Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chapter 27 Hope Paradox and reason

“How will you feel if people never believe you?”  Burt asks me.
“People don’t believe me now do they?”
“Hmm well , no.”  He leans back on the couch and crosses his legs, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
“Do I look like I am all that upset over people not believing me now?”
“Well, no I guess not.”
“Then why should tomorrow’s disbelief upset me more than today’s?”
“I don’t know I guess it shouldn’t but..”
He pauses unsure how to go on.
“Burt your question is bases on the premise of hope.  That is I am hoping that people will believe me.  That I am no existing in a state of hope and there for will feel upset or angry should such hope not become reality at some point in the future.
I have told you before that I do not hope but I don’t think that’s really gotten through to you.  You know the story of Pandora?”
“Pandora’s box?”
“Yes, Pandora and the box.   Once upon a time the Gods were bored so they created men.  The Men were happy, too happy.  It was making the Gods cranky.  Naturaly, happy people are dull sport and the Gods were bored.  So the Gods decided it was time to make men unhappy.  Ohh of course they didn’t do that directly ohh no. They love the set up so in the end they can sit back and say, ‘There now, see what you made me do?”
They created the worlds first dumb blond.  Pandora, cute, sweet, curious and dumb as dirt.  The Gods sent her into the world of men and they gave her a box to take care of.  ‘Have fun Pandora ohh and by the way, don’t open the box.’.
Men were happy Pandora was happy, everyone was happy.  But of course thoughts of the box kept tickling at her.  Well of course it would, the Gods had created her to be curious.  Finally she could take it no longer she had to know what was inside the box.  ‘Just a peek, that’s all just a little peek.’  That’s what she told herself as she tiptoed over to the maddening box.
She opened the box and screamed in horror as wave after wave of demons flew out of the box.  Plague, famine, war, anger, each more horrifying in visage than the last, black winged red eyed, scales and fangs and claws and whip like tails, nightmares that flew and slithered and crawled.  She slammed the box closed.  But it was too late the box was empty the horrors all escaped.
All but one.
“Let me out.”  A small sweet voice called out from inside the box.  “Let me out, Please let me out.  I can help, I will help, please, please, let me out.”
Pandora creeps up to the box.  The little voice keeps pleading with her keeps promising to help if only she will open the box and let him out.
She opens the box.
Out flew hope.  Beautiful hope his every gossamer feather shinning with brilliant light.  Hope gives Pandora a sweet little kiss and flies away.
So Burt, what do you suppose the ancient Greeks believed about hope?”
“Well it’s a good thing.  Isn’t it?  The Gods put all the evil demons in the box but also gave them hope so not all was lost.”
“Cultural filters are tricky things.”
“Cultural filters?”
“Yes we all have them.  We grow up in a particular culture and that culture influences the way we view the world.  The problem with cultural filter is that it sometimes makes understanding other cultures tricky.  The biggest mistake people tend to make in viewing the past isn’t over the exotic aspects of a culture.  These things we don’t have internal cultural maps for and we become more aware of our own cultural filters, are  more able to step outside of our normal frame of reference.
The real trouble for people comes from the ordinary the everyday things.  The things we have in our own culture that we see in the ancients.  These things slip past our cultural filters.  Its easy to assume that similar things in one culture are the same in the other.  We assume that people are people and feel the same way about similar things.  A rose is a rose as the play write says.
Hope is an excellent example of this.
Our culture is the most hope filled in all of human history.  We argue about religion, about which god is the true god about whether there is a god.  Ahh but hope, we have an almost completely universal view that hope is sweet desirable, needful, that to be happy one must have hope.  When some horrible thing happens, breaking ones neck and becoming a quadriplegic  to having your child kidnapped by a pedophile cannibal we are admonished by everyone we know, family , friends, stranger on the street; “Well you mustn’t loss hope”.  As if hope were a protection from having the very worst thing from happening.  Even in death a priest intones over our grave that we rest in the sure and certain hope of resurrection.
