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We're all the same, and we all want the same thing. We all want to be secure. We all want food on the table. We want to know that our kids aren't going to be destroyed when they're not with us. We all want the same things, and if we've been hurt in our childhoods, we try and recreate the same hurt.
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I'm blessed to come from a family with five brothers. We're all physical and athletic and like to work out, like to be outside, like to throw the ball around. We spent our entire childhoods on some kind of corner or in a field. We still do a Turkey Bowl every Thanksgiving. It gets competitive, man. Bloody.
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So much of memory comes from the beginning of our lives when we know the world for the first time with a kind of clarity. It is that discovery of the past in the present on which a writer depends again and again as if our lost childhoods, like the surprising cyclamen plant, are forever opening new blossoms.
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One thing you who had secure or happy childhoods should understand about those of us who did not. We who control our feelings, who avoid conflicts at all costs, or seem to seek them. Who are hypersensitive, self-critical, compulsive, workaholic, and above all survivors. We are not that way from perversity, and we cannot just relax and let it go. We've learned to cope in ways you never had to.
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I write for kids because I think the most interesting (and most humorous) stories come from people's childhoods. When I was writing 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid,' I had a blast talking on the phone to my younger brother, Patrick, remembering all of the things that happened to our family when we were growing up.
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We both lacked the same thing in our childhoods - the love of a father... We both sought to fill that lack in our adult lives with family and love, as everyone does, but also with thrills and sometimes periods of recklessness. Luckily, I have always come back from my recklessness. Tommy Darling did not.
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Certainly, the great record of forced labor across the South demands that any consideration of the progress of civil rights remedy in the United States must acknowledge that slavery, real slavery, didn't end until 1945 - well into the childhoods of the black Americans who are only now reaching retirement age. The clock must be reset.
Douglas A. Blackmon
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Gradually, at various points in our childhoods, we discover different forms of conviction. There's the rock-hard certainty of personal experience ("I put my finger in the fire and it hurt,"), which is probably the earliest kind we learn. Then there's the logically convincing, which we probably come to first through maths, in the context of Pythagoras's theorem or something similar, and which, if we first encounter it at exactly the right moment, bursts on our minds like sunrise with the whole universe playing a great chord of C Major.
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I think as a society we forget that men also have daddy issues, they've also had bad childhoods, they're vulnerable beings.. They also need love. We are made to think men don't have a hard time, and that's mainly because we've trained them not to show emotion, not to shed a tear.. but I can assure you, we men break down just like every other being. We get depressed. We get heartbroken, we get scared, lonely, butterflies.. We feel every emotion just as women do.
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Occasionally, on screen, Barbara [Stanwyck] had a wary, watchful quality about her that I've noticed in other people who had bad childhoods; they tend to keep an eye on life because they don't think it can be trusted. After her mother was killed by a streetcar, she had been raised in Brooklyn by her sisters, and from things she said, I believe she had been abused as a child. She had lived an entirely different life than mine, that's for sure, which is one reason I found her so fascinating. I think her early life was one reason she had such authenticity as an actress, and as a person.
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Those rosy memories we all share are actually memories from our favorite TV shows. We've confused our own childhoods with episodes of "Ozzie and Harriet," "Father Knows Best," and "The Brady Bunch." In real life, Ozzie had a very visible mistress for years, Bud and Kitten on "Father Knows Best" grew up to become major druggies, and Mom on "The Brady Bunch" dated her fifteen-year-old fictional son.
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Man is afraid, the world is a strange world, and man wants to be secure, safe. In childhood the father protects, the mother protects. But there are many people, millions of them, who never grow beyond their childhoods. They remain stuck somewhere, and they still need a father and a mother. Hence God is called the Father or the Mother. They need a divine Father to protect them; they are not mature enough to be on their own. They need some security.
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And this was what we felt: vertigo, an icicle through our strong hearts, our long-lost childhoods. Sunshine in a field and crickets and the sweet tealeaf stink of a new ball mitt and a rock glinting with mica and a chaw of bubblegum wrapping its sweet tendrils down our throats and the warm breeze up our shorts and the low vibrato of lake loons and the sun and the sun and the warm sun and this is what we felt; the sun.
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You see, we were able to give you something, something which even now no one will ever take from you, and we were able to do that principally by sheltering you. Hailsham would not have been Hailsham if we hadn't. Very well, sometimes that meant we kept things from you, lied to you. Yes, in many ways we fooled you, I suppose you could even call it that. But we sheltered you during those years, and we gave you your childhoods. Lucy was well-meaning enough. But if she'd have her way, your happiness at Hailsham would have been shattered. Look at you both now! I'm so proud to see you both. You built your lives on what we gave you. You wouldn't be who you are today if we'd not protected you. You wouldn't have become absorbed in your lessons, you wouldn't have lost yourselves in your art and your writing. Why should you have done, knowing what lay in store for each of you? You would have told us it was all pointless, and how could we have argued with you? So she had to go.
