What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.
In The Debate, our young, idealistic but morbidly depressed author – less than a month away from going to Marine Corps boot camp – is responding to careless statements made about his favorite movie (Fight Club) and his decision to enlist. On Deaf Ears is a rare moment of introspection and reflection on the part of the author, which never garners a response from the recipient. Such things, our nonexistant audience will soon learn, happen often.
Understand that I’m not trying to be negative, just telling you how it’s been (most people don’t seem to realize that I do try to improve my situation, and instead just judge me…):
I’ve had ample opportunity to meet people in Utah. I’ve introduced myself, tried to focus on manifesting only the attractive parts of myself (humor, intelligence, etc), tried to remain in a good mood, been outgoing… but I have not made a single friend outside of my boss. I’ve gotten plenty of phone numbers (from cute girls, even!) and for various reasons, each endeavor has proven unsuccessful. Sometimes it’s because, try as I might, my inner demons bubble up to the surface and I admit too early on that I’m not as happy as I may seem… sometimes it’s because I come on too strong… sometimes it’s because I don’t come on strong enough… sometimes it’s because we just aren’t compatible… and other times, I really don’t know. There was this one girl, RF, that seemed like a great match for me, but… long story.
I didn’t leave school, per se. High school was boring – there wasn’t enough challenge for me. I would pretend to be sick just to let the homework build up and create enough stress to motivate me to get it done. And my home life was absolutely fucking terrible. And try as I might, I couldn’t make any fucking friends. So I applied to St. John’s and was accepted. But my parents did not finish their end of the financial aid application process, and I was unable to go (tuition is like $40,000/yr, which I can’t afford). I’d been dreaming and scheming of leaving home ever since I was in the 7th grade and I literally may have killed myself if I had to stay any longer (this is not a joke or exaggeration, I was suicidal). I’d been talking to my friend about the possibility of going to Utah, and it turned out that I could, so I did.
When I got here I found that I didn’t have enough money to go to school. After wasting a year I realized I needed to get back on track. So, the military seemed to be the only way to get back to school – there you have it, one of the reasons I joined the Marines! All of the opportunities that they will give me to go to school.
But there’s more to the school story than that – I disagree that school is a great place to meet interesting and intelligent people. Especially if you paid attention to my Protest Project, you’d realize that the educational system is completely flawed. Even if it weren’t being retooled to be unfriendly to males (at current trends, the last male will receive his college degree sometime around 2050 or 2070 – can’t remember exactly, but it was within our lifetime) it is still massively flawed. For example, when I took this screening exam for the Marine Corps, I scored in the 91st percentile [edit: it was a practice test; on my actual test I scored in the 98th]. To be eligible you need to score in the 30th at least. The Marines have seen A LOT of kids, with diplomas, fail out. They’ve seen a kid with a diploma score in the 5th percentile! School doesn’t TEACH you anything anymore.
Yes, I sometimes look at the world from [your] perspective – that today is the first day of the rest of my life – and it helps. But every time that the same thing happens – every time somebody fails to call me back, or is evasive about it, or just won’t tell me if they like me or not, it becomes harder to adopt that attitude. You have to realize that these patterns I am talking about – people abandoning me, being dishonest with me, not loving me, being untrustworthy, disloyal – have been occurring my ENTIRE life, not just recently. I do all that I can to combat it, but sometimes I just can’t maintain the illusion that it’ll get better. Trust me, I have tried my best, and sometimes I am surprised. I’ll be honest with you (when I was still in Bham) – I tried my best with you, and when I couldn’t reach you the first few months after being down here, I figured that what had always happened to me happened again and I’d written you off completely. As stated, I really like(d) you, and when I got down here I actually wrote a letter to you (that I still have!). I never sent it when I never received anything from you, and… well, I just had to cope with the fact that you were probably gone, like so many others. I added you on a whim on Facebook – trying, yet again, despite the voice in my head telling me it was futile – and it turned out to work. That same part of me wonders for how much longer, but, like I said – I am trying. [edit: turns out it wouldn’t last ANY longer]
I have also invested a lot of my time trying to help other people. Remember those late nights where, on top of all my homework, I’d edit your essays for you and give you feedback? I was once a peer mediator in school – students who helped other students resolve conflicts. I tutored people in debate, in math, in essay writing, in whatever they wanted to be tutored in… hell, being better at videogames, even! Heh. But people tend to be shallow, and ultimately they would just try to surpass me and turn it into a game of one-upsmanship (a game I didn’t want to play) and I grew tired of it.
