Shimer College

February 06, 2013

August Introductions

Introductions are a social burden heaved upon a soul at such a time, perhaps, when one is least inclined to introduce oneself. Like now.

I associate introductions with first-impressions, and people commonly regard first-impressions as quite decisive in someone’s opinion of you. Of course, whenever there is that pressure to “perform,” my first response is to shrug my shoulders and withdraw behind the irony curtain.

But why are first-impressions so critical?

The answer that first comes to my mind (and probably all of your minds) is that a snapshot of an individual tends to be characteristic of who they are, and when an individual who knows that he or she is being scrutinized in a “first-impression” circumstance, he or she is most likely to put their best foot forward and pony up to the bar with his or her best show. And in a world of over six billion people, we ain’t got no time for second-impressions.

Then again, there are different contexts of first-impressions. The one I was thinking of above was that of a job interview, or, say, a first date. Well, this is neither of those, but I still have the impulse to smart off at the idea of the first-impression by asking, “Would you like me to do Jack Nicholson, or Tom Cruise from his last ten movies?”

Right, right. This is an introduction. I should be introducing myself. What an absurd idea. Not only am I obviously in a “first-impression” scenario, but due to the circumstances I am in a position to write, read, rewrite, edit, re-rewrite, and reedit my own introduction and thus completely control whatever personality spins through the internet space and loads onto your screens. What a power I possess! I now know exactly how millions of teens (and probably adults) feel when they sit behind their computers and type their witty tweets.

Well, let’s see. Who would I like to be known as on the Internet? Hmm. Well, obviously I want the Internet community (i.e. the web-surfing world) to know I am super-model gorgeous, so my tone needs to be, like, confident, or something. And I certainly don’t want to appear to have any problems…unless I have so many vaguely-insinuated “problems” that I can seem deep and mysterious! Bingo. 

I’ll still be from New Jersey, that’s a good conversation-starter, “OoOo you’re from New Joyzee! <some comment about Jersey Shore> You go to New Yawk a lot?” But let’s change the fact that I grew up in the mundane urban landscape of New Jersey, mostly in the basement, germinating before the humming motor of a Playstation video console, like a mushroom in its cellar below an ultraviolet light. No, no. Instead, I taught myself guitar and wrote folk music about…about everything. Some rambling, rhyming free-style with chords (like Bod Dylan, but more melancholic like Leonard Cohen)—and a harmonica, because, by golly, harmonicas are hip and express just the lonesome, creative mood I felt! And I also wrote several books of poetry and learned Japanese for a Japanese girl, but then forgot after she forgot me  (but I still put san after some words out of, oh you know, habit).

High school was a fiery, social baptism.

That can stay the same. It can even stay Catholic, that way I can have a falling away from the faith later and seem really enlightened! If I say high school was a breeze (remember how attractive and deep I am), people would get suspicious and there goes all my anti-hero cred. And I can keep the part where I go to Wyoming after high school to take a gap-year and think and write and brood and ponder my navel in between waiting tables for Rockwell’s middle-class families and half the country’s hair-knuckled truckers. And the whole narrative of living in the country on a huge farm is rich for poetic exploitation. “The pink-nosed cow nestled her head in the crux of my arm and lowed mournfully for her still-born calf…” So that stays.

And I can still say I went to a Baptist Christian College in a sprawling, South Dakota city. But do I simply say I left because the academic and theatric departments paid homage to the football team, or do I magnify my coming-of-age, existential crisis? Hah. No-brainer. In the middle of my second year there I suddenly came up against a wall, and the wall was the black monolith of my Self. And the wall wore a painted smile and shook hands and said, “Nice to meet me.” And I’ve been trying to scale that wall ever since; trying to drop the anti-hero role so many jump in to like warm pajamas to escape true faith and true courage in an unbelievably downtrodden world; trying to come down on something real and genuine within myself. But the truth is there can’t be a falling from the faith, for here is where I realized that it was to this very monolith-of-Self I had bowed throughout high school, every night before a crucifix on which I hung; and every step west from Jersey was a step in the direction of this confrontation. 

And then I left that school because I knew I’d never get anything but soft stool from that curriculum (and that Sunday-evening cafeteria food. ugh).

And here, another interlude in Wyoming.

This time isolated most of the time in the mountains in a cabin. Like, here you are, face-to-face with yourself. In a cabin. Fight to the (spiritual) death.

And then fast-forward four months I’m in Chicago because of Shimer. And there’s a year there before Shimer, but let’s just imply more admirable literary conquests: I read and wrote a lot (de-emphasis on a lot, over-emphasis on and). 

But where am I now? Well, now’s too close for clear understanding. Now, I wrestle in a desert with God, for true faith. 

What I think is so telling about peoples’ emphasis on first-impressions, is that most people don’t really want to know people. Not really. Not know. They want to hear about people and then walk away feeling like they know them. “Oh, he’s a conceited prig.” “Oh, she’s a shallow prima donna.” Not unless the first-impression delivered nicely would they give you a call back (I actually interview nicely. I suppose that’s ironically revealing in this context).

But I do believe there are many people who wish to plumb the depths of another soul. And those people may just have to play the game, with their introduction and their first-impression, but what they’re waiting for is to be baptized in the breath of candor: “Listen, I know this first-impression thing is, like, supposed to be really important—and here I am giving caveats to my own introduction—but, listen: I’m really tired of it all. Tired of spectating on my own life and waiting for the rising action. Tired of thinking of what I say or how I say or how I…I’m just…tired of self-checking my own image and personality, and what I really want to be is real—me but better, because this is me and…I don’t want to smile unless I feel like smiling, ya’know? Like that. I just want to…I just want to be. Like a hand in a glove is; it doesn’t try to scratch away at the inside lining. So. There.”

At the crux of it, I don’t like introductions because they encourage self-assessment. And that’s just what I’m fighting against.

Furthermore, when faced with providing an introduction, particularly writing one, one is faced with the problem of communicating what is, essentially, incommunicable. To me, it’s akin to drawing what is a four-dimensional object in a three-dimensional landscape, because even as I write this I am in time and changing and re-imagining my self (in healthy, contructive ways, of course). Essentially, we are helpless to the existential loneliness of being trapped within ourselves, and our only recourse is to reach out to another soul for a teardrop of sweet understanding, or to God for the eternal balm of our affliction. Life is scarce of understanding, as the desert is of water, and we are like submariners, drifting about an ocean within our shells, staring over circles dissolving through blips and sending words, words, words—pings…pings…pings. And if we are honest, some of us are hiding and some are earnestly searching, but we all know when we find it, understanding, and when we only find the half-remains of empty shells.

 …

But this probably far exceeds the scope of what was intended (and is descending quickly into something tragic, although true). An introduction for a blog that will most likely only be read by prospective students (okay, their parents) and whoever happens to be misdirected to this page; and then this will be lost in the gutters of the Internet, forgotten within the sweeping currents of time, etc., etc….

Right. 

Well, consider me introduced.