I have a friend who was beaten severely by his stepfather when he was a child. His nose was broken a number of times. He is a very handsome man, virile, intelligent. It seems to me that he would want to have his nose fixed to erase the stepfather's mark of cruelty on him. When I spoke to him about it, he was not at all interested. It was a mark of distinction to him. A man with a broken nose, he told me, signifies a "tough guy", someone you wouldn't want to mess with. It is his badge of courage, his protective shield. I would think it would signify an abused person, someone who, for whatever reason, took a beating. It may also be that my friend, on a subliminal level, wants to show us the wounds he has suffered, how he has been battered and beaten by life.
When I look at the face of Mike Tyson I see a bully to be sure, but I also see a wounded human being. He has become a metaphor of the cruelty and battering he endured in childhood. He's incorporated the duality of the situation. When I was counseling in the mental health field I came to understand most of the people who opened their lives to me were living a metaphor. My friend would not be pleased by my assessment. Because in truth he has become both the cruel stepfather and the wounded boy, understanding or accepting neither. None of us want to see that other side of ourselves. But the world sees it quite clearly.
The problem with duality is that it restricts one from acknowledging and expressing one's complexity. Duality I once assumed, was created by Christianity with its ideals of good and evil (I'm not so sure of that now. It seems an inborn trait.) The worst depravities, cruelties, barbarities are always other, monsters. Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein. Yet they are human, a part of us, and the terrible truth is, given their situation and power who knows how any of us would act?
If a wild animal comes charging at you, you don't judge whether it is good or evil, you get out of its way. When you see a cat toying with a half dead mouse it has captured you understand that somehow this is part of its nature. Why then turn a blind eye to our own viciousness or victimization? It is even hard to see these two sides of the same coin in other than value-laden terms, but truly they are not. Aggression and viciousness serve a necessary role in the evolution of homo sapiens. Mike Tyson is not evil, he's just a stupid guy who keeps shooting himself in the foot, messing up every opportunity he gets to get himself out of trouble. The same was true with Hitler and Mussolini. Truly stupid guys who self destructed in short time. And their pathetic, egotistical ideas! What possible chance did they have of succeeding? It seems to me that duality, the inability to see one's dark side condemns one to glorify it, to create a larger than life persona for it. And of course, to assert a certain righteousness about it. Take it as a given, whatever someone tells you is most offensive, most deplorable to them is what they will most surely do to you.
I have used aggression and victimization in the present essay to indicate the nature of duality, but duality, the inability to see one's dark side hides many peccadillos. There is a cartoon from the New Yorker by a guy named Booth on my cork board. An old fat, toothless woman with a baseball cap and an apron sits at a table drinking coffee with her old man in a barren apartment with a naked bulb shining down on them. "If I won forty-seven million dollars in the lottery," she tells him. "I wouldn't change a thing. Not at first."
The favorite essay this month has been, Baduisms
Eight o'clock Sunday morning, the police arrive at her apartment in Greenwich Village, "How long have you been living here?" The roommate Elizabeth, after having accepted her half of the deposit money and rent for their new apartment, has called the police.
New York City doesn’t open its arms to welcome her, but she’s arrived and the adventure of her life is about to unfold. She’s come from Maine with an invitation from Sarah Lawrence College to participate in the graduate writing program.
How one becomes a seeress is what this memoir explores. Stories have been specifically selected to illustrate, from the sublime to the practical, a spiritual journey introduced in each chapter by an atout, the Tarot’s major archetypes. From the Fool, to The World, our human journey with its risk and folly unfolds. There is also an artist here alive to her new world seeking inspiration among artists on the Lower East side, learning the ways and foods of her Chinese neighbors, falling in love.