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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scars and the Path Northward


I am supposed to be writing an essay on Henry V right now.  That’s what it says right there on my To-Do list for today, my own temporary and careless scribble somehow converted into something of lapidary consequence, stern and inexorable.  I love by my To-Do list, a development which originated after my arrival to death row (and which would greatly amuse certain people from my prior life, I am certain).  If I haven’t crossed off every item on my list at the end of the day, the day very simply doesn’t end.  None of that precludes a certain amount of dilly-dallying from taking place, mind.  I procrastinate at a nearly Olympic level.  All this really means is that I don’t get much sleep.  In any case, I hate Henry V.  Hold thy arrows of grave misfortune, rabid fans of the Bard.  I’m a connoisseur of the Elizabethean cool-aid, so relax.  There are a few scenes in modern lit more pregnant with humor than the one that finds Titania falling in love with the ass-headed Bottom, weaver and wanna-be thespian.  I nearly spit coffee over my copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Puck hits her with the fairy-land equivalent of MDMA.  Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing is a far more attractive female to me than anything I see in magazines these days.  I dislike Henry V because I am particularly psychologically ill-suited to polemical manipulation or propaganda, which is the way this place is:  an unbelievable, historically-challenged, immoral puff piece for British imperialism.  Sans Falstaff, the humor supposedly injected into the invasion of France by Pistol, Nym and Bardolph is merely yawn-inducing.  Without an Iago, everything  feels pre-ordained (which it is).  In short, I am loathing the imaginative gymnastics I am going to have to summon in order to pretend that I find Henry’s “St. Crispin’s Day” pep-talk interesting.  It is early in the day, and I’d pretty much rather do virtually anything else at this point.

Anything, that is, besides write an article for this site, apparently. I cannot even begin to describe to you the enormity of the writer’s block that has developed of late.  I don’t understand it entirely.  Burnt out, maybe.  Feelings of literary impotence, of failing at my principle goals have been analyzed and admitted, but feel insufficient to explain why I cannot put pencil to paper.  It may just come down to a function of time.  I am really, really busy these days, and these entries pretty much kill off an entire day that I frankly need for other activities.  Mea culpa, but the hourglass of my life is running short, and I am nowhere near content with the state of my bucket list.

Maybe my issue is the lack of feedback.  I don’t know a writer who can live without this.  There was a time that I received letters about this site.  Most were the literary equivalent of a waterboarding, true, but on occasion I did receive something promising. I don’t know what happened.  Some things may have vanished in transit.  Maybe I became boring.  Maybe my politics alienated people.  Or maybe you found a better product.  Whatever the root, as my current neighbor would say, I be stuck, yo.

This business of feedback is on my mind because I received my first piece of reader mail in…what, six months? last week. It made me realize how badly I missed it.  I have a gazillion “friends” on FACEBOOK(Admin note: This is Thomas' new Facebook page as the previous one was disabled without notice) but I think I actually only know a handful of them.  Heh, if that isn’t fertile ground for an ironic discussion on the modern reinterpretation of social relationships, I don’t know what is.  I wonder how many of them will actually mourn my death?  Half?  One can hope.

Anyways.  This lady did ask me two interesting questions, and I think I ought to discuss one of them here.  It’s a good one, something which I should have written about long before this.  Sometimes you cannot see the forest for the trees, and sometimes you cannot see either because you have spent so much time studying the grass under your feet that you forget you can actually look up.

The question posed:

There is one other question I have. It has been bugging me forever!  I have read over and over again how terrible it is in prison.  This isn’t only from people living on death row, but all inmates from lifers down to a few years.  So, what I wonder is,  and would appreciate it if you could help me to understand: if prison is so terrible and you can’t stand having to live this way, why is it that almost every person who has been sentenced to death tries to get their sentence commuted to life without the possibility of parole?  I know that death house and general population have their own set of problems.  I mean, on death row you are sitting alone, basically waiting to die or for a miracle to happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that some people (like you) are trying to figure out what happened to bring you to that point and have also taken the steps to educate yourselves to become the person you want to be.  That doesn’t explain why it would be better to live the remainder of your life, and face it, a lot of these men/women on death row are just kids (18, 19, 20 years old), that’s a whole lot of life left.  From what I’ve read, you may not be waiting for someone to come and take you to the gurney in general population, but there is a whole different set of problems.  They have to face being killed on the yard, they worry about being raped by other inmates, the food still sucks and they can’t go back for more.  Unless you have money to hire an attorney, you are basically forgotten by the justice system.  Not like when you are sentenced to die, you are at least given an opportunity, no matter how small, to find a way out of the death chamber.  I just wonder why spending the rest of your life behind bars is so much more appealing to someone who can’t stand to be behind bars on death row.  I tell myself all the time, if I ever found myself sitting on death row for a crime I did commit, I would hate it so much that I would not fight the sentence and I would want my life to end as quickly as possible.  Now, if I did not commit the crime, I’d fight like heck, but EVERYONE seems to fight their conviction and sentence even if they admitted their crime.  I hope you’re not offended by my question.  I don’t mean any disrespect but it has always bothered me and thought perhaps you could shed some light on that issue as well for me.

