nolongerinbetween

We have a strange relationship with loss. We rarely experience it on its own. For too often loss comes accompanied by other strong emotions that somehow manage to take the stage completely and overshadow the sense of loss. Anger. Guilt. Outrage. Shock. Bewilderment. Regrets. Denial. Frustration. Vengeance. Helplessness. Resentment. Disbelief. My life has been marked by loss in so many ways, but I am yet to experience it pure, raw, unadulterated by any other affect. Ten years ago, when I lost my boyfriend, I was surprised to realize that, despite the emotional turmoil I went through, it wasn’t loss what I felt but outrage and a deep sense of injustice. The resentment over the way our relationship had ended shattered any sense of loss. When Tori died, for a period of time it was anger and rage over her cruel fate that took over while loss took a back seat. When my dad died guilt and disbelief were my main emotions. When I lost some friends recently the sense of loss, again, was lessened by disappointment and disillusionment. In all my experiences these secondary emotions took the reins, muddied the waters and made a mess of the emotional realm. They were supposed to be marginal, accessory, acting as backing vocals or sitting quiet in the background but they stormed the stage and took the lead. When I was a Christian, I used to think that this might be one of God’s ways of helping us deal with traumatic events of the sort. By throwing a red herring our way. Diverting our attention from loss to something more tolerable. Tricking us into suffering from a more lenient affliction. Because no matter how horrible these emotions are (anger, remorse, outrage, disgust, disappointment, bitterness, resentment etc) they are not as painful and devastating as the sheer sense of loss. Anything but that lingering ache of having lost something we had. Anything but that melancholic malaise eating at you. Now I no longer believe in God, but I still think this is a defence mechanism, our way of dealing with traumatic loss. Our way of deflecting the real drama. Juggling and trading off different pains. Playing tricks to dull our senses. Disguise. Camouflage. Substitution. Replacing loss with something akin to it but less horrendous.

*

My dad is not dead, he is missing. Every time I think of him, I cannot find him in the appropriate drawer of my mind, where dead people usually end up. I don’t think I can put this down to a residual Christianity that survives in me, to the idea that we are actually immortals, that death is an illusion, since this misplacement doesn’t apply to other people. My mind doesn’t reject the label in itself, the category of dead people, for that compartment got well populated over the years. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, pets, neighbours, you name it. It’s just that when it comes to my dad, I cannot visualize him as dead. He is just missing, absent, hidden from us, unavailable, somewhere to be found. But not dead. And this is one of the reasons why I feel that my mourning is lacking. You cannot properly mourn someone unless you give up hope and accept the finality of their death and their irreversible disappearance. Once the disbelief is shattered the grief can go full-on, unrestricted. You put everyone in their right boxes and the strange http 404 error is finally fixed.

*

On his deathbed he never mentioned the fact that he was dying. The elephant in the room … had a scythe but nobody talked openly about that. Which I found to be odd since he was a man of faith. There were no wise words passing on to his children. No sermonic rambling or Bible quotations. No formal handover of our mum’s care to us, like Jesus did with his mum. No attempt to apologize, to settle accounts and emotional debts. The patriarch of the family went full French exit with his departure. Even though I was there at the time I was left with this strange feeling that we didn’t have a proper send-off and that we didn’t say goodbye to him.

*

We all indulge ourselves at some point in counterfactual reasoning. Fantasizing about turning the clock back and removing a link in a chain of past events in order to fix mistakes we made or to change painful outcomes. So here an exercise to put yourself at the test, to see where your heart is (Matthew 6:21): if you were given a chance to counterfactually erase one single event from your past what would that be? I’m sure for all of us the competition would be fierce, for we all have tons of things we would alter if possible. From nasty things that happened to us to nasty things we did to other people. As far as I am concerned, erasing her death would be my first choice, without blinking an eye, without the slightest hesitation. There’s a long litany of horrors I would gladly change but her death tops everything. I would rather keep every instance of violence, bullying, abuse, disappointment, rejection, humiliation, betrayal, failure etc and save her. Nothing comes close to the pain of losing her. The longing to be reunited with her will never fade away in me.  

*

Why do I feel I am no longer whole since she died? Wasn’t I whole before her? Do the people we love become a part of us and alter our substance that much? For good? Do they rip out bigger pieces from us when they die and leave? If we love lots and they die on us can we be lessened to the point of inexistence?

