27 June 2006

Screw My Birthday Already, Part 2


A detail of one of forty-eight tiles from my son Aaron's project titled
"Take Eon Home". Acrylic paint on pressboard. Most awesome
Father's Day present I ever got.

Greg:

It's my birthday. Fucking hell. I've said it once before and I'll say it again. I hate my birthday. Screw it.

Well actually, let me clarify that just a little bit. What I don't like is the one day a year that has an infinite potential to make any one of us feel completely forgotten. Although I'm sure my wife would never let that happen, the dread of that possibility is - I don't know how else to say it. It makes me angry. I get angry because the possibility even exists, and that I have to be reminded of it every year. And if this whole thing is making me angry because of that bullshit-anniversarial-recurrent-past-whatever-it-is that my ninth birthday went by completely unnoticed, that seems downright maudlin and retarded and a self-centered pity party and why shouldn't I just get over it? I am a grown-ass man. I have grey hair, fer crissakes. I have an adult child whose job it is to forget my birthday just like I forget our Dad's birthday every year. (What is it - December 13th or 4th or something? I always get it confused with Sgt. Rock's birthday, and by the time I've sorted it out, both of their birthdays have passed and it's Baby Jesus' birthday, and God knows I can't fuck that one off or I'm doomed.)

So let me just leave that for the time being and get on to a cheerier topic, like the beating that you witnessed the other night.

Man. I don't even know what to say. Watching someone get beaten within an inch of their life is a hard thing to witness. It's even worse when it's a fight between two people that you've been close to for the past four years. As you know, I've studied agression and empathy a great deal, and I still don't know what to say about it other than I'm sorry it happened. I don't doubt you one bit when you tell me were it not for the intervention of several people, someone would've been beaten to death.

There are all kinds of things that I could tell you about aggression, like the fact that both the perpetrators and the victims of abusive violence sustain psychological damage from it. That still doesn't explain away the sickening mass that you have to digest when you witness these things, or the sheer helplessness you must've felt that night in the presence of a seemingly unquenchable force.

I know how it feels because I was the only kid in the family who didn't get hit. Growing up, I watched all my siblings take beatings - including you, of course - but I never got one. I've been in counseling for 25 years now. I must've gone through the whole "survivor's guilt" talk with a over a dozen counselors by now. While it makes intellectualizing the subject more comfortable, as Anthony Burgess once said, “The scientific approach to life is not really appropriate to states of visceral anguish”. That "sick" feeling never seems to go away, no matter how much I try to explain it to myself. I've written a paper and read thousands of pages on the subject of aggression, so I can tell you everything about the how of it. Although I'm a full grown man, I still have the cold stomach of a terrified child in the presence of that maddeningly unanswerable question of why.

Growing up, I remember hearing the phrase a right to be angry over and over again. I can understand a person feeling that they should not be denied the opportunity to express themselves. That's one thing. What I disagree with in that phrase is the idea of rights, which is a different issue entirely. Anger is a state of being, just like other emotional states. Logically speaking, right and entitlement have nothing to do with it. It's like saying that ice has a right to be ice. The concept of rights implies an entitlement to practice an ethic or carry out a certain action because it is morally or legally fitting. So if you have a right to be angry, then you can use that as an ethical basis for or defense of - hell, you name it. He made me angry, I have a right to be angry, my right entitles me to visit harm on the source of my anger, therefore I - beat my kid, kicked that guy's ass, killed dozens of unarmed civilians in an open field. I am acutely aware of the self-justifying properties of anger from both a cognitive and a neurological perspective. That's why I'm so careful with my own.

Man oh man, where does all this cheer come from? What merry little bird sings so sweetly within my soul as to produce these lilting phrases from mine own lips? I swear if I go on any further, this letter is going to become as dire as a Chekov comedy. "But wait. Here's the funny part: he dies."

Anyway, thanks for listening as usual. I know you don't drink much if at all, but one thing I'd like you to do in honor of my birthday if you would is to get drunk as a lord on several Ketel One 'n' cranberrys. Give 'em a twist of lime as well - which I believe would make them technically a Cape Codder. I'm quite a fan of the Cape Cod style of architecture. Likewise, I was once a world-class alcoholic who often dreamed of being drunk as a lord inside my very own 2-story Cape Cod dwelling, so I believe that would make a birthday libation in this style utterly appropriate.

Cheers - and I mean that - and give my best to Marie.

-Thaddeus


2 comments:

luke keen said...

eeeuuurghhh.
a punch up makes me feel sick to the stomach. there's something about the sound of fist on face, and the cloud of testosterone and hate that hangs around the crime scene that makes me shrink into myself, and want to puke.
I'm sorry your bro had to witness that, and I'm curious as to what was the spark that causde the rucuss? I'm guessing it was a woman? not many things would cause someone to go beyond a few good smacks.
Love or murder or a lot of money!

and on a more positive note, I wanna see your kids art work. That pic ROCKS! I love that style of art, and would love a piece over here in London town!
Respect!

T K Wilson said...

I wrote a big long fucking letter and the internet ate it.

There just isn't any justice.

The good part is I didn't smash anything.

Happy birthday.