Fair enough, madam.  Before I actually attempt to answer this, I’d like to make a simple point, one that meshes with a few comments I made in my letter to you.  You state that if you were to find yourself in my world that you would hate your actions so much that you would welcome death.  Don’t think such thoughts are not rampant back here, especially amongst those of us who have a tendency towards self-hatred.  That said, it is very easy to say what we might or would do in situations that are far removed from our own experiences.  Many men claim they would stand up to a bully or robber, but when the fists start flying, out comes the wallet and the hands hit nothing but the sky.  People love to think that if they were diagnosed with cancer, they would stoically face the myriad indignities of treatment with composure and grace, but the second they actually feel the presence of a lump, they break into pieces on the floor.  I have found that it is never wise to forecast what we would feel or do in a given situation until one has actually been through it, or, barring that, unless one has trained for that situation extensively.  You say that you would capitulate to the desire for societal vengeance.  Morally, I feel that view repugnant, but in any case, permit me to doubt you.  Life fights for more life, even back here in a world of meticulously orchestrated pre-meditated murder.  Your supposition rests on what you believe would be your feelings of extreme guilt.  I humbly proffer the possibility that the best way to attempt to make up for one’s errors is not to simply give up, but rather to do the uncomfortable and difficult work of re-forging yourself, to prove your humanity.  I believe guilt to be a useful tool, a means, not an end in and of itself.  In my experience, the only people who actually do believe in guilt in this fashion are those who solely think in terms of black and white, and such people always annoy and terrify me.  I also feel I must remind you that few people exist in a vacuum. Your death would affect other people greatly, especially your family.  Whatever thoughts of defeat and suicide that come to mind, they are quickly overridden by the reality that my death merely re-victimizes my family, none of whom want this end.  This is a point that the DA’s office in Fort Bend County (not to mention all of those so-called victim’s rights groups that consistently call for my blood) seems to conveniently ignore when they talk about my case.  Texas as a “Victim’s Rights Paradise”?  Tell that to my father, my grandparents, my cousins.

Another item to consider is this:  most of the people currently on Texas’ death row should never have been charged with Capital Murder in the first place.  Oh, sure, the law allows this to happen, but the law is merely the ideological view of those in power writ large. In Texas, the legal process has been hi-jacked by reactionary radicals for more than 20 years.  This was a political tool for the re-election of conservative buffoons, nothing more.  The death penalty is supposed to be for the “worst of the worst”.  In any other state, 75% of the men here would have been charged with 2nd degree murder, and sent to prison for a decade or two.  So, the view is prevalent back here of a sense of unfairness which totally overrides feelings of acceptance of just punishment.  Most of the guys here will honestly tell you they deserve to be in prison.  They are fighting because they got screwed up by a process interested only in preservation of status quo.

Pundits love to talk about how “if you kill in Texas, your life is forfeit,” but that is not what the law states.  There are tens of thousands of murderers in Texas prisons not on death row.  Most of the cases here on the Row are not factually different from these cases in GP.  The only major difference is the geographical location of the crime.  If you come from certain counties, you are dead.  If you go to trial before a major election, you are dead.  If you were to kill someone thirty feet over the county line instead, you might do thirty years.  It’s hard for some men here to see this process as anything other than a judicial lynching, which short-circuits the progressive process one needs to walk in order to truly contemplate guilt, and what this means to moral and personal development.  In any case, I will remind you that guilt fades over time unless you stoke the fires, and what you are usually left with after five or six years is not guilt, but rather shock at the continual legal defeats that go against decades of case law, but which nobody seems to care about. If you aren’t careful, what you end up feeling isn’t guilt, its anger.

