A Head Nod Away From Mob-Violence, Religious Persecution, Mei Lai Massacres

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Even though I am a firm believer in free will, only a fool would maintain that freedom is not dependent upon circumstance; that said this bit of writing explores the co-dependent relationship that exists between “identity” and circumstance.

Submitted: August 29, 2009

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 29, 2009



A Percept Is A Product


June 29, ‘73




Living on the beach had been more than just basking my body in the sun. The bad vibes and constant anticipation of being beaten to death were taking a toll on me. My natural tendency towards being good-natured had, I’m afraid, been compromised. I couldn’t even ride my bicycle down the street (I had bought an old clunker to get me to and from work) and keep a smile on my face. The sterile looks and insinuating sneers from the passing motorists had wiped that customary smile off my face. The other night, an oncoming car flicked his bright lights off when he saw me coming. Anyplace else that act of kindness would have gone unnoticed, but here in paradise, consideration for others was so uncommon that I was forced to reflect on how my environment was influencing my attitudes and behavior.


In order to better understand “Who I am,” or “What I can become,” I had to take a closer look at my limitations—my “free will.” As a conscious being, I am always conscious of something. I integrate that “something” into my knowledge base, and form conclusions based on that knowledge. The statement, “Every percept is a product,” describes that process. Nietzsche said, “Everything is interpretation.” He was right. All my perceptions and ideas are products of something else. Through rational inquiry, I extend my grasp of perceptions and ideas, but that doesn’t change anything; it is just another one of my possibilities.


The most universal of all perceptions is found in the pleasure/pain response, but even that response falls into the category of “percept/product.” One person’s pleasure was another’s pain. Good and evil are caught in the same predicament. Good is a benefit; bad is a pain. The altruistic rebuttal, or “doing for others,” falls squarely into the pleasure/pain response category. “If it feels good, do it.” Group sanctioned good, “morality,” is percept/product in its most obvious form. Behave in a way that is not appropriate to your “class” and risk the pain of ostracism, or worse.


Percept/products take place along a continuum. At one end is the pleasure/pain response; at the other end are found responses based on expediency and “group utility”—family, city, state, nation, and/or global interests. Along the medium range of the continuum are found responses of a more personal variety, usually demonstrated within a “self-interested sub-cultural context.” For instance, “we” like to listen to progressive rock music, and smoke good dope. “We’ve” learned what to like and how to enjoy ourselves. “We’ve” learned how to maximize our pleasure and how to respond appropriately to a given situation. “We” know, for instance, that everybody hates Nixon. “We” have chosen as friend’s people who, like “us,” respond to wider sets of values in a similar way. “We” are the product of our choices, and “we” have chosen to live the “patterned existence” that has brought us to our present situation.


Values, individual’s values, are society’s values; yet, as individuals, we think we are capable of transcending those values. “He is his own man,” the cliché goes. It is for this reason that we are shocked when we read about Nazi atrocities, or “witch burnings,” or cannibalisms. We cannot conceive how a “mentally balanced” person could participate in that kind of behavior. But, butchery, all forms of butchery, need only the slightest “head nod” from the “appropriate authority” in order to explode on the scene; be it mob violence, religious persecution, or Mei Lai type massacres.


For the most part, we are not conscious of the “cultural signals” that affect us. We take for granted, for instance, the most horrible of evils, nuclear holocaust. Many of us, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, would willingly push the button rather than live under the “yoke” of the other’s ideology. Of course, the capitalists are right, and the communists are right. That is a cultural given. All percept/products are inherently justifiable (otherwise they couldn’t exist). So here we are with a cultural percept that “rationalizes” the extinction of all life. Because of this, should we look for a way out of the percept/product box? Sure we should! But, are we doing so? No. Of course not! It is better to blow up the world than live with commie devils. The best minds in the world have brought us to this point, and those same minds would gladly be the first to push the button if they thought the “bad guys” would die in the process. Should we be aghast by all this? Not in the least! Sacrifices, human or otherwise, have been around forever. They are natural consequences of the percept/product continuum. Some things have to be sacrificed in order to produce the “good” and the “right.” There is no escape from the percept/product box; or is there?



Perhaps Life Is Death And Death Is Life- Or Why I Feel Like An Unobserved Photon


Escape From The Percept/Product Box


Moving forward through consciousness means moving along the percept/product continuum, a journey that is bound to leave a sensitive person unfulfilled and unsatisfied. It is a journey devoid of authenticity-- one man’s percept is another man’s product. Truth here becomes just another word for fabrication, which in turn, consists of means, mode and end. Interpretation is the means, percept/product, the mode, and relativity the end. If I want more out of consciousness, I must move in a different direction--but how?


