Wednesday, February 29, 2012

short story: Introspection In The Preservation

“The sum of man's problems come from his inability to be alone in a silent room.” --Blaise Pascal; consistent with Carl Jung

“You’ll have to get rid of your gun,” ordered Nicolette Adams, matter of factly.
Wayne Gordon stared blankly at her, confused. On the verge of agitation.
“Wha- why?!” he wondered aloud, his brow contorted in apparent bafflement, and suspicion.
“Nightshade has no use for guns,” she instructed him. “If we are going to work together, the first rule— the first lesson, is no guns.”
Arms distance across from her, Wayne stood there, mouth hung open, unsure what to say.
He would have to get rid of his gun?
The gun he’s carried the last 10 years like a precious family heirloom? The gun that has faithfully served him so well, for so long? The gun that has been instrumental in saving not only his life many times, but the lives of his Unknown X teammates AND civilians? Maybe even the whole world?!
His beloved black with silver trim 9 millimeter Beretta?
“Despite common opinion,” she advised, hoping to ease his discomfort and transition, “The Gun is not a sign of power.”
When she said ‘The Gun’, it was capitalized by her tone.
“It is a sign of weakness,” she lectured with hands linked behind her back, pacing in stentorian tones like drill sergeant, “The Gun becomes a substitute for strength. In our society, The Gun is regarded as a tool and symbol of power. But that’s an illusion. The Gun is for manipulating or neutralizing others because you lack the power to do so without a gun. The Gun is used when negotiation is untenable. If you really had power, you would not need a gun. The only proper use of a gun is defense and survival. If you wield a gun offensively, you are doing it wrong. The Gun is a weapon of choice for thugs, the insecure, the dimwitted and the desperate. The Gun is fear based, too easily becoming a crutch, a cop out, a cheat of expediency. I will teach you how to not rely guns, to not need to use them, to be more clever and resourceful. What happens if you lose it in a fight, or run out of ammo? Where are you then? What if The Gun isn’t enough? It provides a false sense of security, a tenuous illusion of control. It is true that guns don’t kill people, people do. In using a gun, you do not have the power. The Gun doesn’t even have the power. A person’s fear of what guns can do has the power. Guns have no power, give no power. We give The Gun its power in the assumption, the belief in its power. When you imbue guns with power, they attain power over you— whether they are pointed at you or by you.”

Why did Nicolette adopt the Nightshade crusade? She did not trust law enforcement and the legal system— which was clearly more interested in harassment, punishment and incarceration than justice and rehabilitation, serving and protecting.
When police can legally rob and harass you on a whim, for not having a sticker on your car, or a broken tail light, or not telling them where you live… when the intent of the law is crushed by the word of law, then the law becomes a fraud, invalid. They— the laws and those who enforce them-- do not deserve our respect, cooperation, compliance or honesty.

