Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
November 7, 2018
A thing I learned today.
Category: Miscellany … Serious

So I learned a thing about myself today.

Folks who've known me for a while (or perhaps not as long, depending upon what you've read and/or what I've said in particular conversations) know that a question that has long plagued me is whether or not I am or indeed can ever be *good*. There's a lot involved in that line of questioning, but part of it has stemmed from my general lack of feelings, or at least their irrelevance to much of my programming: I tend to not *feel* particularly strongly, but I have principles how I should treat others given the nature of our relationships, and I stive to hold to those. One of the reasons I enjoyed Dexter (the show) was that I identified closely with the titular character's approach to the world -- he was governed not by emotions but by a set of rules: a code. In Doctor Who, I very much liked the Doctor's declaration at the end of Capaldi's first season: "Love is a promise," such that a Cyberman, purged of all emotion, is still capable of adhering to and acting on its dictates. I don't know that I'm capable of the love people generally describe when they talk about that phenomenon -- and I particularly question my ability to experience the intensity of feeling, the physical desire, the emotional connection and empathy, and so on that people describe as components of romantic love -- but I endeavor to be good to the people about whom I claim to care.

Even so, I've often wondered if this deficiency of feeling on my part is indicative of some character flaw that precludes me from being genuinely good. I've wondered if, despite my determinations to the contrary, it means that I don't *actually* care about anyone -- that my apparent concern for my friends or family in certain moments is rather a calculation or, worse, a delusion. And I've wondered about how I would respond in particularly somber moments. A common feature of my emotional presentation (or lack thereof) has been my inability to cry in instances that I should be able to demonstrate that capability. Oh, I can be manipulated to shed tears by various media -- almost always in moments of joy (the Beast's resurrection; Tigger's reunion with his friends; Curly Sue's discovery of her foster father in the adjacent room). But rarely have I been affected during sad developments in any context. I have spent much of my life decidedly miserable and have experienced moments of extreme frustration -- moments when I felt like tears would be the appropriate and welcome response -- and yet none came. (In these moments, I have derived some enjoyment from quoting Mr. Freeze in his Batman: TAS debut.) I have endured the deaths of people I liked (though to whom I was admittedly not especially close) and willed myself to demonstrate some degree of concern to people more affected in those instances, but in truth, myself, I felt very little sadness at all. I have even wondered if, when my parents finally pass (hopefully many years from now, and I continue to believe that I will go long before they do), I will be capable of weeping for them.

So today was strange, because I learned that an acquaintance passed away early this morning. I don't know that I would call us friends, because we were not especially close (is closeness a prerequisite for friendship?), but we had been acquainted for some time. He was a member of a writing group I joined back in spring 2011 -- so, aside from the occasional missed meeting and his absence during much of this year, I had seen him once a month since that time. During those sessions we'd had a number of conversations and read quite a bit of each other's writing, and I greatly admired his skill, insight, and wit. While he excelled at both poetry and memoir, I think my favorite pieces of his were the humorous short stories he'd write: they'd often describe some compelling characters and conflicts, only to culminate in a pun or joke, such that the plot was revealed to be merely elaborate setup for the punchline. (I am usually not at all fond of these types of stories, particularly outside of brief Facebook statuses; they often seem to me to be squandered potential for much more meaningful conclusions. But my late acquaintance wrote these stories so well that on many occasions I couldn't help laughing out loud when I finally reached the conclusion -- though admittedly sometimes I did need to request clarification. He died at 85 years old, and many of his references were lost on me. Also, referring to him as my "late" acquaintance is cause for a chuckle -- I was often late to meetings, and upon entering I'd apologize for being late, and he'd consistently respond by crossing himself and saying a Latin prayer for the "late" Wes. Ha ha.) He always had incredibly positive things to say about my writing and rarely had any exceedingly critical remarks; while this is not necessarily helpful, I valued his opinion so highly that I couldn't help feeling particularly encouraged by his comments.

And in more recent years his daughter and granddaughter also joined the writing group, and I really appreciated observing their warm family dynamic. (My own grandparents mostly died when I was very young, and I am a touch envious when people talk about their own loving relationships with their grandparents, but here I was just thoroughly amused to witness grandfather and granddaughter trading insults in good humor.) I was always glad to see him when I walked into the conference rooms where we held writing group meetings, and I was always a little disappointed during sessions when he didn't show. In short: I liked my late acquaintance a lot, and I will miss him, and now that he's gone I realize I'd probably have regarded him as one of my favorite people. (This is not a rare honor; I'd probably place a lot of friends and acquaintances among my favorite people -- the phrasing of the award allows for unlimited designations to that effect. Still.)

Even so -- people I have liked have died before, and I have been largely unaffected, and I would not have expected to be affected in this instance (though of course I would not have been at all pleased with this outcome). But I am affected. I have wept at various points throughout the day, and I struggled to retain my composure at several moments during the visitation even as I grinned broadly at the photos cycling on the funeral parlor video screens (the granddaughter had some particularly unfortunate fashion choices, and my late acquaintance's mustache in more youthful days was definitely a look he was right to abandon), and it is strange and pointless and I don't know what to make of it. But I learned a thing about myself today.

I could have done without this knowledge.

-posted by Wes | 10:27 pm | Comments (0)
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