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Saturday, August 15, 2009


I have become a crusty old turd in my later years. You enter a zone where any day, any week, any month, any minute the spirit may leave the body. I like living in that zone. I'd like for each day, if it turns out to be my last, to be one in tune with the heart. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. To speak from who I am even if somebody disapproves is what I call in tune with the heart. It's inevitable there's somebody who will disapprove of anything that comes up. Disapproval is so self-righteous. I've felt it. That's what makes it fun. I think of William Faulkner, who never read reviews or criticism of his writing. Approval / disapproval, is nothing but a mental conclusion drawn on next to no evidence.

Yesterday a woman whose name I don't know and is only slightly a familiar face, like somebody you see at the grocery store a few times and don't know, told me she knew I could play an instrument. Her evidence was that I owned a music store; therefore, I can play an instrument. Oh really. I said, 'If that's what you know about me, you don't know much.' Then I heard myself say it and thought: Oh, there you go being insulting again. Is it really without intending to? It's something that once it's said it's said, and there's no telling how it was repated over the cell phone. And there's no telling how little it matters.

I find that happening a lot recently, like in years, talking with someone I have absolutely no previous experience with and find out I've not been acting as expected of me. I'm afraid I don't have a 'pardon me' for such as that. We learn to do what's expected of us when we're little kids, taught by parents and other adults in church and school, and other kids. The great code of What's Expected Of You, is unwritten, but everyone knows it and lives by it, and if you go against it, you're in trouble of one sort or another, according to the gravity of the rebellion, because rebellion is what it is. I came to the mountains partially to get away from the unspoken expecteds, and found them here too. Different ones, but it's still the same. It's the glue that holds culture together and gives it an identity. It seems to hold an individual together believing one is doing what is expected.

In our culture here, we have dozens of subcultures with their own expectations. Soccer moms. Lots of them. Bikers. Lots of them. Preachers. Lots of them. Teenagers. Lots of them. Men in suits. Lots of them. Men in tshirts and bluejeans. Lots of them. White men that pay attention to Rush Limbaugh and everybody else that does not. People that listen to country music. People that listen to death metal. People that listen to rap. Every one of us is a complexity of these choices. I see each of us a faceted gem, each facet a given belief, opinion, sense of humor, what have you. We connect with others facet to facet. Like I met a lifetime friend Lucas Carpenter because we were 2 of 3 people at the college listening to jazz. Other facets came in like interest in American writing and in writing. It's like we had several facets in common. That's where, I believe, we find our friends, where several facets of interest intersect, or, in other words, find we had a lot in common.

Remembering home as a child, all the unspokens everyone in the house agreed not to talk about or mention, by silent agreement, the expecteds that were expected, but never mentioned. It really bottles somebody up emotionally. I found that out in the world on my own I was drawn to people who communicated expectations in silent disapproval too. It was comfortable. It felt like home. I had a lot of practice. It's remarkable how obedient we are to unspoken expectations. You can always tell when you've dashed somebody's expectation they wouldn't admit to with a threat of waterboarding. Because it's so unconscious. First impulse is to feel guilty. I've been through that too. Rule by guilt works really well. You broke the unwritten law. Now, feel guilty, or else.

It gets way too weird when it's even more complicated by the tv shows different people watch. I don't know anything about what's on television, which, in itself is another subculture---not watching tv. Tiger Woods is about the only athlete in tv world I've heard of. It's become so pervasive that anything said against tv is breaking the silence where any criticism of tv is unacceptable. It was like that with Ronald Reagan too. Television is about money. Reagan was about money. Greed, another of the unspokens you don't challenge. In Alleghany County you watch what you say about Christmas trees and the highest cancer rate in the state. Christmas trees are about money. County tax revenues depend on the money. That's a big silent, unspoken, keep your damn mouth shut if you know what's good for you, expectation.

Since I've been staying here with Jr watching his mind fade away, I've been having good lessons in expectation. When I go to town for the drugstore and the grocery store, whatever expectation I might have of what's inside the door when I return will not be the case, whatever I expect. Once I caught on, approaching the door, I remind myself, no expectations. It's been a good teaching. I like going through everyday life without expectation. It makes everyday events fresher when I'm open to surprise instead of disappointment. Since I've found expectation is essentially empty, just a mind thing, I tend not to value it anymore as a motivation. As a result, I tend not to be controlled by unspoken expectation any more. Every once in awhile, I make somebody mad not intending to, and suffer no remorse, making it all the worse.

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