Sunday, November 20, 2005

On a train

I’ve boarded a train that will take me to visit my sister in NY, on the train I saw some kids that reminded me of myself. I wondered what the future would bring them and what they might bring the future. These are my thoughts.

When I was young I used to get a pleasure out of offending or shocking people, in part it was due to my desire to gain attention. My hunger was fueled by the sense of loneliness I had as a kid, my mother laden with the burdens of raising four children alone was always busy and my father was absent, except for the occasional weekend visit. My brothers were so distant in age that my connection with them was tenuous and my sisters, were my sisters, and to a young boy they were not the ideal play friends and besides they had one another. Because of various situations my family moved around quite a bit, often I would be made to change schools, which made my ability to make good friends difficult. I was an ill behaved youth, and for a time I fell in with the “wrong” crowd because they gave me a sense of belonging and attention that I felt I had been missing. I noticed that they too were all products of missing parents and unorthodox upbringings. My history was the tamest of the group, their parents where drug addicts, spousal abusers, criminals etc… Often our conversations would revolve around how difficult we had it compared to others. In retrospect we often overlooked what we had that was good, like our health, opportunities for education, and the fact that our basic needs were met. Our society’s fetish with material wealth and extravagance has made people forget or fail to recognize the importance of the immaterial and mundane. It has taken me a long time to understand this. In my group of friends at the time there was an underlying sense of anger for not having a “regular” life. That anger manifested itself in antisocial and criminal behavior. I was fortunate enough to have had the seed of military service planted in my mind as a young child, so instead of diving into the acts of self destruction that my friends were doing I chose the path of military service. In the military I strove for attention and recognition, not by offending or shocking people but by leading as an example of military discipline, I conditioned my body and character to exude the desired military traits. But what was at the heart of this desire for attention? Was it a need to be recognized by others in order to validate my own existence, to affirm my uncertain choices, to quite my fears? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is fine to be recognized for doing things, but that the recognition should not be the prime reason for doing them. The sooner we can shed our desires for seeking attention and recognition for their own sake, the sooner we can focus on doing things that are genuine. What’s genuine? I think the answer to this question must be arrived at independently for it to be of any value.

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