The Marines still help people, too, LW. This country would not exist, were it not for war, and even after being established in the furnace of war, it has been tested many more times in that same furnace. If WW2 had not played out the way it did, you would not be enjoying your status of living the easy life. America was the only industrialized country in the world that did not see an invasion by an enemy force – and that is a huge part of the reason why we are as “advanced” as we are today. Also, as the military learns that it can’t win counterinsurgency wars with bullets, they have looked at making soldiers better nation builders (because the civilian establishments that are skilled at it refuse to go to war zones to do it). So I actually will be helping out – not just myself, not just my country, but potentially other countries as well. We could get derailed on an endless political tangent here, but let me pre-empt that by also saying: I have no qualms with killing people right now, either. For whatever reason. But this is because morality is relative – not objective – and there is no true good or evil. I will fight to defend my country in whatever way is possible, and should I see that my country is heading down the wrong course, I will do what is in my power to right it – the military is a lot more intelligent than most liberals give it credit for.
I do not think I am too intelligent for the world. I think that, perhaps, I may be too intelligent for most people – you yourself admitted that you did not feel comfortable debating with me, that you ego was threatened, when that was not at all my intent. I was just trying to debate as well as I could – following the rules of logic I hold dear and defending the beliefs I’ve established for myself as best I could. I was not trying to make you feel uncomfortable, but I realize that that is what I do to people. I decided a long time ago that I feel much better remaining true to my beliefs and my ideals (honesty, integrity, logic) than I do conceding them to others just so that they may like me a little bit more. Furthermore, I tend to be able to handle the nastier parts of reality better than other people can, and this too alienates me. As stated, any time I try to talk about the life I’ve lived, people just try to shut me up and judge me as a pessimist or a negative person or overly cynical or what have you – completely dismissing my experiences and feelings.
I’m glad you’re sick of hearing atheists talk about their beliefs. That’s pretty much how I felt the entire time in Bellingham about most things – like I said before, Bellingham is full of some of the most intolerant people I’ve ever met in my whole life. The ends don’t matter to me – whether you are Christian or atheist or whatever in between, whether you are liberal or conservative, whether you are an abstract or pragmatic thinker – what matters to me is if you have rationale behind your reasoning. If you can stand your ground and logically defend your opinions or beliefs. If you acknowledge the fact that religious systems are often a matter of blind faith, and that you truly do have that faith, good for you! What matters to me is the rationale behind your stances, not the stance itself. Any point of view, any perspective, can have merit.
I want, so badly, LW, to start over. I ache to start over. It was my greatest dream for a long time. And the military can provide me with that. I could disappear, LW. All I have to do is not give people my contact info, not stay in touch, maybe change my name… tell my mother she is dead to me… but… that’s just running away.
I don’t laugh at morality and virtue. I find it sad that the majority of people don’t have any. Although, my morals are a bit different. I am somewhat amoral – I don’t color the world in good and evil – but I do believe in virtue. Really, the most important thing to me when it comes to virtues is honesty. So, I try always to be honest. And that is what turns people off to me.
I realize that people don’t like to hear about my experiences. I realize that they don’t like to hear about my amoral views, about my minor cynicism, about other things. But damn it, that’s what’s honest. That’s what I really think. And I’m not about to compromise my honesty just to curry favor with somebody I barely know. LW, I’m a smart guy. I know how to act should I want someone to like me. Hell, my brother is the master of getting people to like him (and have sex with him) but… I don’t find relationships built upon a bed of lies and a lack of trust to be emotionally satisfying. I would rather die alone than be surrounded by people I can’t trust with my feelings. Which is, right now, why I’m pretty alone. I seem to be able to trust you with my feelings – at least, you haven’t written them off or dismissed them… But everyone else, except Kai, judges me for them. What kind of twisted, cold, terrible person judges you for the way you’re feeling!? If you were to tell me that you were sad, my first response would not be to BERATE you for it! I would try to find out why, and if there is sufficient reason for your sadness, I would try to help you cope with it! (If, on the other hand, you were just overreacting, I might help you get some perspective on your feelings. But never would I simply dismiss your feelings and judge you for having them!) Why is empathy so hard to come by?
I am truly touched that you are concerned about my death. Again, I honestly thought that there was not a soul in this would that would be all that affected by my passing. I know that people would be sad, initially, you know what I mean? But I did not think that there was anyone who would be truly affected by my death. I figured I would be forgotten. It does not seem that way with you, and so it may seem selfish when I say this, but I am not really concerned with my own life. I care enough not to kill myself, for instance, but dangerous situations do not affect me. My death will come when it will come – I could die tomorrow crossing the street – and being a soldier doesn’t really scare me that way. To be honest with you… I think sometimes, why am I even alive right now? I have no goal in life. The goals I have tried to pursue seem to be outside my reach – nobody wants to read my novel, nobody wants to connect with me meaningfully – so what am I doing? When it comes to the Marines and the danger involved, it is not a question of why. For me, it is a question of why not.
I must not have painted my dying alone in a clear enough light. I did not reach this conclusion because of my girlfriend. I reached this conclusion long before my girlfriend, and was in fact surprised to meet someone who was interested in me – who would take the risk and tell me that they loved me (which, I would argue, turned out untrue, but then again… I have no frame of reference when it comes to love). If anything, she almost changed that conclusion for me. But after I got out of the relationship, I looked back on it, rationally and objectively, and I saw the ways that she had used me and lied to me, and it was just confirmation for what I had already known to be true.