*

South Korea – 156 people crushed to death in Seoul at Halloween celebrations. Indonesia – 135 dead in a riot and stampede that broke out after a football match. Philippines – 98 dead in a heavy storm that hit the country. Turkey – 41 dead people in a coal mine accident. Somalia – 120 killed by a car bombing in the capital, Mogadishu. India – 182 dead in a bridge collapse, many of them children. You can find these headlines in the newspapers, right at this moment. Horrible disasters, taking place at the same time, in the span of a few days, not spread over a couple of months or a year. I used to agonize over such tragedies when I was a Christian, trying to reconcile them with the concept of a benevolent God. And it’s such a relief that now, as a nonbeliever, I am no longer subject to this mental torment, fuelled by a never-ending streak of tragedies. The easiness with which my fellow Christians dismissed the problem of theodicy was disturbing. “God works in mysterious ways” is such a nonsensical defence. There’s nothing mysterious about being crushed to death by a crowd on a street. Burned alive at a music venue. Raped and killed by a Russian soldier. Drowned in a river holding your child’s hand after the bridge under your feet collapsed. Torn into pieces by a bomb. If I were a parent and I would allow my kids to be burned alive I could never say “oh please, you don’t understand, I am being … mysterious”. And yet, this is our line of defence when it comes to God. We fill the gaps with this mysterious crappy matter. Being an atheist has a lot of downsides but not having to explain evil, death, pain etc is the main, if not the only, advantage you get. This doesn’t mean you are not saddened and flabbergasted at the view of these tragedies. The thread of life is so fragile, and it can get broken at any time. Witnessing all these disasters I got to the point where I am grateful for my life and for the years I lived so far. For I have lived longer than most of these people were allowed to. If I get to live more, I look at it as a bonus not as an entitlement. Not taking life for granted and knowing that life can be taken from you in such absurd, meaningless, petty, ridiculous ways and at any time should be in our minds constantly.

*

Haunted by this image of my mum, sitting at his deathbed, broken-hearted, lost for words, hunchbacked, overwhelmed with sorrow, holding and kissing his hands for hours on end. The same hands that used to turn into fists and hurt her. What a strange thing is this redeeming love that forgets and forgives everything. “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Cor. 13:5)

*

House of the Dragon. I watch the episode in which the king Viserys is dying in a state of horrified frenziness. The gruesome depiction of aging and the misery of death is haunting. A masterclass in cinematography. The decrepitude of his body and his mind takes me back to my dad’s when he was dying, and it fills me again with horror, shock and sadness. I watch Viserys’ demise and I relive all my dad’s degradation, his delirious agony and mental pain. I can’t for the love of me get over the misery and ugliness of our dying. Nothing shook me more to the core than watching Tori, my dad, and prior to them, a close neighbour, sinking into decrepitude and dying. For a while, death and life overlap, disputing the ownership of that body and mind. Witnessing first hand that fight between life and death is horrible and faith shattering. Nature is cruel. Death in itself, ceasing to exist, is already an outrage, a wound and a trauma to our existence. There’s no need to get there through a horrible process. The fact that most of us don’t die of sudden deaths but through a slow, painful, repulsive transition to death is adding insult to injury. We are punished for our sufferings; we are punished because we were punished.

*

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In Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard drama we find the full range of domestic violence (physical / non-physical, verbal / non-verbal) one can expect in a tumultuous, passionate, volatile marriage like theirs. From both sides. We may never know the complete truth of the abuse they inflicted on one another, but one thing is certain: she is not the victim she portrays herself to be. Writing an article to speak up against domestic violence and turning herself into a public figure representing domestic abuse, while being an abuser as well, was a blunder and a bad move. I love Johnny Depp and he seems to be a genuine kind of guy, a real sweetheart, but I also know how easily someone can project a different edulcorated image about themselves, divorced from their real self, so in marital disputes it’s somehow wiser to sit on the fence and remain neutral, unless you are privy to everything that was going on between the two.

However, what can easily sway me against her, if I were to take sides, is one particular kind of abuse I talked about in my blog before (here and here), one that permeates any human interaction and in which she seems to be particularly masterful: inferential abuse. I described at length this kind of abuse and the people who causes it. They are epistemic walls. Bricks. Concrete. No logic and argument can permeate them. Teflon people. Nothing sticks, no matter how sound, simple and obvious your argument is. You just cannot corner them and make them concede territory, let alone admit defeat. They will dodge your questions, move the goalposts continuously, change the meaning and usage of words, take their words back, flip back and forth, deflect, lie, double down, gaslight, deny, flip-flop, project, strawman you. You cannot win and the problem you face when you come across someone so dishonest intellectually is that you are powerless and can do shit about it. It’s rage inducing and maddening. The only thing you can do is just to disengage yourself from future interactions with them or to expose them to a third party, to an audience. The latter is something that Camilla was able to do, as a lawyer, given the circumstances of a public trial. But it’s not something we can all easily pull off and I pity Johnny Depp for all these years of epistemic abuse and mental torment where she would distort reality, lie blatantly, change semantics on a whim to accommodate her views and break any rule of reasoning with impunity. Her obvious lie and unwillingness to admit such a simple truth when cornered into a tight spot (i.e. she did not donate the money she had pledged, period) is telling for what the poor guy had to go through over the years.