Given that, when we look back at the story of Pandora and the box we see the ending as kinda nice.  Yeh the Gods sent us a big box of crap just cause they thought it would be amusing, but they also gave us hope sweet hope as some sort of prize in the bottom of the crap pile.  
The Greeks, being a somewhat more cynical lot, the inventors of the cynic school of philosophy after all, had a slightly different view of the matter.  To them hope was the final demon in the box sent to torment mankind.  In some ways they considered hope the worst of the lot.  The others were ugly and fearsome in their visage, you see them coming a mile off and all good sense says run the other way.  Ahh but hope is beautiful and hope is sweet, hope lures you in. You lean on hope, cling to hope, depend on it and then it leaves.  
Hope, it doesn’t prevent any bad thing from happening.  Living in hope, doesn’t bring good things into your life. The only thing hope does is leave you.  And in it’s leaving you suffer, you suffer not only the pain of lifes ill’s but you suffer the loss of hope as well.  You even feel cheated.  You hoped and thought that your faith in hope would protect you.  You believed that your faith in hope would protect you, you would be rewarded by your determination to hold on to hope no matter what.
If the Greeks cursed Pandora for opening the box in the first place, it was beyond redemption to be so fooled twice.
For the Greeks hope was a false promise at best to be indulged like story teller over dinner or a dream at night.  For us, well it’s practically un-American to be a cynic.
My grandmother was a great believer in the power of positive thinking.  My cynic philosophy already well established before I had collected by first tooth fairy quarter, drove my grandmother to distraction.  One night before bed she told me a little story a parable to instruct the peculiar bent of my philiosophy.
The story of Negative Nancy and positive Polly.
Once upon a time there lived two sisters, Negative Nancy and Positive Polly.  Each sister possessing personalities of perfect alignment with their names.
Christmass was coming and the two sisters were united with a single desire, they wanted a pony.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas they did everything they could to insure that their parents were aware of their desire for a pony.  They begged, whined, sang songs about ponies, left books about ponies on the kitchen table next to the plate of cinnamon toast they had made for their parents.  They did all their chores without complaint and when the two sisters argued they did so very, very quietly.  For a pony they would pretend to get along.
Christmas finally arrived and before the dawn the two sisters jumped out of bed and ran down to the Christmas tree.
There was no pony.  Instead they found nothing under the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree but a big pile of pony poo.
Confronted by this all too fragrant evidence of parental insanity Negative Nancy begins to cry.
Positive Polly claps her hand and squeals in delight then runs to the pile of pony poo and digs in with both hands.   
“What the hell are you doing?”   ((Mind you my grandmother most certainly did not say that line when she first told the story to me))  Demands Negative Nancy.  Since there was no pony Negative Nancy no long felt any need to pretend to get along.
Positive Polly pauses in her digging and grins up at her sister and says.  “With all this poo there has to be a pony in here somewhere.”
My grandmother concluded the story and waitied for the parable to light the dark corners of my soul.
A girl covered in shit grinning from ear to ear was an image my grandmother thought of as perfectly illustrative to the point of the compelling value of positive thinking as a life's guiding philosophy.
I was horrified.
I looked at my grandmother and said. “Well now I tell you what, come Christmas dinner, you get to sit next to Positive Polly.”
I prefer to deal with the world as it is not as I hope it to be.  At least that way I don’t have to sit next to the girl with the shit eating grin.
“I guess your right I don’t understand.  You say you don’t hope but aren’t you trying to convince me that, hmm, the events that brought you here happened and that your not delusional?  Trying to get me to help you?  To convince others?  Isn’t that hope?”  Burt asks.
I laugh.
“If that were what I was trying to do it would be hope.  But nothing of that is true.  I am not trying to convince you that I’m not delusional and I definitely am not trying to get you to, help, me.”
“You’re not?”
“You sound disappointed.”
“Not disappointed but confused.  Isn’t that what we’ve been talking about?”
