The Barbershop Diaries, Volume I, Issue 11: What Narcissism Means to Me


Waddling Through Hell

Waddling Through Hell

Why would anyone want to live in this heat?  Why do I?  No wonder everyone in the State of Texas wears their hair as short as possible.

I have become convinced, based on the discrepancy between my car’s thermometer and the public ones installed by the Chamber of Commerce on every major thoroughfare in San Antonio, that the public thermometers are often five degrees cooler than reality.  I think that’s so no one who lives, and tries to work, here realizes where they actually are.

People in Hell don’t want ice water; actually, they prefer iced tea.  With extra sugar.

Comedian Mark Schiff used to live here.  His wife’s family is from here.  He came from Los Angeles to try to raise his family in and around the Jewish community that exists in and among the Baptists who pound their lecterns and foreswear the sins that, by the evening, they will have committed at least once.  Several times if they’re younger.   Mark lasted two years in heat nothing like this year’s heat.  He told me that it was the size of San Antonio’s Jewish community that sent him and his family back to Los Angeles.  I think the truth was that the Baptists had infiltrated the two or three synagogues we have here in town to make certain that there were none of those stealthy Muslims trying to hide their powerfully pious behavior from public view.   But a Baptist is a Baptist: they refuse to make love while standing up – it looks too much like they’re dancing.  So if you want to find out if the newcomer to your San Antonio church is actually a stealth Baptist, sponsor a few dances and see if they show up.  Then sponsor a tent revival replete with snake handlers and chanters who speak in tongues…maybe a couple used car salesmen.  Identities will be confirmed.

Only a successful comic could afford to move back to California after living in San Antonio for two years.  Within two years of my move here I’d gained forty of my now seventy pounds of purely Texas heft, and was no longer the 11 second 100-yarder that I once was growing up in the cold of the central California coast.  I’ve since become a very committed waddler, however.

I waddled past something the other day I’d never seen before: a mother hawk teaching her chick to fly.  I was stunned.  This was the middle of civilization, for pete’s sake.  I grew up very close to the “sticks” as a kid and they were filled with red-tail and sparrow hawks – I never saw anything like what was right there in the middle of a heavily populated, well-traveled metropolitan community.  What would a mother hawk be doing training a chick to fly on someone’s front lawn for?

For me, obviously. 

Not that I’m narcissistic, or anything pathological, I just don’t believe in coincidences any longer.  The stuff I see is the stuff I am supposed to see when I am supposed to see it.  And since none of this experience fits neatly within the subtext of a monologue on Texas heat or Jewish comedians, I am offering it up to you, gentle reader, because maybe you can figure this out.  Marty Stoufer I am not.  Has this clan of hawks gone deaf?  Have they not heard that the grackles have taken over most of San Antonio?  How in the hell was I even lucky enough to have caught this slice of heaven amidst the raging fires of hell this past week?

I had no idea at the time, so I did my part and shooed off a couple house cats that had taken notice of the mother and her chick.  And then I watched and watched as the mother pounced on her baby, prompting it to open its wings or otherwise try to defend itself.  The chick was clearly confused as the provider of its nourishment and care was now engaged in the very serious business of killing it with her beak and talons.  How cruel is nature, I mused to myself.

In the past I’d seen a starling killing one of its chicks, holding it in place while repeatedly thrusting its beak into the neck of the chick.  Perhaps I had misinterpreted that ritual as I was misunderstanding this one.  As an observer of my own personal “flock” of birds here in my home, I’ve noticed that some of these pseudo-dinosaurs can inflict ruthless quality control practices on each other.  I’m clearly a mammalian-kinda-fella because I want nothing of this reptilian nonsense in my reality.  And yet, there it was and here it is/was, once again.

The odd leaping and dancing over and around this confused, befuddled chick went on and on as minutes took on the experience of hours.  The mother hawk had allowed me in close enough to observe this ritual and I certainly wasn’t going to let it go to waste.  I was, however, losing patience, as I knew that if I ran up on the chick, grabbed it, and threw it up into the air, it would have to fly.  There could be no doubt that something with wings, when faced with an opportunity to glide or crash, would choose gliding most of the time.  But then I thought, no.  This is not something that humans should become a part of.  Even if I would rather not be directly associated with most of the humans I come across in the heat of this hellish place, such distinctions matter little to a predator like the hawk.  If hawks ever got in the business of becoming domesticated, they would cease being hawks.  They would become pets and a pet with a powerful beak and talons that could squeeze the life out of most rodentia wouldn’t be the lover of gerbils and hamsters that I feel much more akin to. 

As the Sun set and dusk was fast approaching, the mother finally surrendered to the special needs of her less than studious progeny, picked him up in her talons, and flew off up the hill, presumably to her nest.  I’m sure junior didn’t appreciate having his wings and body clenched by dear ol’ Mom, but such is the life of a reptile whose job it will be to kill or be killed, eat or be eaten.  It is an angry, brutal existence, but my wishing that it were not so cannot impact a constellation as vast as the one we have built on this planet over hundreds of millions of years.

Of course the fact that mother hawk could just as easily released junior in mid-flight as I could have picked him up and tossed him did not occur to me until just this moment, until just this reflection.  Nor did it occur to me to consider the possibility that the chick was possibly gendered female, instead of male, or that the hawk could have been the father and not the mother: the characterizations of this moment in time were all mine and not necessarily real.  My issues and experiences with my own mother were getting projected even on this seemingly unrelated moment in time between a hawk and its chick.

We see who and what we are projected onto the world around us in various ways no matter how hard we try to depersonalize or otherwise objectify our human experience.  What we believe we see in the world around us in the present moment tells others volumes about whom we are and the content of our pasts.

