When I was a young child, I was terrified by death.  As a boy in my room in the dark with the night-light and my dog, I’d make sure all doors and drawers were closed and that my hands did not stray too far away and be grasped by monsters.  Anxiety, and often terror, was familiar.

The experience of feeling frightened so frequently over such a long period of time generates a kind of intimacy that itself creates an unexpected product.  The world acquires a vast presence that feels accompanying.  It’s not a pleasant feeling of an attendant familiar.  The variations of fear that include nervousness, anxiety, fear and terror began to inform who I was and how I experienced my self.  A hypersensitive theory of mind resulted, preceded at first by my having little idea of what another person might be thinking or feeling and then evolving to a certainty that what another person might be thinking and feeling had to do with me.  I see strangers.  I see them look at me.  I assume they are thinking something negative about me.

How I felt, informed how I believed the world to be.  Frightened of so much, the world acquired a constant, palpable presence.

Fear propelled me into an alternative world of imagination.  The “real” world, not as real as the fear that I was filling it with, became accompanied by a second world manufactured by my imagination.  Comic books created the basic format.  From comics I acquired morals, ethics, ambitions and story lines.  If it was good enough for Superman, it was good enough for me.  My compulsive truth-telling was a compliment to the reality of the professional, compulsive, costumed do-gooder.  Superman’s constant battles with bad guys evoked my struggles with constant fear.  Superman was rewarded with universal love.  I assigned myself approving millions.

Literally almost every school day for many years, I’d find a small stone four blocks from school, and I would see how far I could kick it down the sidewalk.  My goal was to get the rock all the way to school.  I was Arnold Palmer.  The stone had to stay on the sidewalk.  It had to cross streets.  It had to not get mixed up with other stones.  With each swing of my tennis-shoed foot there would be a hush and then the wild cheering of crowds observing my mythical golfing talents.  Crowds that loved me would follow me to school every day.  Seasons passed.  I didn’t notice.  My eyes were always on the sidewalk.

On one occasion, a rock made it the whole four blocks without getting lost or entangled in the grass.

What most powerfully informed my budding ability to manufacture attention was my father’s difficulty in noticing who I was.  Dad was a former athlete, the state high school champion in the 50-yard crawl.  Both men and women naturally liked Dad.  He was a relaxed competitor who enjoyed being with people, but he also looked forward to spending time on his own.  He loved me, but as time went on, I felt confusion about what it was about me that he was feeling affection toward.  I had almost none of the same skills or talents that he did.  What Dad noticed in me felt to be almost exclusively those things that he was good at, like athletic pursuits and mathematics.  So, it seemed like I could get him to respect me if I could do good at things I sucked at.

Getting better at those things I was good at, like art, or wanted to be good at, like writing, became about the production of a make-believe audience to take the place of the one-man audience I deeply craved.  As I grew out of childhood, I carried with me the scaffolding of the vast, frightening other that stalked me when I was little, except that, as an adult, there was now an audience that was at my disposal. This audience was not unlike the anonymous masses that watched me golf.

I seem to have traveled through large swaths of my life surrounded by my own feeling projections.  Replacing bit by bit the unreal with the real, allowing the presence of the actual, is a challenge.  One of the surprising things I’m discovering on this long walk down the sidewalk fairway is that letting there be no audience sometimes results in feeling accompanied in a completely satisfactory fashion.

Shutting down the attention manufacturing facilities can result in a proliferation of feeling loved.


This entry was posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 at 7:17 am and is filed under Auto-Biography, Myth/Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
1 Comment so far

  1. Jah on September 28, 2010 12:07 am

    ironic conclusion considerin “manufacturing attention” is what Facebook accomplished to become so “successful”: To see what others are up to, the fear of not being included. Its ability to exacerbate self-absorption while compromising the human element such as actual love between people.

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