As base animals we act out and express our cruelty through physical violence. But as superior animals, endowed with language, we verbalise our cruelty and manifest our vile nature through language. Either overtly by verbal abusing our peers or covertly by engaging in fallacious reasoning and intellectual dishonesty. The violence that comes through language and from slaughtering truth and honesty in our mundane interactions, when our misguided pride gets in the way, is no less damaging and heart-breaking than physical violence. God knows how battered and bruised I am left after arguing with big-headed idiots. I’d rather take a punch than their doolally reasoning.

My father didn’t really know me. At all. He didn’t know what makes me tick, what I am made of, how damaged or brilliant I can be. To my shame, he wasn’t even privy to my mundane self since most of the time he had no idea what’s going on in my life. There’s always this huge gap between parents and their offspring that I find horrifying. Some parents manage to bridge the gap and cross it, but most of them remain in the dark. To give birth to something that is not you, that is so different, so foreign to you is a terrifying experience that all parents have, but to be clueless about what you brought into life, to raise someone who eludes you completely, to not know your own child takes this to another level. I don’t blame him though, since, like I said, it’s more like a structural fracture that emerges between parents and kids and less a parenting failure on his part. But it’s horribly sad. The thought that I could have a kid and that my understanding of him would be skin-deep, stopping at the surface, that I would be in the dark about the way he feels, the way he navigates through the difficulties of his life, his anxieties, his fears, his mental torments, his coping mechanisms, his thoughts, his pleasures, his likes, his desires, his dreams, his hopes etc makes me shiver with horror. If he could now have a look at who I am, from the inside, he would be dumbstruck. Who is this stranger he called his son for all this time?

*

When someone we love dies our mind tries to apprehend their disappearance. In the same way we try to understand what’s behind a magical trick performed on us, when something vanishes into thin air in front of our eyes. But I find that with death our mind gives up quite hastily. Because we have a name for it, because we have assigned a word for their magical disappearance (death), even though the word doesn’t explain anything, our mind stops even trying. We just accept it. Death. We shrug. We move on. No further inquiry.

Only a kid would try to deconstruct our unsatisfactory answer and look further.

– Where did grandpa go mummy?

– He died.

– What do you mean he died? What do you mean by that?

– Pause.

*

The shocking stiffness of their body. In death our flesh loses not only its warmth but also its softness and plasticity. We turn into cold, hardened objects. I had some idea about stiffness but not about the stonelike sensation and the alienation that comes with it when you touch them. The shock you have when you hold into your arms the hardened body of someone you love is something else and nobody can prepare you for it.

*

Resurrection is a collective dream mankind has got since the beginning of time. A Jungian archetype I follow faithfully. Since he died, I dreamed about him three times and in all of these dreams he was resurrected. Not just alive, as if nothing had happened, as if the setting was before his death and we were oblivious to it. He did die and we all knew it, but through some bizarre interventions (in one my mum gives him some CPR, incredulous of his actual death) he was brought back to life. He is now weak, fragile, unwell but we are all happy he’s got another shot at life. I wake up in a state of frenziness, overwhelmed by this mixture of joy that he is alive and the disappointment that is not true. Schizoid is my middle name.

*

You can’t replicate with humans the bond you have with an animal.  There’s an intensity to it that humans cannot provide with the same continuity. Because animals are simpler creatures, the bond with them is stronger and almost indestructible. Until death do us part is better matched by our animal friends than by the bond between humans, which are fragile and fickle and rarely survive the wear of time. The imprinting mechanism, that in most cases, sits at the core of their attachment to us cannot be written off. We are their world, their life, their gods, their mothers, their fathers, their kids, their lovers, their everything. Who on earth can possibly match that? What human can compete with that level of faithfulness and religious devotion?  When we lose them to death, we lose access to the purest form of unconditional love and loyalty we can get, matched only by the bond between a mother and her child.

*

Guilt-ridden. For not putting her to sleep. For not releasing her from suffering sooner. For not humanely killing her. For not being able to look into her eyes while she would take her last breath into my arms. As regrettable as it might sound, I owe my sanity to this weakness. I have no doubts that putting her down would have tipped me over the edge to sheer madness. I would have lost it completely. With my dad is the other way around. I carry a sense of guilt for not pushing him harder, for not going the extra mile to buy him more time. Guilt is indeed a nasty companion of death.

*

Even now, six months later after his demise, dad’s shirts and pants are hanging in the same places. As if nothing happened. I am seated at the kitchen table, in my parents’ home, eating, while from some hangers on the wall his shirts are staring back at me, making me uneasy. In one of his pants you can see the pocket is full, bursting with stuff he used to collect obsessively (wires, keys, pieces of paper, money, corks etc). Once or twice I buried my head in them shirts and wept like a child. Leaving things untouched after someone’s death, in an attempt to freeze time, is a clear sign of depression. But I wouldn’t challenge my mum on this since, when it comes to dealing with death, I’m not much different. I procrastinate. I linger. I dwell on it. Anything but admitting the finality of death.