“It’s what you have been talking about.  I will admit when we first started talking I was attempting to convince you of if not my sanity than my rationality.  After all its rather difficult to have an intelligent discussion with someone who thinks you completely mad.  
But as to that, the point of belief has long since past.  Ohh you give yourself wiggle room, in that you think I have been mistaken on some things, connected the dots incorrectly here and there.  But you don’t think me delusional.”
“What makes you say that?”
“A small bit of advice Burt.  Don’t ever take up the game of poker.  You are basically a very honest person.  So much so anytime you say something you don’t believe in your heart is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, you react to it very strongly.  You cross your legs, shift back on the couch, drop your eyes and tilt your chin away, you lift your clip board up from your lap and lip your lips.  Hell Burt you do everything but jump up and slap yourself in the face whenever you say anything you don’t completely believe in.  I bet you never got a single cookie out of your mom’s cookie jar without her knowing allll about it.”
Poor Burt looks very uncomfortable.  Well he’s just found out he’s been sitting there basically naked.
“If I did believe you,” He pauses and sighs, “What could I do?”
“Do?  Well I don’t know Burt.  I suppose you could speak up.  You could go on record as saying what you believe to be true.  That you a health care professional believes that a patient in your care is being, at the very least incorrectly medicated.”
“You overestimate my power.  That wouldn’t do anything.”
“No Burt I really don’t.  You are confusing what you can do with what you can accomplish.  The only thing we have any control over in life is what we do.  As to what we accomplish.”  I shrug.  “That is something we can never really know.”
“As it happens Burt, I completely agree with you.  It doesn’t matter what ever you say, or don’t say.  It doesn’t matter what you do, or don’t do.  You won’t accomplish anything.  Nothing you do or don’t do will help me in anyway, or for that matter hurt me.  I will go even further and project that the most direct results of you speaking up would all be hard and unpleasant complications to your life.  Your peers will be unhappy, your bosses will write you up, heck you could even lose your job.  You start believing the inmates of a nut house and I can just about guarantee that no one will be happy with you.”
“Then why do you want me to say anything?”
“ I didn’t say I wanted you to speak up.  You asked me what you could do.  And you could speak up, you could speak the truth about what you believe.  You could also go fishing.  Fishing is fun.  I like fishing, very relaxing.”
“But if speaking up won’t accomplish anything why do you want me to do it?”
“Again Burt I didn’t say I wanted you to speak about what you believe to be true.  However as a philosophical question.  Is speaking the truth something one should do only if doing so would result in predictable positive outcomes for you?  Is speaking the truth a thing one shouldn’t do if doing so would result in predictable negative outcomes for you?
Take me out of the equation entirely.  Be assured that as far as I am concerned, speak, don’t speak, do, don’t do.  It won’t help me, it won’t hurt me, it won’t as far as my life goes, have any impact.  It won’t change anything.
Burt you’re in the helping field.  That is a very large part of your own view of yourself.  You help people or at the very least try to.  So it is natural for you to look at your actions as to how those actions relate to others.  How an action of yours helps people.  You look at me as the damsel in distress and all your white knight instincts want to come to my rescue.  Sweet really but as nothing I have done am doing or will do is based on hope neither is it based on rescue.  I am not looking for a Palladian to take up my cause.  I don’t need a white knight.  Be assured Burt I am alright, I will be alright and what is going to happen si going to happen and nothing you do or don’t do is going to change anything for me.  Look at your actions not in how they relate to me but how they relate to you.”
“But you said my speaking up would have negative results for me.”
“Yes most likely it would.  Almost certainly it would.  Then on the other hand not speaking the truth of what you believe to be the truth also carries a cost..  That’s the way of things, every choice has its price.  If I’m trying to get to get you to do anything Burt its to examine what your choices are and their costs.”
“I don’t understand what you mean?”
“To thine own self be true. For if your not true to yourself you will be false to everyone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Our actions are a statement of our values.  No matter what we may say, its what we do that is the true testament of what we value.”
“What do you value Burt?
