Friday, December 22, 2017

The Curse, Part 4: Polarity Flips and Legacy Weirdness

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All installments in reverse chronological order

The Curse was more tolerable for me than it would have been for most people. I'd always been a love-him/hate-him kind of guy. This was just a much more extreme version of that....without the "love-him"s. So it seemed less weird than you'd imagine. This wasn't like finding myself trapped in the Twilight Zone, but more like my usual Twilight Zone situation was given an intriguing new plot twist.

In fact, swinging between extremes had been worse. Rats rewarded for a certain behavior, and punished for another, learn to perform the rewarded behavior and avoid the punished one, no problem. But psychologists have observed that if you dole out reward and punishment randomly for the same behavior, the rat will eventually lose its fur and go nuts. So it felt like a relief to have the world finally make up its damned mind. With consistency, there are possibilities!

But every once in a while the polarity would entirely flip for a few hours, and strangers would find me wonderful and fascinating and women would act strangely flirty. On one of these days, not one but two pigeons separately flew into me as I walked around Manhattan. I've never even heard of that happening before!

To be honest, this version was far more upsetting. First, I saw the potential to manipulate and exploit - and I'd made a strict rule against that sort of thing for myself back when I was my wisest, as a child. What's more, only an unhinged narcissist would conclude, in a scenario where people are randomly belligerent, that equal, opposite randomness was, like, the truer thing. To remain realistic - to retain my compass - I needed to downplay both aberrations, and it's more painful to overlook flattery than cruelty.

If I was being taught a lesson here (I always assume any given situation is teaching something essential), it certainly wasn't "People are awful most of the time, but a few really get me!" Whatever was happening, it obviously had nothing to do with flattery or cruelty. Rather, the whole social gamut was being deconstructed - shown to be utterly superficial and untethered from any deeper reality.

A couple years into this craziness, I took drastic action.

Continue to Part 5

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