A Tale of Two Blocks

This is a story of two Facebook friends who served as muses of a kind. Both of them in their own time and in their own way served as muses for my writing, but over the span of a few weeks or months they both left my circle in ways that were violent to my psyche. They will remain nameless here. Their names are as irrelevant as the names of any writer’s muse. Their importance was always in what they represented to the creative side of my mind, not in who they were, what they were called, but what they meant to me as inspirations behind some of the words that I have written here over the years.

The first was a singer/songwriter. His work has made an impression on me over the span of several decades. Ages ago, way back in the 1990’s, there was a cool site called MP3.com, a site that is completely different from the lame site that squats at that URL today. Back then you could log on this site, pop in a purchased audio disc, and after a short period of verification you could listen to MP3’s of that audio wherever you were, free of charge. It was a streaming service before any other streaming service existed.

Not only could you listen to previously purchased music, but you could find new music and local music on the site, making it a very useful place for the average music listener to go to find the kinds of music that they found interesting.

While registering my voluminous numbers of purchased albums I had time to discover even more music, music not available at the local music store. Music untouched by corporate handlers. I even purchased albums directly from MP3.com, music that I didn’t have to pay for, but do pay for because I wanted to support those artists.

His band was one of those new bands. They were different, not quite like anything else in the alternative rock scene that I had been part of for pretty much as long as I could remember. I bought their albums. I got to see them at an anime convention that I went to specifically to be able to talk to them and listen to their live performance. That weekend was the pinnacle of my experiences with the band and with the singer/songwriter that lead them.

The mistake was in getting too close to him and to his band. It started with Facebook, like most of these kinds of stories do. I was an early adopter. I was part of Myspace before Facebook was a thing, and I migrated to Facebook when it became the thing that everyone was doing at the time. He was on Myspace and Facebook as well. MP3.com having since been sued out of existence, he had to move on with the tide, just like I did. Everywhere I was I looked for him and his band, promoted him and his band. I loved him. I loved his words. I loved his music, the music of the people he chose to surround himself with.

He has the same problem that so many Americans have. He is an armaphile, he has no capacity to understand that the killing machine he loves has to be given up if we are ever to get past this point in history.

This train of thought leads me directly to the second muse in this tale of woe. I honestly don’t know who she was aside from what she meant to me on Facebook. She was a she then, and she possessed that certain something that has always attracted me to women, that something that confirmed to me that I wasn’t a homosexual in the way that most people think of homosexuality. I was attracted to men, don’t get me wrong. I just wasn’t attracted to men as strongly as I was attracted to women.

The decades when I was growing up were tough for people who weren’t willing to either present as traditional males or traditional females. When my mother instructed me to leave my dolls at home when I went to school, explained to me that the other boys would not understand that I liked to play with dolls, I realized that I was different and that I would have to lock away certain parts of myself in order to fit in with the other children in my age group.

Much like a closeted homosexual, I locked away the things that were different about me and I tried to conform to the norms that were on display around me. Pretending to enjoy sporting events because all the other men did. Trying to play sports because it was expected of me. On and on and on. The list of norms that I attempted to conform to over the years is longer than the number of years in which conformity was something I strove for.

I made a series of bargains with myself as each stumbling point was reached in my life. The first one was to deny the nurturing part of myself to anyone who couldn’t accept who I presented myself as. This was manifested in my willingness to let my dolls go as a six year old. That part of me stopped then and only resurfaced again when I was forced to help raise my brothers and sisters as a teenager.

At about ten years of age I started exploring the mysteries of sex, as any growing human would and does. Having been denied an explanation of the ins and outs of the subject from my parents, I started exploring the subject with my childhood friends, the ones who were also curious about the subject and ready to explore. None of this exploration amounted to anything meaningful (nothing that years of therapy can’t address anyway) but it all ended with another bargain with myself. I would refrain from having sex with other men so as to avoid the stigma of being dismissed as a queer and being consigned to Hell for being one.

Strangely enough, one of the other bargains I struck with myself was that I would dismiss the possibility of the existence of Hell from my mind. Worrying about going to Hell will drive you crazy in the end, and I was already overburdened with more anxiety than the average person had to deal with by that point. So I dismissed the possibility of Hell as being outside the realm of dealing with a caring, loving god, and I got on with trying to live my increasingly complex life.

This lead to the next bargain I struck with myself, one that I am reticent to admit even now. Even now, after mentioning the other failings (failing to live up to the vision of manliness that was forced on males in my age group) I’ve had to bargain with myself over. The last bargain was my agreement to not kill anyone or anything else unless I simply could not avoid it.

