Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What does it feel like to be really old and death is imminent. by Stan Hayward.

I am really old, and I know death is imminent

Most of my friends have passed away, and of those remaining, they suffer from health problems in some way

I am myself totally deaf and partially blind. I live by myself

I am writing this at 6am in the morning

Today, if the weather is fine 

I will go for a walk
I will chat with friends
I will do my shopping
I will do my laundry
I will feed the cat
I will tidy up what needs to be done
I will put out the garbage

I will do what most people do who are not really old and know that death is imminent
Because there is no feeling of being old

There is a feeling that you can't do what you used to do
There is a feeling that you might lose your independence, or if you already have, a feeling that you should try and do as much as you can by yourself
There is a feeling that you should spend as much time as possible with those you like to be with

There is a feeling that time is precious. Of course it always was, but one becomes more aware of it
There is a feeling that many things one does will be done for the last time

There are passing thoughts about those who respect you because you are old, and about those that dismiss you because you are old

There is the aspect that life is changing fast with all the new advances that inundate us daily
There is the aspect of life that nothing changes

Mothers still smile at their babies
Children are still enthralled with their first pet
Learning to ride a bike is still as much fun as starting a company

Blowing out your birthday candles is still as satisfying at eighty as it was at eight

It is not that death is imminent that is important, but that when the curtain comes down, the audience leaves with a sense of satisfaction

As someone once said
The World is a stage
You played your part for what it was worth
You take your bow
and leave

-Stan Hayward, Film/TV/Book writer

Monday, September 29, 2014

Life's Not Fair.

“There are many pleasant fictions of the law in constant operation, but there is not one so pleasant or practically humorous as that which supposes every man to be of equal value in its impartial eye, and the benefits of all laws to be equally attainable by all men, without the smallest reference to the furniture of their pockets.” 
― Charles Dickens,  

Suck it Annie!

  John F. Kennedy was not the first person to use the phrase "Life's not fair." In typical narcissist fashion, we have a privileged person telling the down trodden to buck up and make the best of things. Coming from a person whose father paid the price of admission for him to become the most powerful person in the world, his words ring hollow.
  I would tell JFK to shove it.
  I have also heard what an ass wipe his father was. His father Joe nailed every bit of starlet fluff he could throw on a casting couch, despite his long standing marriage to Rose Kennedy,  the Kennedy family matriarch. Joe also had his daughter lobotomized for being a bit too rambunctious. If his daughter were anything like my mother, I would have recommended him going full bore and having her euthanized. For his sake and everyone else's.

  It's hard to fight if the fight ain't fair. Acon's should have had the forethought be born to a rum runner at the height of prohibition, and hope one of your parents doesn't take the family fortune and metaphorically torch it in some back alley. Life looks fair. We all get the same nine month shake in the oven. We all get the same roll of the dice. Some of us come up with seven's and some of us snake eyes. As an Acon blogger it's my job to tell you life is not fair. But I don't want to resort to the same hubris and platitudes I loathe in others. If they could just come up with a better rebuttal than a well placed bon mot for people whose lives were filled with the inequity of living with a psychopath. Or at least put more thought in their words. It's also my job to tell you that life is precious. And that none of us should ever give up trying to make ours better.
If I am going to resort to platitudes let it be this.
Life is not fair, and we all die unhealed. 

My advice to you is in the next life don't be born to people who view you as a cardboard cut out for their delusional sideshow.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

On a Carousel .............

This is an excerpt from Rev Renee's blog here
I will also link you to her amazon page where you can purchase one of her excellent books.

