just call me raegen


Tag: belonging

Careful the Company You Keep

When my second cousin was about 3, her mother would scare her into sticking close by by shouting, “Bad people! Bad people!” whenever she’d wander off too far.

bad people

Totally unrelated, but has anyone else noticed how gas has gone up 80 cents in the past two months? (Photo credit: brand0con)

Admittedly, the quality of parenting represented by this statement is questionable. Still, I have to admit that, beyond just being frickin’ hilarious, it got the job done; little M always returned to her mother’s side when she heard this.

I hope M will someday know — in less scary ways, of course — how important it is to choose the company you keep wisely, for this is a lesson everybody is truly well served by. Without going into too much detail about the specifics of why this topic is on my mind to protect the parties involved, I was reminded once again recently of the power that the company one keeps can truly wield over a person.

big stick

Oh, yeah — wield that big stick, Billy! (Photo credit: uzi978)

I remember very distinctly the turning point in my relationship with the two people I’m thinking of specifically while writing this blog. One I never liked; we’ll call this person X. Sometimes you just meet people and know right away there’s just going to be a clash. It’s nobody’s fault; your personalities and values may just be too different, and perhaps you sense or experience a lack of respect for what you believe or represent. When that happens and you know your path and this person’s will cross again, pretty much the best you can do is hope for civility — which you may or may not give or receive.

The other — let’s call this person Y — well, that person’s just young. I always felt the — there’s no great way to say this — immaturity of Y’s mentality (exacerbated by the fact that Y always claimed to be very mature for Y’s age). And given how immature I am, that doesn’t speak too highly for Y. Still, I rarely begrudged Y for that mentality because I guess I felt I’d sort of been there, done that, and at one point, I genuinely hoped to help Y avoid some of the burning buildings I saw Y rushing toward.

fire - onlookers

Don’t get sucked in by the light, little moth! (Photo credit: Daveybot)

One October, my relationship with both X and Y took a turn for the worst. It seemed as if Y felt torn, like Anakin Skywalker, between the Jedi and the Dark Side. You can decide which category you’d like me to represent in this equation, but long story short, Y felt — for some reason that will likely never be known to me — that Y had to choose between me and X, and the choice Y made was X.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Reve...

I regret turning to the Dark Side almost as much as I regret this hairstyle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised. Disappointed, yes, but mostly just confused by the whole thing — and the lack of explanation accompanying it. Good thing I had a brain cell or two left (at least at the time) to figure it out for myself.

But here’s the thing: Once I got past the inconsideration of the whole episode and the fact that, in this particular situation, it would not have behooved any of the parties involved to have a conversation about the incident that might’ve cleared the air, I started thinking about the effects Y’s choice would have on Y’s life. Now, I’m not Y’s keeper, and it’s not my responsibility, but still, Y is young, and I suspected that one day — maybe not right away, but at some point down the road — this decision would cost Y something very valuable that Y may not even realize is valuable to Y…yet.

And so it seems it has happened.

I don’t think Y realizes it on a conscious level at this point, but all the negativity, gossiping, and general Debbie-Downering Y has been doing with X ever since I exited the scene (I was the one who always put the kibosh on that shiz) has led Y to make a major life decision that I suspect — based on the waterworks, anxiety, etc., that accompanied the announcement of the major life decision — Y already subconsciously regrets. I believe, with all the conspiring and, again, just straight-up negative jibber-jabber that X and Y were doing, Y lost sight of what really matters to Y as an individual, not just someone who needs to feel like part of the “cool” (if by “cool,” one of course means “alienating others with different views in order to bond”) crowd. Y made a decision not for Y’s own legitimate reasons, but because Y got sucked into the Vortex of Stupid. And I fear Y is going to be finding out very soon — the hard way — just what the price of that is.

This picture from a NASA study on wingtip vort...

It looked good at the time, but… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not blaming X for Y’s life decisions. No matter how naive or immature Y may be, Y must still be accountable for Y’s choices. And Y will undoubtedly learn much from this experience — but what a price to pay — if I’m right about it. Not that I hope I’m right about it. In fact, I hope things somehow do work out for Y. It’s just hard for me to see how that’s going to happen, given what details I know of the circumstance.

