Monday 30 June 2008

Dangerous Experiments- The Need to Know

Oscar Wilde once said that the question isn't whether people are good are bad, but whether they are charming or tedious.

Very often, I'm afraid, that's how I think.
Sometimes people can take me as callous and fickle. Perhaps I am.
Because I think it's true to say, that often the key point to me is 'Are you interesting me, or are you boring me?'

People often say to me 'Why does that make a difference to YOUR life? Why do you spend so much time on that?'
I mean, I hardly watch TV, only football, CSI and documentaries. I rarely read fiction, except fantasy novels. The bulk of what I read, is fact- or philosophy.

I think I've always kind of known that a kind of gulf exists between myself and most people. I kind of seek out people like myself, people driven by the same compulsion, that same dangerous all-powerful drive, that will ultimately consume you.

The need to know. The need to experience. The need to feel that on your deathbed, you worked out as much as you could, you are as close to answers as you possibly could be. It actually bothers me that I'll probably be lieing there dying thinking 'Damn. Never DID look that up.'

People often find it weird when I tell them about how I started talking. Really weird actually. Most parents remember their child's first words. Not quite so easy in my case. To me, it makes sense, because I can see how my mind works, and why I would have done it that way.
Apparently, to begin with, I spoke in complete gibberish. I talked, but in my own language. And my Dad says the weird thing was, my gibberish seemed to have sentence structure.
Then one day, I stopped talking gibberish.
I started talking English.

It's as if my brain decided to learn the SYSTEM first, then once it had done that, took on the real words.

That's basically always been how I learn things. There's really no point in trying to show me something piece by piece. I find it very easy to assimilate information into structures- that's how I store data.

I often try to explain to people how I store information and they don't get it. Because in some ways I have an atrocious memory. There's no point you reading out a number for me to dial as you're saying it- I can't do it. There's no point asking me to add up a column of figures, even with a calculator- I'll keep losing track of where I am in the column. I can add up figures in my head if someone else reads them to me, but not if I read them myself. Shopping lists- no chance.

But election results, football league tables, dynastic succession, the periodic table, dates, etc, these are easy enough. I simply attach images to them. Or colours. In my mind, even the days of the week are coloured- as are numbers.

Monday is red, Tuesday is blue, Wednesday is green, Thursday is orange, Friday is yellow, Saturday is white, Sunday is pink.

I store information not by remembering lists, but by attaching the newly acquired information to existing information. When I read a book for the first time, I take regular breaks to assimilate the new information, relate it to other facts I know. See if it belongs somewhere with something else I know.

As so often it does.

But of course, that's not the main way you pick up facts. The main way is through life, experiencing.

And I wonder sometimes if most of my life hasn't ACTUALLY been little more than a series of experiments. I'm not sure, looking at much of it, that I ever had much more objective than to see what happened.

'Don't touch the iron, you'll burn your finger.'

It's true. And I thought it was true, but I had to know just HOW much it burned.
Just as I had to know; if you carve your name into your arm with your penknife, how long does it take to fade?
About six the months is the answer.
Can you tattoo yourself with a compass and a felt tip pen? Yes.

So many things I did as an adolescent just seem to have been done to prove points, to see if they could be done, because of the risk involved. Never do your homework, for example, except that of the first lesson. You do the homework due in during the SECOND lesson, during the first. Always the risk you'll get caught or won't finish it. The victory is getting an acceptable mark, for something you rushed off covertly underneath your text book.

Most teens go to the park to get drunk. I actually kept beer in the house at all times, mainly to see just how many I could drink without anyone noticing, plus of course, there's the risk of your stash being found.
And of course, by the time I sat my GCSEs, being drunk at school had become the new challenge. And actually, I was never caught out. They even made me a prefect. And I was in charge of the debating team.

My time at university was one vast series of experimentation. For one thing, I read a lot- very rarely any of my texts, but that's how it goes. I read none of the nineteenth century novels in the 19th Century literature module- just plagiarised shamelessly. And for Moll Flanders, I just watched the Alex Kingston TV drama. And with Shakespeare, if I couldn't be bothered to find supporting quotes, I'd use song lyrics and hope I didn't get caught out. I never did.

But there was also the experiment in leading a double life- one which carried on for much of my twenties. Political activist, for a party I didn't believe in, but voted for. Why? Well, future career, partly. But also I guess, to try understand how politics worked, the real dynamic behind it. And where better to do that than with the party you secretly think is wrong, but seems to work better? WHY does it work better, when clearly, it's morals are appalling? This, I guess, was one of the key philosophical points I needed to get my head round. I never quite understood it until I read Das Kapital.

