I have been obsessing a bit over this paragraph from William Gaddis's essay "Old Foes with New Faces":
"Certainly an enhanced capacity for self-delusion is a valuable attribute for the writer in nurturing both his fictional characters and, often enough, his own. Thus it is hardly surprising to find this capacity to be fueled by an equally large appetite for strong drink: the majority of America's native born winners of the Nobel Prize in literature have been confirmed alcoholics. We may even go so far as to find their counterpart in Alfred North Whitehead's remark that 'a relic of religious awe at intoxication is the use of wine in the Communion service.'---at all odds a relic of the drunken license turned loose at pagan saturnalias of a still earlier time where, habit breeding expectation, promiscuous intercourse provided plentiful material for the marvels of virgin birth that followed. 'Speaking for instance of the motive of the virgin birth,' Jung cautions us again that he is "only concerned with the fact that there is such an idea' but not 'whether such an idea is true or false in any other sense.' "
The term self-delusion is enough to get me excited. Lately I've been fixated on my own self-delusion. Believing myself to be certain things based on such and such aspects of who I consider myself to be. But even these aspects are abstractions of the very abstract "self", which of course is just a term incorporating one's entire being, past, present, future, up, down, left, right, sideways, eternally, mortally, genetically etc. I've many-a-time professed myself to be self-aware. A term I've come to loathe exponentially alongside the loathing I feel towards all conceptions I have about who I am.
At first when I read this excerpt from Gaddis, I interpreted his commentary on writers' alcoholism as a need to drink to be creative. Or a need to drink to become more raw and sincere in one's thoughts, to delve into one's own delusions and turn them inside out. Then I reconsidered this and thought that maybe writers drink as a means to escape the unavoidable for the "deep thinker"; the ever darkening cloud of one's awareness of one's own self-delusion (I've heard that Hemingway mostly wrote sober). This awareness, this sense of doubt in one's own understanding of the self, is tough.
On one level a person has to deal with his self-delusion in terms of himself in his situation, and his situation is always changing. When he tries to make himself stand still when evaluating who he is, not only does he automatically lose an authenticity in his analysis, but he can get dizzy too. If he does't get dizzy trying to find himself standing still, then he's probably taking the easy route to this route-less non-destination, the soul, if you will.
And that's what I always do. I get lost trying to find myself and give up pretty easily. And when people try to explain the way I am to me, I get belligerent.
I'm scatter-brained, that's an easy way of dealing with myself. I'm "all over the place". And I thrive that way, but in a self-deluded sense, because I've come to define myself by own limitations in being this way. Because when you're going a hundred directions at once, you can't, and you won't, but you sure as hell will get a lot of people to think you're interesting. And maybe I am, but I can't expand on this much, because I only know the bare minimum about all the things I know about.
All people seem to assume certain habits as a means to keep some sort of grip on their lives in a chaotic world. Habits that have become so second-nature, so compulsive, that they really do become personal identifiers. We delude ourselves with self-conceptions. People are often very good at describing themselves, and, well, talking about themselves in general. I certainly am. I talk a lot when I'm around people.
But I get this pit in my stomach every time I try to explain something about "the way I am" to someone because no matter how accurate I might be describing an aspect of "me", I always feel like I'm lying. Words are tough. Semantics will be the death of me. It's not even that I feel I can't describe my sentiments in words, it's that I'm not even really sure what I'm trying to describe or if I even know a damn thing about myself. I'd trust someone else's judgement over my own, but I never want to deal with what people have to say about me, so I never seek it out. And consequently, even my closest comrades have assumed this sort of egg shell dance around me.
Everything feels like circles to me. Always. And then I remember there is no always for me, though there is objectively an always. And that's hard to deal with. I saw a picture of a very charismatic, cool guy I knew just shortly after he died suddenly last week of some sort of brain thing. It was spooky. Like many people say when someone dies unexpectedly "I'd just seen him, he seemed great. All smiles. Perfectly healthy." People's characters can't just go away. But they do. I'm self-deluded to the point that my ideas of my self feel concrete even though I have no idea what they are when I put myself on the spot and try to think of them. But remembering that nothing is forever, not even my terribly unresolved sense of self, does nothing but make me feel strange. But I kind of like feeling strange.
So here I am floating in spaces, spaces that aren't home, but aren't not home either.
I have a bad habit of asking the question "is that really a thing?" about new pop cultural phenomena. Jung seems to be fascinated by events (fictional or not) transcending into beliefs and then practices formulating around these beliefs. The original event is different from "the thing". A "thing" in this sense is some sort of seemingly absurd habit or behavior that is no longer perceived as absurd because too many people are doing it. Jung was fascinated by the immaculate conception in probably a much higher, but similar sense that I'm fascinated by the Honey Boo-Boo following. It's an extreme phenomenon in a world that has allowed for it, nurtured it, and kept it on a pedestal while allowing it to melt into the commonplace world through household mentionings. Large and varied demographics interpret "the thing" and make it their own in whatever way they please.
I'm pretty interested in how specific people and events come to be the top of an umbrella full of things and people drawn to, and obsessed with, this canon at the top. There are so many replications, critics, fanatics, etc. that allow certain things to become "things" by popularizing them through the zillions of formats now available. But I will always and forever wonder how certain things gain supremacy and overshadow other things. "Culture" is weird, high-brow, low-brow, indie, pop, whatever it is, it's all bizarre and non-sensical, yet we have academics around to make sense of all of it, and then eventually their ideas trickle down into the mainstream and start a whole new frenzy of new things to counter the awfulness of the old things. And on and on and on forever.
I feel like I am whatever information I've consciously and subconsciously kept around in my brain. And that all I can ever be is a bunch of stored up loosely and strongly connected ideas of the world accumulated from sources outside of myself. But I guess that's okay, and there's probably a lot more to me than that. And I do sort of believe in the soul or the spirit I suppose.
And I've always believed that people can't really change. It turns out I'm just lazy.