Anyway, it reminds me of this insightful tidbit from a longer piece that is generally attributed to Colin Powell but for which other origins have been claimed: “The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate — for the good and the bad. … If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.”

I myself had to learn the hard way just how costly surrounding myself with the wolves could be. The wrong company leeches into your system like poison; don’t drink that Kool-Aid, man!

Kool-Aid Man

The Kool-Aid Man seems like your friend…but is he? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the immortal words of Rushmore, “With friends like (that), who needs friends?”

This brings me to the following poem, which to me represents the natural conclusion to my own trials and tribulations with the wrong crowd: Sometimes it’s best to just be on your own, even if you’re lonely; to wait for worthy company that can help you soar manifest itself in your life instead of settling for less.

“Samurai Song” by Robert Pinsky

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

The Dark Knight and Night Within Us: The Colorado Shooting

Aerosmith’s “Living on the Edge” played on the radio station I was listening to a few weeks ago. I hadn’t heard the song in years. I’d forgotten not only how good it is, but how relevant it has remained.

There is something wrong with the world today. And I don’t know what it is, either. But here are some thoughts.

I grew up in a time where kids played outside, and sure, there was some degree of bullying even in my youth, but never to the degree that it exists today. No matter who you were — jock, nerd, or whatever other label had been attributed somehow to each individual — you had a place in some crowd. Everyone belonged somewhere. You didn’t have to find friends online — indeed, there was no online then — let alone find out those so-called friends weren’t really who they claimed to be and, on top of that, weren’t really your friends.

I grew up in a time where people knew their neighbors — perhaps even a little too much, like how Mrs. X had a disturbing preoccupation with sweeping the driveway twice a day. I grew up in a time where people — young and old — really weren’t isolated, sitting behind screens all day, possibly stuck in some perverted scene or another without a sense of compassion for humanity or grip on reality.

I grew up in a time where spanking wasn’t considered child abuse. I grew up in a time where there were real consequences for even minor transgressions at an early age, where kids were reined in long before the vast majority could ever go too far.

I grew up in a time where people for the most part knew how to interact with each other appropriately face to face, understood the difference between fantasy — even dark fantasy — and real life.

This is not to say there wasn’t war, murder, rape, or other horrors humankind inflicted upon each other. Perhaps I am under the delusion that certain incidents are more common today than they were then. Perhaps it was that we didn’t hear as much about these tragedies because we simply weren’t as interconnected then as we are now.

Still, is anyone really content with the current state of affairs, whether they’ve gotten worse or (I say with a large degree of skepticism) perhaps even better, statistically speaking?

Yeah, me neither.

There’s something wrong with the world today. The light bulb’s getting dim.

But what can be done?

Even more frustrating than ensuing arguments about gun control, corporal punishment, law, etc., is the thought — perhaps truth — that there really is nothing that will stop this insanity… at least nothing from a large-scale perspective.

So this is where I return once again to the issue of individual responsibility. Each and every one of us has got to be personally responsible for our actions in this world. While I do not endorse any religious belief system here, I did find some of what this Christian Science Monitor article had to say reasonable — specifically the first half. The following quote was particularly thought-provoking:

“The ultimate goal is reliable protection.”

While law enforcement, weapons regulation, etc., can potentially assist in the reduction of violent ends, they will never be able to prevent violence entirely. All these things do is serve to temper the swell. They are a treatment of the symptoms, not a solution. They will never be able to stop all evils, though they may thankfully head some off at the pass. They will never be a cure for the dark desires we all have but that rise to the surface for some people, who subsequently act out such fantasies.

Which is why heroes like Batman are so appealing in the first place. Heroes remind us of the good that also exists in people. They help us — particularly as children — to feel safe in an otherwise unpredictable and therefore terrifying world.

But the world is unpredictable, and that is and should be terrifying. Let’s not forget that even Bruce Wayne possessed the awareness that safety is an illusion — a lesson he learned as a child, when he witnessed his own parents’ murder.