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Ditto for the stereotype about men monopolizing conversations. Like Sasha, many of my dates-even the more passive ones-did most of the talking. I listened to them talk literally for hours about the most minute, mind-numbing details of their personal lives; men they were still in love with, men they had divorced, roommates and coworkers they hated, childhoods they were loath to remember, yet somehow found the energy to recount ad nauseam. Listening to them was like undergoing a slow frontal lobotomy. I sat there stunned by the social ineptitude of people to whom it never seemed to occur that no one, much less a first date, would have any interest in enduring this ordeal.
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Cruelty, whether physical or emotional, isn't normal. It may signal what psychologists call the dark triad of psychopathic, narcissistic and Machiavellian personality disorders. One out of about every 25 individuals has an antisocial personality disorder. Their prognosis for recovery is zero, their potential for hurting you about 100 percent. So don't assume that a vicious person just had a difficult childhood or a terrible day; most people with awful childhoods end up being empathetic, and most people, even on their worst days, don't seek satisfaction by inflicting pain. When you witness evil, if only the tawdry evil of a conversational stiletto twist, use your ninjutsu, wait for a distraction, then disappear.
Martha N. Beck
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ABUSIVE MEN COME in every personality type, arise from good childhoods and bad ones, are macho men or gentle, 'liberated' men. No psychological test can distinguish an abusive man from a respectful one. Abusiveness is not a product of a man's emotional injuries or of deficits in his skills. In reality, abuse springs from a man's early cultural training, his key male role models, and his peer influences. In other words, abuse is a problem of values, not of psychology. When someone challenges an abuser's attitudes and beliefs, he tends to reveal the contemptuous and insulting personality that normally stays hidden, reserved for private attacks on his partner. An abuser tries to keep everybody-his partner, his therapist, his friends and relatives-focused on how he feels, so that they won't focus on how he thinks, perhaps because on some level he is aware that if you grasp the true nature of his problem, you will begin to escape his domination.
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In marked contrast to the relaxed, typically Latin attitude of the Dominicans the Protestant missionaries were still proceeding at full blast with the fight for souls. These North American evangelists of strictly fundamentalist inclination combined in a curious fashion strict adhesion to the literal meaning of the Old Testament With mastery of the most modern technology. Most of them came from small towns in the Bible Belt, armed with unshakably clear consciences and a rudimentary smattering of theology, convinced that they alone were the repositories of Christian values now abolished elsewhere. Totally ignorant of the vast world, despite their transplantation, and taking the few articles of morality accepted in the rural Amenca of their childhoods to be a universal credo, they strove bravely to spread these principles of salvation all around them. Their rustic faith was well served by a flotilla of light aircraft, a powerful radio, an ultra-modern hospital and four-wheel-drive vehicles - in short, all the equipment that a battalion of crusaders dropped behind enemy lines needed.
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Maybe it's not metaphysics. Maybe it's existential. I'm talking about the individual US citizen's deep fear, the same basic fear that you and I have and that everybody has except nobody ever talks about it except existentialists in convoluted French prose. Or Pascal. Our smallness, our insignificance and mortality, yours and mine, the thing that we all spend all our time not thinking about directly, that we are tiny and at the mercy of large forces and that time is always passing and that every day we've lost one more day that will never come back and our childhoods are over and our adolescence and the vigor of youth and soon our adulthood, that everything we see around us all the time is decaying and passing, it's all passing away, and so are we, so am I, and given how fast the first forty-two years have shot by it's not going to be long before I too pass away, whoever imagined that there was a more truthful way to put it than 'die, ' 'pass away, ' the very sound of it makes me feel the way I feel at dusk on a wintry Sunday-' 'And not only that, but everybody who knows me or even knows I exist will die, and then everybody who knows those people and might even conceivably have even heard of me will die, and so on, and the gravestones and monuments we spend money to have put in to make sure we're remembered, these'll last what-a hundred years? two hundred?-and they'll crumble, and the grass and insects my decomposition will go to feed will die, and their offspring, or if I'm cremated the trees that are nourished by my windblown ash will die or get cut down and decay, and my urn will decay, and before maybe three or four generations it will be like I never existed, not only will I have passed away but it will be like I was never here, and people in 2104 or whatever will no more think of Stuart A. Nichols Jr. than you or I think of John T. Smith, 1790 to 1864, of Livingston, Virginia, or some such. That everything is on fire, slow fire, and we're all less than a million breaths away from an oblivion more total than we can even bring ourselves to even try to imagine, in fact, probably that's why the manic US obsession with production, produce, produce, impact the world, contribute, shape things, to help distract us from how little and totally insignificant and temporary we are.
David Foster Wallace
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