Empty Days

Friday, August 13, 2004



Do-it-yourself.

It's very inspiring to read touring-biker sites. You know - all those crazy guys who keep going and going and never stop. The most inspiring part for me is the ingenuity required to adapt bikes and gear to one's own needs and find solutions to endless problems on the way. Basically this involves building or creating things yourself (like this here)- either because you can't buy from store or because stores don't sell what you need. It also involves getting around terrible situations on the road. Perhaps it's the most interesting part of "as is" travel, this problem-solving part. What I dislike most about "civilized" tourism is that everything is too smooth and predictable - unless all your money is stolen and your plane crashes in the ocean and I don't know what else.

This reminds me of my childhood. As kids we constantly built stuff for ourselves. For example, if you wanted to play cowboys-n-indians, you had to build a bow and arrows that was precise enough and powerful enough for your ambitions, and find big bird feathers to stick up your make-shift bandana. Or if you wanted to play modern war, you had to build a machine-gun out of wood with a trigger made from thick aluminium wire and a particularly taut rubber-band to shoot little aluminium-wire triangles into your opponent - the farther the better. This strange weapon had to aim properly too, and be hurtful to your foe. So it wasn't no simple task and it required some ingenuity. Nobody was paranoid about security - as kids we played throwing knives too, though not at each other.
The pleasure from being able to build stuff exactly fitting your needs is hard to over-estimate. When kids insist on building that house-in-the-tree themselves, it's because the pleasure of achievement and personal power associated with this is real and attractive. It's far less fun to watch papa do it for you.

For all I know this kind of play beats by far computer games or all those endless shiny and ugly toys the stores are saturated with. Sure, a kid will still play in his mind, but the more ready-made things are thrown at him, the less incentive there is to actually find a way to do things by yourself. It's basically useless for parents to try and limit their kid's access to all this fake paradise of shiny exciting objects - the temptation is too great and too easy to get, unless the parents are really dirt-poor which is kind of rare due to dollar-store shit.

The more "civilized" your world, the more saturated with ready-made products, the less you are inclined to build or invent stuff yourself. It simply doesn't make sense to build something that you know waits for you in the store - all you need is to get some cash and save yourself the effort. Once again, unless you're totally moneyless, the temptation appeals to common-sense and you can't find it in you to exert your brain and body to work it out on your own.

In this way, your environment educates you and shapes you to be a lazy s.o.b. or a money-hungry s.o.b. - makes you brainless and timid with things. It requires a special mental effort to break out of this vision of the world and see all the things you can do with your own hands. Sure enough, you will look really odd to people, building a table or whatever when you can easily buy it, let's say. I think many men are possessed with the need to build pretty much genetically, simply because endless generations of their forefathers had to build stuff by themselves - all this weekend garage-tinkering and backyard wood-working affords a little bit of that original freedom of doing-it-yourself.

*

It's interesting that I should have such a strong impulse for these things - which I think is just a form of the impulse to personal freedom - and yet my social education makes me timid and tells me I am not supposed to mess with life in that way. There is a strange conflict somewhere at the very bottom of my mind between what I long to do and used to do so freely as a kid, and this huge superimposed structure of later concepts that constantly oppose these drives.

Ultimately, it's up to me to break through these barriers, but I am fighting my own self and this is the worst kind of fight because you can never see clearly in there - both your so-called true-self and your so-called false-self are part of who and how you are, how you think and act and what you desire.

*

I have a dim idea of just where it all started. As a kid a had a nearly incestuous relationship with my father - very much in the freudian oedipal-complex vein. My mother was always something of a hidden enemy to me, even though there was never any open hostility - only constant power-struggle from very early on, I think. At the same time my dad essentially ignored my younger brother ever since his birth (who knows why) so that it set a very binary pattern in the family that lasts up to this day - I and dad on one side, mom and bro on the other. No matter how profoundly things have changed in the meantime, this inner pattern seems unbreakable.

I resisted my mother and her feminine influence madly and instinctively. As a pre-teen I was a regular tom-boy and I have no explanation for this other than being too hooked up on my father and perceiving my mother and thus all feminity within and without as hostile. All I remember from that time is that I was a leader, I fought a lot, and all my friends were boys.