Anyways, on to the meat of your question.  I think it is best to start off with the general consensus of the men around me, before moving into my own thoughts on the matter.  I didn’t exactly do a survey or anything that methodical, but I did ask a few neighbors about their motivations for leaving this place.  It helps to remember that most of these guys have been in prison before.  The “life” available in general population may seem dreadful to you, but it is a known environment to them, and what is known can be learned not to be feared.  You would be amazed at the adaptations possible to you when you don’t have a choice.  For most, population represents a definite step up from the current admin-seg environment.  As you have seen from some of MWH’s writings, life in population has its positives and negatives.  Sure, in Texas, there are far fewer positives than in California, and many more negatives, but when you consider that life in seg is entirely negative, it’s still and improvement.  There, one has access to the craft shack and some real art supplies (they just took away our pencil sharpeners, killing art creation on the Row).  One can program (there are no programs on the Row), and take classes (the only classes we get are the ones we pay for).  Sure, it’s a stark life to you, but when your expectations for life are minimized, you can still feel some purpose there.

Your understanding of what exactly “life in prison” means is also erroneous.  Most of us here currently would actually have a chance at parole if commuted.  Had I been given a life sentence at trial, “life” would have meant 40 calendar years before parole eligibility.  That would have put my first chance at parole at the age of 65.  Now, true, everyone here knows that none of us would ever be given the green light on parole, whatever the eligibility.  But that light at the end of the tunnel – no matter how dim – does help when enmeshed in the midst of so many decades of utter gloom.  It wasn’t until 2005 that the Texas Lege approved Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP), so the situation changes for crimes which took place after this date.  LWOP is going to pose serious problems in a few years, when the numbers of LWOPers in the system reaches into the thousands.  Just imagine entire units filled with men who have not chance of an out.  You haven’t seen the type of super-predatory inmate that environment is going to breed.  The guards here at Polunsky that currently have to attempt to control the GP Ad-Segers on E-Pod can tell you something about this.  A few weeks ago, they had 15 “use of force” situations in two days.  Five officers went to the hospital.  This is going to be the norm.  They didn’t come here like this; the system made them into this.  And – lucky you – most of those guys on E-Pod actually have parole dates.  They will be in your communities shortly.  Think about that the next time you vote for “Law and Order” politicos.

Still, for most of the men currently on death row, the consensus is that they would throw away their rights at a re-trial and sign for LWOP just to get off the Row.  This happens.  They can’t give most of us LWOP, but they can offer it as part of a deal.

There really isn’t any way to say this nicely (and, boy, I am sure I am going to hear about this later from certain quarters), but this boils down to cowardice.  Most of the men here are terrified of death, just like most of you are.  Considering most here are supposedly dedicated theists, this presents one with a few interesting avenues of thought on the nature of fear and hypocrisy probably best reserved for another entry.  Death holds no sting for me.  After my arrival here, I did two things.  First, I killed myself in my head, totally and completely.  Second, I started putting my trust only in that which is quantifiable, eliminating all vestiges of superstition, long known as one of the great roots of fear.  I find certain aspects of Stoic philosophy agrees with me, especially the part about the only true good being virtue, and since no enemy or event can deprive me of my virtue (or my Grand Indifference), there is no need to fear my enemies or any event.  Thus, there are basically only two things which cause me to worry when it comes to the subject of death.  The first is that I will have failed in my quest to have done damage to the political ideology that built this place.  This is a fear known to all leftists, that through their action (or inaction) the forces of retrograde conservatism and traditionalism would have triumphed.  I want to see the world take another step forward, toward a future where life is better for the most people possible.  If I fail at this, I will see my life as having been bereft of purpose.

Secondly, while the concept of death holds no terror for me, dying poorly does.  I desire to die with dignity, to be able to live in that moment of my end so that others can say of me later: well, he sure didn’t blink.  He stared at La Santisima Muerte and calmly took her mask off and spit in her face.  It makes me cringe a little when I hear the same incoherent mumblings coming from the death chamber in Huntsville, the same pointless regrets and wasted tears.  The time for regret and reformation happens long before you take that final van ride to Huntsville.  I many consider some of these men my friends, but I could never respect such behavior.  We all die alone.  Even in a room full of people, we die alone.  We should all know that, and get the f-over it now while we have the time to analyze the event.  This is the most intensely personal moment of our lives, the one time where you can think only about yourself, to indulge in the solipsisms which are distasteful in other contexts.  This is the one moment of your entire life where you can stand up and be truly greater than fear, greater than all of the weaknesses that defined your early life.  Most people cannot manage this.  That I might not is constantly on my mind.  I will know when I get there.  In the meantime, I am doing my training for this.  I will explain that one day, maybe after the fact.  It’s not pleasant.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t ever sign up for LWOP. 