It is strangely hard to not kill things in life. You kill plants and bugs every day whether you know this or not as you are passing through existence. Trying to be respectful of life is quite hard. I can’t even begin to imagine the kinds of burdens of doubt that the average Jain must carry, trying not to cause harm to the smallest of creatures.

It was the evolution of this last bargain, the evolution being forced by moving through the decades and periods of life, it was this bargain that lead to the falling out between myself and that singer/songwriter. If killing others is wrong, if killing itself is wrong, then the tools that are used to kill must be regulated so that killing can be minimized. Controlled. He couldn’t give up his shotgun, couldn’t understand that I wasn’t even talking about his goddamn shotgun in the first place.

So he blocked me, and through his blocking me he severed the connection between the meaning that his music carried for me as surely as he severed the emotional connection with me. So he gets to keep his shotgun. Good for him. I wonder if he has the wherewithal to make a living using that tool, and only that tool, for the rest of his life?

Does this tie to the Gift of Fear? (Sam Harris #90 Living With Violence) The guilt of being born a white man in the same way that being born black or a woman assigns you to positions, powers and groups you never wanted to be part of? Does it tie into the narrative that I’m constructing for the other muse, too? The she who no longer wants to be considered a she but instead wants to carry the cludgy gender identity of non-binary?

You cannot mansplain non-binary, unless men aren’t allowed in that club. People with dicks that also carry purses, like to look attractive, are nurturing to children, etcetera. I mean, I can’t mansplain that identity if I’m not a traditional man and if I’m not excluded from adopting the gender identity for myself, right? All of those things are true of me, so I can’t be mansplaining my dissatisfaction with adopting that identity for yourself. The problem isn’t the ambiguity of the identity. The problem is that it presumes to label a thing that already has too many names in the first place.

I present this podcast as evidence for my argument:

Gender is one of the first things we notice about the people around us. But where do our ideas about gender come from? Can gender differences be explained by genes and chromosomes, or are they the result of upbringing, culture and the environment? This week, we delve into the debate over nature vs. nurture, and meet the first person in the United States to officially reject the labels of both male and female, and be recognized as non-binary.

onenpr.org – The Edge of Gender

A podcast in which we discover that non-binary was a label invented by a lawyer. Non-binary is bad legalese and doesn’t address anything substantial. No, I’m not saying you have to be seen as male or female; what I am saying is that not adopting one or the other stereotype is something that cannot be captured by a made-up legal definition like non-binary. I’d no more accept that label than I would accept the label cisgender or transgender. None of those things are really things unless you had work done by a surgeon that alters your sex, and then you are a transsexual because you changed sexes. We put way too much importance on the gender stereotypes we subject others to. We put way too much importance on what we call ourselves in relation to what we think the stereotype for our sex is.

Biologically I am male. That hasn’t got a thing to do with who I am aside from the mechanics of reproduction. No one gave me a choice as a child. I was told I was a boy and a boy acts this way. I saw that boys that didn’t act in acceptable ways were targeted and destroyed by other boys. I wanted to live a full life. I chose to conform, outwardly. This conformity cost little for me because, as I jokingly tell the wife, I’m a bull dike who just happens to have the correct biological equipment. I get to be spared being called a lesbian and outed because I just happen to look outwardly like a man, even though I don’t like being a man very much if at all. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t assume that what goes on between my legs is any more of your business than what goes on between a woman’s legs, thank you ever so much.

Claiming to be non-binary is just striking a pose, posing, an attempt to escape categorization by creating a new category and not calling that category androgyny for some unknown reason. Everyone is non-binary, it is just that most of them have no idea that they can’t be one-half of a binary pair. For there to be a binary pairing, there would have to be sexual polarity in the same way that there is magnetic polarity, and every magnet has both a negative and a positive pole.

Monopoles (magnets with a single pole) probably don’t exist, so even the allegory that there is some essential polar opposites manifesting as sexes or genders fails in the end. How about ambisexual like ambidextrous? You can go both ways at once and you aren’t particular about the direction? It’s physically possible to be both at once. Why isn’t that acknowledged as it’s own sex, it’s own gender?

The moral of this story? You can rely on a lawyer to invent a term for a thing that already has a term in the first place. A term like non-binary. Next time consult a linguist first.

