Announcement: Welcome

This Website will be devoted to essays and insights related to diversity, addiction/recovery, psychological growth issues, global perspectives, the disenfranchised,  aesthetics, and cultural values. The core value streaming throughout the essays I write will be about returning to our innocence, which sometimes requires a trauma, a jolt, an invasion of the “other,” or a paradigm shift.

Many of my comments will sometimes reflect a more radically progressive approach to an idea. At other times, I may very well see some healthy alternatives in a more reactionary, conservative approach. There will be few areas, if any, that I hold sacred, taboo territory.  In that sense, everything will be up for grabs.

I am also interested in international film narratives, stories whose voices are too often left out of the more powerful voices of the international film industry. They have much to teach us about aesthetics, cultural values, and morality.

For those wishing to participate, enjoy the ride!

John T. Marohn

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A Softening-of-the-Heart Task

The Request

Recently, I asked someone I knew if I could talk to him for a few minutes. I will call him Eric.

We walked for a short while. I explained the issue. Then we stopped. I was facing Eric directly as he turned to give what I will call his “verbal position paper” on the topic. He was wearing sunglasses, his face angled upward, his jaw, firm, his body arched backwards at a comfortable level. And then he spoke.

It was clear to me, at that moment, that Eric had total control of the space he was in. I was convinced that his body actually began to stretch upwards, his voice sounding like hot taffy, consonants tapping softly on top of long rubber-band vowels,

I felt I was in a re-run of a 1930s Cary-Grant black-and-white film. Blue-blood, Boston-Brahmin, old-money territory. Continue reading

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You Would Know

Slanting vineyards
Waving carelessly
In the summer breeze,
Your arms around my waist,
My hand cupping
Your shy face
And I, intrigued by the
Certain thought
That you would
Know, exactly,
When the time
For loving you
Was ripe beyond
Even my imagining.

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“Winter Sleep,” A Review

 

Winter Sleep, 2014
Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Interiority, Pathos, Survival

There are many things to like about Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s exquisite film, “Winter Sleep.” (Palme d’Or winner at Cannes Film Festival, 2014).

First of all, it is a very interior film. Ceylan manages to create a strong inner sensibility of pathos, an aching sense that life, in the end, is cruel, relentless, and merciless. Inside of that psychological cosmos, however, is the other half of Ceylan’s Sisyphean fatalism: people do manage to survive in spite of the quiet desperation of their lives.

There is little question that Aydin, the central character, is the personified form of Ceylan’s world of pathos. And he is also a survivor, not unlike Hidayet, his lower-class assistant, who does all the managerial tasks and is Aydin’s personal chauffeur. (Hidayet’s constant, but strong background presence in the film appears to be Ceylan’s way of reminding his audience that the poor and the service class, in their uncomplaining stoicism, will always be with us) Continue reading

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Goodbye, Hello Again

I have held you
For too long,
Releasing you now
Into the pebbles
Of days that will
Crowd your life.

But soon, those days will linger,
Your absence
Nagging me back
To your frail self.

 

 

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Coitus Interruptus

Learned Emotional Detachment

Now that I’ve got your attention.

It took me a long time to discover that I had learned, from early childhood, to be a detached observer. I was the youngest of five children. My family was in constant turmoil. My parents argued all the time. My two older brothers were always fighting. And my mother’s volatile and often violent mood swings continued to keep the family on pins and needles.

So, kids do what kids do. They protect themselves. They go to their rooms. They stay away from the chaos as much as they can. And when they are in the midst of the family tornadoes, they often withdraw into silent observers. They become recorders, television cameras, quiet witnesses. They learn, very early in the game to passively take in what’s happening and not to participate. It is the only recourse they have; it gives them some kind of order and safety in their lives. Continue reading

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If You’re New in a Twelve-Step Program

Feelings of Worthlessness

I’ve been in a 12-step recovery program for many, many years. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people describe themselves, in one way or another, as a “piece of shit.”

Much of this self-degradation comes from the guilt we feel over our behavior when we were actively using: infidelity, disappearances, credit card debt, emotional/verbal/physical abuse, stealing, or, one of my favorites—emotional withdrawal.

Recovery, for many of us, involves taking responsibility for those actions and behaviors. Over time, through meetings, doing the steps, and being emotionally transparent, we learn a better way of living.

We stop having secret lives. We learn to be honest. We start owning up to our faults. And some of us learn to be more humble, especially if we hid behind our arrogance in order to protect ourselves during our drinking days (As someone in the rooms so poignantly said about himself, “I tried to be one step ahead of everybody else so I wouldn’t be hurt”).

But what about those of us in the recovery rooms who have a difficult time believing that we are worth anything? Continue reading

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Conservatism, Part I

Lawrence Welk, Fear of Blacks, Hell in a Hand Basket, Bedroom Sex

When I was growing up, every adult I knew seemed to be conservative. They watched Lawrence Welk. They dreamed of having a family like Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. They feared blacks. They played pinochle and drank lots of beer.

They all had dinner around five in the afternoon. They loved roast beef. They huddled around their televisions at night. They smoked cigarettes or cigars in the house.

The conservative adults I knew complained about the teenagers “going to hell in a hand basket” after watching Elvis gyrate. Some conservatives even read “Peyton Place” or saw the movie as one of their few radical ventures into the forbidden. Or they secretly sneaked off to a movie theater to watch Marilyn Monroe sleaze her way through “Niagara.”

And they always had sex in the quiet confines of their bedrooms. Back-seat-of-the-car sex was for the driving-age teenagers and young adults who had part-time jobs and could afford a Friday night out at the local drive-in. Continue reading

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Conservatism, Part II

The Past, Formal Ceremonies, Rituals

It is one of the beautiful peculiarities of writing, if you do it often enough, that content often unfolds in ways you had not expected.

As I was writing about conservatism, for example, I would discover the need conservatives have for “order”; that they need a chain of command; that a golden-age past looms very large in conservative thinking; that their obsession with “states rights” is an extension of their belief in “rugged individualism”; and that religious conservatives depend heavily on “sacred texts” for their values.

I am still discovering more about conservatives.

The fixation that many conservatives have for the past has many subtle and not-so-subtle shades to it. Sometimes the past is romanticized, even mythologized by those who want to hold on to a remembered, but somewhat fictionalized time, when life seemed simpler; when the good could clearly be distinguished from the bad; when “commandments” were meant to obeyed; when men were the moral centers of the world; when children actually obeyed their parents. Continue reading

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Religion, Miracles, the American Dream

Messengers, Followers, Teachers, Edifices, Divisions

If history is correct, humans have never been content to just live in the world. They have consistently yearned for some kind of meaning in their lives. Often that pursuit of meaning has expressed itself in the form of religion.

For those who have chosen to follow groups with any kind of religious or spiritual trademark, the pattern seems to be the same. When a religion begins, one person usually has an idea or believes he (historically, mostly male) has the right message, the truth, or has a special message, powers, insights, given to him from an exterior divinity.

In ancient times spiritual teachers were often wanderers or lived in small villages or towns. Small groups gathered to hear these teachers. Over time, followers began to expand beyond these villages. Official teachings were established based on the words purported to have been said by the founders or, in some traditions, messages or rules given or spoken to an official messenger (or inspired messengers) by an exterior divinity. ( Who becomes an official messenger after the first messengers die often depends on the rules of lineage)

It didn’t take long before religious organizations began to sprout up all over the world. Centuries-old edifices and sacred centers are still standing as testaments of humans’ need for spiritual roots.

Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, all seem to have followed this pattern. Continue reading

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