Which does bring us back to the “point” of a life in prison.  Let me flip the question around on you: what is the point of your life?  You might be surprised to find that the answer doesn’t really change when you are a prisoner.  We all want to feel useful, to know love, to find some source of joy, to learn a trade and excel at it.  I am increasingly attempting to live in a world of principles, to put silly emotion behind me and adhere to what I believe in times of great testing.  My options for a good life are different from yours, but they are comparable when talking about the desired ends.  I don’t usually talk about such fantasies, but since it bears on the question, I can tell you that the possibility of being allowed to participate in the prison reform movement excites me. By my actions and beliefs, I hope to be allowed to have at least a minor voice in that conversation.  With the education that I am currently amassing, I also believe that I will be well situated to serve in a position to teach in the prison system.  As these fascist idiots in Huntsville and Austin keep cutting prison budgets, it will fall upon those of us in white to fill the roles of free-world instructors.  Maybe this will mean GED classes; maybe it will mean college ones.  Given sufficient time, I will earn my PhD back here.  The path is already open to me.  Though I will never be free, the act of participating in the renewal of men who will would be very rewarding.  If I can help keep just a handful of men from venturing down the path of recidivism, perhaps my life will have had some meaning after all (and for the record, given the chance, I don’t think this number will be so minimal).  Perhaps I will be able to own a mirror again, even.  Maybe one day I would be allowed to speak to at-risk teens.  There isn’t much that I haven’t done in the world of drugs, not much I haven’t experienced when it comes to the evils we can do to each other.  I have been to hell, and I clawed my way out again.  Putting me on a stage wrapped in chains and announcing that I have a doctorate in philosophy would present anyone with such a juxtaposition that I would be listened to.  The point I am making is, finding purpose in life doesn’t depend on geographical location.  It depends solely on will.  And that is something only I have control over, not these pigs.  In this, you and I are no different.

Perhaps it is easy for you to snicker at my modest goals.  Fine.  But I will remind you that less than five years ago, I came to the toughest death row in the nation.  I arrived here with no money, and with a promise to never accept any more from my dad or other family members.  I had no friends, no “supporters”.  Neither did I have any real understanding of myself or my place in the social web.  I was still basically a Republican suburbanite, convinced that some deity was going to swoop in ex machina and save me.  All I had was the tiniest spark of will.  Within two years, I had built a blog that still reaches tens of thousands of readers each week.  By not wasting my money on food or magazines, I have saved enough to go to college, where after 104 hours my GPA is a 3.9.  If I can maintain this through this semester and the next, I will graduate Summa Cum Laude.  I have already gotten the acceptance from Cal State to enter their Master’s program next year.  I’ve taken professional development courses in many areas, including drug counseling, achieving certificates that the drug counselors in the psych department even don’t have.  I’ve learned enough of the law to become a certified paralegal, and participate in my own defense.  Don’t doubt my will.  Given a life sentence, you might be surprised at the good I can accomplish.  All of the Thomas-haters out there might ask yourselves if you would have done as well in my shoes.  Ah! Could it be that is why you hate my guts so much?

I think I will close with a story that bears on this.  It’s an old one.  You might be sick of my references to mythology by this point, but come on!  Mythology lessons from a death row prisoner?  The weirdness of that has to be humorous to somebody out there.  Sigh.  Anyways, mythology is full of tales of descents into the Underworld.  Probably the best known deal with Odysseus and Aeneas, but these were somewhat patterned off of Persephone getting dragged into the realms of the dead by Hades himself.  This story may have its roots in a short Akkadian poem called The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld, itself a descendent of an earlier Sumerian work.  Ishtar is a daughter of Anu, and is therefore one of the older sky-gods (she is somewhat analogous to Pallas Athena).  In the Sumerian myth, she is called Inanna.  In both cases, Inanna must visit the Underworld, where certain conditions are imposed upon her behavior.  She is aware that she can be killed there, utterly destroyed.  As she proceeds through the Seven Gates of death, she is divested of her royal garments and her jewels.  In this utter darkness, she is no longer the definition of beauty.  No reflections of her outward appearance greet her.  Soon, she loses even her skin, her flesh peeled back and left behind.  In the dark, in the depths, she was left to die, and in doing so discovered who she really was.