Wayne Gordon (age 34) sat gazing at the large, elegantly framed photo of Nicolette Adams beside her former mentor and partner, Natori. He knew they were partners-- in every sense of the word; married in every way that matters (which is to say, not legally).
What he did not know, could not know (because Nicolette has had no reason to mention it) is that although Natori was just as much a lesbian as Nicolette, she was also hermaphrodite.
Their mutual affection was obvious, radiating from the picture like sunlight… giving Wayne a case of warm fuzzies.
In frame, Nicolette’s dark hair exploded from her head like a glorious mass of twisted confetti, interspersed with deviant strands tinted blue and gold. Her skin is the hue of chocolate milk, and Wayne loved the color-- and flavor-- of chocolate milk.
You might say she looks like actor Jasika Nicole, except more buff.
Her companion had the lighter skin of Caucasian, and shoulder length deep brown hair, looking much like actor Caroline Dhavernas, and even more muscular than Nicolette. Vacillating between Victoria and Natasha, Natori’s parents could not decide on a name for their daughter.
So, also being the kind of eccentricity that only comes from the prerogative of being insanely wealthy or insanely liberal (of which they were both), they chose both names, combining them into Natori Victasha.
Back in the day, Natori and Nicolette were the double Ns; their mutual pet name became Dublin.
Even though separated by space, time and circumstance, they still loved each other.
Neither of them were in costume.
An amateur photographer, in the sense that she is not paid for it, Nicolette had taken the picture in her intrinsic style. She is professional in artistic skill, she would say, but not in vocation.
“You’re awful quiet, over there by yourself,” Nicolette (now age 36) commented from the periphery, as she finished watching the newest LonesomeGirl episode online, disrupting his silent reverie (Wayne had already seen it). There is the inherent— though perhaps unintentional-- insinuation or presumption that being quiet or alone means something must be wrong.
“Harrumph,” Wayne Gordon harrumphed snidely, “interesting choice of words.”
“How so?” she asked, maneuvering her wheelchair over to where he sat on the couch in their shared studio loft apartment. These days, she wore her hair nearly sheered slightly longer than Wayne’s (who resembled actor Brian Austin Green). He did not think it coincidental that she cut off her hair almost immediately after she got in that wheelchair three weeks ago. After having her back indefinitely broken when she was traumatically thrown off the roof of a three story building while grappling with one of the bad guys. Usually, annoyance would probably follow such a disturbance, but he made an exception for her.
Despite her current physical infirmity, her indomitable spirit remained intact.
She exuded a natural effervescence and kindliness that acted like a non-addictive air borne narcotic, infusing most people in her vicinity with a sense of calming bliss.
You might say that amity was her mutant power. They had developed an affinity for each other, these last few years.
Staying mad at her, or in her presence, was exceedingly difficult and short lived.
“What’s so awful about quiet?”, he answered, shifting his posture and attention toward his friend and colleague. She opened her mouth to speak, but he interjected pre-emptively, guessing her forming rebuttal.
“I know you didn’t mean anything by it,” assured Wayne, waving his hand in a dismissive halting motion, assuaging any possibility of accidental hurt feelings, “but the popular belief that there’s something innately wrong with being quiet is a pet peeve of mine.”
Wayne Gordon is what is commonly described as the strong silent type. In many ways his opposite, she was extroverted, whereas he was not.
“Ah, that,” she understood, “society’s implied bias against introversion.”
“Yes, that,” he groused insolently, aware that she already knew about the inciting phenomenon, but not of his grievance, denouncing in further elaboration, “in contemporary society, life is increasingly cluttered with egotistical chatter. The ideal self is portrayed as outgoing, outspoken, comfortable with social interaction and attention. In Westernized society-- especially in America-- schools, work places, religious institutions… even our stories are designed to favor extroverts, and aligned against introverts.”
“Much like women throughout most of history,” Nicolette noted, in consolingly sympathy, “introverts are treated as second-class citizens, and somehow defective. But by sidelining and demeaning introversion, we invariably neglect and abuse half the population. Another form of prejudice akin to misogyny and homophobia, devaluing introversion is a waste of untapped talent and energy.”
“Huh,” Wayne vocalized his pleasant surprise, with a grin, at her commiserate insight, “I like that metaphor.”
Nicolette was the rare kind of person with a unique knack for nurturing; she could make you feel relevant and accepted and appreciated just by giving you her attention, by caring about you.
“Ya know,” she observed, “you’re right. We’re losing the ability to self- edit. There is way too much talking and not enough listening. Not enough thinking before speaking. Or instead of speaking. We live in a society that prizes and promotes action-oriented people, and being in motion, participating and connecting; there’s a presumption of guilt or fault assigned to inaction, contemplation and solitude. Which is clearly nonsense. Even inaction can be a valid form of action. Thinking is not the same as doing nothing. Throughout history, our greatest thinkers and artists have usually created their best work in quiet solitude.”
“Trueness. Most of the time, I’d much rather,” Wayne volunteered, “sit and read or think about things or watch TV than talk to people. If I don’t want to talk to someone, it isn’t necessarily about them. It’s exhausting and frustrating for me, as an introvert, to force or be forced into extroversion. Especially for extended time.”
Thinking this might be a hint that Wayne wanted alone time, and she wanting to not intrude on her friend, Nicolette started to turn her chair away and leave him to his privacy, saying without malice, “I can go if you want to be alone.”
But she stopped when he spoke up again, protesting, ”No, wait.
I didn’t mean for you to go away. It’s ok, you’re not bothering me. You can stay. If you want.”
“Sure,” she consented, with a friendly smile, “I can do that.”
Anticipating he had more to say, she waited.
“I was thinking about origin stories,” Wayne revealed, after a few seconds of companionable silence, referring back to Nicolette’s initial concern about his quietude, “particularly yours. And mine.”
“Oh?” said Nicolette, her eye brow raised, implying curiosity and encouraging him to explain.
“Do you know what’s like,” Wayne inquired with a somber sigh, sounding tired, “to forget yourself? When you wake up? Recently, I feel like I’m carefully boarding a bus, trying to not touch anyone… so as to not disintegrate them.”
She sat quietly several seconds, staring at her lap, diligently pondering the enigmatic analogy.
Wayne could see she was contemplating the addlepated puzzle, and patiently waited as she thought it over, not disturbing her concentration.
Then, after nearly two minutes, she looked up at him and offered a riddle for his consideration, “Return to where you will be. Return to where you’ve never been.”