*

La capela, dupa predica, lumea se grupeaza in bisericute. Catching up as usual. Copii, pandemie, joburi, nepoti, inflatie, nunti, botezuri, sfaturi despre muraturi, vaccinuri, concedii, you name it. Nimeni nu vorbeste despre tata. In afara de mama nimeni nu pare sa stie de ce se afla acolo. Nu stiu ce e mai trist, sa nu vina nimeni la priveghiul tau sau sa ai un priveghi care sa nu fie despre tine. Ca un politist de pompe funebre, incerc constiincios sa il aduc pe tata la propriul lui priveghi, sa il introduc in subiectele de discutie. Bag vreascuri pe foc dar simt mereu ca fara inputul meu focul se stinge repede de fiecare data.

Exista intotdeauna o prejudecata pe care o avem fata de cei carora le moare cineva. Credem ca e dureros si stanjenitor sa vorbim despre cei morti cu cei indoliati. Ca e de preferat sa trecem totul sub tacere. Sa nu stingherim cu indiscretia noastra. Cand dimpotriva, reflexul pe care il avem cand ne mor cei dragi e sa vorbim intruna despre ei. Sa-i netacem. Sa-i nemurim vorbind despre ei. Sa nu-i lasam inghititi de uitare. Dureros pentru cel indoliat nu e sa vorbeasca ci sa nu vorbeasca despre cel pierdut. Un priveghi in care esti injurat e de preferat unuia in care nu esti pomenit.

*

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(fabula)

zgomote din curtea vecina. o mica pauza urmata de alte bubuituri. tipete. geamuri sparte. ne ridicam din sezlong, asezam cockteilul pe masuta de langa piscina si ne ridicam in picioare intrigati de ce se intampla alaturi. inmarmuriti vedem cum vecinul nostru este legat de un stalp, plin de sange si cu un calus in gura. sotia acestuia este tarata de par de cateva matahale, imobilizata si violata. copiii lor zac inconstienti, aproape fara suflare, in spatele unor tufisuri. dupa ce ne trezim din socul initial, incercam sa evaluam situatia si sa sarim in ajutorul victimelor. politia nu este o solutie practica, since we live in the middle of nowhere, si ar dura o vesnicie pana un echipaj ar ajunge sa intervina. let alone that the red tape nowadays makes things awfully slow. it’s our call. de peste gardurile invecinate, la fel de inmarmuriti ca noi, ceilalti vecini privesc ingroziti ce se intampla sub ochii nostri. se citeste pe fetele noastre, ale tuturor, groaza si dorinta de a pune capat nebuniei de alaturi. ne sunam. stabilim un plan de bataie. marsuri de protest. pancarte. donatii. concerte pentru pace. mesaje de suport. declaratii insufletite de condamnare a violentei. ne exprimam solidaritatea. aruncam peste gard vecinilor nostri cateva bete cu care sa se apere si cateva sticle de apa sa nu se deshidrateze. facem galerii incurajandu-i sa reziste. amenintam brutele ca nu ii vom mai primi in casele noastre. ca nu vor mai putea juca golf in cluburile noastre. ca nu le vom mai educa copiii la scolile noastre private. le sunam parintii, le param odraslele si le aratam obrazul. am putea, ce-i drept, sari gardul si pune capat ordaliei. brutele ar fi in mod categoric outnumbered. noi suntem vreo 30, ei sunt vreo 3. dar e posibil sa ne luam si noi o scatoalca in the process. plus ca in incaierarea pe care am crea-o, cineva ne-ar putea confunda cu vecina. ne-ar macula reputatia. mai bine nu. ne indignam. privim si ne indignam.

(morala)

you don’t need a warrant to stop a rapist. and when you catch him red-handed abusing a women, you don’t wipe off the tears on her face and you don’t offer her emotional support while being raped. you first stop the damn rape.

I’m always on the lookout for smart people. But when it comes to sex intellect is immaterial to me. I don’t need my partners to be smart for a simple roll in the hay. If they know what the law of the excluded middle entails it’s all great but, at the end of the day, I don’t care if their inferential machine is completely out of order. They are not there to trade in logic, to recite from Dante or to talk about the distinction between induction and deduction in epistemology. They are there because they have a body I happen to like. It’s great if all that comes with a nice personality and a smart brain as well but it’s not a requirement whatsoever. A nice body will do just fine.

