Between the unspeakable horror of the Vegas shootings, the fact that I’ve been teaching Edgar Allan Poe for the past week, and my newfound (uncharacteristic) dedication to the new yoga studio that popped up in town, I’ve been thinking a lot about the human psyche. No, not that kind of pretentious, Freudian, motherfucking (heh, get it?) rumination on the soul and the inherent qualities that lie within that hipster psych majors love to soapbox about after too many craft beers. I’m talking about what makes us tick, what makes us feel the most alive, what qualifies as a “weird” or “abnormal” reaction to a situation, and what we have the power to change about ourselves and our perspectives.
I realize that I am a very reactive, impulsive person. I am internally motivated, internally driven, but externally affected by people and places and situations in ways that I struggle to control, sometimes. Yeah, I’m always that asshole who starts crying when my friends are crying, rendering me the worst Unintentional Scene-Stealer in a crisis. I absorb the red-hot emotional burdens of others like a solar panel. I scream when I laugh. I visit new cities and immediately Google “job opportunities in ____________,” flirting with the concept of renting a bungalow on the outskirts of town and getting a dog I know I can’t take care of, before eventually abandoning my pursuits a week later. I buy dozens and dozens of Tupperwares because food blogs convince me I need them. At least I know I’ll stick to my guns re: the uselessness of mason jar salads.
We all know those people who appear to have so much clarity in their lives. They seem perfectly enlightened, they know what they want, they fill their weekends with “on-brand” activities to get pics for their impeccably curated Instagrams. Do these people ever question their normality? Do they ever feel easily influenced, out of control, a planet revolving around someone else’s sun? Do they ever seek and embrace darkness?
In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe writes, “Why will you say that I am mad?…Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me.” His characters, which are largely said to be an extension of himself, not only embrace darkness, but exude confidence in their manner and thoughts. Like me, they are internally motivated, internally driven, but reactive. Impulsive. As my student Jonathan said of TTH’s narrator, “He like, not okay in the head, like he do too much.” When I peruse National Park campsites I know I’ll never visit and buy lipsticks that only look pretty in theory, do I also do too much? Do I need to calm my shit, slow down, and root myself in the here and now, the attainable, the reasonable?
As I ponder the inexplicable evil of the Vegas shooter, I wonder how some people can allow a volcanic eruption of hatred to slowly mount over the course of a lifetime. What is it like to meticulously cultivate negativity, to consciously craft depravity, bit by bit? What makes them tick, and what makes their ticking so much more intense and horrifying than everyone else’s? The Vegas shooter is a Poe narrator, in every sense of the word.
When I think about all of those Tupperwares, the way I pop Ibuprofen like candy when my body aches, or the fact that I sob every time my fiancé travels out of town for work trips, I hate the way I feel everything. But I would rather light up the sky, in short, passionate bursts, or get momentarily dragged into some distant star’s orbit, than allow myself, over the course of my lifetime, to craft the unhappiest, vilest narrative concealed by the illusion of tranquility and rationality.
I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I think we should all be encouraged to like ourselves and others a little bit more.