Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Oh, the dissatisfied with the satisfied..."

Is it scary that I relate a little bit to Perry at one point?

I mean, I find him sinister of course. I was just last night noting how masterful Capote is; he can describe without slanting his writing or passing any judgment, and he's already conveyed that Dick and Perry are sinister, while Nancy and Kenyon and the other Clutters are not. Such evocative writing. Astonishing. But in the letter Willie-Jay writes to Perry on the eve of the latter's departure from prison, he says:

"You exist in a half-world suspended between two superstructures, one self-expression and the other self-destruction. You are strong, but there is a flaw in your strength, and unless you learn to control it the flaw will prove stronger than your strength and defeat you. The flaw? Explosive emotional reaction out of all proportion to the occasion. Why? Why this unreasonable anger at the sight of others who are happy or content, this growing contempt for people and the desire to hurt them? All right, you think they're fools, you despise them because their morals, their happiness is the source of your frustration and resentment. But these are dreadful enemies you carry within yourself -- in time destructive as bullets." -- pp. 43-44

I mean, come on. I think people have said some of those exact words to me. Not the least of which people were a couple of my Borders general managers. Which, if you think about it, could be fitting because working at Borders was kind of like being in prison sometimes. And here I am at law school all the time regarding the fools around me with utter contempt.

Yet, I have decidedly mellowed on some levels. I still think "if you're not outraged you're not paying attention" and all that, but I'm also remarkably content on the whole emotionally, and I don't know that I would have described myself as remarkably emotionally content, say, ten years ago. Is it because I discovered mindfulness and meditation and yoga and other buddhist-tinged things along the way?

I took a lot of flack when the "morals" and "happiness" of the BYU Happy Valley people were the "source of [my] frustration and resentment." But I also think I changed things for the better by fighting back and standing up for our persecuted selves during my freshman year. AND changed myself for the better.

Can it be that this is a dangerous tendency, that toward passionate outrage? It often makes people uncomfortable, I'll grant that, but I always just think those people are secretly jealous that they don't stand up for what they believe. You know, another friend of mine was just blogging about this: why is it acceptable for people who don't care to tell the people who are outraged they're out of line, but it's not OK for the outraged to condemn the apathetic?

Back to Perry. Are we the same, and only the circumstances of our lives (or was that the whims of fate?) drove us to different results?

I see the other side of the coin, too. In my aforementioned remarkable contentness, I feel like people are often put off. Example, law school, where it's like a daily challenge to find someone who can actually relax and not take everything so seriously 24 hours a day. I feel like when I'm galvanting through the world road-tripping to Indigo Girls concerts and trying new things and moving to Asia and doing what I like and really believing that we can all change the world if we put our minds to it, people who are settled in their cozy homesteads behind their white picket fences are peering out at me and silently disapproving. Sometimes even not so silently.

I never wanted to hurt anyone though. Willie-Jay definitely calls Perry out on wanting to hurt people.

I think maybe I have more to say about this, but I first need to sort it out from its current state of total jumble inside my head.

But I think Perry and I both do give a damn, despite any indications to the contrary. And I think the same can be said for a lot of humans who do and who do not go astray.

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