More and more people nowadays pretend to be sapiosexual. In most cases they are not. They might be drawn, admittedly, to smart people and have an appreciation for brains, amongst many other things, but that, in itself, doesn’t make them sapiosexuals. Just finding intelligence sexy is not enough. You need to always value mind over body, brain over looks, spirit over matter. You need to fall for someone’s mind and turn all that brilliance into eroticism. You need to transcend your bodycentrism that evolution installed at the core of your sexual drive. You need to transcend your inherent somatocentrism with its privileging of sight over other senses in constructing your reality to qualify as one. Looking from such a narrow perspective I don’t think I have ever met a genuine sapiosexual other than a girlfriend I had recently and myself when I was a teenager and engrossed with brilliance.

However, like I said, that is a thing of the past. Having sexual intercourse with Einstein is no longer my thing. You can now be a complete moron and I will still have my way with you, providing I like you physically. But there is a catch and this is the reason why my last sexual encounter turned into a disaster and why I’m rambling over it now. I don’t have a problem with someone being stupid as long as I don’t have to witness that stupidity. I don’t care if you think the Earth is flat if you keep that to yourself and take your clothes off. It’s none of my business how smart or stupid someone is and as long as you don’t make your stupidity my problem we are cool. Keep your mouth shut and everything will be fine, the birds and the bees will go about their pollination business. Open your mouth, in a non-sexual way (blush), and it’s quite likely you’ll kill my sexual mojo. And this is what happened with my last date that went south. He opened his mouth trying to prove his worth. He wanted a bit of chit-chat over a glass of wine and ended up feeling threatened by my confidence and cogent argumentation. I knew I wasn’t there to burst his bubble but I’m done being apologetic for outsmarting people around me. He then started talking nonsense in the usual passive-aggressive way people use when challenged, digging himself into an even deeper hole trying to find a way out. And boy, did I roll my eyes like a broken doll. Properly harnessed that could have been used to generate electricity and power an entire village. At some point it did cross my mind to spare him, to curb my perplexity and save the night but the genie of his inanity was already out of the bottle. No matter how great was his body I could no longer ignore his defected mind and his nonsensical discourse. He made his stupidity my problem. I threw my hands up in despair, packed my things and saw myself out. There I was, in bed with a hunk who wanted me, being screwed by my brain instead. Fuuuuck my brain. If I had known when I was a child that smartness will ruin my sexual life I would have dropped school. What’s the point of being smarter if we reproduce and multiply at a lower rate than our idiotic counterparts. No wonder we are outnumbered. We are outrun at passing our genes.

And now what? Do I need to date only smart people? Do I need to date speech impaired ones to avoid the warming-up conversation? Do I need to shush them when we meet up? Do I need condoms for my ears as well? Do I need to get stupid to get laid? The amount of trouble and compromise smart people have to go through for a shag is staggering. Aaargh, another reason not to be smart – it ruins your sexual life. It causes coitus interruptus before any foreplay even starting…

What is new this time is that I can’t seem to get myself to acknowledge his death. There’s a veil on my eyes that hides it from me and protects my mind from the horror of it. If you bump into me on the street and suddenly ask what’s been new with me for the past six months I wouldn’t answer: “oh well, unfortunately my father has died”. That information is just not there, not on a conscious level. I do know something horrible happened, because the pain, the trauma and all that is there but I cannot quite put my finger on it. Its source eludes me. It’s like having had a car crash accident and now, coming out of a coma, I feel bruised, covered in hematomas, traumatized but it’s all blur and I can’t put all the pieces together about how I got in that state. The last thing I remember is that my dad was dying of a horrible, horrible death but not that he did pass away. The last save checkpoint is before his actual demise. I have to dig deep to get to the hard fact of his actual death and get hit by such a disheartening realization.

*

Church gathering at the chapel around his coffin. Eulogies for my dad. Prayers. Choral singing about resurrection. I listen to their sermon in dismay but resigned. Their theological rambling brings back memories and I remember the reasons why I could never feel at home with their views. At some point I am even singled out in their speech, along with some hints to the prodigal son, and I regret not being able to make a statement by storming out. I never shied away from expressing my opposition to them, but now, for his sake, I stay put and play ball. I bury the hatchet to properly bury my dad.

*

Not believing in God anymore made his dying so much easier to deal with. It’s not that I am capable of the serene resignation atheists are talking about. I loathe that. It’s just that I no longer had to partake in the theodicean war. Reconciling God with my dad’s horrible dying was no longer an issue. It is what it is. No one to blame and hold to account. No gods to defend or to scold. No need to argue with an imaginary loving deity about cruelty. I was spared the excruciating torment I had to go through two years ago.

*

When Tori died my mind played obsessively for a couple of weeks the horrific details of her last days. The idea that I could forget the tiniest detail or repress them and inadvertently speed up the healing was suffocating me. The anger I had in me for her undeserved suffering was bordering on self-destruction. Nothing of this sort now with my dad. There’s no vivid details of his agony in my mind. No gore imagery playing on a loop. I know the suffering he had to go through was horrifying but when it comes to actual details, I have to retrieve them from my memory with some effort. They have been pushed away at the edge of my conscience, repressed, concealed, underplayed, edited, revised, softened, rewritten. At times glimpses of his agony break the censorship of my consciousness and I am utterly shocked by what I recall.