The Harsh Realities of Life With a Narcissist~ There is nothing we can do to change things. If we are going to stay in the relationship, it will always be what it is now. No amount of reasoning, logic, crying, begging, screaming and yelling, arguing, being nice to the N, showing her love, being patient, being understanding, pussy-footing around her, hiding things from her that we think might set her off, complimenting her, doing favors for her, supporting her, giving her money, walking on eggshells, going to therapy, talking it out, doing everything she tells us to do, etc, etc, will ever stop the abuse. In fact, all of these reactions just reinforce her bad behavior, because a REACTION (of any kind) is exactly what she wants from us.
Consequences MAY work temporarily. When we enforce a consequence, the N may not do that exact misbehavior again, but she will do another one instead. Nothing works permanently, except No Contact.
Repeat after me~ There is NOTHING I can do. It will ALWAYS be like this. Now, are you okay with that? Ready to live the rest of your life in a toxic relationship with a selfish, abusive narcissist or psychopath? Are you willing to waste the next five or ten years or more being continually upset, manipulated, gaslighted and mistreated, now that you know another five or ten years won't matter, because it will NEVER change? The only difference another five or ten years will make is that you will be five or ten years older. If you wake up one day ten years from now stuck in the same depressing, dismal situation, I guarantee you will look back and regret it. I should know~ I wasted 47 years trying to make it work. So, is it time to dump the loser, go No Contact, and start living with joy and freedom? This is the only thing within our power that we can do to change things and go on to live a healthy, peaceful life. It's our choice.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Meryl Streep has No Patience for Bullshit.

I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I've become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me, and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience." ~ Meryl Streep

A big tip of the Ten Gallon hat to Mulderfan for sending this my way.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Narcissist Obituaries.

I posted this obituary right after my mother died. I think it bears repeating with the evolving mix of ACON's entering the blogosphere and also if you are stumped in your quest for answers to the puzzle that is Narcissism. Know you are not alone.  Coincidentally my mothers middle name was Dolores.

Dolores Aguilar 1929 - Aug. 7, 2008

Dolores Aguilar, born in 1929 in New Mexico, left us on August 7, 2008. She will be met in the afterlife by her husband, Raymond, her son,Paul Jr., and daughter, Ruby. She is survived by her daughters Marietta, Mitzi, Stella, Beatrice, Virginia and Ramona, and son Billy; grandchildren, Donnelle, Joe, Mitzie, Maria, Mario, Marty, Tynette, Tania, Leta, Alexandria, Tommy, Billy, Mathew, Raymond, Kenny, Javier, Lisa, Ashlie and Michael; great-grandchildren, Brendan, Joseph, Karissa, Jacob, Delaney, Shawn, Cienna, Bailey, Christian, Andre Jr., Andrea, Keith, Saeed, Nujaymah, Salma, Merissa, Emily, Jayci, Isabella, Samantha and Emily. I apologize if I missed anyone.

Dolores had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing. Her family will remember Dolores and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way, which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years. We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times too. But I truly believe at the end of the day ALL of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself.

As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again. There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM.
And this........

Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick born Jan 4, 1935 and died alone on Aug. 30, 2013. She is survived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible. While she neglected and abused her small children, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.

On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviving children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.

Most of us have found peace in helping those who have been exposed to child abuse and hope this message of her final passing can revive our message that abusing children is unforgivable, shameless, and should not be tolerated in a "humane society". Our greatest wish now, is to stimulate a national movement that mandates a purposeful and dedicated war against child abuse in the United States of America.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Captured Rotation

There are two tragedies in life. One is never getting what you want. The other is getting it. As the children of narcissistic parents we can identify with the first category. But I saw my narcissist mother appear to get everything she wanted. And what she didn't get, she laid to waste. She died around people that were only there for the payday her death would provide. The people that would have been there for no other reason, but the right one, had all been trampled and mangled until we wanted nothing more to do with her.
  I have always advocated No Contact, but I don't know if that's getting as far away from these people as prudence dictates. I'll have to get back to you when I figure out how to get farther. I am beginning to think that once you are born to a Narcissist your fate may be sealed.
 The problem is that their dogmatic bite out of life is so black and white that the distance No Contact provides removes ones ability to monitor what you think you have left behind. My mother was so entrenched in the "you are with me, or you are against me" school of thought, that the minute I went No Contact, I was  dumped in the latter category forever. And that was fair enough. I didn't want her blood money. I just forgot who I was dealing with. And who I was dealing with was a vindictive crazy person. I failed to develop an accurate forecast of what this woman was capable of, despite my life of watching her slash and burn the people who should have been nearest and dearest to her. I went no contact and I let my guard down. But like the earth and the moon. We were still bound together. The  perspective may have changed, but never her volatile nature.