He also illustrates why personal responsibility is so important. He could have taken what happened to him and let it warp him into a villain. Instead, he chose to be a force of good.

But even he stands as an example of how problematic “fighting” for peace truly is. He wreaked vengeance upon those responsible for his parents’ murder, which gives the character dimension, though he would’ve been prosecuted in our justice system for assault at the very least whether we consider it justifiable or not. The injustice he suffered as a child served to drive him toward helping others — but sadly, this requires violence to counter violence.

Guns and people kill people, but so do knives and people and fists and people. What’s the common denominator? People. We all have it within ourselves to be forces of evil or hate, just as we all have it within ourselves to be forces of good or love. We can all be knights fighting for the good of humankind or get swallowed up in the abyss of our own dark nights.

But the fight is really never with others. It’s strictly with ourselves. Batman’s cause is utterly hopeless, when you really think about it, because even his fighting against criminals can’t transform the root of the problem in the first place, which is in all criminals’ minds — and in each and every one of ours.

You can help yourself from falling. In fact, you’re really the only one who can. (This is where Steven Tyler and I disagree.)

In spite of all of those wonderful toys comic book characters have, and in spite of those heroes’ most benevolent intentions, real heroism resides in each of us; it manifests itself as the responsibility we take for our own self-control as individuals. No one else can take personal responsibility for the mastering of the self or its dark side. And though I’m sure it’s of no consolation to any of the lives touched by the Aurora, Colo., tragedy — to whom my thoughts and prayers go out to — I do believe this is the only logical solution to the problem, the only thing that can possibly prevent such atrocities from happening again in the future.

Virtues of a Private Blog, and Why I’ve Gone Public

Before I start on the actual subject of this blog, I’m going to do a shout-out to a band some friends of mine from high school invented that I think of every time I hear or see the word “public”: Public Hair.

Best. Band. Name. Ever.

And now, my blog.

As some of you already know, I maintained a private blog for two and a half years (2006-2008). Some of you even read it, as you (hopefully) do this one.

I’ve been thinking about it lately — why I stopped, why I started again, why I started a new (yeah, “a new” — get it? Not a typo.). While I do like WordPress — you know, now that I’ve figured out what all these new, fandangled tools are and how they work — somewhere deep inside me, I’m yearning for what I know is an impossibility: Myspace will once again be the social networking site everyone’s wasting their lives away on. (Yes, no matter how much any of us hate Facebook, it seems the only “cool” choice at the moment. And who doesn’t want to be cool? ::gags::)


What are they looking at? Oh, right — the gods have smiled down upon them, homogenizing their looks to today’s standard of attractiveness, thereby making them all popular! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do I feel this way? It’s simple.

1) Privacy. As implied — well, actually, specifically meant — by the phrase “private blog,” I was able to control who could read my blogs. There were even different levels of privacy, so some blogs were accessible to everyone on my page, some were accessible to a smaller list, and some were accessible only to me. (Yes, I realize WordPress offers similar functionality. But not in the same way as a social networking site does, because the two are not the same.)

This is icon for social networking website. Th...

I, for one, miss you, Myspace. You were a gentleman and a scholar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why is this control over accessibility important?

2) I’m a hater. I don’t deny this in the least. I won’t say I’m proud of it, though obviously cavalier. In order to spare the lives of those I despise and stop myself from going on a one-woman moron-extermination spree, it is necessary for me to vent. Vent I must, and vent I shall. This can be done on a private blog, where trusted friends — those who can keep their mouths shut about not only the existence of a blog, but also what is written in it — are the only ones who can read it.

I know what you’re thinking: One of these people could easily bust me out even from a private blog. True, but that’s why I said “trusted friends.” Have I misplaced trust before? Sure. But my friends today are actually amazing, not to mention the fact that they have better things to do with their lives. Uploading my blogs to public spaces in order to expose my innermost sentiments, gentle readers, is more along the lines of some stupid shiz a few of my choice ex-lovers might’ve done — if they hadn’t been deleted eons ago, that is.