*

It’s been two years today since she died. I will carry with me the dread and heaviness of that day for the rest of my life. Was I right to worry about healing and moving on at a pace I found disheartening? In many ways I was. It’s not that the healing will ever be completed. For some people that would be true, for some it wouldn’t. But life is indeed like living in flowing waters, pushed forward by alluvium. You might stall and get stuck once in a while but eventually you will move on. The only thing that has remained unaltered, two years after she died, is my love for her. The intensity is all there, untainted, intact. I would still cross mountains and oceans, I would still go to the end of the Earth on foot to be with her if that would be possible. In two years I didn’t move an inch from that and I don’t think I will ever do.

*

I’m not the only one stricken by disbelief. Expecting him to suddenly show up, to come back from his journey or his stay in a hospital or whatever. My mum finds herself looking through the windows to see him in the garden or crossing the street from his shopping rounds. We know he is gone but not that he is dead. That would be horrible. We are stalling and dodging the bullet of truth as long as possible. Our minds play tricks on us to help us cope with the harsh truth of his definitive departure.

*

I’m haunted by the image of his deathbed scene. He died like an animal in a cage. Keeping me awake in the night while he was rattling the bars of his improvised cell. His mind was severely damaged but his instinct for freedom was intact. He wasn’t ready to give it up without putting up a fight. The need for freedom was the last thing that died in him. At the time, exhausted by sleep deprivation, I was rather annoyed with his restlessness and his attempts to escape. Now, that the dust has settled, I can see beyond the nuisance of having to restrain him and I can recognize in that relentless stubbornness his need to regain a sense of dignity and I am profoundly ashamed and guilt-ridden. Subjecting him to restrains, however needed for his own sake and protection, feels cruel to me now. Nobody should die like an animal in captivity, but they should be given the dignity of dying on their own terms.

*

Grieving feels different this time. I didn’t come undone like two years ago, when Tori died. Now the main theme is disbelief not anger, but also the pain is less striking, more discreet. Do I get used to the notion that we are mortal, finite beings? Do I love him less than I love her? Does being a nonbeliever now make things easier? Do we get altered by each death of our loved ones to the point where we just feel numb or hardly anything at all?

*

We all have misconstrued ideas of what Alzheimer is about. It sounds exotic and we think is about forgetfulness. About forgetting where you put your keys or misplacing things. But that is the surface, the trivial layer of your condition. In Alzheimer you actually lose yourself. You lose the keys to your self, to your own identity. You are dead before having died. Waiting in the dementia’s realm for your body to catch up with your mind and die as well.

*

I find the idea of dying on your birthday fascinating. Coming full circle is just beautiful. I’m no longer a religious person but I can’t help trying to extract a religious meaning from such an unlikely event. It shouldn’t really matter since it’s a trivial detail but the fact that he died on the same day of his birth was a solace to me and gave me a bit of consolation. It is said that in Alzheimer you go backwards, in reverse, losing, at first, your most recent cognitive skills and memories until you reach the first ones you acquired as a baby. Maybe that’s true and my dad reached the beginning of things and then he just died, bringing the past, present and future together.

*

All animals need a shelter. We humans go deeper than this basic need. We need a home. We need to establish an emotional bond with a specific place. We isolate a place from the wild environment, we claim it for us and make it our own. We turn chaos into order. We turn alterity into familiarity. We tame that place and call it home. It’s part of what makes us humans and distinguish us from the other animals. Our homes become part of our identity and give us the sense of belonging we so much crave.

We all experienced at some point the anguish of being stranded in an airport, railway station, hotel, hospital, city etc, due to bad weather conditions, delays, critical events, accidents, injuries, surgeries, fleeing war, migration, political turmoil, pandemics, you name it, longing for the security of our homes. We all experienced first-hand the anxiety of not being home when, for some reasons, we didn’t feel well and we could hardly wait to finally get back.

Of all the quirks and afflictions my dad had to suffer in his last months the one I found the most devastating and debilitating was that he no longer recognized his home. His mind cracked up, he got lost and he had no breadcrumbs trail to follow and find his way back home. As if he was stranded forever in transit. The anxiety we could read on his face for feeling he is in a foreign place to him was heart-breaking. Not feeling well and not feeling at home must have been horrifying for him. He was robbed by the least comfort animals are given when they feel they are dying – they retreat to their nest, den, burrow, lair etc to die in peace. Our attempts to make him remember and recognize his place were fruitless. He kept wanting to leave his home and find the protection and comfort he was missing. At times he didn’t recognize us as well, but that was for short periods of time and there was no pain attached to his memory loss. But the damage of not recognizing his own home was permanent, painful, to say the least, and psychologically debilitating. The comfort and protection you get from the familiarity of your home was taken from him. He was like a slug. A snail who lost his shell. Scared and homesick. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was, in the end, what actually killed him.