Some folks say "Evil prevails when good men fail to act". What they ought to say is, "Evil Prevails."
No Contact with someone as malignant as some Narcissists are may be swapping one hell for another.
And this is just how it is. I will still be a advocate of No Contact. But I will tell you that turning your back on a narcissist can be just as dangerous as sitting across the table from one.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Homicidal Maniacs are Malignant Narcissists

People still want to debate the differences between sociopathy and psychopathy and malignant narcissism. 
You say po-ta-to, I Say po-tah-to. Just don't be in the room with them when they are in possession of a loaded firearm. 
Any body that likes the illustrations can see the wiki page for the comic strip I swiped them from:


I fought my sociopath mother with my hat...........I grabbed it and ran!

   People who cannot contain their urges to harm (or kill) people for no apparent reason often suffer from some mental illness.  A diagnosable mental illness afflicts about 25% of a nation's population (the United States, Colombia, France, Ukraine, and New Zealand having the highest rates), according to a 2012 Survey of Mental Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  That's 350 million people worldwide.  However, just as only 5% of this mentally ill population are so severely impaired they cannot work, it's likely that about the same number are dangerous to others.  The mentally ill are particularly susceptible to social stress and often misinterpret cultural phenomena.  When stressed, they can be dangerous, and their cruelty or desire to harm others may reflect more a personality trait than a symptom of mental illness, or a mixture of both.  In other words, they may be more cruel than crazy; they may be choosing not to exercise self-control; they may choose wrong over right; and they may or may not know exactly what they're doing.  A certain degree of overlap exists between personality traits and the symptoms of mental illness.  The so-called "personality disordered" fall into this category, and the one thing that can be said for sure is they are definitely NOT insane, at least according to the consensus of most scholars (Samenow 2004).  In such cases, they usually fall into one of three types that are typically considered aggravating circumstances in addition to their legal guilt -- antisocial personality disorder (APD), sociopath, or psychopath -- none of which are the same as insanity or psychosis.  APD is the most common type, afflicting about 4% of the general population.  Sociopaths are the second most common type, with the American Psychiatric Association estimating that 3% of all males in our society are sociopaths and Stout (2005) estimating 4% of the population.  Psychopaths are rare, found in perhaps 1% of the population, but represented in 25% of the prison population, and 4% among corporate CEOs (Ronson 2011).
    Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD) is practically synonymous with criminal behavior, but as with all distributions of a disease or whatever in a population, it is probable that the majority of people with this particular affliction are law-abiding.  Aging, over involvements, and/or relationships might hold sway over the control (or lack of control) in these kind of people, and although approaching the study of offenders from a relationship & personality disorders point of view may or may not be productive, Dr. Drew is probably an adequate source of information on such matters.  Dr. Drew's theory (and one with wide ramifications since he pretty much defines an antisocial tendency as thinking about one's self first) is that women with certain kinds of disorders, like borderline personality disorders, tend to be attracted to and hook up with men who manifest symptoms of psychopathic personality disorder and that such match-ups may or may not be dysfunctional.  On the other hand, the field of criminology tends to treat APD as so synonymous, in fact, with criminal behavior that practically all convicted criminals (65-75%) have it, with criminologists often referring to it as a "wastebasket" category.  Antisocials come in all shapes and sizes, and psychologists consider the juvenile version of it to be a juvenile conduct disorder. The main characteristic of it is a complete and utter disregard for the rights of others and the rules of society. They seldom show anxiety and don't feel guilt. Although many people would hope that there's an effective treatment, there's really no effective treatment for them other than locking them up in a secure facility with such rigid rules that they cannot talk their way out. A full list of APD traits would include:

List of Antisocial Personality Disorder Traits
Sense of entitlement; Unremorseful; Apathetic to others; Unconscionable behavior; Blameful of others; Manipulative and conning; Affectively cold; Disparate understanding; Socially irresponsible; Disregardful of obligations; Nonconforming to norms; Irresponsible

    whereas the DSM-IV "clinical" features of Antisocial Personality Disorder (with a person having at least three of these characteristics) are:

Clinical Symptoms for an Antisocial Personality Disorder Diagnosis
1. Failure to conform to social norms; 2. Deceitfulness, manipulativeness; 3. Impulsivity, failure to plan ahead; 4. Irritability, aggressiveness; 5. Reckless disregard for the safety of self or others; 6. Consistent irresponsibility; 7. Lack of remorse after having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another person
    Sociopathy is chiefly characterized by something wrong with the person's conscience. They either don't have one, it's full of holes like Swiss cheese, or they are somehow able to completely neutralize or negate any sense of conscience, conscience here being conceived of as having some future time perspective that considers potential consequences.  They can commit great acts of evil and then easily drift off to a good night's sleep.  Sociopaths only care about fulfilling their own needs and desires - selfishness and egocentricity to the extreme. Everything and everybody else is mentally twisted around in their minds as objects to be used in fulfilling their own needs and desires. They often believe they are doing something good for society, or at least nothing that bad. The term "sociopath" is frequently used by psychologists and sociologists alike in referring to persons whose unsocialized character is due primarily to parental failures (usually fatherlessness) rather than an inherent feature of temperament.  Lykken (1995), for example, clearly distinguishes between the sociopath (who is socialized into becoming a psychopath) and a "true" psychopath (who is born that way).  However, this may only describe the "common sociopath", as there are at least four (4) different subtypes -- common, alienated, aggressive, and dyssocial. Commons are characterized mostly by their lack of conscience; the alienated by their inability to love or be loved; aggressives by a consistent sadistic streak; and dyssocials by an ability to abide by gang rules, as long as those rules are the wrong rules. Stout (2005) says that 4% of the American population is sociopathic (1 in every 25 Americans), but many of them go on to enjoy long, successful careers (Stout suggests political careers hold a particular attraction for them).  It only takes three of the following to be defined as a sociopath, and some common sociopathic traits include:

List of Common Sociopathic Traits
Egocentricity; callousness; impulsivity; conscience defect; exaggerated sexuality; excessive boasting; risk taking; Inability to resist temptation; antagonistic, deprecating attitude toward the opposite sex; lack of interest in bonding with friends or companions

    Psychopathy is a concept subject to much debate, but is usually defined as a constellation of affective, interpersonal, and behavioral characteristics including egocentricity; impulsivity; irresponsibility; shallow emotions; lack of empathy, guilt, or remorse; pathological lying; manipulativeness; and the persistent violation of social norms and expectations (Cleckley 1976; Hare 1993). The crimes of psychopaths are usually stone-cold, remorseless killings for no apparent reason. They cold-bloodedly take what they want and do as they please without the slightest sense of guilt or regret. In many ways, they are natural-born intraspecies predators who satisfy their lust for power and control by charm, manipulation, intimidation, and violence. While almost all societies would regard them as criminals (the exception being frontier or warlike societies where they might become heroes, patriots, or leaders), it's important to distinguish their behavior from criminal behavior. As a common axiom goes in psychology, MOST PSYCHOPATHS ARE ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITIES BUT NOT ALL ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITIES ARE PSYCHOPATHS. This is because APD is defined mainly by behaviors (Factor 2 antisocial behaviors) and doesn't tap the affective/interpersonal dimensions (Factor 1 core psychopathic features, narcissism) of psychopathy. Further, criminals and APDs tend to "age out" of crime; psychopaths do not, and are at high risk of recidivism. Psychopaths love to intellectualize in treatment with their half-baked understanding of rules. Like the Star Trek character, Spock, their reasoning cannot handle any mix of cognition and emotion. They are calculating predators who, when trapped, will attempt escape, create a nuisance and danger to staff, be a disruptive influence on other patients or inmates, and fake symptoms to get transferred, bouncing back and forth between institutions. The common features of psychopathic traits (the PCL-R items) are:
List of Common Psychopathic Traits
Glib and superficial charm; Grandiose sense of self-worth; Need for stimulation; Pathological lying; Conning and manipulativeness; Lack of remorse or guilt; Shallow affect; Callousness and lack of empathy; Parasitic lifestyle; Poor behavioral controls; Promiscuous sexual behavior; Early behavior problems; Lack of realistic, long-term goals; Impulsivity; Irresponsibility; Failure to accept responsibility for own actions; Many short-term marital relationships; Juvenile delinquency; Revocation of conditional release; Criminal versatility

 In addition to these most well-known types, there have been criminologists who have put forward additional constructs. They are only mentioned here because of their relevance to serial criminals, and the interesting similarity in the way they compare to the FBI's "disorganized - organized" typology. 