Strange! I feel like Descartes must have felt when he ended his meditations with the realization that existence exists; that is, with his “cogitio ergo sum,” which was the same thing. How could it be any different? How could anything be questioned unless a questioning subject existed? Essentially, Descartes turned existence on its head when he concluded: I doubt, I therefore I exist. That seems to be where I am at right now. If there are answers outside of the percept/product continuum, then those answers must not be a product of anything. Products lie inside the continuum. As a “product,” the percept/product continuum is always ahead of me. But, I am in the act of grasping, of comprehension, before I comprehend anything. If I am to find a consciousness that is percept/product free, I suspect I will find it in this “act” of grasping, in this “act” of comprehension. I must therefore, if I am to acquire this consciousness, stop moving forward in consciousness, and instead, move in full retreat.


Before the answer, there is the question. Before the question, there is mere possibility. Something is responsible for the percept/product world, the world we live in. Existing as mere possibility, I become that something, whatever it is. The momentum that carries forward the percept/product continuum, the “stuff” that defines me, is found in that “something else.” I was that “something else,” that non-entity, before I became anything at all.


Thrown into the world, I become the world. I am inseparable from the world, but, simultaneously, the world ceases to be “my world” as I cease to “be me.” In the world, clouds, trees, flowers, and campfires, all the “things of the world,” are perceptions given to me as I give myself to them. Together we are, and separate, we are not. My subjective consciousness, in this respect, becomes objective. All “objects of consciousness,” in this way, participate in the percept/product continuum.


 Because, “I am not what I am, and I am what I am not,” I can conclude that I am both “not-me and me,” simultaneously. This is certainly a strange statement. But, I believe, it is a true statement. It’s as if I had just stepped across the threshold into Alice’s “looking glass world.” Over there, or should I say over here, through the glass, the faster I run toward something, the farther away from it I get. In this place, it becomes impossible to know anything about what’s “really real.” Identity per se is fraudulent. In this world, “being my possibilities,” is the closest I can get to “being me.” Once I actually become something, I am forced to be something, or someone, other than who I am. So there it is-- whatever it is. Consciousness is a slippery and strange “fella,” indeed.


Given that I have come so far without really going anywhere, I want to conclude with a few brief speculations. If I am not myself, if I am something other than myself, where am I? Will I ever attain myself? “Being what I am not” is not a very pleasant experience. It makes more sense to say I am already dead. Perhaps, I will become myself when I die. Perhaps, I am dead already. That makes more sense than to call self, not-self, and not-self, self. What is life anyway, except “a waiting for death?” Life is so unstable and consuming. At least death is logical. Everything is satisfied, at rest, “being what it is,” instead of what it is not. Perhaps, life is really death, and death is really life. That makes more sense, except, why would life have death, if death were really life? Why would you die into life? I don’t know.


If or when the percept/product reality gets pushed to its limit, absurdity (nuclear holocaust) ceases to be absurd. Perhaps all this is part of an infinitely large whole, and we are an infinitesimally small part of this whole. Perhaps our consciousness is at a transitional stage in its evolution and something will eventually push it into a higher plane of consciousness,--a plane where we will finally understand why we are what we are not. Perhaps death is an incomprehensible part of that whole, but, sooner or later, we will evolve into more than the sum of our parts. Absurd?  Maybe, but I don’t know! At least, here, in this world, we can still have another cup of tea, or was it Treacle? I’m not sure about that anymore, either.




Leaving Keaau Was Depressing; Saying Good-bye To the Ocean Was the Hardest Part


Beach In Retrospect


July 29, ‘73


Time on the beach had remained consistent; as soon as it appeared, it vanished. Days slid into weeks, weeks into months, and nobody kept track. It may have been July 29, but it could just as easily have been March 2. The ocean, trees, sun and breeze, not to mention the whole beach scene, remained the same. Looking back, nothing had changed. Had I really been here for eight months? The calendar’s face was blank. Actually it was a shame. I had had so many good times, but it was like they never existed. My happiness remained in the present, always. Upon leaving this place I would be propelled back into the sequential world, a world that moved, without exception, into the future. It would be almost like I had never come to Hawaii. What a strange feeling that is!


If I were to go back and read the stuff that I’d written in my journal, I am sure I would be reminded of all the bad times; the violence, the ghetto experience, and the raw fear. (I have witnessed, or otherwise been affected by, ten fights, five rip offs, scores of tough guys, and of course, C. S’s unfortunate affair with Tim Terrific-- All that’s behind me now). For the record, though, I want to put in a plug for the Hawaiian people.


