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Fear of Flying

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

If I have any charm, my honesty is it. What you see is what you get. As Popeye put it, "I yam what I yam." If anything, I get better when you get to know me.

Perhaps that's why I tend to take people at face value, giving them the benefit of the doubt. You couldn't call me innocent, but in this I might be somewhat childlike. Sometimes this openness gets me hurt, but overall, I'd rather be naive.

Still, I have learned, mostly the hard way, that people usually put their best foot forward. That's fine on a short term basis. But if you stick around until that back foot steps through, you often find it to be made of clay. Get to know them, push a little here or there, and the whole facade crumbles.

I'm not referring here to intentional deception. It's just that most people really do not know themselves. Someone who has thought deeply about life is already a philosopher, and how many of us are philosophers? Most of us have just cobbled together our personality from various opinions we've picked up along the way.

That might be okay if we had had enough opinions to choose from and enough time to do the choosing. But often we've had to adapt rapidly, with insufficient information, while under great stress. The child makes up twisted rationales for the twisted irrationalities he suffers. Going back and untwisting those neurotic beliefs requires a certain amount of re-suffering of those traumas. It's like reopening an infected wound to clean it. We put it off, even while it diminishes or threatens our life.

A case in point:

Dropping Veronica off at the bus station recently, I crossed paths with a man I knew from years ago at the Saturday Market. Both of us having some feeling for our common Jewishness, in a fit of sociability I invited him over for a Friday night, Sabbath dinner.

The man, like many of us here in San Miguel, is strange; not bohemian-old-school-SMA strange, but professorial, not-used-to-talking-to-ordinary-folk strange. His delivery is very controlled, with frequent pregnant pauses, as if he were always about to impart some well thought out information. To his credit, he frequently does give forth such gems, but his pedantic tone resonates oddly when he is making small talk.

He came bearing a bottle of very good wine. I sat him down just on the other side of the archway between my dining room and kitchen while I continued with dinner preparation. The acoustics and line of sight were fine for conversation, but the subject matter was not to my liking. Traditionally, the Jewish Sabbath is a time to leave behind all thought of work and worldly concerns. But my guest, in his stilted oratory, was making small talk about what had happened to him that week. I was in no mood for that. In a more exalted state, I wanted a less guarded exchange on subjects more profound.

Adding the last vegetables to the pot, I tried, several times, to steer our talk to a more transcendental line, without success. Adding herbs to the pot, I told him that in honor of Shabbat, I preferred to speak of things spiritual. He resisted. Adding curry paste to our dinner and leaving it to simmer, we moved to the dining room table, lit the candles, began the short ceremony and the evening came into focus.

Things moved along quite swimmingly. The songs were festive; he knew the words. The curry was just spicy enough; sometimes I am excessive. There was a lot of laughter, repartee and shared wisdom at the table. If not quite wild, the atmosphere was adventurous. If you are going to get ecstatic, the Friday night Shabbat table is a good place to do it. Mysticism is rapturous, no?

After dessert, I walked him to the Ancha and we said our goodbyes. Several days later, surprised that I had not heard from him, I sent him a message:

12:27pm Dr David: Buenas tardes, X. Thanks for a great Shabbat. When might you be available for another visit/dinner? I'd like to have you try my frijoles.

1:06pm Guest: David, Thank you so much for dinner and our conversation. I have to ask one favor and say something a bit difficult. If we are to be friends, I need to know that you will not do peyote or similar substances around me again. In previous meetings, I had found you thoughtful and considerate. I was actually quite concerned for the first 2 hours Friday until you ate dinner (which likely slowed down your metabolization of the peyote), after which you slowed down noticeably, and you told me what you'd taken. I didn't care for the speediness and abruptness of your thoughts, movements and speech during the first part of the evening and was honestly concerned that you were having a manic episode. I don't care what you do on your own, but I greatly prefer to avoid th…

1:18pm Dr David: Yes. Certainly. I agree. I am very sorry to have made you uncomfortable. Thanks for letting me know.

1:24pm Dr David: It was only marijuana, but I do get very speedy with it.

1:27pm Guest: You said you had "microdosed peyote."

1:41pm Dr David: I don't think that I did. It's not true that I microdosed anything that evening, unless it was the pot. I use marijuana infrequently enough so that it has an almost psychedelic effect on me. Actually, a microdose of peyote has a much less noticable effect on me.

1:43pm Dr David: Pot really accelerates me. The wine is what took the edge off of it.

5:47pm Dr David: I'm really sorry that I made you uncomfortable. You made it clear before dinner, when I offered it to you, that you were not interested in a microdose. I recall that we didn't talk about drugs again all evening. I microdose with a psychedelic 4-5 times a year, and I certainly wouldn't have chosen last Friday night as one of those times..

Thank you for having this difficult conversation and for your offer of friendship. I understand your condition and will cheerfully abide by it. I really did like getting to know you. You're deep.

6:09pm Guest: It's fine. Once I understood that you'd taken something, I was far more comfortable. I was actually more concerned about you than myself. As for depth, any time I can have an intellectual discussion, I'm happy. We were able to have longer form conversations after you had some wine, so all's well...

With all of this, I was upset; at first because I thought I had made my guest uncomfortable. But then because of what is called cognitive dissonance. I was suffering an incongruity. For me the evening was exalted, adventurous. Why was he complaining?

Then, I understood that that itself was the problem. My Sabbath guest, a staid individual, did not want to let loose. He had flown. He had been borne aloft. But he did not want to fly. He had his own level of comfort, and he did not want to rise above it. He had too much fun that evening, or too strange a type of fun.

Many people are following a script. They are fine when all is going according to plan. They play well when the notes are familiar to them, but ask them to improvise, and they get nervous.

I'm not holding anything against my Friday night guest, or holding myself above him, except that I might be more proactive in untwisting the neuroses that limit my freedom.

My upset turned to hurt. It was like being very young and, having asked someone if they wanted to be friends, being told no. Then also, it occurs to me now, while I am composing this, that my sadness is because I did get close to him. The brilliancy of the evening had worked its way through his obsessive-compulsive etiquette. My magical exuberance (and delicious curry), having gotten behind his facade, I had given his still suffering inner child a friendly pat on the shoulder. My sadness is not mine, but his, he who shrinks from such contact.

Of course, my Shabbat guest hasn't responded to my offer of getting together again. However, naive that I am, I hope that he reads this and drops me a line. I get better when you get to know me.


Dr David and his merry band believe that the new expanded Lokkal will change the world, city by city.

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