not cause it.
If I sound angry here. I am. A day or two ago, Mike got a call from a friend who owns a small house locally but stays with a girlfriend in the city. Someone broke into his house, stole all the copper wiring and as the result, his chest freezer completely thawed and hundreds of dollars worth of meat nearly ruined. He invited Mike to go and get some of it, rather than it going to waste. Sadly, for the want of a few dollars, this man has lost thousands.
Now, this guy is not wealthy, in fact, his house is little more than a tar paper shack. I know many areas in this country, like California, where it would be condemned as uninhabitable. Did the copper thieves, whom the press is quick to tell us are drug abusers, think for a moment that a person living in those kinds of conditions probably doesn’t have the means to replace that wiring? No way. “I wanted to” got in the way of “if I do this what will happen.”
It seems to happen a lot around here. Someone stole old growth trees off our farm; the same someone stole a tractor from a neighbor, burned it and then sold it for scrap. His grandfather made the excuse, “It’s the drugs.” Stores go out of business because they cannot stand up to the numbers of petty thieves. “It’s the drugs.” People get shot standing in front of their apartment. “It’s the drugs.” A child is blungeoned to death at his grandfathers. “Its the drugs.” It happens so frequently, I have often asked myself if by moving here I have suddenly stumbled across the most selfish regional culture in America. Afterall, we are bombarded daily about the rise in drug use in Appalachia, the geometrically expanding numbers of raided meth labs, the children taken in drug raids, and so forth. I wonder too, if selfish sufficiency is replacing self-sufficiency in Kentucky. What is the future for a covetous society destroying itself in the pursuit of the next high? Is something else going on?
I have no answers. But for every media-hyped example that makes the ‘good’ people of our state press for better laws, more guns, and more government intervention, an example of kindness, love, and caring quietly goes about changing its own little world without the media noticing. In the long run, it is the balance between the two that keeps humanity from completely destroying itself. This struggle is nothing new to human existence. If we take the Bible as an example, Eve definitely had a case of “I wanted to” when God told her she could have anything in the garden except the fruit of that one tree. She did not care; it was all about Eve.
I know someone like that. The woman is tall, well proportioned to her height, believes herself to be wealthy, has two beautiful sons that worship her, owns her own home, and boasts of lots of nice “stuff.” She is also perhaps the most evil person I have ever met in my life. Seriously…and I am old! She is a drug addict and DT-fighting alcoholic that could only work for her father because her extreme narcissism and demanding control-freak personality precludes her from keeping a ‘real’ job. She simply does not work well with others and prior to working for her dad, lost job after job for her laziness and poor attitude.
Yet as horrid a person as she is, life is good for her because her parents constantly take responsibility for cleaning up her screw ups. They avoid embarrassment and excuse her behavior by telling people, in essence, “She can’t help it. She is sick.” They also submit to her manipulations by actually believing her constant stream of lies and excuses. But her parents must bear the brunt of the blame for her lack of compassion, her physical and emotional abuse of others, and loss of her humanity. Somehow they taught her that greed, covetousness, and self are the most important elements of life.
On the other hand, she alone carries the shame of having sold her humanity for animalistic base instincts. She bears the true mark of the Beast…no sense of desire for a better world, for helping her fellow man, or even for hard work towards those ends. You will not find her working for charity, helping the homeless, or even listening to a friend unless there is something in it for her. Everything must have a pay back to her. She will not be seen giving any of her possessions to a needy friend let alone a stranger,unless by so doing she can control them. It is all about her and her own immediate desires. She is motivated only by a constant drive towards a consumerism focused not on taste or modesty, but quantity, expense, excess and self.
Even a so-called “user” would find himself manipulated, coerced, and controlled by this woman. The internet is her hunting ground. A pretence of being monied serves as the self-satisfying power to control others. She uses her personal perversions to drawn in her victims, then flaunts the family’s material possessions and proclaims her father’s power when confronted by authorities. She is incapable of processing the whole notion of love, so she acts as she sees others act who are in love. Her act works for a short time, but ultimately she is left standing alone and wondering how she can better control the next victim. If asked why she beats the men in her life, as indeed she does, in spite of all her excuses and lies to the contrary, she simply “wanted to.” Because “I” is the center of her world, she prefers to be feared. Instead, she is to be pitied.
You may be sitting there thinking, “Wow! Tell us how you really feel about this woman!” Yet the woman I describe is an archetype. The reality is, we all know someone like her. More worrisome, each of us carries within us the possibility of molding ourselves in her image and must be ever vigilant to avoid that. “I wanted to” is her own Dorian Gray image, dark, wicked, repulsive, ever hungered, never quenched in her greed. We must not become like her.
It is not simply good enough to put a few coins in a kettle at Christmas, if at home we teach our children the poor somehow deserve to be poor. It is not enough to volunteer at a soup kitchen if at home we teach them that anything less than name-brand is beneath “people like us.” And it is not enough to drop a cash envelope in an offering plate on Sunday if from Monday to Saturday we maintain the “I wanted to” in all our personal and business interactions. And it is not enough to shout from our soapbox how uncharitable the world treats us, while refusing to practice charity at home.
Prisons and half-way houses are full of “I wanted to” individuals. Your local hospital, courthouse, and Congress is too. It is all a matter of degree. Ah, you say, but the politicians “can’t help it, our system is sick. We only voted them into office because we wanted to.” Uh-huh.
On the farm, each day begins with a plan centered on weather, circumstances, seasons, and a myriad of other factors. One cannot plant seeds without breaking the soil; one cannot harvest without chopping weeds. It is not about taking a day off because “I wanted to.” Watching the seed rise from its darkened sleep to stretch towards the sun and produce its fruit is all about watching results in action. When we plant a seed, we are planting the question “if I do this what will happen?” At the end of the season, we have our answer for good or bad. We do not plant simply because we “wanted to” and walk away. Each seed represents finding a life sufficient to ourselves without desparately searching for new avenues to fill otherwise empty spaces. If we can find no other love but the love of the land, it is enough to thwart the effects caused by “I wanted to.”
Sadly, increasing number of country kids are grounded less in good moral lessons than the “I wanted to” culture in society around them. The loss is greater still when we realize how many will take on their own mark of the Beast like the deluded woman of “means.” May God help her and them.