This person tells me no secrets. I wouldn’t want secrets and there’s no reason for the Mole to risk harm by telling them to me. What I receive, sometimes, is the outpouring of frustration, anguish, grief, rage — and occasional bitter humor — that comes from living a life out of tune with one’s own inner self.
It’s heartbreaking to witness; imagine living it.
Being a Mole is hard. It combines the dreariness of an everyday job with the risk of being caught and punished. It’s 999.9 percent routine and 0.1 percent hair-raising adventure. But above all, it’s spending every day painfully out of tune.
Of course, we all have to behave out of tune with ourselves at times. We trudge through a job that may not be outright evil or dangerous, but requires us to mask ourselves for ordinary, everyday reasons. We go to parties and pretend to enjoy them when all we want is to escape. We may be polite to our parents or siblings simply to “keep the peace” or play some familial role imposed upon us so long ago it’s become a second skin — even though it’s no longer who we are (if it ever was).
Just life as usual. In most ways there’s nothing wrong with it and many things right with it. After all, there’s a term for people who limitlessly assert their unedited selves in all situations, regardless of the needs or thoughts of others. Several terms, depending on circumstances: narcissist, asshole, drunk, savage, clueless eejit, jerk, rude, insensitive, unemployed, and unwelcome in polite company come to mind.
A certain amount of “going along to get along” is obviously the lubrication needed for humans mesh with other humans. Nobody ever suffered a deep, spiritual crisis from having to learn table manners or being reminded to say “please” or “thank you.” Hardly anybody ever dies from pretending to listen attentively at a company meeting when he really wants to shout, “You’re a bunch of empty suits!”
Millions have benefited from a dab of social grease and a facility with social graces.
The tragedy comes when we not only act as an “other” in our own lives — a mere imitation of our real selves, though also a conscious choice — but when we think and live as an “other” so thoroughly that we lose who we really are.
In this sense, humans are all (okay, nearly all) tragic figures. Because inevitably we get molded into other people’s images from birth. Long before we could even begin to have a definable character, our parents, teachers, older siblings, extended family, neighbors, Sunday school companions, playground pals, and even characters in games or movies are inculcating us with someone else’s idea of who we ought to be and how we ought to act.
This, too, is necessary and normal (unless it’s delivered with threats, beatings, mockery, degrading remarks, or other kinds of physical and mental cruelty, which alas it often is).
To the extent that knowing others’ expectations helps us establish a comfortable fit in the world or gives us a handy and useful internal rulebook for surviving our days, it’s all to the good.
To the extent that we are born misfits — or that we’re pressured into molds that don’t fit us — or that we’re never allowed to consider certain ideas on pain of punishment — it can be a soul destroyer.
And this doesn’t only apply to learning society’s manners and mores, but to the outright, demonstrable lies we’re taught from childhood on. We don’t have to be born misfits to discover, painfully, that we’ve been conditioned to believe things that aren’t so. Big things. We’ve learned to worship and submit to false premises and false gods — or else.
For some of us, the very existence of the unjust, irrational, out-of-proportion “or else” becomes a huge burden and a challenge, while others accept the accompanying lie so naturally that they might deny (to themselves or others) that any other possibility even exists. Blessedly ignorant are those who can believe the Big Lie forever and never have to learn the truth.
Your government always knows what’s best for you, teaches the government-run school.
If you serve your country in war, your government will honor and take care of you, lies the military machine.
Voting is your highest duty as a citizen, says a status quo that aims not to face serious challenge.
Your Mommy and Daddy always know what’s best for you, say Mommy and Daddy to save themselves the trouble of answering your hard questions.
Always trust your [priest/coach/counselor/social worker/doctor/other responsible adult], soothes the predator and the system built to foster predation.
No man is an island, claims the collective, using a half truth to diminish its fear of the individual who turns from the norm.
You want to be well-liked and accepted don’t you? asks the clique that will never let you in, but demands your obeisance to the false gods of conformity.
Sometimes the lies are comforting. And they even work — for a while.