None of this would change the outcome of the argument on Facebook. They blocked me like he blocked me and I was forced to go searching for the next muse to stimulate my mind with, so that I could continue to do the thing that defines my existence these days. I don’t think I want to say anything more to the singer/songwriter. He’s off having a great time doing whatever it is he does these days with whoever he’s with these days. He’s a survivor. He’ll be fine.

I might have more to say to the non-binary person that used to be one of the women that I prize so highly. The women with minds of their own that are harnessed to wills that allow them to get shit done around them, and they don’t feel the need to put the man first and adopt that false femininity that only pisses me off when I’m around it. The ones that wake up and throw clothes on and never bother to check the mirror before heading out of the house because what they look like really isn’t that important to getting shit done. The people around you will tell you if you need to put the shirt on frontwards and right side out. If they don’t then it wasn’t that important in the first place. The women that act like a man does because he is allowed to act that way.

I worry about that former muse when I think about them. I don’t do it out of some manly need to protect. At least, I don’t think that is what this is. I do this because worrying is one of the things that I do best. I learned how to do this from a master, the strongest person in my life, who just happens to be the most feminine person in my life at the same time.

Facebook

Postscript

The content of this post had to be generated from memory because of the violence committed against me by these two former muses when they cut off my access to my own words by blocking me. C’est la vie. I used material from several uncompleted drafts to put this piece together as a tribute to lost muses. May there always be another muse to turn to.

The man/woman conundrum continues in the world outside. I hate to break it to these people who are terrified of the non-conforming around them but you can’t demonstrably be a man or a woman unless you have created children with your vaunted sex organs. Fertility is the only determinable difference between men and women. There are a lot of women who don’t like to think that the ability to produce children is what makes them women, just like a lot of men would be uncomfortable with the knowledge that not being able to father children means they aren’t men.

Sticking to these objectively determinable sexual facts would exclude a lot of people from residing comfortably in either sex category, but it remains true that the purpose of male and female, women and men, the existence of sex itself, is procreation. That is the only reason it exists and so the ability to procreate necessarily defines what it is to be a male or a female. EVERY OTHER CHARACTERISTIC IS SUBJECTIVE. Every other imagined purpose for sex is also subjective.

So either we need to stop pretending there are hard and fast definitions for what a man or a woman is, or we need to understand that a majority of people are neither men nor women in any objective sense and simply accept that fact. If you, dear reader, want to then say “oh that doesn’t count as a definition of the sexes either” then you are essentially saying “we’re all the same” and I’m good with that too. One human race not a bunch of different groups trying to distinguish themselves from the groups they dislike or want to be different from. Cool, cool. What were we talking about, then?

My Favorite Fairytale

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) (soundtrack)

Joe Versus The Volcano (1990) Official Trailer

This is perhaps the most wrongfully maligned film in all of movie history. Everyone I meet hates this film, aside from the lead singer of Abney Park. He wrote a song about it. I’ve watched this film too many times to count. It was my favorite stoner film for a long, long time.

Stoner film? A movie you watch while you are high. Forget Cheech & Chong. Forget Heavy Metal. Forget Dude Where’s My Car. All of those are good. None of them end with a guy jumping into a volcano with his true love. A movie featuring Fish as the native chief who shows Joe which path he has to follow.

The crooked road. The crooked road that he takes to work. The crooked road that mars the plaster in his apartment. The crooked road is everywhere in the film, as is Melanie Griffith who shows off her acting chops by credibly presenting several different characters with the same face.

The New York accent that always sends him down the wrong path. Poor Joe. Repeatedly sent the wrong way by people who use him, yet he always manages to find something of value everywhere he goes.

The mistake everyone makes is taking this movie seriously. It’s not serious. The thing I find most mystifying is that anyone would try to take a film seriously that starts with Once Upon a Time and ends with …And They Lived Happily Ever After. It’s a fairytale. The best fairytale. Try reading Mother Goose or the Brothers Grimm and then get back to me. None of them can hold a candle to this movie.

They just pay me to drive the limo, sir. I’m not here to tell you who you are.

Marshall, performed by Ossie Davis written by John Patrick Shanley

IMdb

Postscript

I started following the band Abney Park because of their use of a soundbite from this movie in one of their songs:

Abney Park – Taxidermy – The Wake – 2005

This isn’t the best mix of the song. Neither of the versions on the album Taxidermy are the best mix of the song. I have a copy of the version I prefer but it was only available on their website back in the days when I paid to have access to their full library. I haven’t given them money since back in the day when Building Steam was new.