“What do you fear Burt?”
“Are your actions based on your values or on your fears?  If all choices were equally free of all consequence would your choice of action be any different? “
“You’re over simplifying things.”  He sighs tiredly.  You tend to lay everything out so black and white, its all one thing or the other.”
“Is there no room for compromise in my philosophy?”  I laugh.
“Yes exactly.”  He says.
“I believe in compromise, I really do.  What I don’t believe in is the idea that compromise is possible or even desirable is every situation.
There is a popular myth in our culture that there is a win win solution to every problem  Compromise is seen as a goal not a tool and that I object to.  You want to talk about what the tax rate should be, that is a compromise able situation and best so.  In that situation you have people talking about basically the same thing  with differing ideas on the proper means and methods.  
On the other hand for example; Boccie wanted me dead, I did not desire my own murder.  What compromise could be achieved in such a situation?  Perhaps you could kill me just a little bit?  Or I could offer to have a hand cut off instead of full on murder?
There are ideas that are anti ethical to each other, like matter and anti matter they can not compromise together.  One plus one equals two, one plus one equals not two, any compromise between those two statements and you have one plus one equals not two. 
Outside of the realms of murder and mathematics let us visit the ideas of moral compromises and the resulting costs and consequences.  I can think of no better example than the founding words of our nation.  All men are created equal endowed by their creator with the rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  The very man that penned those words owned slaves.  Less than a hundred years later this country had the bloodiest war in all our history to date as a direct result of trying to hold together two opposing moral anti ethical values.
As soon as those words were on paper began the attempts to fit the institution of slavery into the idea of universal equality.  An interesting thing, every justification for hypocrisy is in its self hypocritical to its own argument.  There is no way to argue a moral paradox without using paradoxical thinking.”
“I’m not sure what you mean by that.”  He says.
“I know, it’s a difficult concept.  One plus one equals two; one plus one equals not two;  To try to prove that both statements are true at some point you are going to have to prove that one plus one equals not two and  if one plus one equals not two than one plus one equals two is false, but then you have to argue that one plus one equals two than proving that one plus one equals not two is false.  There is no way to prove an illogical paradox mathematically or morally without using illogical paradox as proof.  You can not logically prove an illogical statement.
Let me illustrate, In order to prove that the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery was morally consistent with the founding statement that all men were created equal several arguments were put forward.
One was the biblical argument.  Slavery of the Negro was justified because they were descended from Cain or the son of Noah, they and their descendants were cursed by God for their sins to be slaves.
  Well than if that is true than the statement that all men are created equal is false, for God created some to be unequal.  This is one example of what I mean.  The only way to argue paradox is to use paradox as proof.
Another popular argument was the :’They are better off’, line of reasoning.  Its ok to make them slaves because we saved their souls from paganism and their lives sucked so bad in Africa slavery in America is really doing them a favor, and the Africans enslave other Africans so its ok that we do to.   
This is argument by misdirection.  The founding statement of all men are created equal is not even brought up.  Instead it justifies slavery on the grounds of kindness which in the end as a religious argument boils down to ; God created all men equal with rights to life liberty and all that,, and boy is he a big ole’ meany.
There was the attempt to make the argument that the Negro isn’t human and there fore not covered by the All men are created equal thing.  
“Yeh and those colonial farmers wasted soo much time trying to breed sheep with horses.  Religiously speaking in the bible it is stated outright that God gave man and only man language.  Funny but it was just by such argument that Eve was tempted by the snake.  ‘See,’ says the snake, ‘God said that only you people can talk but here I am a lowly snake chatting away a mile a minute.  I guess that makes God a big fat liar now don’t it?’  Which is a statement every slave owner pretty much agreed with.
One of the most common way people deal with moral paradox is paralysis.  Presented with two opposing anti-ethical values the mind goes passive.  People in those situations tend to default to outside authority.  The ‘I was only following order defense.
You or course know about the Milgram study?”
The Milgram study?”