“I’m leaving,” Natori announced to Nicolette without ceremony.
Caught in a miasma of conflicting emotions, unsure what the proper response should be, lacking context, Nicolette inquired warily, “What do you mean?”
“Oh, I’m not leaving you,” assured Natori, “I’m just leaving.”
“Well, that clarifies everything,” sarcastically exclaimed an exasperated Nicolette in a snarky grin, not quite getting what must be some kind of joke.
“I’m not breaking up with you,” explained Natori, “but I’m going away. Permanently.”
“What’s the difference?” pleaded Nicolette, perturbed, worried about where this was going.
“You have the potential to be an extraordinary Nightshade,” she informed her beloved. Better than me, even. But as long as I’m here, you’ll always be in my shadow, always depending on me to guide you, always subservient. I’m standing in your way. I’m a distraction. You need to learn to stand on your own. For the sake of the mission. So… I’m leaving.”
To say Nicolette was shocked and dismayed by this news would be the proverbial understatement.
Intellectually, Nicolette could comprehend and appreciate that Natori was right.
But emotionally, she was torn apart… ripped inside out, upside down and crossways.
She stood there, staring at her partner in disbelief, eyes shimmering, jaw clenched as she tried-- and failed-- to hold back tears. She struggled to quell her anger and confusion, to keep in control of her emotions like Natori taught her. Her ambivalence was palpable, floating in the air.
She would gladly and willingly give her partner whatever she wanted. She wanted to be able to. But she didn’t want to have to. Not this.
Natori glanced away, so as to spare Nicolette the indignity of an audience.
And to keep herself from crying as she blinked away her own tears, clearing her throat awkwardly. Natori was always the stronger of the two of them.
Nicolette drowned in quiet resignation for several seconds that seemed much longer, then said, “Where will you go? What are you gonna do?”
“I think it’s best if you don’t know,” replied Natori, “I don’t want you following me. You should find your own way. Without me. I’ve taught you all I can?”
“So all this time,” Nicolette preposterously blurted out through delicately tumultuous disposition, “I was just your--” she scrambled clumsily for the right word, and came up feebly with “your sidekick?”
This valediction of Dublin was exerted, she realized, because Natori loved Nightshade, Natori’s vigilante crusade, more than her. What she was saying, is that Nightshade was more important to her than their relationship.
Natori simply tilted her head and gave Nicolette a condescendingly withering, chastising glare of incredulity; as if to say: Really, Dearest Dublin? You know that’s not true.
“I’m not saying forget about me,” apprised Natori with stoic, but tender, resolve, “or that I’ll forget about you. Only that I want you to go on without me, now.”

