Having Found some Infinite Thing
Strangely enough, the recurring metaphor I've seen throughout my life has not stopped recurring. Optical aberration, the illusion. In the middle of Precalculus, me, looking it all up on wikipedia. The inverse of the square root of a negative number. A graphed imaginary inverse. As though there's this thin line drawn between reality and its secret. All of it is exhilarating, the physics behind it is.
This was all prompted by one moment I had while reclining on a couch in the high school commons with a circle of seniors I knew I knew but didn't really know. People who had gone to school with me for ever since I started psychoanalyzing myself, so like, 5th grade, but whom with I had never had a serious or remotely sincere emotional or friendly conversation. The type of lost regret that is so unimportant—seemingly—that you go about it all unaware, because it's not your friend group. In eight months, I will never see them again, never see these people again, although I've seen them nearly every day, but never really seen them.
I'm tired, reclining down listening to a playlist I made in sophomore year for a girl who gave me, at least in my own teenage mind, something infinite in meaning. The playlist is immaculate, each song picked out with the most fine care. At one point it goes from Kendrick Lamar to Of Monsters and Men, and doesn't skip a beat. The flow is perfect, and the flow of the meaning, the narrative, fits entirely with my history with her. I listen to this playlist because on this tired day I am so immensely tired that I about crash down on this couch and feel no volition to get up, no agency.
The word "vision" does not aptly enough fit the description of what I visualized next. It was a meniscus, this shimmering substance—exactly like what water looks like when you swim in a pool and look up, upside down, into the sky from the depths of the water—but convex, distorted. Wavering. A state of completeness. I don't understand it, but it was thinking of nothing. To be thinking of nothing. My class, I became aware, was starting in 5 minutes—there were no ramifications, no implications of that fact. The awareness, instead of hitting me, passed straight through me as if I were a ghost. I knew it was there, completely aware, but I was still thinking of nothing. The state dissipated, slowly, and had faded completely by the time class started. But during that state I felt so incredibly calm and alive that I didn't, couldn't bring myself to talking to anyone because talking, interaction, would break the spell of complete order I had reached somehow.
So I do most of my research in Precalculus which, occasionally, correlates to what I'm learning outside of class. Plus, I can finish up most of my work, and figure out the precalculus, and then immediately relate that, unconsciously, to the real passion of mathematics—the physics and fundamentals of nature so pervasive around us we never really know they're there. Another recurring theme is lenses. At Reed College, the admissions talked about their honor principle (which is not a code, as 'code' implies codification and systematic regulation) and how their philosophy on learning is about trying different lenses until you find one that you love deeply, and construct that lens into where you can look deeply into the world and grab at that incomparable thing. Lenses are neat because of their physics, and because lenses on top of other lenses produce, not more magnified lenses, but different, distorted lenses, which allow you to see new things. So like language, like transformative generative linguistics, lenses—and physics—construct infinite ways of perceiving the world, including one in which everything is beautiful, so wonderful and complete that you are rendered speechless.
I have also joined the Dance Ensemble at my high school. It is my senior year, and I have never done Dance Ensemble ever before, although I have done choreography and taken plenty of dance classes. I'm a month and a half in, which means that I have an OK understanding of how things go, and I can do the basic steps, and whatever I can't do I can fake until I really get it, and my confidence has built and now I know almost everyone. It also means that it's less ok to mess up, because my novice-ness has faded. There are things in the world that, if a massive machine with all the subtle, intricate variables having been put in were to calculate, somehow, the abstract question, would be pretty cool to know. Examples are "how will I die" or "what will I dedicate my life to," but I'd like to see a graph of how my novice-fade compares with my dance-learning ability and confidence. Anyways, I am more confident, and I can sashé and relevé and do it all backwards and get the steps right and, occasionally—but increasingly—look cool while doing it.
I joined Dance Ensemble because it pushes me out of my comfort zone. I'm a boy, and boys don't generally do Dance because it's considered by some (and, unconsciously by many) as a strictly feminine activity. Perhaps it's because dance requires one to tug out emotion from deep inside oneself and them manifest feeling into movement, and what's considered cool for a guy is somewhat emotion-less, unflinching coolly in a tense situation, or not revealing who one is—always having a clever thing to say or knowing something deep down that no one else knows. The whole emotion-tugging/manifesting thing works magically with music, which you know too because you've at one time in your life felt completely connected to some musical piece. But with dance it's often more upbeat, especially with the warm-ups. Often times before Dance Ensemble I will feel tired, and will actually become more energized after the moderate-rigorous exercise, even though it's 2-3 hours after a full day of school, and of dealing with the trivial things that everyone deals with, which probably never goes away when one reaches an adult; traffic, self-awareness, deadlines, etc. The thing I like most is the positive attitude radiated by the instructor who has never cursed or sad anything bad or negative or rough-sounding or disappointed-sounding the entire time I've known her—which is four years, and I've done spring-musical choreography and a few classes with her. She is impressively, adamantly positive. The energy within the dance class is one of imagination, which I felt I had lost when I was little and used to run around pretending I was powerful or magical and that there were infinite possibilities for my life and I had complete agency over it.