Sanley Milgram, Yale university professor in the early 1960’s found himself thinking about the Nuremburg trials and how many of the people accused of heinous crimes against humanity used the ‘I was only following orders’, defense.
He set up an experiment to test if ordinary people would do bad things if they were told to by someone in authority.
He recruited ordinary people to participate in an experiment of using ‘negative reinforcement in learning’.   He paid actors to play the part of the learners in the experiment.  In this experiment the ‘teacher’ (that was the ordinary joe duped into being Dr. Milgrms straight man) was to ask the ‘learner’ (paid actor) questions, for every question the learner got wrong the teacher was to administer an electric shock.  With every wrong answer the shocks were to increase in power and pain, up to the strongest shock of 45o volts.  The actor was to play the part of one in extreme pain, begging and pleading not to be shocked again.  They would even pretend to either faint, have convulsions even die.
Milgram thought that only the true sadist would go all the way.  He estimated about 2 to 5 percent of the people in his study would go to the maximum presumably fatal shock.  He thought most would stop and refuse to go on past the point of giving serious pain to another person who had never done anything to them/
What he found was that over two thirds of the people in his study went all the way to the end with hardly a quibble.  The study has been repeated more than a few times over the years with the same result.  All it takes to turn an ordinary person into a killer is a guy in a lab coat with a clip board saying do it.
Personally I would love to see a follow up study where they give mild electric shocks to people every time they refuse to zap the other guy or don’t zap he enough.  After all in the real world when ever you tell the guys with the clip boards no bad things tend to happen to you.  If they did that I bet compliance would be over ninety percent. 
What I find most interesting was that the people in the study who told the guys with the clip boards to stuff it I’m not doing this’, were the very people Milgram thought would be most likely to administer the maximum voltage,  people with criminal records, public drunkenness, petty theft, breaking and entering, assault that sort of thing.  Milgram found this part of his study so outside his expectations he almost doesn’t mention the people who said no at all.  Why he found it so surprising that people with a history of bucking authority would tell his lab coated pranksters to get stuffed it’s hard to say.
So anyway taking a wild stab in the dark, I would say your own feelings of powerlessness of paralysis stem from your own internal unresolved moral paradox.”
“What paradox?”
“The first philosophical principle of the medical profession is ‘First, do no harm’ and than there is that bit about putting the needs of your patients before all else and administer no medication that is unneeded and or not beneficial.’
If you believe in your best professional opinion that I am not delusional, not psychotic, than the fact that I am being given medication that is not needed and in fact carries with it several very unhealthy side effects and the added possibility of addiction, is in direct violation of Your first principals.”
“Even if that were true, there is nothing I could do about it.”  He sighs heavily and shifts back on the couch, “I have no power, I am completely impotent in this situation.”
“You know Burt I do believe that, that is the first time a man has ever said that to me.” (Freudians, the penis always has to come in there somewhere)
“You keep repeating the point of your own powerlessness to effect my situation when I have already repeatedly conceded that point.  What do I have to do?  Beat you over the head with a copy of psychology today?”
The question you should be asking is, “Why are you powerless?”  All that time, money and effort you put into getting your education so your opinion would have some weight in the world and here you sit in a windowless closet confessing to a mad woman that you don’t even have the constitutionally guaranteed right to speak.”
“It isn’t that simple.”
“I have found that people most often say ‘It isn’t that simple.” When it is that simple and they simply don’t want to deal with it.”
“Paranoid delusions, a diagnosis of more than moderate severity, based on zero hard evidentiary fact.  There is no blood test, no brain scan, no abnormality or urine or stool to examine, no flawed gene to test for.  As in so much of psychiatry what you have is opinion.  Not your opinion of course,  you only have the right to repeat the opinions given to you by others.  Your opinion not only doesn’t matter in the slightest you don’t even dare speak your own opinion.
Even the supreme court has a mechanism for dissenting opinions.  Personally I find any system that demands such uniformity of opinion to be highly suspect.”