Disorganized Episodic Aggression:
Organized Sociopathic Hatred:
Ritualistic behaviorSuperficial charm and "good" intelligence
Attempts to conceal mental instabilityAbsence of delusions and other signs of irrational behavior
CompulsivityAbsence of "nervousness" or psychoneurotic manifestations
Periodic search for helpunreliability
Severe memory disorders and an inability to tell the truthuntruthfulness and insincerity
Suicidal tendencieslack of remorse or shame
History of committing assaultinadequately motivated antisocial behavior
Hypersexuality and abnormal sexual behaviorpoor judgment and failure to learn by experience
Head injuries; injuries suffered at birthpathological egocentricity and incapacity for love
History of chronic drug or alcohol abusegeneral poverty in major affective reactions
Parents with history of chronic drug or alcohol abusespecific loss of insight
Victim of childhood physical or mental abuseunresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
Result of an unwanted pregnancyfantastic and uninviting behavior with and sometimes without drink
Product of a difficult gestation for mothersuicide rarely carried out
Unhappiness in childhood resulted in inability to find happinesssex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
Extraordinary cruelty to animalsfailure to follow any life plan
Attraction to arson without homicidal interest
Symptoms of neurological impairment
Evidence of genetic disorder
Biochemical symptoms
Feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy

   Character artwork. - johnny-the-homicidal-maniac Photo

 The patterns of episodic aggressive behavior scale is derived from Joel Norris (1990) Serial Killers, London: Arrow Books and also reproduced in Brian Lane & Wilfred Gregg (1992)The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, NY: Berkeley Books. This particular sociopathic checklist is found in numerous places but extensively featured in both of Samenow's works in the 1970s on criminal personality (thinking errors).

Friday, May 2, 2014

From Kathy Krajco: What Makes Narcissists Tick

One of the most glaring outward signs of malignant narcissism is the way narcissists malign others. They are constantly improving their own image at someone else's expense.

Another very red flag is perverted reactions to things. This red flag can't be missed, because it's downright shocking. But you witness it infrequently, and it's so perplexing that people unfailingly disbelieve their very eyes and blow off this warning sign.

Therefore, whenever you DO witness a perverted reaction to something, DO NOT blow it off. It is always a very bad sign.

For example, the narcissist inexplicably gets angry at what should please. You expected a smile and - WHAM - you got a look that could kill instead. It sets you reeling, doesn't it?

Guess what? That's exactly why the narcissist does that = to set you reeling so you are easy to run over. 

Other examples are being repulsed by what should endear. Laughing at what is tragic.

You know - those bizarre reactions that make you want to pinch yourself. Those reactions that you cannot quite believe even though you have seen them with your own eyes.

Remember that normal people don't do that.

My experience convinces me that narcissists use these backwards reactions to things as shock tactics. They strike you as the sight of apple falling UP from a tree would. It takes you aback. It disarms you.

That way the narcissist gets away with it, because you are stunned. It's kinda like a "sucker punch".

While your jaw is hanging and you are wondering where that reaction came from - whether you or the narcissist is the crazy one - the narcissist performs this hit-and-run to get away with the abuse.

It's a way to disable you (by morally stunning you) so that you cannot defend yourself from the attack. The term for disabling and then attacking someone is "mayhem." Needless to say, it's the lowest of the low who fight that way.

Know anybody who does that you? Who somehow takes offense and gets mad just when you are saying or doing something that should make them happy? If you do know anyone like this, stay away from them. It's a stunt. A perverted stunt to catch you off guard and run you over.

And normal people, people of goodwill, don't do that.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Narc Whisperer.

