One of Freud’s contributions to his new science was that of the association. When this comes to mind, what other ideation or mental construct pops into mind as well… thus sprach the shrink. I think the human mind is a nexus of past and present associations in Faulknerian time, all circling about one another like molecules about atoms past as present and present as past. From associations one can arrive at an interpretation, which is a realistic pattern based upon the evidence given.
For me the greatest cinematic association is Kane’s mental thoughts as he says “Rosebud.” One can only imagine the condensation of his life into that one sled, so overwrought and overwhelmed by feelings for his mother and his separation from her, of having been sold to Thatcher, the banker. Study Rosebud and unrelenting loss is expressed which is an exprience hard to share and harder to metabolize within one self.
I open with this analytic morsel to present my case about an enthusiasm for life. For a night or two an association has taken hold of me, doing its ellipsoid orbits. I am close to an interpretation of that. However, allow me to offer the association itself for your consideration. At this moment I just had an association to Rod Serling. Near the end of his introduction for the Twilight Zone show he was presenting that night, Serling always made some continuing comment about how it was up to the audience’s “consideration.” Associations are forever fascinating to me, for they are intuitive insights. As I age they become more and more omnipresent and more intense.
For your “consideration”: It was about the mid Fifties and I was in high school, that dreadful and gloomy pile of stones and brick of Jamaica High School that made me depressed as a young adolescent. Although Stephen J.Gould roamed its halls with me, that soon to be great evolutionist.There was a late March snowfall, the kind that vanished within days, for the snow was quickly melted by the coming spring’s sun’s rays which also made it good packing for snowball fights. I recall I had an old Kodak Hawkeye box camera, so simple, a lens, a viewfinder and a roll of film, nothing fancy but efficient. For whatever reason, and this is critical for this entire essay, I took the camera with me and went to a local undeveloped field, gnarled trees, stumps, aberrant grass growing wildly and began to take pictures of the flora, here a shot, there a shot. I was just snapping at what I felt [I didn't feel at that time, I was dead to life] was pretty, the snow and the plants, the snow and the field itself, the soon to vanish drifts. When I had the film developed in the murky black and white photos of the time, I showed them to my father. ( I feel now I wanted his approval.) I associate so clearly to what he said, no malice at all, just his usual obtuseness, for he, too, was dead to life. And he said to me, “Where are the people?”
I was taken aback. I hadn’t thought about that. I didn’t realize. In a queer way, I felt guiltily remiss. I was not aware of their absence. I had simply gone out to photograph nature. The poor, dumb bastard of a boy I was then was primitively croaking to dimly exhort himself to feel, I imagine. I was just having pleasure with beauty, and I was shot down by “reality.” “Where are the people?”
I swallowed my father’s reality. Who knew there were other realities? I was with incorporating life rather than projecting upon it. Or, to put it daintily, I ate shit. Hmm, good.
He missed the boat with me. He always missed the boat with me. I was offering up to him my new joy at what I had observed and how it made me feel good, even elated, as I think back on it. I was acting in some fashion, however feebly, upon the world and it would take centuries of psychic time befoere I did that as part and parcel of my daily being. To act upon the world, to be in the world is a wonderful thing to come upon. I was somewhat open to nature, he was not. I didn’t even know that I was trying to be open to life. It was as if I was a frog making just one feeble croak and never more that night.
As I look back upon it, I see myself on very dull levels trying to engage the world — at 16 –to find an enthusiasm for life. It was not something I learned; it was something innate that did not have the willpower to exhibit itself. Again I associate to how a tulip bulb, at times, has to be “forced,” that is, made to bloom earlier than the season says it is time to do so. I have forced many bulbs in my life, a few still not in bloom. My enthusiasm for life was there, but it was nether and very much a surprise to me when it occurred. I was a sublimely repressed young boy.
As I ramble down memory lane with you, I need to clarify the difference between repression and suppression. Although I was a profoundly repressed child and adolescent, closed off to myself, to others, to the world, a dolt, a block, a stone — dialogue from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar comes to mind: “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things,” the tribune scolds the mob. Let me pause here and say, trust your associations, for they always have meaning for you. In associations you come across yourself, you stumble into you.