Yes, I loved all the doorknocking, the rallies, the shaking hands, the impassioned talk. It was experience. I loved the thrill of it.

Oh, and I loved the fact that none of them had any idea the other life I led. The total hedonism, the extreme experimentation.
I pretty tried most drugs at once, after that it just became a matter of working out what quantities and in which combinations.

And of course, how many women can you juggle at the same time. Why be faithful? It's too safe. In fact it seemed to be a rule of my life, nothing incentivised me to go on the pull, than the secure knowledge I actually HAD someone to go home to. And I'd do it openly, in front of people who could- and would- tell tales. Risk, pure risk.

And of course, I made friends who were similar. We had a great time. Debauched, depraved, decadent, I have no doubt, but certainly something to look back on. Three of us are still best friends now. One just had a baby :)

This compulsive need never really stopped. Writing those posts recently about my past love life made me realise that really, it was just one big experiment, pretty much. Not Joanna, I don't think she was. But the rest, it was just a case of 'see what happens'. I think often I was simply studying the dynamics of love, obsession, lust and relationships to see what conclusions I could draw, so that one day I'd know what the hell I was doing.

I don't think that's what I was CONSCIOUSLY doing, but in effect, I think that was the reality.

And my career. Did I ever stop to take stock? Rarely. I think I've started to take it seriously now, but then?
Again, a lot of experimenting. Doing things to see what happened. See which buttons worked and which didn't.
What you can do, and what you can't.

But I think it was more than that. If I'm honest I've done some truly awful things at times. I mean, I've never got anyone seriously hurt, but I've been a tad brutal at times in how I've handled people. And I think sometimes I have pushed the limits, just to see the outcome.

My friend the Chimney Sweep and I were talking a while back and I said that if Heaven and Hell were real, and I ended up at the Pearly Gates justifying my entry, my answer would be 'I tried to get maximum pleasure and cause minimum pain. And you lot decided those things.'
The Chimney Sweep pointed out that maybe I could be accused of some callous heart breaking along the way.

He may be right. But again, I've not got any regrets.

I've realised slowly over the last year or so, that actually, my love life WAS kind of an experiment. That might sound cruel. So be it. But I learned a lot from it.

I learned the difference between two opposing types of love; one of which is the love preached by Jesus Christ, and the other, is the love preached by Adolf Hitler.

The love of Inner Monkey, versus the love of Inner Reptile.

Joanna versus Claire, basically.

The love that desires to serve, versus the love that desires to own.

And it's interesting that since Joanna, I've pretty much ended up with Claire types.

I'm not saying that Claire or the other girls who loved me the way she did were evil. Not at all. But at heart, the way they loved was. Does that mean they deserved their hearts to be broken? No, though maybe it taught them to do it right next time. Did I deserve the bad karma I got as a result? Certainly. And the results of that bad karma taught me other lessons, so it all worked out for the best.

The point about the love of the Claire type, is it attaches conditions. It has demands. It offers a free gift, as in, Love, than if you are stupid enough to reciprocate it you find you've signed a contract in your own blood. The Joanna type is different. With the Joanna type, Love is a feeling, a gift. It cannot be altered, because it makes no demands. That's why I loved her.

But of course, you can only know it's love when you've lost it, because then you notice you STILL feel it, which you wouldn't if it was the conditional Reptile kind.

So I suppose really, the logical conclusion of this experiment is that you are aiming to see if unconditional- inner monkey- love, is possible.

'If you only love those that love you, where is the reward in that.'

Anyway. My conclusion is, it's possible. I'm pretty sure now I know what unconditional love for someone is.

Which kind of ends the need for further experimenting.

I think I finally grasp what it is that Good and Evil are.

So there we are. Thirty.
A magic number.

I think I've GOT most of the answers I was seeking, even if some of them were late in coming.
It was a hard road, no two ways about it, pretty tiring if I'm honest.

I feel as exhausted as I should feel if I was seventy, but still feel that in many ways, I'm not much beyond a child.

Of course, now I seem to have ended up with a whole lot MORE questions.

First among them being;

What the HELL do I do now?

Which is partly why I blog...


Anonymous said...

Pushing the boundaries set up by society, you will eventually find what works for you. Your ideals and lifestyle may not be what others seek or agree with but none the less, they are yours and if you can happily sustain those ideals, learn from any 'mistakes', then you move forward in life eventually. Imagine what it would be like to not be curious? Too many sit back and become stagnant. That bores me real quick.

Anonymous said...