I am an ironically dominant personality type. That is, when I am myself. The person you probably know the best, or the John you remember the best, wasn’t really me. I am not me when I sit in class and say nothing. I am not me when I reveal nothing about my experiences, my feelings, my passions. When I am animated – when I am talking about something that matters to me, when I am debating over something I believe in or am concerned about, I can be very dominant. I tend to be unyielding, as well, so it is not a charismatic dominance, but the kind of dominance that reflects inner insecurities and weaknesses in others – something unpleasant, as you may attest to. People don’t like being wrong, and it takes a very strong person to admit as much. And I don’t back down when I know I am right – a combination that leads me all too often into isolation. I can’t stand ignorance, for instance, and sometimes try to do everything in my power to give people a reality check… not a very attractive tactic.
What I’m getting at is this. In order to coexist peacefully with people, I must suppress myself. I can’t combat their ignorance, can’t expose their flawed reasoning, can’t be honest with them. But the most important thing to me is honesty! So in order to get along with people I have to give up that which I alue most about myself, which is of course painful. In order to be content with myself, I must accept solitude, it seems. I don’t like to be alone, LW – even after a solid 16 years of experience (or so) with it (in varying degrees), I don’t like it. But I like it better than I like to compromise myself.
Perhaps I will meet someone who can tolerate my quirks. And perhaps I will be lucky enough that I like them. And luckier still, they will be female. And even luckier, available. And luckier (how much luck is involved at this point) they will like me as much as I like them! Then perhaps, LW, I will get married and settle down. It is not as if I want to be alone. I would just rather be myself, which pretty much, in my experience, guarantees my solitude.
I could, of course, attempt to change myself, right? The thing is… I don’t see the flaws in my preferences. We could talk at length about this, but for now, suffice to say that I feel as though my position – remaining honest, looking to improve rationality and logic in others, combating ignorance – are genuinely GOOD things. I try to go about it as tactfully as possible (as I tried with you) but the fact of the matter is that most people are not ready to be confronted with their own flaws.
I realize that tenderness, joy, love and all of those things are reality, too. And should I be blessed enough to enjoy them – truly, and not just some sham of them attained by compromising my own morals and virtues – then rest assured I will enjoy them to the fullest extent. I do not willingly seep myself in hatred and violence, LW. Hatred is just something I have become used to. Violence is something I want to experience for myself before I pass judgment on it.
About killing… Yes, some people kill for the machine. Some people kill because they are told. Some people kill because they will be killed if they don’t. This is because they have not, in my opinion, considered the situation with enough depth to find another reason to kill. And I’m not just talking about “for your country,” though that is a valid reason. There is a lot of depth to the situation in Iraq, so much so that the average person misses a lot of it. I want to be there myself, sift through the layers and the “fog of war,” before I make any judgments. And ultimately, LW, I intend to become an officer, so that, should I determine our boys are killing for the wrong reasons, I can do my part to steer us back on course.
People do a lot to discredit war and violence. But think of this LW… aside from ideas, can you think of a more important and long lasting catalyst of change in the history of mankind? Virtually every event, every circumstance, every person, can be traced back to the outcome of a war. I already talked about WW2 – but we would not have grown up the same way – or may not have been born! – had America not come out of WW2 the way it did. There’s obvious wars, too, like the Civil War, and the Revolutionary War…
Often times, of course, ideas themselves are what lead to war.
Conflict, I think, is the basic unifying experience of humanity. Conflict of ideas, conflict of goals, conflict of nations, conflict of self… everyone experiences conflict, and it provides the universal common framework for empathy… and it is through conflict that we better ourselves. Conflict allows the superior side to survive and the weak side to fade away. If your beliefs have never been tested – are never in conflict – how can you be sure that they are any good? Like I said, I must constantly defend my position and belief system from all sides all the time… and each time I do, I become more convinced of certain aspects of it. Or I become convinced that certain beliefs were wrong…
I have few regrets, LW. I wish that I knew what love was, for instance. I have thought before that I have loved people, but have been too afraid and too scared to tell them. Sometimes, when I do, it ironically pushes them away from me, because they feel uncomfortable with my love. Heh… I am convinced that there is no worse feeling in the world than to feel that someone won’t associate with you because you love them. I am SURE of that, as sure as I am that I will be taxed and that I will eventually die. 😉
[Sent as a separate message some thirty minutes later:]
Haha… so many words, and as I read back, there is so much to add… I’ll drown you in a sea of my miseries, I am sure.
That’s the other thing, that keeps me alone. I carry around with me a significant amount of pain and unpleasant experience, that I often must keep to myself. Then somebody tries to be nice to me and look at what they get? Me dumping it out all over them.