A repressed person is shut down unconsciously so, for he is unaware of that which he denies himself; he is closed off and he is profoundly removed from awareness. I have had a carotid artery close off completely and I was totally unaware of that. I could have had a stroke and died. I was lucky. It was discovered and then nothing could be done about it. Using this as an example, repression is like my carotid artery — unknown to me even as harmful and malicious results could be the consequence, and often are. Repression is your not knowing your liver, although it is your organ.
Evil in the world, malignant and malificent evil, is often so repressed that glacial aspects of self are unaware of other regions of the self. When you look at Dick Cheney, (I just mistakenly wrote Chaney as in Lon Chaney here; associate to that reader) as he tilts to his left side (his only liberal tendency) and speaks in his sepulchral voice, we can detect repression that has closed off his human circulation much as his ailing, old heart cut off his oxygen. He has died may times as a young boy and young adult; he probably didn’t take a chance with his camera, for the world was a threatening place to him. I often associate to Cheney as the iconic example of death in life.
Suppression is more of a subliminal conscious experience or a conscious experience; to be earthy, I want to touch her teenage breasts but what will be the consequence in 1956 when sanitary napkins were wrapped in brown paper wrap without the name Kotex or Modess on it, when women were embarrassed to purchase these necessities in supermarkets and drugstores. So, suppression is something that you sometimes consciously work on, like trying to have that erection calm down because the girl on the bus has a voluptuous figure. Suppression stymies. It is a ten-foot psychological and emotional styptic pencil, like the one dad used to staunch a cut while shaving. Yes, suppression was a staunch stypic pencil of the feelings. But, at least, you were aware or dimly awakened to libidinous and pyschological forces worming their way in and out of you. To have unexpressed feelings welling up in you that go unsaid and unexpressed is monumentally frustrating, rigidly Victorian.
I associate again to a wintry night standing on an elevated train, the wind blowing fiercely. I recall that I felt a kind of emotional paralysis in my right arm as I so dearly wanted to drape it across the young female classmate to keep her warm, myself as well, but I was frozen, fear held me back. My past, my culture, my time all condensed into that arm and left it inert. If I could return to that night as I am now, she would have to fend off a male invasion, done with charm and finesse. And so we repair the past with knowledge of who we are today, enjoyable fantasies if we forget the ruefulness that bears the what could have beens.
And as I reflect on this I think of all the losses in life, the small and often tender moments that we did not avail ourselves of. All of life is loss.
I spent most of my youth suppressing feelings and sexual urges. I could not say this to myself then but what I wanted to let out was my need to feel and my need, in turn, to be felt. Early and consistent hugs and embraces would have made a significant impact upon me as I reflect back. I wanted to express, to be expressive. I wanted a great deal as a youth that had nothing to do do with school, career, ambition, all the surface concerns of the Fifties. Combining that which was repressed in me, and the struggle to suppress according to societal needs and cultural mores, I was pretty fucked up by eighteen.
Clearly by eighteeen I was shut down as a young man. By decade’s end, after a divorce, an affair, therapy which was not wholesome for the therapist was incompetent, I merged into the Sixties. Slowly I began to explore what it was to feel, to surrender to the impulses within without judgment, to go with the flow, to experiment with others, to be express, to write, to feel, to smell, to touch, for the Sixties, if not anything else, was a romantic movement much like the one that revealed Keats and Shelley. (All of the Sixties can be felt by listening to the music!) I sloughed off my earlier conditioning. I am much indebted to the Sixties for releasing me from the repressive thoughts and ideation of the Fifties. I risked! I broke out, unfettered myself. I began to become creative and ultimately subversive in how I dealt with society and its conditioning.
An enthusiasm for life has been with me for decades now. At a high school reunion, I imagine, the new Matt would not be recognizable by others, for I have molted many times. I look back and see in reminiscence the thwarted, the very thwarted, feelings and expressivities I could not say or try out; how I was dumb to the world, dumb to myself, a product of rearing no doubt, and I shake my head as I realize how far I have come so that my continuous enthusiasm for life stills abides. However, as I near my end, I still struggle with the choices I make so that I sustain my own life force. I awoke about age 30. And you, reader, in what condition is your enthusiasm for life?