“I know why you’re really here Burt. I know why you started our little chats.  You were the one elected to bell Schrodgier’s cat.”  Before he can ask me who Schrogier is and what on earth cats and bells have to do with anything I hurry on.  “ From the moment I arrived here I have been the contentious focal point for more than a few staff meetings, have I not?”
He blushes and crosses his legs.  I swear I have never met a more naked man.
“It’s like that song in sesame street ‘One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong.” I sing the familiar tune.
I am the pebble in your shoes, the square peg in the round hole.  You are not the only one who feels trapped and powerless are you?  That pretty much describes the feelings of everyone at the staff meetings in regards to me does it not?  I am a problem you all can neither solve nor get rid of.
There is one path open to you, one solution to your problem.  You all need me to agree with my insanity.  Or at least say I do.  The first step to sanity being ones capacity for self hypocrisy.”
“What do you mean?  I’ve never asked you to lie.”
“No you haven’t, and I am quite sure the fact that you have spent so much time talking to me yet have not come one step closer to your goal has been the cause of more than one or two uncomfortable comments at your staff meetings.”
Poor man is twisting around on the couch like a virgin on prom night.  ((My date for the prom was as it turned out gay so all my twisting was for naught.))
“Let me lay it out for you.  In the normal course of things a patient as ‘high functioning’ and emotionally stable as myself would be moved out of your care into a halfway house or some other transitional situation.  There are a lot of crazy people in the world and I guess the waiting list for beds here are your little nutters club med is about a mile long .
 However you all have a problem, I am not just a crazy person, I am a danger to self and others crazy person.  I am a paranoid delusional crazy person who has stated quite clearly that if I perceive myself to be attacked I will defend my life with any and all means necessary.  While my sanity is a matter of some debate, you all have incendiary proof that I mean what I say. 
You all want me gone.  You all need me gone.  However you can’t get rid of me because no one wants a paranoid delusional pyromaniac as an indigent border.
I take my red bic lighter out of my pants pocket and lay it on the table.
“In order to shave my legs I have to ask for a razor, sign for it and return it after my shower.  You don’t permit your patients to have q tips, yet no one has ever asked to confiscate my lighter.  When I light my cigarettes I get the obligatory health lectures about the dangers of smoking but no one ever tells me I shouldn’t be playing with matches. 
You are allowing a paranoid delusional pyromaniac to run around unsupervised with a lighter in her pocket.  What is that?  Are you that careless?  Or are you hoping  that by such means a resolution to your dilemma might be found?
Realistically a person armed only with a lighter would have a very hard time creating a fire in this building that would be anything but slightly annoying.  But if I were to go all pyo on you then you could move me to a more secure facility, one used to dealing with violently anti social mad people.  On the other hand, every day I have a lighter but use it for nothing more socially obnoxious than adding second hand smoke to the environment, you hope to build a case for a single instance of a psychotic break not a life long addiction to the pretty pretty colors of the flickering flame and thus be able to move me on to a less secure facility, like a half way house.
The problem is that my not setting a trash can on fire isn’t enough.  In order to make a case for a single instance of psychosis the patient must accept that they are, or at least have been psychotic.  Otherwise what you have is a person outside of a specific controlled environment is A; Very likely to be medically noncompliant and B’ a person who in a more open more uncontrolled environment may run into a situation that she perceives to be threatening and…..
This being the situation, at one of your staff meetings a while back is was decided that the thing to do was to try the ‘talking cure’, You volunteered for the assignment.  A case of curiosity once more trumping wisdom/
Such a nice arrangement of paradoxical forces creating a perfect balance of bureaucratic gridlock that in effect leaves the mad woman as the only one who has the power to change the balance.
What if this were not by accident but by design?  Not Alice but the Chesiere Cat, not lost little Dorothy but the sly hidden hand of the Wizard OZ , not the victim of caprice fate but it’s most exacting architect.”
“I don’t understand.”
“CYA Burt,  CYA, Check Your Assumptions.
