Wohin, Woher, Wozu, Dichter?
Title translate: Poet! Where did you come from? Where are you going? Why?
The education of Tom Gee
"Everything we do is the same thing; we learn more about who we are." (Tom Gee)
This page is supposed to be about myself (BMcC), but answering the questions about me is going to be difficult. I am going to begin by answering them about somebody else. I think this story will be instructive. The somebody else is a man named Tom Gee. Another person in this story is an IBM manager from the 1980's named Jay Unger.
Tom was born to parents who were dirt farmers in Western Virginia. They obviously could not teach him much, academically. They told him, and they meant it:
Eventually, Tom matriculated at Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). He lasted there for about one year. His trajectory in life was to become a highly skilled computer programmer. I never asked him about this, but my guess is that he has a high government security clearance. He advises government agencies about their computer systems. He also has a big "ego", but it matches his technical skills and also his insight. Some persons highly respect him, others have a different opinion. Inter alia, he coined the phrase that some persons are in need of: retroactive birth control. (It should be obvious why persons to whom this assessment applies may be anti-abortion,)
As said, Tom has limited formal education. He has read some (many?) books, including Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" and, probably, Thomas Pirsig's "Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" (to be comprehensive, Tom also had books by Immanuel Velikovsky). He makes use of what he reads.
Whenever he comes across a person whom he thinks has something to teach him, he makes a point of learning from them. (He is equally willing to teach others.) How I met him I do not remember. The first I can recall is I was working for a government contractor at NASA Headquarters on "The Mall" in Washington DC (we did payroll, not space shots), and Tom was working at another government agency in DC; he was a legend to the NASA programming folks with whom I was working and with whom he had previously worked.
Back to Tom's learning from others. When we were both working at the IBM Poughkeepsie South Road Lab, Tom had a friend who worked at IBM's Fishkill factory. "Fishkill" was an IBM Purgatory, or at least that was my impression. It's the place concerning which I once heard one blue suited IBM business planner say to another blue suit IBM: "Fishkill is not coming in with the inventions on schedule." Tom had a friend who worked at Fishkill. This person worked maybe a couple days a week, whenever it suited him, and he definitely did not wear a blue suit. His avocation was growing large marijuana plants ib his home's basement, or at least that's what I heard. This employee was tolerated, probably in part because IBM did not know about his avocation (or maybe they did know?), but mainly because he was an APL wizard who reprogrammed applications that took days or hours to run, to take hours or minutes instead. This man was one of Tom's teachers. Tom also had a big orange indoor/outdoor tom cat at the time, whom he called Tangent and I called Agent Orange.
Most of Tom Gee's life story does not really need to be repeated here. You, my reader, can probably figure it out for yourself with the material so far provided, as Hermann Broch has written in a different context. But one more item: Tom told me he had one customer with an old COBOL application that they kept trying unsuccessfully to convert. He told them what they needed to do but they didn't like that. This apparently kept going on for over 15 years, with the application still not converted.
Here's where I (BMcC) come in. At one point I had an IBM manager, Jay Unger, who had also been Tom's manager. I don't recall the time line here. I told Jay that he should learn from Tom, because, I continued, he [Jay Unger] would not likely meet another person like him [Tom] in his life. As said, Tom learned from others. I had asked Jay that I wanted a job assignment that would be both meaningful for me and also productive for the company; Jay had replied to me: "If wishes were horses then beggars would ride."
Here ends my story of the pedagogy of Tom Gee. It is a parable. As a disclaimer, I will add that I am not sure I am not subject to false memories, but I also believe false memories generally wrap suppressed truths.
"Keep America beautiful; get a haircut!" (Source unknown)
This page was supposed to be about me (BMcC[18-11-46-503]), how I came to be me, etc. I started writing a lot of stuff, which is still available as: deleted material. I think, however, that I have now found a way to approach this, pars pro toto (one detail representing everything in general), which captures the idiosyncrasy of my personhood. Anyone who finds it or myself offensive, I ask them to not hurt me.
At about age 7 years, my father and the barber apparently decided I was old enough to be initiated into manhood by the barber applying a razor to cut the hairs on he back of my neck down to the flesh (which a barber's scissors cannot quite accomplish; scissors leave some fuzz). I had a tantrum.
This humiliated my father who through projective identification apparently felt his manhood threatened by his child thus failing to be a male. It was the only time my father threatened me with violence (not just spanking). He threatened me after we had left the barber shop. He and I were in the front seat of an automobile. He stopped the car. Him in the driver's position and weighing maybe 180 pounds. Me in the passenger's position and weighing maybe 60 pounds. I did not know I could get out of the car. But to do that would likely have been ill advised because then, homeless and without survival skills, I would probably have died if not picked up by a police patrol and taken to a police station or hospital suffering from starvation and/or exposure and/or attacked by stray dogs, etc. (I did not have a bank account or a safe house to flee to). I got the point: People could terrorize me with impunity and without limit, and physically assault and batter me without limit, if they were displeased with how I responded to their whims. (My father never apologized nor asked my forgiveness for his behavior.)
Probably the only reason the child I was was not subjected to -- who knows what? incarceration in a "reform school"? lobotomy, maybe? -- was that I got mostly "A" grades in school and this reflected positively on "them" ("Look! We gave birth to an 'A' student! Aren't we great to have done that!"). My father could not have the true manly fulfillment in his life of having given birth to a Varsity Foolball(sic) player, but he got a consolation prize which he found value in: Yale Summa com Laude, and Honors with Exceptional Distinction diplomas to hang on his office wall. I do not begrudge him those diplomas, which he had beautifully framed, and which represented something he himself never had the opportunity to have, having been born into a social surround so degraded that, because my father worked hard and made a little money, his father tried to blackmail him to get $ome of it and, failing to $ucceed in that, then took my father to court to try to get $some of it (court ruled against the man).