I visited a NPD blog owned by a person who claims to have super NPD communication powers. These powers allow her to interpret the words of narcissists to us unwashed idiots.  She is able to see into their minds and confer telepathically with the personality disordered. She has appointed herself "NARC whisperer. and thinks she provides an invaluable service to the unevolved. I logged in and the first thing she did was ask me to "giff me ur credit cahd numbah" She said that Narcissists are hard to understand and are picky about who they communicate with,  and because of this, I need a guide. Someone who narcissists don't mind talking to...someone with a "special" gift for understanding and relating to them.

She went on to tell me that Narcissists are peaceful and kind and are tired of being misunderstood. That it is wrong for people to judge them as lunatics, and to label them as evil. And that the way they sacrifice the natural bond between parent and child is something they would change... if only they could.  That even though narcissists hate us. Their antisocial  traits are something they are not proud of. 
Then she spewed Narcissist this, and Narcissist that, and wanted to know if there was anything I wanted to tell my mother, the Narcissist, who has passed on to the other side. She went into a trance and told me there were 21 unopened messages waiting from my mother and that she could give me a bulk rate discount to transmit them.  I thought yes, I would like to hear from my mother to find out if the fear of god has changed her. But I knew my Narcissist mother would never hear a thing I said and that there were no messages from her.  And even if my mother could hear, it wouldn't be on account of this so-called Narc whisperer. She was a phony.  A vapid poser spewing chin music far and wide, not caring what she said and who she misled. Just as long as she could hear herself speak. And fatten her wallet. I clicked out before she tried to sell me some Amway. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014
More shameless plagiarizing from a guy (me). .  This bit of writing is from Tim Krieder of the New York