(home)

I hated him when I was a child. The Oedipus complex might be just a crappy theory but in my case it sort of fitted right: I wanted him out of the picture. I wanted the abusive progenitor to leave. I was anxious when he was around and relaxed when he was away at work. Heaven for me was a place where I could be only with my mum and my siblings, away from his intrusion and abuse. No father at all was better than a lousy father. I hated his strength and the power he had over our lives. I owe him my incessant obsession with injustice and ethics.

Later in life, I got to love him. At some point, like in a videogame, he lost his magical powers. He became weak, debuff, diminished, shrunk, beatable. The mighty Samson morphed into an oldster. His reign was over. In addition to him getting old, something else happened. I also got older and came to realize I am no saint either. Despite my attempts to be totally different from him and not forge myself in his image I found out I could be abusive and tyrannical as well. I can be my father. His convoluted moral DNA runs through my veins. This didn’t change or excuse his parental failures, but it changed my perspective. He was finally relatable and lovable. He was finally just another troubled soul failing to do right. He was finally a good father. The prodigal father came back home and reconciled with his son. And then he died. He finally got out of the picture. The circle is now complete.

Happy Birthday dad and rest in peace. You’ll be dearly missed.

God doesn’t reveal himself to us. When you are a child and you have no concept of a god, he doesn’t introduce himself to you from a burning bush or a whisper in your dream. There’s no thunder, no lightning, no rapture, no vision, no tongues of fire, no doves, no pillars of cloud guiding you, no descent from Heaven or chorus of angels at your confirmation ceremony. God doesn’t deliver himself to you, he is delivered to you by your culture and community where you grow up. And more than anything, God is given to you by your parents. As a child you don’t have a direct access to God but through an intercession. Your parents stand between you and him. In the absence of any epiphany, they have to speak for him, and few parents realize what a huge responsibility that is. Few parents understand what’s at stake when they pass on their religious understanding to their offspring. When your child embraces or rejects God they don’t embrace or reject God but your version of it. They react to an image of him. They react to your projection. Your understanding of God facilitates or obstruct their access to God.

I too got the first idea of God planted in my head by my dad and I struggled with that version my entire life. In our home, he was the religious patriarch, responsible for our catechetical instruction and the version of God that was spoon-fed to me was a mere caricature. Half based on the biblical lore and half based on his limited understanding. Half monster and half angel. It took me a while to realize that I found myself in a sort of a straw man situation. Since our initiation into divine is done by proxy not by God himself, we can end up addressing or fighting not the real God, like Jacob, but a defected replica of him. Whether you eventually accept his dominion or reject it is neither here nor there, but you have to make sure you do this to the most accurate description of him. As far as I am concerned, I ended up questioning any description of God predicated on biblical understanding. And since I used to blame my dad for poisoning the Christian well for me and for being a stumbling block on my path to faith, I should now let him off the hook and forgive him for his poor delivery of God. In all fairness, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Any version would have missed the mark. He can now die in peace, without any sense of failure for not delivering the Almighty God to his son. One less sin to atone for will hopefully make his already horrendous transition to eternal demise easier.

At the first sign of intellectual dishonesty when talking to someone just run. Run like your life depends on it. I learned this lesson the hard way, after allowing too many people to push my buttons and drive me insane with their disingenuity. No more. The age of martyrdom is over. If you think they actually lack depth not honesty, then you can carry on and hope for the best. At the end of the day, we can all be stupid at times and we could do with some help to overcome our blindness and limitation. But if it’s a clear case of dishonesty and lack of integrity then do not waste your breath. Cut them loose.

My zero-tolerance approach is based on the following understanding: the statements contained in a back-and-forth exchange with someone vary in difficulty and complexity. We could say, for the sake of argument, they range on a scale from 0 to 5, where 0 is simple and 5 complex.

If you don’t find common ground on something complicated sitting at the top of the scale (4-5) that is perfectly understandable. At the top you’ll find competing truths, multifaceted realities, complex theories, conjectures, opinions, value judgements, predictions etc There is enough room to entertain different opinions. Exempli gratia. One might hold the opinion that the Swedish social democracy is better suited to make people happy than the American capitalist system, while someone else might think the opposite. One might think religion does more damage than brings benefits and we should break free from its grip while someone else believes it’s beneficial for our society and we should try hard to preserve it. One might think marriage is a religious institution sanctioned by God and so allowing gay people to marry would be a violation of his design, while someone else might think marriage is just a civil institution, a mundane architecture and so subject to change, if we decide to go that way. One might think that we need to do something radical to stop the global warming, even at the expense of our welfare, while someone else might think our human race can eventually adapt to the challenges and changes ahead of us, so any drastic measures would be unwise. These are competing truths. They are all legitimate to some extent. Even if they are eventually wrong, they are not straightforward wrong. Given their complexity one can entertain them without causing uproar and outrage.