Other times it’s a wonder everyone who hears them doesn’t stand up and shout, “WTF!” Taxation is voluntary, but we’ll arrest you at gunpoint, pitch you in prison and steal your stuff if you don’t volunteer. Wow. You have free will; but God (who loves you and granted you said freedom) will torture you forever if you exercise it. OMG.
It may take decades — or forever — before a single tiny “?” slips into the back of our brains.
Once it does, we might wish the question mark, however small and silent, had never appeared.
Because the most personal molding happens so early and is so pervasive, young misfits and wrongly bent twigs begin to struggle without knowing what they’re struggling against.
We struggle to understand what’s “wrong” with us — because naturally we must be defective if so many influential forces are telling us we are. We’re “wrong” because we don’t feel as we’re supposed to feel. We’re “wrong” because the bland statement everybody around us takes for truth is so neon-sign false to us.
Without the intellectual, moral, or creative tools to route around the conditioning in a world that tells us we are defective, or even evil, our young, just-forming selves cope (if it can be called that) in a variety of mostly terrible ways. We rebel violently. We turn destructively on ourselves. We throw ourselves into foolish risks or relationships. We develop digestive problems, chronic headaches, or other signs of physical stress. We may become passive-aggressive little rotters as a means of expressing our anger while still being able to claim plausible deniability. We may repeatedly (and increasingly desperately) attempt to conform to conditions we simply cannot ever conform to. We may disappear into fantasy via games, movies, books, drugs, or delusions. We seek oblivion wherever we can find it; anything is better than living with our square-peg selves in a round-hole world.
There are thousands of unhealthy ways our authentic new selves might try to assert themselves against wrongheaded control.
Even when (and IF) we begin to understand how our original selves-to-be got corrupted and denied in the process of being shoved into whatever mold family, school, religion, politics, and society expect us to fit, we can’t just spring free. And not only because of habit, conditioning, and circumstances. But also because our “natural” self — whatever it might once have had the potential to become — remains lost. It’s gone. Not findable.
Whatever else we are, we are also an amalgam of all the molding we’ve been through. Even if we recognize the lies we’ve been told, our rejection of them and the pain we went through to get there is now part of ourselves, indivisible. Even if we come to believe I’m okay and I’ve always been okay, the years of criticism, rejection, and false starts are part of us. We could make a lifetime out of the effort to “find ourselves” and BE ourselves. But any self we find has still been shaped to others’ will. No matter how much the real “us” eventually shines out, it’s still a complicated being and requires an extraordinary amount of “getting acquainted with” and doing something useful with.
This is the clay we now have to mold, from any moment of discovery forward.
And if we’re really living, we’ll make discoveries over and over again, all requiring re-evaluation and re-molding. Exciting — in a way. Yet all the trauma and self-doubt, the lies (debunked or still believed) and the old wrong directions are part of whatever “real self” we’ll ever find or be. So is all the stupid, embarrassing, pathetic, destructive sh*t we may have done along the way. We’re never really “over” anything that was formative. Oh well.
Some Commentariat member will now glibly quote Neitzsche: “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” True — to its very limited point. But that doesn’t address what we choose and labor to do with that strength — or the very personal and enduring experience, anguish, talents, triumphs, and memory that we’re imprinted with.
Some of us are “lucky” — and strong — and get to know quite a lot about our inner selves early on. But then we face the challenge of either defying norms to live as we choose (a tough job for the young and not yet prosperously established) or consciously becoming Moles in our own lives to get by in daily life.
Some of us are not so “lucky” and come to the big life discoveries later in life. At that point we may be better equipped intellectually and financially to deal with the changes our discoveries demand. But then,too, we may find ourselves stuck firmly in lives built on false premises, lives that are thoroughly entangled with other people who may not want to know about, let alone live with, the consequences of our discoveries.
A few of us are truly lucky and get to have life much as we want it — being true to ourselves, having open eyes, and still managing to live pretty darned decently.
Then we die, still feeling unfinished.
More later on the Great Project of living our real lives; I’m not quite sure when. Not an easy subject, you know.