My friend Alicia likes to mock me by mimicking the tone of online comments on my writing, affecting the snarky hauteur that is the Internet’s default: “Kreider makes the audacious claim that his cat is more attractive than all other living cats,” she’ll say. “According to Kreider, pie is a perfectly acceptable breakfast,” or “Kreider would have it that pants are purely optional.” She’s making mild fun of my sporadic blips of Internet celebrity, but I think she’s more heavily amused to hear commenters citing her feckless goofball friend as though I were some eminent authority, solemnly parsing my passing opinions as though they were official policy statements. Alicia’s an artist, too, and understands how audiences tend to ascribe magisterial intention and control to artists, when more often we’re just making it up as we go, doing the best we can by deadline.
There seems to be a widespread presumption that writing is prescriptive (or proscriptive) rather than simply observational or meditative. Some people condemn or commend even memoirs and novels as though their purpose were to instruct or offer models. I suppose I can’t entirely fault readers for this misapprehension. Confident authority is an appropriate tone for straight reportage, but it’s become the default of columnists, essayists and bloggers, one that’s so reflexive that some of them seem to forget it’s a pose. To some extent this is a deformative effect of the space restrictions within which most of us work; in a thousand-word essay you can’t include every qualification or second thought that occurs to you or you’d expend your allotted space refuting your own argument instead of making it.
This voice is trained into us early on, back in high school or Comp 101, when we’re taught to make our arguments as succinct and cogent as possible, omitting wishy-washy qualifications like “in my opinion.” You’d think these disclaimers could go without saying; every piece of writing includes the tacit caveat: Or I could be wrong. And yet quite a lot of readers respond to your personal observations with wounded outrage when they fail to reflect their own experience, as if you were proposing your idle speculation as totalitarian law. That rhetorical pose of weary expertise has metastasized to the Internet, epitomized by the opener: “So let me get this straight.” It seems telling that this smug, knowing tone has become so endemic at the same time that the amount of information available is so numbing, and actual expertise so rarefied, that almost nobody knows enough about anything anymore to have the right to any opinion at all.
I’m always ill at ease when I find myself conscripted by the media into the role of Expert on some subject about which I have rashly written. I felt like the explanatory caption beneath my name on-screen ought to be: PERSON IN WORLD. When interviewers ask me what can we do about the plague of Busyness, if a zero-terrorist-attacks policy is realistic or whether cryonics is feasible, I just squirm untelegenically and say things like “Gee I dunno,” which usually causes them to go, in disgust, to the phones.
Jim Stoten
Whenever someone writes to take me politely to task over some unfair generalization, self-contradiction or unexamined blind spot, my riposte is usually something along the lines of: “Hm, yeah, I guess you have a point there.” I don’t always agree with me; I certainly don’t expect everyone else to. Being treated as some sort of authority,  is more alarming than flattering; it makes me wonder whether all the alleged sages I’ve ever admired, from Lao Tsu to Marcus Aurelius, were big fat fakes like me. I suppose it’s possible that all those other columnists and talking heads really do know whereof they speak and I’m the only who doesn’t know enough to fake it. But I have my doubts.
This is another reason so many writers feel the need to impersonate someone wise or in possession of some marketable truth: it’s a function of insecurity, of fear.  The one thing no editorialist or commentator in any media is ever supposed to say is I don’t know: that they’re too ignorant about the science of climate change to have an informed opinion; that they frankly have no idea what to do about gun violence in this country; or that they’ve just never quite understood the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in all honesty they’re sick of hearing about it. To admit to ignorance, uncertainty or ambivalence is to cede your place on the masthead, your slot on the program, and allow all the coveted eyeballs to turn instead to the next hack who’s more than happy to sell them all the answers.
Thucydides says: “Ignorance is bold, knowledge reserved.” The more someone knows about any given subject, the likelier he is to include a lot of boring, hard-to-follow caveats, complicating factors and exceptions in discussing it. Which is why, for example, climatologists, who have actually studied the data and know how to interpret it, tend to carefully hedge their claims, declining to assert any direct causality or make predictions, whereas professional obfuscators will confidently assure you that global warming is a lot of alarmist hooey. Affected certainty has more than rhetorical consequences. Opponents of the Iraq invasion couldn’t claim for a fact that Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, at least not with the same absolute certainty that its proponents knew that he did.
Since I am not and never will be anyone who knows enough about anything to be worth listening to on the basis of my expertise, my only possible claim to anyone’s attention is honesty. Unalloyed honesty is the iridium of the information economy — vanishingly rare, and therefore precious. We don’t respect people like Louis C.K. or George Saunders because of their credentials; it’s because they’re among the few people in public life who’ll say anything obviously true — or, at the very least, anything they really mean. We trust that, unlike politicians or their spin doctors, corporate flacks, think-tank flunkies or cable propagandists, they have no agenda beyond the self-evident one of making a living with their work. I have no pretensions to any special knowledge, let alone anything like wisdom; I am just some guy, a PERSON IN WORLD looking around and noticing things and saying what I think. If what I say doesn’t reflect your own experience, it’s possible that it isn’t about you. It’s also possible that something that’s not About You might still be of some interest or use. There is even some remote possibility that I am oversimplifying, missing something obvious, or just speaking ex rectum.
I’ve lately been rereading Montaigne, generally considered the first essayist, inspired by Sarah Bakewell’s literary biography “How to Live.” Ms. Bakewell singles out the end of one passage in which Montaigne suggests that being self-aware of your own silliness and vanity at least puts you one up on those who aren’t, then shrugs, “But I don’t know.” It’s that implicit I don’t know at the heart of Montaigne’s essays — his frankness about being a foolish, flawed and biased human being — that she thinks has endeared him to centuries of readers and exasperated more plodding, systematic philosophers.
My least favorite parts of my own writing, the ones that make me cringe to reread, are the parts where I catch myself trying to smush the unwieldy mess of real life into some neatly-shaped conclusion, the sort of thesis statement you were obliged to tack on to essays in high school or the Joycean epiphanies that are de rigueur in apprentice fiction — whenever, in other words, I try to sound like I know what I’m talking about. Real life, in my experience, is not rife with epiphanies, let alone lessons; what little we learn tends to come exactly too late, gets contradicted by the next blunder, or is immediately forgotten and has to be learned all over again. More and more, the only things that seem to me worth writing about are the ones I don’t understand. Sometimes the most honest and helpful thing a writer can do is to acknowledge that some problems are insoluble, that life is hard and there aren’t going to be any answers, that he’s just as screwed-up and clueless as the rest of us. Or I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.