At the bottom of our scale though (0-1) there are simple statements, hard facts, small bits of information that cannot be refuted. Inferential bricks. Simple atoms that cannot be broken down further. Paris is the capital of France. The Earth is not flat. Light travels faster than sound. The first crewed mission to land on the Moon was American. This is not a pipe. Trump is a patent liar. Palestinians don’t have full control of Gaza after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal. Rape is morally wrong. The glass on the table is red. Biden’s withdrawal plan from Afghanistan was a mess. Oil is thicker than water. While Ebola kills more than 60% of its victims and Covid-19 kills less than 4%, the latter is trickier because it doesn’t usually kill the hosts and so allows the virus to circulate undetected and spread across the world with greater impact. Lies are predicated on intention. Corelation is not causation. Kidnapping people and turning them into slaves is morally reprehensible. Smoking can cause lung cancer. It’s raining. Luther was profoundly anti-Semitic. There are more right-handed people than left-handed. etc

Now. In these simple cases, there’s no room for disagreement, for alternative facts, for competing truths. No let’s-agree-to-disagree crap. No grey area. These are not controversial issues but self-evident truths or truths where general consensus is well established. If you happen to come across someone with whom you don’t have a common understanding at the bottom end of our scale, where things are simple and non-controversial, then you should leave. It’s either stupidity or intellectual dishonesty and you are just wasting your time. If you don’t have a shared reality for simple unequivocal things there’s no chance you will find common ground further up on the scale for the more complex ones. If someone starts distorting simple hard facts to accommodate their beliefs it’s time for you to pack and leave. Distorting reality is off limits. If he says the Earth is flat, Trump is not a pathological liar and the chair is a lamp leave him be in his surreal distorted world. Don’t engage him in conversation any further. He is toxic. You won’t be able to reason with him no matter how hard you try and you’ll end up banging your head against the walls. Just run away and save your sanity. Protect yourself from the violence that comes from pride, stubbornness and intellectual dishonesty. Protect yourself from insolence and inferential abuse.

How do you talk to a deluded individual? How do you get inside his brain and pop his narrative bubble? How do you cure his blindness? How do you deprogramme his tunnel vision? When someone is intellectually disingenuous at least there is a break in his defence since deep down he knows he is in the wrong and that he acts in bad faith. So playing the morality card against him might push him back on the path of truth. But someone deluded is not necessarily disingenuous no matter how insane his narrative might seem to us. He believes his falsehoods so, technically speaking, he is not lying and he is acting in good faith. If you listen to these guys storming the Capitol you can be surprised by their conviction that they are doing the right thing and that they are on a mission to save their country. They are genuine in their patriotic insanity. They are violent and murderous but they think they are on the right side of history. Like any entitled crusader. So how do you reach them? How can you make them snap out of their delusion? How do you bridge two minds that don’t share the same reality? And just because they truly believe in their deluded reality does it mean they are absolved of all blame and responsibility? I don’t think so. The road to delusion is a long journey made up of small moments of concession, disingenuity, downplaying, indulging, covering up, looking the other way etc that finally added up. Trump didn’t just happen. He didn’t force himself on us. He got there because some people put him there. He couldn’t keep going without his followers and his enablers turning a blind eye to his insanity at every step. Delusion might be an excuse when the reality you see is what you genuinely perceive as reality through the tainted lens on your eyes. But the lens didn’t get there without your consent.

The refusal of the Republican Party to investigate and condemn the attack of their main democratic institution speaks volumes of their true identity. Underplaying the American Reichstag moment is a national disgrace of historic proportions. To witness firsthand that turmoil and then to claim there was no insurrection but a peaceful protest is beyond belief. To listen to Donald Trump orchestrating the coup and then blaming Nancy Pelosi for it is surreal. To watch the violent uprising unfold in front of your very eyes and then to listen to Donald Trump praising the rioters as if they were some hippies at a Love Fest: “There was such LOVE at that rally. They were PEACEFUL people, these were great people, the crowd was unbelievable and I mentioned the word ‘love.’ The love is in the air, I’ve never seen anything like it.” is almost comical. How on earth can someone listen to any of these without snapping out of their deluded reality? How can someone witness this level of scripted, deliberate brutality and still pretend it was just a peaceful protest that got out of hand? Perception doesn’t just happen to you. You might not have a full control over it but some of your perception is maintained clean and healthy at your will. Delusion is a lame excuse and if you suffer from it you are responsible for it. There’s no such thing as innocent delusion.

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literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.