It is common to think that the Underworld is a place of decay and rot, the last place we want to venture.  We forget that all life begins there, that without the roots of plants and trees sucking the nutrients off the dead our ecosystem would collapse and all life would end.  Freed from sight, Inanna’s vision was fundamentally altered.  Killed there, she was reborn and ascends towards the skies, where her skin is wrapped back around her.  Her robes and jewels are returned to her.  She notices as she dons these that she has been left a scar to remember her travels.  The scar reminds her that the past is real; this was the cost of her rebirth.  She returns to Heaven, but a part of her is forever touching the earth.

Right now, I am entombed in a place so far beneath the realms of the living that maps are pointless.  Most have given up on me, and my previous sight has left me, as have all my prior images of who I was.  But my roots are growing, and so am I.  There will be no grand ascent to Heaven, but I am climbing.  The knowledge of myself and the world that I have learned during my time here has changed me, given me a new perspective.  I have my scars, more than any of you could possibly know about, some that you don’t even suspect in your wildest imaginations about why my case happened in the first place.  I may not ever break the surface, but if I am given the chance, I want to make sure my work is able to feed others, and they might be able to.  There is no substitute for hard work, and I have done and am doing mine.  Do you see my point?  The purpose of my life in prison is to help re-craft the penal environment into a place where this sort of evolution is not exceptional.  I want journeys like mine to be commonplace, typical.  How many times have I said that we all have more power to change the world than we realize?  I am acting on mine.  Are you?

Was Du erlebst, kann keine Macht der Welt Dir rauben.
(What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you.)
-    Dr. Viktor Frankl

Read this ARTICLE, please.  Seems like *somebody* has been saying this sort of things for years.


© Copyright 2011 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved

8 comments:

gord said...

The best yet Thomas, Merry Christmas my friend and may you get at least one very tasty meal. GP

jodac8 said...

as gord said thomas this is you at your very best,my son committed suicide at the age of 26 the damage left behind can never be undone,you must fight for every last breathe in the hopes that enough people will know the meaning of the word redemption to make things change,god bless thomas and merry xmas

feministe said...

I have a lot of varied reactions to this post for you.

- Life vs. LWOP vs. death: you say that you wouldn't ever choose LWOP, but then go on to lay out a number of ways in which you believe that you could live a gainful life in prison. So why not LWOP, especially since you acknowledge that you have no serious possibility of parole even if sentenced to life? Are you saying that, if you received penalty-phase habeas relief (given that there's no serious guilt-phase issue in your case) and your case was sent back for a new trial, you would roll the dice again - go for another trial in which a Texas jury could pick death, just to see if you could get life rather than LWOP?

- As a side note: I oppose the death penalty in all circumstances and therefore do not support your execution. However, I find your supercilious tone in referring to Texas' death row as a "world of meticulously orchestrated pre-meditated murder" to be difficult to swallow, given that, with all due respect, you are no stranger to orchestrating that very thing.

- Your comments about the maximum security inmates on E-Pod ("And – lucky you – most of those guys on E-Pod actually have parole dates. They will be in your communities shortly.") actually weigh in favor of members of the public supporting LWOP, which I don't believe was your intent.

- Thank you for giving MWH's writings a forum on this blog. I had previously read his writings about San Quentin/California's death row and found them very illuminating. It's great to be able to follow his post-death row experiences; he writes with a good deal of humor and insight, but manages not to take a self-pitying, persecuted tone (which was true even when he was on the row).

- Your comments about Huntsville and other inmates expressing regrets prior to their execution are downright offensive. I certainly agree with you that the "regret and reformation" process should start well before an inmate's final day, but I don't see that that justifies your expression of contempt for people expressing remorse/regret on that final day as well - especially since their execution day is often the first time since their trial that they can express those sentiments to their victims' families face-to-face. (Your situation is obviously exceptional, and you have had more contact with the (surviving) members of your family/victims' family than most on the row.) When you say this: "This is the most intensely personal moment of our lives, the one time where you can think only about yourself, to indulge in the solipsisms which are distasteful in other contexts." I beg to disagree. If your premature death is a direct result of your having coldly and cruelly taken other people's lives, it seems quite fitting to give them some thought at the end, too. And to their credit, many who breathe their last at Huntsville do just that.

Estelle said...