But according to accounts, it started even before I can remember myself. My mom recently told me an anecdote of how stubborn I was at 5 years old. She brought me to a toy-store where I begged that she buy me a war-toy (a ballistic missile carrier) one of which I already had at home, and my mother thought it silly because she wanted me to have a nice little kettle to play house. So she deceived me: she told me she was going to get me that ballistic missile carrier but bought the kettle instead and only showed it to me when we were already out of the store. Of course I made a loud scandal. Is this called "stubborn"? According to my mother - yes.

That's a great anecdote, actually, because it was like that all my life - as long as my mother held any parental power, she tried to force standard girlie behavior on me, which I kept fighting ferociously. Up to this day I can't wear a skirt or a dress - it makes me sick because it is so strongly associated with utter humiliation. I can't really blame my mother: she was automatically executing a social program she was herself educated in and probably also used it as a means of unconscious revenge against my single-minded attachment to my father. That's all I can say for my mother. But for me it is still something of an inner pit - this whole "social gender" problem and where I am with all of this. At the same time my dad, following his own idea of how girls and boys should be, kept excluding me from his specifically male endeavors - he only allowed me into his intellectual realm, never that of his handy-crafts. I can understand that but I also know what offense it created every time. When I finally started messing with bikes on my own, I had to learn everything by myself while my father kept thinking he knew better - which was simply not true since he hadn't touched a bike in decades, but he was "supposed" to be better at it because of his social gender. I should say that he never had a father himself and thus had to learn whatever he could from other men in later life - it was never easy for him but at least he was "allowed" to learn, which I can't really say for myself.

These are very curious, very basic things and if I weren't so wrought up in them, I'd probably never care to look so closely. The fact remains that I am kind of lost between man and woman, and only part of this particular lostness imports on the sexual sphere per se. The deeper confusion or, should I say, conflict has to do with basic personality - I regularly don't "allow" myself to be as I want because I so strongly feel I am not "supposed" to.

The model of female behavior that was constantly forced on me presupposed too many things I could never accept. I think the most revolting of these consisted in using sexual power as a means of surreptitious passive-aggressive domination. My mother presented this model perfectly - she has always been the unspoken boss in the family while my father completely submitted to her while imagining himself as head of the family.
I probably acquired all these behaviors myself because whenever I get out among people I keep attracting swarms of weak troubled males in search of a master. But I hate this model and I keep pushing them away - I am afraid to be as I am because that would certainly mean becoming an unwilling master of a too-willing slave. I don't want to be in a relationship ever again until I am able to defeat this tendency. I am not sure I will ever be able to.

But this is only the visible, relational part. There is an invisible one - the fact that I hate myself in general because I can't be as I want to be, can't allow myself any real freedom. This is much harder to "explain". Already the above interpretations are somewhat dubious and maybe there are other ways of looking at it.

*

When I was a small kid I kept saying: "Let me do it myself". I also kept running away - just walking away into the open, without "permission", getting lost in the great wide world and going for miles and miles without either fear or purpose. This is my original desire - to be by myself and be lost without fear. It doesn't mean that I somehow want to be asocial. Rather, I am asocial because I can't tolerate all the endless limitations that social life would impose on me. My whole idea of social life is based on this sense of limitations that I can see no purpose for. I guess I lost my personal power too early on and am still in frantic search of this by now mythical state.

No surprisingly, I want to die pretty frequently - a bit too frequently, as a matter of fact. I can't resolve something completely intolerable within myself that blocks me and makes me hate all life, my own first and foremost.
The problem is that I don't really know what it is and where to find a way out. I don't know what I want - or need - and even whether I can really let myself desire anything from the bottom of my heart. Without this basic desire there can be no freedom, no power, no life, nothing.

If "having lost oneself" means anything, that's exactly what it means - inability to desire to be as you are, let alone actually become what you are. It is fairly clear by now that I don't want what most people want - even if I were somehow conditioned to want all these things, they wouldn't solve it for me. I know this pretty deeply. So I fight all these conventional ideas in my head - it's only natural that I should fight them. And yet I can't find the path to what I really need - it's not a path of ideas but that of desires, thinking is just not enough here.

Basically, I have no clue where to look and what to look for. I am completely blind here and maybe it's just the way it should be, I don't know. Groping for the road in the dark.

Is it freedom I want? But what is this freedom, what is it made of?

*

Perhaps it's enough to look for what happens to be inspiring and follow such clues without questioning. I am inspired to go on a bike-tour? Ok, let's go - who cares why.





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