I was subjected to a haircut every two weeks. Part of the problem with getting a haircut was that the procedure left little specks of the hair that was cut off on my upper body so that I had to take a shower afterwards because those specks itched. Once, when my father returned me to "home" where my mother was, she jammed my head into the kitchen sink to wash my hair. Getting my hair washed was always stressful, too, because soapy water could sting my eyes and I feared being drowned during that procedure., but this one time it was even worse than "normal". I think my mother would have broken my neck (perhaps unintentionally...) if that much force had been necessary for her to succeed in getting to get my head under that kitchen faucet. If my father had fragile self-esteem, my mother had loose boundaries. Neither respected limits.
There you have it, my reader: I have always been a person (OK, infant then toddler then child then teenager then adult...) who was traumatized by normal aspects of 1950's/1960's quotidian everyday white race middle-class "life". My toxic introjects (which still today (December, 2020) do their best to make me feel ashamed to expose them!) ask: "What is the big problem with getting a haircut, kid? It's just what you do, you sick creature! Tell your mother and your father that you love them! Right now! And mean it! You do not listen! Just what do you think you are? Do you hear me? We're going to put you in a hospital for not even weighing enough! ...." (What I did not know to reply, and maybe better that I didn't, because these people just keep getting more and more enraged as if burning coal in a furnace made the coal have more BTU 's than before it was burned: "Think! It is not in your best interest to destroy me altogether, because then you would lose some good PR, and you don't have much of that.")
That's the what. Now the obvious question: How did I get to be that way? I have not been able to figure this out, but I think I may have a clue: My mother, who had a high school education only because my father did her school assignments for her, and who was massively "fucked up", did have a genetic endowment of idiot savant artistic ability. She could draw you face in any orientation or make a silhouette cutout of your profile without ever having had any artistic training: zero, zero, zero. At Christmas time, when all the neighbors were making their houses look like something never before seen with the naked eye or a microscope or a telescope by slathering their edifices with multicolored electric lights and putting kitsch statues of Santa Claus and other nonsense on their lawns and even sometimes on their roofs → Get the idea, my reader?
When the neighbors were doing this glitzy ornamentation (back in the early 1050's) my mother was busy doing the almost hopeless work of removing the pigment from some of those "Christmas lights" because at that time, my parents knew of no place to get those little light bulbs uncolored, i.e., "clear". People just didn't want or perhaps even know such a thing was possible. And what did my mother do with those so dearly "bought" bulbs: She put single clear bulb electric candles in each of our home's windows. So while the neighbors where busy out-glitzing each other, our house had quiet clear lights in the same night as all that glitz.
I think my esthetic sensibility must have come from my mother's genetic endowment, which, in its turn, may have been triggered by a cosmic ray hitting one of her ova. Who knows?
I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) inherited none of my mother's artistic ability. Ronald Reagan could draw technically adroit doodles. I cannot draw anything. My freehand drawing ability? Zip. Zero. But I now think that may have been separate from my mother's esthetic sensibility, which, although she did not have much to apply it to, was as clear as those Christmas light bulbs when it did have an object to which to apply itself.
My mother was also sensitive emotionally. She was what at the time was called "an ambulatory schizophrenic". While my father was away from home 5 days a week earning a living as a house paint salesman whose territory was the state of Virginia and later sales manager, she was drowning her pain in Virginia Gentleman Bourbon. For someone whose literacy pretty much stopped at my sixth grade level, don't you, my reader, see a perhaps unwitting correlation here? If people think I am mentally ill because I make all sorts of obscure referential allusions in my discourse (given the chance, of course), maybe there is a precedent here in my mother's perhaps instinctual behavior? She was, for me, pretty much a harpy. Item: As a teenager, she prohibited me from squeezing my acne pimples, reserving that activity for herself to do for/to me. But she had a sense of good graphic design.
I relate much better to cats and to objects that combine master skill of two (if needs be, one or none) human hands with wisdom of the attached human soul, than I relate to "people", who often do not just lack both those desirable qualities but sometimes balefully actualize their antipodal contraries (one manager I had in work treated me like he was a Nazi SS Officer and I was a member of an inferior race). Having had an intrusive mentally ill mother -- parents whose touch even as a small child I did not like --, followed by 7th thru 12th grade teachers who were mostly prigs who were nominally Christians but worshipped Varsity lacrosse more than Him who died on a cross to redeem their sins [they had no sins], it should be no surprise that I am "schizoid". It's protective. The surprise should be that I am functional at all.
That's pretty much the end of this story, although, as of this writing, not yet the end of me (BMcC[18-11-46-503]). Are orchids of any value? Does one cultivate orchids by treating them like weeds? Does any person or any thing have any value? For me, one haircut was already two too many. To borrow a trope from Hermann Broch: With the material for character construction with which the reader has been provided, the reader can figure out the rest of this story for themself.
Your thoughts, my reader? firstname.lastname@example.org.
"For the spirit alone lives; all else dies."
- Note: I see this memory as looking at a little boy in a barber chair, not from inside the child's head. More current memories are some from "inside the head" and some spectator. Driving my old car I liked, shifting gears, inside the head. Toiling away at a computer at work in cubicle, spectator. Maybe I am often making a spectator image of myself as part of my "inside"?
- Curiously, while males shave the back of their necks and their faces, they do not shave their armpits. crotches or legs.
- In World War II Vichy France, the partisans shaved the heads of women who had slept with the enemy. I had not slept with the enemy; neither did I even know what sexuality was.