:::Back in 2007:::
“When she left,” Nicolette thought out loud, gesturing to her lady friend in the photo, “she was as old as I am this year.”
Wayne nodded in quiet assent, looking into Natori’s bright eyes in search of some elusive and mysterious clue about the woman who had mentored his mentor.
This amazing person whose legacy he helped carry on.
“Hey,” declared Nicolette, excited by her imminent suggestion, and inspired to create something, “let’s do a photo of us!”
“Really?” mused Wayne, stunned by the honor of the sentiment in that offer.
“Yeah,” she approved, enthusiastically, “I’ll hang it beside the other. It’ll be a thing. And maybe some day you can add to it.”
the power of introverts...

As introvert advocate Susan Cain would tell you, one third to one half of humans are introverts – that’s one out of every two or three people you know. From a very young age, we categorize children as social or shy, usually privileging the social designation.
In a society that prizes the bold and outgoing, introversion is perceived as disadvantage. However, the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is associated with intellectual and artistic achievement.
Most schools and workplaces typically organize workers and students into groups, misguidedly believing that creativity and productivity come from a gregarious place.
When you’re working in a group, you are not only distracted by the concerns and expectations-- or mere presence-- of others in that group, but also it’s hard to know or determine what you truly think independent of group influence or interference.
Most creative people in many fields of study and enterprise are usually introverts. This is probably because introverts are comfortable spending time alone, and solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.
If you want to do something that requires sustained performance and paying attention for long periods of time, introversion is beneficial.
Introversion is often considered synonymous with shyness, but they are not interchangeable. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment; introversion is simply the preference for less external stimulation. Shyness is indicative of inherent discomfort; introversion is not.
One of the greatest misconceptions about introversion is that they are anti-social; they are not—actually, they are differently social.
Introverts prefer quiet, internal, minimally social environments, while extroverts want higher levels of outward engagement to feel their best. Stimulation comes in all forms – social stimulation, but also lights, noise, activity.
Many introverts feel there is something wrong with them (are made to feel deficient by societal expectations), and try to pretend to be extroverts. But whenever you try to pass as something you’re not, you lose a part of yourself in the process. Instead of going to parties and socializing and networking, introverts would really rather be alone doing any variety of quiet and worthwhile activities: reading, watching movies, studying, thinking, creating, meditating, cooking, exploring.
An aptitude for methodical process often gets mistaken for lack of ambition or, worse, laziness.
Introverts are more likely to be misunderstood for wanting, and thriving in, quiet solitude. They don't talk as much as extroverts, and they're not as visible interpersonally. Because introverts tend to be more socially aloof, it is frequently erroneously associated to certain types of psychological disorders.
They tend to be motivated not by ego or a desire for attention and recognition, but by dedication to their larger goal. They encourage others’ ideas instead of trying to put their own stamp on things.
The 1900s saw a shift away from a “culture of character” to one of personality, much of it aligned with the rise of the salesman.
This mentality has fostered the corporate and consumerist mindset of selling and favoring short term results over long term, i.e.- instant gratification.
Introverts are not designed for small talk and multi-tasking.
They are not as good at processing a rapid-fire stream of information intake. They’re much better at isolated intellectual situations where they can focus more extensively and thoroughly on one subject. They prefer real, genuine conversation over meaningless chit chat.
Our culture suffers greatly from a loss of solitude, silence and simplicity.
All traits of the introvert.

Nikola Tesla: From childhood I was compelled to concentrate attention upon myself. This caused me much suffering, but to my present view, it was a blessing in disguise for it has taught me to appreciate the inestimable value of introspection in the preservation of life, as well as a means of achievement.
The pressure of occupation and the incessant stream of impressions pouring into our consciousness through all the gateways of knowledge make modern existence hazardous in many ways. Most persons are so absorbed in the contemplation of the outside world that they are wholly oblivious to what is passing on within themselves.
The premature death of millions is primarily traceable to this cause.
Even among those who exercise care, it is a common mistake to avoid imaginary, and ignore the real dangers. And what is true of an individual also applies, more or less, to a people as a whole.

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