The Hawaiians sure know how to have fun. Families flock to the beaches on weekends, and if they didn’t come to the beaches, I’m sure the authorities would have thrown transients like myself off the beaches long ago. Because they--the authorities--can’t take beach life away from the Hawaiians, they can’t deny the rest of us either. Song and laughter can be heard across the parks during the weekends. I might add that I have never met a thirsty Hawaiian--his cup always runnith over. A contrived gathering, a forced gathering of friends and relatives, like so often happened back on the mainland, is unheard of here on the islands. I’m guessing, but the atmosphere of “let the good times roll” could very easily be a result of class structure, or maybe I should say lack of structure. The majority of the Hawaiians seem to fall into one class, the class of the “common people.” Everybody drinks together and has a good time together, and when the Hawaiians have a good time, everybody has a good time (even haulies, unless the Hawaiians are of the “hate haulie variety,” of which there are many).


For the past couple of weeks things had been good for me. I finished reading Sartre. I couldn’t tell yet if his stuff was digestible. Maybe it was like a python eating a pig. It would take time, but I would eventually get it. My beach routine had gotten back to the basics too, eat, walk, sleep, work and then sleep again. Work, by the way, had gone from so- so to great. My boss was a friend now. Come closing time, I had the run of the restaurant. They stopped locking things up, too. I got to eat like one of the customers after that. At night, alone, I kept the sound system tuned to KIKI radio. The most peaceful moment of the night came at around 4 a.m. That was when I mixed a Grenadine and ginger ale and sat on the balcony overlooking the ocean. In those quiet moments, all that could be heard was the sound of the breaking surf. Last night, however, I had Pink Floyd’s, Dark Side of the Moon, turned up. I still enjoyed the sweet taste of the Grenadine, though.


The violence of the earlier months had subsided. The people of those times had all left the beach. Actually, I had the beach pretty much to myself. Ron and Carol were camped fifty yards down, and a Hawaiian family was camped next to me. The family tended to come and go. The patriarch of the family, Kukua, always had a kind word for me. Dan, Kukua’s British friend and war buddy, was staying with the family. I guessed they were having a reunion of sorts. He was a retired merchant marine. He had invented a large air-ship that was propelled along on top of a three-foot layer of air. Apparently, Dan was waiting for the British government to decide if they wanted to buy his air-ship to ferry people across the English Channel. He figured it was only a matter of time before the Brit’s said, “yes.” He was marketing the prototype; the actual ship hadn’t been built yet. Who knows, maybe one day I will be a friend with a fabulously wealthy business tycoon.


Speaking of business, and “things that go right,” I’ve managed to save over a thousand dollars. I even began to have nightmares about leaving Hawaii. I can’t remember the details, but in those dreams, after I had gone back to the mainland, I would wake up feeling miserable. After a few of those dreams, I even changed my mind about leaving. Why not stay? I had a good job, and I lived in “paradise.” Right!


I called my parents to tell them I was staying, but I had something else I wanted to say to them also. I had checked into bringing them over for a two-week vacation. I had resident status, so I was able to book hotel and flight tickets at reduced Karmohina rates. For a thousand dollars, I was going to be able to bring them over to Hawaii and show them a good time. Unfortunately, my dad was in poor health, so those plans got scuttled. After the phone call, I went back to plan A, which was to return to school. Tonight is my last night at work.


I wanted to see some of the other islands before leaving Hawaii. I didn’t want to go tourist class, though. The thought of being just another Hawaiian tourist, for me, was humiliating. I decided to go to Kauai first. Usually, that island was the fourth most popular on the tourists’ wish list. It was the “garden island,” but it was pretty much undeveloped, which meant that it lacked first class accommodations. Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, Hawaii, overflowed with “crème de la crème” accommodations. That settled, I planned to leave in a couple days. I put off my departure because I had a wedding to attend. Butch and Pua, friends of mine from the beach, were tying the knot. Butch was a transient like me. Pua was a full-blood Hawaiian. I was looking forward to the wedding.


Leaving the beach and this lifestyle was depressing. Saying good-bye to the ocean was the hardest. I loved the ocean. I always felt like I was part of it. A few days ago, I tried to put that feeling into words:




And I stood there, eyes

fixed in the ocean swells.

Lifted backwards and over,

  sliding forward, curling onward,

feeling my tummy fall away,

my white bubbling mass

steamrolls toward shore,

draping behind frothing tapestries.

I feel my splendor.

Finally, my true dignity

is revealed.

My glory, after lethargic days and nights,

is now.

I am impregnable.

Tumbling forth,

  I leave nothing untouched.

My hypnotic drawl

offers a deceptive warning.

The shore awaits me.

Smashing into the rocky reef,

  I send aloft dense curtains

of ocean surf.

Gone only in duration,

I melt back into the sea.

























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