I'm All Petals

“She loves me… She loves me not… Wait, she loves me not? SABOTAGE!” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a public venue, I have to be all cryptic and shiz. Sometimes that makes for better writing. Other times it just makes for a headache.

3) My friends were more vocal in private. Turns out my friends are haters, too — which is probably the thing I love most about them. But everyone nowadays fears the repercussions of personal political, religious/spiritual, sexual, and all sorts of other beliefs being found inadvertently by family, friends, employers, potential employers, etc., and later held against them. And what’s worse is that these fears are completely justified. I completely respect them.

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...

— I had HR cyberstalk you, and it was discovered that you used the word “boss” in your blog… — Sir, I meant it in the ’80s way, as in, “Your toupee is…” — You’re fired. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess I’m either just totally bold or irretrievably stupid to even write what I’ve written thus far, all things considered. I wouldn’t go as far as to say public blogging makes any of us writers brave; we either don’t care about the repercussions or we care more about what we have to say than suffering said repercussions. I’m sure it’s clear to my regulars which category I fall into.

Still, at this point, you may feel I’ve built a convincing enough argument in favor of private blogging. You may also be thinking, “Why did you change the formula here, lady?” You are right to ask a question like that. I am still asking myself questions like that.

English: "The Thinker," by Rodin, in...

Why am I here? Oh, right — I’m a statue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A journal might be a good place for your thoughts,” you might say, to which I’d reply, “A community is as well.”

See, I chose a public blog this time around. No one held a gun to my head. Yes, writers do just write for the write of it, but they also write to communicate with others, to give voice to the unspoken, to hear a response from outside the encapsulated mind. Call me shallow, call me narcissistic, call me downright egomaniacal, but I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I genuinely believe my thoughts have value. I know I don’t think like most people, and while it took me a while to figure this out and accept it, I’m not ashamed of it. I see that my thoughts may be different for a reason, could have some meaning and purpose in the world — but they’re useless if I don’t share them.

Care Bears Movie II introduced the Care Bear C...

Sharing is caring. The Care Bears taught me that. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And I feel the same way about the thoughts of friends who’ve approached me recently because of this blog to talk to me about starting or restarting their own sites. You know I’ve encouraged you, and I’ve done so not only because you think outside the box, too, but because you’re actually skillful writers as well (unlike so many out there, which is why I have the job I do). So get to work! I, for one, will read you.

I know there are people who won’t ever read my blogs. I know there are people who will read them and not give a crap. Neither of these facts discourages me, and they shouldn’t discourage you. Because there are souls out there in the world searching for someone else to understand them. We are those people they seek. We have something to offer at least one of them.

White van man, Bolnhurst

Come here, little reader. I’ve got some candy for you… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t only want to talk smack in my blogs (I said “only”), so it occurs to me that writing publicly might actually be a practice in maturity for a person like me. Again, I will never claim to be mature, and those of you who know me in the realie know how absurd it would be if I tried. I will never be mature. I’m not even sure I aspire to it, but I can attempt to practice it, at least.

But I don’t believe you shouldn’t say anything or keep it private if you have nothing nice to say, because if we all did that, all of the injustices in the world would continue on without ever being questioned, let alone stopped. I may never have anything nice to say to or about particular people or things in life, and to them, I may remain silent, but this — this is my domain. I own this.

John Betjeman's gravestone

I call this spot, yo! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So here I will be my crotchety 30-something self in all its offensive glory, because I’ve spent too many years of my life not quite “fitting in” (::gags again::) to not have figured out how to carve out a special space for myself. I will continue to tell anyone who reads this what I find wrong in this world — agree or disagree, which is your right. And I will give voice to these things because it is my right, my way of expressing the personal responsibility we all have to at least try to change this world for the better, though some of us refuse to claim it.

I love my family and friends, and I want to hear from them. I want to hear from people like me as well, strangers looking for a kindred spirit. I want to hear from people unlike me, too, because hey, I have plenty of enemies; what’s one more?

So here I am, and here I plan to stay for a while, in all my public glory.

Just don’t tell my boss. 😉