Why am I here Burt?  What am I doing?  If I am not as you assume trying to get you to ‘help’ me what am I doing?  Really Burt, what do you think I have in mind here?  That I set a fire, go to a mad house, where I will convince a crusading young doctor of the righteousness of my cause and then the two of us team up with an ambitious cub reporter and one pullieter prize later I end up on the cover of people magazine, Boccie does the perp walk and Kevin Newsom himself is my escort to the black and white ball?
Come now, how delusional do you think I am?”
Burt laughs self consciously, he finds jokes about my insanity uncomfortable.
“Think of the fire I set not as an act of desperation but one of deliberation.”
“I understand how afraid you must have been when you set the fire.”
I roll my eyes and let out a tea pot hiss, ( I tell him to check his assumptions and there he goes,,,,,men.)
“I wish you would quit doing that.  It is after all a thing you are warned against in your won professional texts not to mention it’s also really annoying.”
“Projecting presumed emotional states onto your patients.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Fear Burt, you keep using the word.  You keep telling me I was afraid, that I am afraid or heaven help me that I will be afraid.  Yet Burt think, exactly how many times have you heard me use the word fear to describe my emotional state, past present or future?”
He gets that look, the ‘oh, oh, pop quiz and I didn’t study’ look, then his face lights up with the ‘aha got ya’ look.
“Well you said that you set the fire in order to come here because you were afraid you would be killed.” He said.
“No Burt, that is not what I said.”  I snap at him.  I shouldn’t be so annoyed with him it is human nature after all, people by in large don’t really hear what you actually say, they hear what they think you will say.  But Burt did go to college in order to be trained in the art of listening so my standards with him are somewhat higher.
“What I said and have said repeatedly is that I set the fire in order to be sent here because I didn’t want to be killed.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?” 
“I don’t know what dictionary you have been using but no they are not the same.  I think I do understand your conceptual difficulty here.  Look at it this way.  Lets say you and I go out for a walk to the local coffee shop for an over priced latte, and lets say that on that day it was raining, coming down just buckets.  In that situation I might ask you for an umbrella.
Now Burt, just because I don’t want to get wet, it doesn’t therefore mean that I am afraid of the rain”
I’m not afraid of death. Everyone dies sooner or later.  I am going to die, you are going to die, everyone dies, it’s just a fact of life.  However just because I’m going to die doesn’t mean I have any desire to be murdered by a bunch of drug dealing half wits.”
“Your not feeling suicidal are you?” He askes.
“Oh for heavens sake Burt.  First you think I am afraid of death and the next minute you would have me afraid of life.  How ever do I manage to get out of bed in the morning.  Perhaps I am also afraid of beds? Or sleep?  Perhaps I sit in a chair because I fear couches?”
“Setting the fire was just such an extreme action.” He says.
“Well people were trying to kill me.  Every action creates an equal but opposite reaction.”
“Thinking that people are trying to kill you, well it seems a situation in which you would feel afraid.  You never felt afraid?”
“I’m not saying that.  I am human after all. Just that listening to you fear is not only my primary emotion but apparently the only emotion I am capable of feeling as it’s the only emotion you ever mention in connection to me.  I must confess that I always imagined myself as a slightly more emotionally complex creature than that.
 Did I ever feel fear?  Ohh yes, like in that first moment when I finally put it all together and knew just how big a shit storm was barreling down on me.  Yes I felt fear, like a bolt of lightning in the night, searing bright sharp burning fire in every nerve.  Bur fear for me is like lightning, brief and passing, it’s just not an emotion I can hang to for any length of time.  Now pissed?  I can be pissed off for years.”
If I were to attribute any single emotional motivator for my actions I would have to say anger.”
“Anger?”  He says surprised.
“Yes, come on now Burt if a bunch of useless wingnuts were to try and kill you, wouldn’t that piss you off a little bit?”
“I guess so but I would think I would feel very afraid also.”
I also laughed quite a bit.”
“Laughed?  You thought people trying to kill you funny?”  He asked incredulously.