I loved this one...

Joe G. said...

I could go on at length in reponse to this post, but I'll limit myself to a few comments.

One, given your stated conversion to Christianity (however you define it this week), I find this statement of yours rather curious:

"Second, I started putting my trust only in that which is quantifiable, eliminating all vestiges of superstition, long known as one of the great roots of fear."

This is rather hard to square with your stated belief in such things as gods and afterlife.

Also, as another poster pointed out, your long winded post about what a meaningful life you could live in prison makes little sense coming on the heels of your statement that you'd never opt for LWOP (it's also demonstrably false, as you've reminded us many times bitterly of how you'd told the court you'd do as many life bids as they could throw at you to avoid the needle).

I also find your boasts about this blog and your achievements on the row and your suggestion that perhaps THIS is why some hate you to be disturbing, because it sounds VERY narcissistic.

It might suprise you to hear that I am not one of your haters. I really hate the death penalty and especially the way it is administered in Texas, and I think you do have a lot worthwhile to say about this and other issues (even if the strained references to mythology and tendency to use 'big words' comes off as sophomoric and pretentious at times).

You're a very interesting guy, and I sincerely hope for both your sake and the sake of your father and cousins that you don't die on a gurney.

Oh well, I'm afraid that's all I have time for right now. In closing I feel compelled to make one final observation; you are remarkably reminiscent in many ways, both good and bad, to the late Sean Sellers, who died on Oklaoma's death row in 1999. He also had a popular 'blog' (website actually; they didn't use the term 'blog' bak then). Like you, he was very bright, multi-talented, narcissistic, with a lot of good qualities and a lot of bad qualities. It was always hard to tell when Sean was being entirely sincere or scheming; he did both, often at the same time. You are a LOT like him.

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Tracey said...

This is an exact response from Thomas...

Joe G: A few less than developed responses to your comments:

First off, I am not going to get into the religion thing. It doesn't matter to anyone what I believe or disbelieve, and we'd all be better off if religious choice was a purely personal decision centered around private life, and not something discussed at all in the public sphere. I will admit to grappling with the god hypothesis for a very long time. Based on your comments, I suspect that you and I actually agree on the religious question in every respect. Reading between the lines on this one?

Two: I'm aware that my opinions on LWOP and the DP are evolving and not entirely consistent. I never really remember what I write about after the fact, but I am pretty sure that I admitted to being conflicted in this piece, about how my need for light at the end of the tunnel wasn't entirely logical. This is hard stuff and I'm still acclimating to this world. Sometimes you write something and read it a week later and think to yourself: man, I am such an idiot for having said that. Such is the life of a writer, even a fake one like myself. Words get written in concrete, and ideas run like water; there is bound to be some conflict sometimes. In any case, maybe you could give me a break and admit that choosing between two very bad options is not such a simple thing, especially when you basically have no one to ask for advice or wisdom. Keep in mind, whatever any DR inmate has in the way of support, we mostly do this thing alone.

I think you are probably right about my 'boasting.' Message received. I don't have a lot to be proud of in my life, so maybe I overcompensate when it comes to MB6. Maybe I conflate my self-pride and my pride in the site; I will work on differentiating between the two. Beyond that, I have always been what they now call 'high achievers,' attaching my self-worth to my accomplishments. I'm working on this, and have been for 32 years. Those are perhaps the deepest currents of my childhood still swirling in the pools of my adult life, and they run terribly swiftly still. I think you will notice that I have already been toning down my predilection for elaborate terminology (err, except for this sentence, I mean), which you call 'pretentious.' You are, however, going to have to continue to deal with my 'strained references to mythology.' I like mythology. Do you have any concept of how difficult it is to learn anything back here? Or how colossally stupid I was when I arrived in 2007."

Joe G. said...

Thomas wrote:
"Sometimes you write something and read it a week later and think to yourself: man, I am such an idiot for having said that."

Welcome to the club. When I reread my comments to you from back in June, I have some of the same regrets.

My remarks were somewhat obnoxious (e.g. the comparison to Sellers, the talk of narcissism, etc.). I appreciate your thoughtful response.

It can be too easy to forget that there is a real person behind the words on our screens these days, and we often address people online in ways we never would 'in real life'.

When people communicate through an inanimate, text based interface I think we tend to become a bit autistic, losing some of our capacity to see the person we are talking to as a fully flesh and blood human being.

I suspect we might communicate more effectively via private correspondence.

Later...