Like airing my dirty laundry in public
On the back of my left shoulder, there's a cyst which is about the size of a ping-pong ball. You would think it’s a tumor, probably a benign one
“The most beautiful words in the English language are not ‘I love you’ but ‘It’s benign’.”—Woody Allen, in the film Deconstructing Harry
On the back of the left shoulder, there’s a cyst that is about the size of a ping-pong ball. You would think it’s a tumor. Probably, a benign one. The cyst doesn’t bother nor worry me because it doesn’t hurt and men my age, seemingly, do just fine despite having similar cysts on their bodies. I’ve been seeing and touching the bodies of many men; not because I’m a doctor or a pervert, but because I’m a somewhat competent yoga teacher. A competent teacher sees and touches a person’s body in a similar way to a veterinarian who sees and touches a horse.
One day last winter, I was sitting in a public sauna. From the upper bench behind me, a stranger told me with a tone of authority in her voice that she was a doctor and that I “should have it checked, it looks like it could be a problem”. When I heard her, and I was guessing that she spoke about the cyst, my first thought was your persona1 is coming out through the pores of your skin, lady, and you should have your self checked. Get analyzed.2
But I’ve digressed. The reason I was telling you about the cyst is that I noticed a peculiar thing about it: it gets smaller when I write. And, reversely, it gets bigger when I don’t write. Or, more precisely, it gets bigger when I walk around thinking about writing but I don’t (write).
A more observant reader, who you are, is probably noting at this point that I’m a disagreeable man in more ways than one and that I am a man who tries to be funny in more ways than one—that must be true—but let me tell you a secret. When I sit down to write, it is to write about my grievances.
Did you know that grievances and jokes go together? I am indebted to Marshall McLuhan for pointing out to me the details of how grievances and jokes constellate.3 See for yourself, make a quick recollection of a joke relating to, for instance, cars and driving, or marriage. Is there a relationship between what’s funny in the joke and drivers' grievances, or husband/wife grievances? You bet. Just in case you’re stuck, because, like many people I know, you haven’t heard any jokes lately, see if there’s a grievance hiding in this one:
—What’s the difference between an ISIS-K training camp and an Afghan wedding?
—I don’t know man, I just fly the drones.
The obvious conclusion for me to arrive at is the following. When I air my grievances out by writing, the cyst on my shoulder, the chip of my shoulder, gets smaller.
Subsequently, I conclude that in my case the act of writing is a cure for cancer. For a nobody like me, to come up with a cure for cancer is a big deal for two reasons:
I’m no longer a nobody but now I am a somebody;
I will die, but not from cancer.
Therefore, the next time you visit my “Flying Fish” to read me more, I hope you will be able to sympathize—because you will know why I write and why I air my grievances like I was airing my dirty laundry in public.4
Thanks for reading my stuff. I kiss you on the mouth.
17 October, AD 2021
Persona, in Latin, was the mask of an actor, of him who played a role. In psychology, it is the personality that an individual projects on others. The persona may be excessive, that is, it may suggest a personality that has nothing natural about it but it is pure fiction. This is usually the case with politicians, doctors, teachers, mass-media stars, and anyone who claims to have a special role to play in social life. The wise old man C. G. Jung wrote: “The persona . . . is the individual’s system of adaptation to or the manner he assumes in dealing with the world. Every calling or profession, for example, has its own characteristic persona . . . Only, the danger is that [people] become identical with their personas—the professor with his textbook, the tenor with his voice. . . . One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself, as well as others, think one is.” (The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, CW 9, i, pp. 122)
Indeed, that was my first thought. I get disagreeable first-impression thoughts like that one often. I guess I can’t help it—that’s the way I am, I’ve learned to live with my disagreeableness. My second thought was to check myself (a habit of mine) if I was projecting. I couldn’t have had been, I answered to myself, as I remembered that I was a nobody—my persona isn’t strong.
Marshall McLuhan (1911–80), Canadian literary critic, was considered the most important representative of a media theory based on anthropology and sociology. McLuhan’s seminal work was Understanding Media (1964). He is the author of the catchy phrase “The medium is the message”.
It appears I am not the only one, here’s Michel Houellebecq hand, writing in Whatever, (1994):
“This autobiographical choice isn’t one, really: in any case I have no other way out. If I don’t write about what I’ve seen I will suffer just the same—and perhaps a bit more so. But only a bit, I insist on this. Writing brings scant relief. It retraces, it delimits. It lends a touch of coherence, the idea of a kind of realism. One stumbles around in a cruel fog, but there is the odd pointer. Chaos is no more than a few feet away. A meagre victory, in truth.
“What a contrast with the absolute, miraculous power of reading! An entire life spent reading would have fulfilled my every desire; I already knew that at the age of seven. The texture of the world is painful, inadequate; unalterable, or so it seems to me. Really, I believe that an entire life spent reading would have suited me best.
“Such a life has not been granted me.