“I thought those people trying to kill me funny.  Once a person goes past a certain point of stupid I have a very hard time taking them at all seriously.  Honestly they really did make it easy to laugh, the entire situation was and is farcical.
Humor is also a well known copping mechanism is situations of high stress.  You should spend some time talking to combat vets.  Or watch a couple of episodes of MASH.
‘I am curious, thinking that people are trying to kill you, why you didn’t, hmm,,,,.”  He pauses, not sure how to safely go on.  After all asking a potentially psycho patient why she didn’t do something even more violent than setting a fire is dangerous ground.  Like bringing it up could incite me to such action.
“Why didn’t I do all Charles Bronson on their asses?  Get myself a sawed off shot gun, kick in the door blasting away?”
“Umm, yes, I guess so.”  
“Well Burt, there’s a reason his movies are called death wish.”
“From the beginning I had three main goals.  
 Get out alive
Get out with as few irritating complications to my life as possible
And thirdly well I do have to admit a desire for payback.  But this whole eye for an eye thing,, so not my style.  Too simple minded. 
So keeping my three goals in mind let us examine the likely results of a Charles Bronson course of action.
First off the choice of targets is more than somewhat problematic.  Who should I kill?  How many would I have to kill in order to stop the attempts on my life?  The crack heads screaming under my windows? There are over a half dozen of those.  The gang bangers in their cars honking and howling for my ugly demise, another half dozen.  The computer geek assassin and his fish wife upstairs, then of course Allen and Boccie.
Even if I took out all those people there is no guarantee I got everyone involved in the attempts on my life.  Is that man Ripender the owner of the copy shop involved?  I don’t know but it’s possible.  The Yemenis owner of the coffee shop may be involved, shipping drugs in his coffee but I don’t know.  I don’t  know if Boccie is the top guy, he seems more the middle management type to me, but I don’t know.
Hell I’ve never even seen  an episode of the Sopranos or watched any of the Godfather movies.  What do I know about the mafia?  Not a dammed thing.  I can’t even say for sure that Boccie is Mafia.  He is of Italian decent and is involved in the illegal drug trade and he certainly had a mob of people  going after me.  But was it all a mob or The Mob?  I am almost certain that not every Italian American Son Of A Bitch is Mafia.
So if I did kill all those people there is no certainty that it would secure my life.  All most certainly it wouldn’t.  All those people have family and friends, business associates.  If they are willing to shell out a hundred thousand bucks  and all those man hours and effort to get rid of one skinny little wise ass, how much more determined would they be to get one who has become actively dangerous?
So the Charles Bronson option would most likely not result in my making my first goal, getting out alive.  Now as to my second goal; getting out with as few complications as possible, which if I don’t meet my first goal the second is just pointless.
As I already explained, I would most likely have to off over a dozen people.  I knida that to think that a body count like that would attract some sort of official attention….Even in San Francisco.  The best I could hope for would be to spend the rest of my life on the run from both sides of the law.
While the Charles Bronson course of action may met my desire for retribution, I don’t know maybe killing the bastards would be emotionally satisfying in the short term, it wouldn’t meet my desire for a life without irritating complications.”
“You don’t consider this. Being here, an irritating complication?”  He asks me.
“Well yes, but as the constipated man says;  ‘This too shall pass.”  As annoying as this current situation is it is in the end one that will met my two primary goals and gives me my best chance of meeting my third goal.”
“Your third goal?  You intend retribution?”  He looks worried and I understand the reason, the threat of violence hangs a heavy weight in his imagination. 
 My imagination is otherwise engaged.
“I do, but let me be clear.  I do not intend any sort of violence now or at any time in the future.  I use violence for defense.  If I am attacked I will use any and all means possible of protect my life and limb.  However violent retribution?  Unimaginative and as I have already explained would not met my first two goals.”
“Then how do you intend to meet your third goal?”
“The same way I have met my first two.  By having a really great sense of humor.”


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