Dance Ensemble is both childlike and completely sincere. It is not naive or soppy or stupid, and by no means is it easy or "girly" (by which I don't mean feminine, but the societal construct of femininity, which wrongly implies weakness and submission). It is liberating, and sometimes cathartic. I'm not trying to ramp it up though, because it's just a course. However, it's an incredibly good dance class with great people. Normally, in my everyday life, I slip into an autopilot that I don't comprehend as an autopilot, because when I think of autopilot, I think of doing low-level math problems, busywork that can be done without mental effort, and I don't think of the autopilot that's not being aware of it all. But in Dance Ensemble, I feel sometimes very self-conscious. The social expectations of my masculinity are challenged, and at once I'm aware that everyone in the room except for me and maybe 1-2 (sometimes 3/4) others (mostly 1 other, or zero others) is a girl. The room is majority girls, who are much better at dancing. I try hard to be respectful, and to learn the choreography and everything. But then I become acclimated to the liberation offered through dancing, the emotional thing when there's a cool upbeat song, or a pop song that I'd usually never listen to, and I let my tight grip of identity slip a little. It gets to the part of the class where we're learning neat choreography that looks cool, and I become heightened, like when you lift a girl off the ground and do that cool Footloose leap thing where you spin the girl around, or when you pull off a perfect torchete and ball-step and someone way better than you messes that part up by chance.
Dance Ensemble has also helped my acting. I've started singing aloud in my car. My favorite songs are songs I could really dance to, stuff that I can get into with my whole body and summon. It's impossible to quite explain to a non-actor, or someone who hasn't seen a truly great performance, how moving and heart-wrenching a line can be delivered. But I can see myself delivering lines with a different spring, a new power. It's not that I can shout louder, but my voice can shake with more depth, sort of thing. My stance is more grounded, and my shoulders have stopped naturally climbing to my ears, which everyone's shoulders have a natural tendency to do—at least, at school—and I look, overall, more wholesome and fit with my identity. But I don't understand my own identity at all, because it feels like I don't know myself, and the person I see in the mirror (although he can be, and usually is on a moderate level, very attractive) somehow doesn't fit with the voice I hear in my inner head. In my Wernicke's area, I think.
There are a few theories on what we call the "self." Alice Miller's book The Drama of the Gifted Child talks about how prodigies lose their sense of emotional self because they're constantly searching for a non-existent love that they will never find, because they cannot give it to themselves. As babies, their mothers, who were narcissistically deprived themselves, did not love them unconditionally, but rather spontaneously, using the baby, unconsciously, unmaliciously but still inherent, despite the mother's best wishes for the child and wanting the best for it. A parable about this phenomena goes like this: A mother stares deeply into her child's eyes and sees a weak infant who needs care and love. The child in turn looks into the reflection of the mother and sees itself, its own weak self. The mother who was neglected as a child herself searches for the love she never got, and finds in her child a source of unwavering love, out of survival and dependence upon her and only her, and stares deeply into her child's eyes and sees this and projects her fears and inner desires for the child. The child looks into the reflection of the mother's eyes and sees her projected fears and desires, and does not see itself, and will try to fulfill this impossible self. The child did not see itself, how could it?
There are theories that the self has infinite depth. That self-actualization is understanding yourself and who you are and who you want to be. The wonderful part about it isn't that you fix your flaws at all, but embrace them as you. Perhaps the reason so many self-actualized people are successful in changing the world is because they know themselves and know how much possibility we contain within ourselves and how to not fall into the trap of searching for some impossible thing. Maybe self-actualization isn't a threshold, but rather a feeling one gets upon deep consideration of oneself. Of course there's always The Ego and Its Own and anarchy and removal from society, but social interaction is a wonderful thing, and necessary. You can go nuts without other people, scientifically. The difference, though, is that becoming self-actualized—the kicker, here—is actually not complying to society at all, because society is flawed and an unconscious, autopilot machine run on an economy and a political system and many individuals who—unique in their own right—connect really on their only basest human emotions and natures: sexual lust, fear, greed. We see this in our advertisements and ironic TV shows and half-hearted jokes and in the way we never talk to people we see every day because they're in a different friend group or social class. Like how we unconsciously and wrongly look down upon people at the cash register of the Kroger because we can drive home and watch TV and have our lives ahead of ourselves while they're working a minimum wage job at 10pm. Self-actualization is the removal of that, and, while I've been on this theme for weeks, on each facet of this there's another point of intrigue, another rabbit hole. The self-actualized person will care for others so immensely, they will love other people, because when they look into others' eyes, they will, through their own beautiful lenses, see themselves. They will see that they are truly connected to one another.