> It actually bothers me that I'll probably be lieing there dying thinking 'Damn. Never DID look that up.'
That's what bothers my dad, I think; that he feels that way, and not one of us does. I never do wonder much; if I don't know something, I'll banish the thought from my mind.... not much curiosity, I guess... ;-)

> In my mind, even the days of the week are coloured- as are numbers.
Monday is red, Tuesday is blue, Wednesday is green, Thursday is orange, Friday is yellow, Saturday is white, Sunday is pink.
That is SO, SO cooool! I've read about that (but forgot the name of it); where kids read by colour, too... it's a gift (and supposedly, makes one more artistic.. ;-))

Anonymous said...

(1) I first thought, "How can he keep beer hidden from his parents? Does he have his own fridge?"

Then I remembered. You're British:-)

(2) I refuse to diagnose someone unless my life depends on it (and sometimes it does). Nevertheless, I will tell you that how you see the world, and how you learn, is something I've seen before. Of course, if you teach long enough, you see all sorts of learning styles.

It's interesting to me that you describe a desire to test the unconventional--to see how long you can get by without doing your homework, to see what it feels like to touch a hot iron, etc.. It's not that you decide to test things, but rather the direction that interests me here.

Do you sense a pattern? I certainly do.

(3) I envy you, in a way. At 46, I'm just beginning to ask questions that I realize I'll never live long enough to answer.

Anonymous said...

What the hell do you do? Just keep on asking questions and trying new things Crushed. I'm going to be 49 tomorrow, and I'm just getting started, I envy you too...

Anonymous said...

You certainly have lived on the edge for a very long time. I hope you never lose the desire to learn about new things and new experiences, although maybe not so self destructively.

The young are so careless of other people's feelings so I hope you have learned that lesson well.

Anonymous said...

"So there we are. Thirty.
A magic number."

*phew* Good, i still got some time to figure things out then :)

I think most of are lost trying to find their way, trying to figure out their place and function in whole big plan called life. The only way to figure out is to push the limits, to test the boundries, simply learning by living.

You could either sit down and try to figure out your life by planning, or you could go out and figure it out by living.

Some answer just leads to more questions. Sometimes I simply think its all about the journey.

Anonymous said...

It is funny how a certain story just becomes so symbolic of everything in your life. The way you learned to speak just fits you so well.
And they say literary devices, like foreshadowing, are only for fiction...

Anonymous said...

Nunyaa- To be honest, I'm getting quite middle aged now- watching the football in the pub over a few pints does it for me :)

But yes, I'm one of those people who HATES not knowing the answer.

I get bored easily, that's for sure.

Eve- Synaesthesia is the term.

I remember dates by remembering images too. When I look at history, I SEE a visual timeline, with events actually happening along it.

X-dell- I kept in a fairly obvious place, a big tin bin with a cover on it.

I think what amuses people is how I remember when things happened in my life. I use the Guiness Hit singles guide. I remember events by what music was in my head at the time.

Yes, there is a definite pattern, methinks.
I often say that we're the unlucky generation; the option of going to new frontiers isn't here for us, a hundred years ago I'd be off to Aus, i'm sure, a hundred and fifty years ago I'd be 'going west, my son', or off to India to carve my name in exotic lands. And conversely, our children/grandchildren will be off to colonise fesh worlds. I envy them, I really do.

Fusion- It can be tiring. And often you cone a cropper. But still, better to regret something you HAVE done, than something you haven't done.
There is calm at the eye of the storm, remember :)

jmb- I think taming those self-destructive urges has been the battle of life to date.
I was trying to explain to someone recently how ALL risks are kind of win-win situations. If you win, you win what you wanted. If you lose, you get to prove to yourself you could come back from the cock up you created.

Of course, the losing bit WILL cause you much strife, pain and hardship, but getting through that is its own reward.

I think what I want to do next is travel. Not done enough of that.

Crashie- Planning just isn't something I do much of. My life really has no plan whatsoever, just general fixtures. I tend to do most things off the cuff, even now.

Yes, I think it IS all about the journey.

Princess P- It makes you think certainly.
At school, I was always what you'd call an underacheiver- I mean, I was in the top sets for most things, but it was always held that I underperformed.

Having studied these things a bit more, I realise how inflexible these categorisations are, because I don't think I was academically intelligent in the way they usually treat these things. I really think I had difficulty with the stage by stage approach. I never understood science, for example, until I started to learn it's history, as in HOW these conclusions had been reached by empirical evidence and logicl deduction. I really did NEED to know HOW we knew these things, before I understood any of them.

Anonymous said...

Life is all about learning...

It helps us to move and grow!

Monday is red, Tuesday is blue, Wednesday is green, Thursday is orange, Friday is yellow, Saturday is white, Sunday is pink.

I find that quite fascinating now in adult life. I have no memory of it but that is apparently how I was taught maths, times tables etc.
I have always had to work/struggle at maths. But I understand that colours explanation?