So why, during the last decade or so, all the clamor and flap about the End of the World and the return of a mighty messiah or sage to judge us all, separating wheat from chaff?  What of the presaging of His coming by his opposite, the Antichrist?  Why do so many see that this reality is so, and why do so many clamor, selfishly, to turn what little remains and could be heaven into the fires of hottest Hades?  What are they seeing within themselves that reflects what they believe is taking place without?

Without realizing it, Mr. Schiff provided me with the tie-in for this week’s coiff at the ‘diaries, even after I’d already gotten started on this journal entry and before I went to check out what he’s been up to viz. his Facebook account.  Mark said, on Friday at 4pm,

“One more day without is one more day within.”

When nothing effectively awakened transpires within a person, they have no choice but to see everything as happening outside and “to” them.  Taken to some of the extremes we observe in the fires of hottest Texas, the crazy-making experience of seeing everything within projected out onto the world around us drives many of us to excess: sex, drugs, exercise, perfectionism, food, control – obsessions and compulsions of all kinds.  Perhaps even Country music (opening up a vein at the thought).  One more day without our obsessions and compulsions is one more day we get to experience as being within ourselves, as being engaged in the pursuit of wholeness, or holiness – if you must – and of taking our place in the field of life, rather than as passive spectators watching from the grandstands or the cheap seats.

What an order.

We get to be responsible adults, in other words, and we get to stop behaving like little children whose disembodied, perhaps long-dead, parents set us up for all this shame, misery and confusion. 

We can project our past onto our present – ad nauseum – until the world we think we are seeing confirms every resentment we covet within ourselves.  The evidence that this has taken place, rather than that we have been maliciously victimized and wrongly maligned, will be in the number of friendships we manage to acquire and maintain, our willingness to give back to our communities and in our openness to the type of change that comes through personal growth.  I have never in my lifetime met anyone wrongly victimized who did not manage to continue to procure and maintain friendships, who did not manage to continue to give their time and effort to the benefit of others, nor did such individuals fail to grow their lives to become larger than their perceived difficulties.  This process of the undoing of victimization may take decades, but it is the presence of this process in the lives of those who have been victimized that separates the adults from the children.

What the religiously zealous must be seeing in their ever-darkening worldview is a failure of their beliefs on a grand a scale.  It could not be that any of these individuals were mistaken in their beliefs about the world, or were victimized by the drive of others to exploit them for their own ends.  What the religiously zealous have been condemned by their own guilt to see is nothing less than the end of their world and, by extension, our’s as well.

We feel such extreme, if sublimated, guilt over our collective inability to get our “shit” together that we lapse into our childhood, if childish, bag of tricks that will allow us to project both accountability and responsibility for our individual and collective failures onto someone or something else.  We take a problem, perhaps initially solvable, and render it solutionless because our guilt demands that we see the solution and the problem as totally unrelated, completely separate, entities. 

 “We declare ourselves innocent of the charges made by the obvious evidence of the problem, your honor.”

And so we agree to conclude, “the butler did it.”  Perhaps the butler is a closeted gay, despised by gay and straight alike, so he’ll do in a pinch.

It does not matter if the butler did it, nor if Colonel Mustard did it with a lead pipe in the foyer, the game is “Clue” and we claim we don’t have one.  We do seem to know, however, a remarkable amount about a game we claim to have never owned.                       

Flagrant dishonesty with ourselves and others – hell, it has even become a Sunday morning cottage industry – is certainly a clue that we are refusing to confront the problem of our inadequate beliefs and, instead, are choosing our stubborn insistence on complete innocence well past our due date with our maker.  However, if you are breathing, eating and digesting on the planet in this moment, you are in immutable exchange with both the problems of this world and with their potential solutions.  We share atoms and ideas with those we perceive as either problem or solution, correctly identified or otherwise.  We deny reality at our own peril.  Were we to commit an outright lie about the nature of what we perceive and its relationship to our established ability to project, we cross a line from simple denier to source of the problem.  We might hold our breath until we are blue in the face, yet we are still here and are still, therefore, part of both problem and solution.  To believe otherwise is flagrantly dishonest, even if the prevalence of such a belief seems ubiquitous.

The way out of this monumental mess, of course, is to begin to the tell the truth to each other and to stop lying to ourselves and to others about what it is we believe we are seeing.  Accusing Texans of being demons sent from Hell, while it has become a hobby of mine here at the ‘diaries, is a tad premature since not everyone living in Texas was born and raised here,

and not every good-hearted Texan has been able to be heard and understood by those Texans who simply live and breathe the exploitation of labor regardless of its point of origin.  

The simple truth is that Texas was long ago taken over by a minority of old-school Germans who believed Hitler got a bum wrap, that Jews really were the killers of Jesus of Nazareth and that children were chattel to be mercilessly exploited by their parents.  And now this flawed and diseased perspective has infected all three branches of our government and destroyed what was left of the United States after this same cabal of Germans dispatched a duly elected President in November 1963.

The truth is it does not matter what corner of hell one lives in; sometimes the temperature makes your location obvious and easy to determine.  Other locations require some additional effort before the obviousness of one’s predicament generates heat all on its own. 

The choice to remain in hell for a chance to reign may be enticing for some.  But I have found that trying to be of service in heaven has been a far more rewarding use of my time.  And it’s tended to save me some grief and some money sitting in the barber’s chair, too.


2 thoughts on “The Barbershop Diaries, Volume I, Issue 11: What Narcissism Means to Me

  1. Pingback: Barbershop Diaries, Volume I, Issue 11: What Narcissism Means To Me « C.O.T.O.

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