Sunday morning, August 24 at 3:20 AM there was a 6.0 magnitude earthquake damned near directly beneath the home of one of my LJ friends, about 6km down. She posted some pics of her kitchen. It looked as if a giant had shook her house and dislodged almost the entire contents of her kitchen onto the floor. I was asleep at my house at the time and I felt the quake. I woke up feeling kind of strange and then I felt the bed move, as if the cat were repeatedly jumping onto it and then off again, rapidly. I was about to yell at the cat to cut it out but then it became apparent to me that she was nowhere in the room and was not causing the motion. It lasted about five seconds or so. I went to the USGS website and found out about where the quake happened and was surprised to see that it was such a large one. It's been about a quarter of a century since we had a larger one, the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta quake in 1989, before I came to California. Immediately, Carole King's, "I Feel the Earth Move" came to my Internal DJ. It was playing in my head from Sunday morning until Tuesday afternoon.
Sunday evening, I was in the laundromat, doing my weekly laundry, and I decided to spend some time meditating. I suppose I was looking for a challenge, at the time. I got it. Apparently, it is possible to meditate in a laundromat. It is not easy though, with a pair of kids chasing each other around and a could conversing animatedly and loudly in Spanish. As an experiment though, I was rather pleased with myself. I was able to concentrate for brief stretches, despite the many auditory and even olfactory assaults.
Laurel is up to her ears in thorny issues with former personal and familial relationships, from which she is trying to detach herself. I'd like to say I can't believe they're treating her so poorly but unfortunately, I can believe it. Under the best of circumstances, familial relationships are complicated, entangled things. So much of what we are, fundamentally, is rooted in this ground. Nobody disturbs it without consequence and this has been the understanding of sages and writers across cultures, philosophies, and religions since the time of antiquity. Nevertheless, to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence, sometimes it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the emotional and obligational bonds which have connected them with others. In a healthy, strong, stable family and set of relationships the issue wouldn't come up, so expecting rational behavior from people who have previously participated in various dysfunctional relationships is the rare exception, not the rule, I am finding. I remember being terribly incredulous when Laurel told me that from many things that she has read, she has discovered that most of the familial relationships today are not exactly nurturing and are, in fact, rather dysfunctional and counterproductive to individual growth and self-actualization. I understood that my own family of origin home life was anything but a walk in the park, but really, I was unprepared to accept the idea that most are warped and broken in various ways and produce trauma in the children grown out of them. Absurd, I thought, but I kept talking to her, and started to read: Brene Brown, Peter Gerlach, Stefan Molyneux, Daniel Mackler and even this flakey, self-anointed guru of uber-manliness named David Deida.
Well, I think I'm learning. The reading has been rather informative and I would almost say enlightening, except that it has turned my inner-landscape into something of a battlefield. It's hard to process, for want of a better term. So much of what seems rational and thought-provoking is mixed in with the most questionable irrational assertions that it is difficult to sort through and figure out what makes sense and what doesn't. This is complicated by the fact that some of the topics raised in reading this stuff provokes a fierce resistance in me and I become enormously tempted to dismiss it. It is hard to objectively decide between what is not sound advice or evaluation, which should be discarded as erroneous or the product of bad reasoning or premises, and what is sound but challenging to the point that I want to rationalize discarding it. I can accept that many things in my childhood relationships with family produced various traumas. Mine was, after all, very far from a peaceful home, full of sound, nurturing relationships, despite whatever honest efforts my parents put forth to establish such. Frankly, it was a mess, mostly because of their own issues, most of which remain unresolved, as far as I can see. I can also trace out some of what I have come to understand are damages or "wounds" or "issues," whatever one chooses to call the phenomena, in myself. I still have no idea what all of this knowledge is going to get me, but it is interesting to contemplate.
Of course, part of the problem in assessing this course of action is that it doesn't seem to me, from what I can actually readily observe, that the people who have pursued this course of psychological/spiritual questing are any more enlightened than most of them would claim that I am. This would include Laurel. To me, the claims made look like mysticism. Daniel Mackler, by the writings in his own book, is what I would think is an emotional and physical wreck. He doesn't have children, or any romantic relationship, or sex, by his own admission. Also by his own admission, he has been bedeviled by a series of serious and annoying physical maladies which also by his own account, he attributes to his psychological battles with himself. Yet everyone claims to be in a better state. Of course, you could get the same report from any recent religious convert: the world is greener, they see farther, they love more deeply, feel more in tune with nature, have inner harmony, possess profound serenity and peace of mind, etc. etc. etc. I don't doubt that introspection is useful. It would be hard to do so in the pages of a journal, but my skepticism is difficult to perturb.
Then there is Laurel. I miss Laurel. Should I miss her? That's one silly little question but it encompasses a world of other questions, many of them still unanswered. It's been a unique and beautiful summer, certainly, in no small part, due to her influence and connection with me. I use the word "connection" in lieu of the word "relationship." That's one of the world of questions: do I have a relationship with Laurel? Well, certainly, in the broadest sense of the English language definition of the word, I unquestionably do have a relationship with her. After all, in the broadest sense of the definition, I have a relationship with my landlady, or my next door neighbor, or my coworkers, or some the readers of this very page. It is funny how language, that tool for manipulating and shaping abstractions can be both illuminating and frustratingly obscuring. I guess part of the problem is that language is such a social construction, and our society and culture seem to be so much in flux these days. There used to be well-understood "rules" for determining the proper nomenclature to use for our interactions. I am well aware that people, most of them women, are writing books on the topic — the search for "rules," boundaries, and definitions, for the labels we attach to our interactions. I think it is a problem that a social tool, such as language seems to acquire less a bit less utility when applied to what is most deeply personal and individual. Still, I struggle to identify, and thus to understand.
It is another problem that our language and concepts seem to evolve much slower than does our culture these days. Our culture and our technology have permitted something between Laurel and I which would have been the most outrageous of fantasies only a century ago. History does have examples of relationships, some of them movingly intimate, which were either all or mostly epistolary in nature. They are the rare exceptions, not the rule, the relationships that begin, evolve, and live their entire lifespans in a textual space. Our technology has transformed the nature of our intercourse in a short time frame. Now we can exchange video transmission and interact audibly and visually as well as textually. So, I met Laurel on line and began exchanging e-mails with her. We each became interested in what the other had to say so we decided to "meet" face to face on Skype.
If one can call a video conversation a "date" (nomenclature) then I'd have to say that meeting Laurel on Skype was certainly one of the best first dates I've had. Before I spoke to her I was merely terribly intrigued.