17 January

The Building Of Self, The Fractured Ego

by Jon Katz
The Building Of Self


The ultimate aim of the ego, I think, is not to see something, but to be something. The ego fails me when I become obsessed with someone who does not love me, and cannot see those who do love me.

Like many wounded, troubled, abused or marginalized children, I always believed it was my fault when I was uncomfortable around people, or when someone didn’t like me, or when someone took offense at me, or ignored me, or went away.

I was broken in some ways, saved in other ways, but I have never, in my mind, been whole, and am running out of time.

Later in life, when I sought help for my fractured mind, I learned a different lesson. When people make me uncomfortable, I understand that it is not necessarily my fault. That it is not about me, the bane of ego.

In fact, the older I get, the more I see that very little of life is about me, I am definitely a bump on the road.

When people hurt me, or diminish me,  I do not run to them for mercy or relief. I get away, I run away. If I do not love myself, no one will ever love me. And if I turn to those who hurt me, I will just be hurt and hurt and hurt.

Relationships ought to be affirming, encouraging, nourishing. If they don’t feel good, they are not good.

Rainer Maria Rilke suggested that we make our egos porous. Will is of little importance, he said,  complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. “Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything,” he wrote.

This was good advice, I thought. Our lives are not defined by the people who like us or don’t or who abandon us or stay by our side.

No relationship – no life –  is perfect or without troubles, but troubled children have what Anna Freud called “fractured egos,” they did not receive the encouragement or support or safety or affirmation that goes into the building of a strong ego. A healthy ego is not something one can just go out and buy, or some doctor can implant in our brains. We have to put it together, one piece at a time, for all of our lives. This is work that never ends.

But this is not hopeless work, at least not for me.

Egos can be structured, shored up, repaired and strengthened.  They can be rebuilt, at least partly.

That is, in fact, the work of the therapist, the point of therapy, to repair the damage that keeps a person from doing what they wish to do, of being the person they were meant to be. A good therapist specializes in ego reconstruction and repair. I don’t know this, but I think the odds are long. Most people do not or cannot do the hard grinding work of change.

I have always had a strong ego about my work, and my writing. My mother gave me that, while gnawing on the rest of me.  I have never had a strong ego about self. I have been working steadily to construct an ego. Sons who are estranged from their fathers or mothers have to define strength and value for themselves, they are never taught or shown it and it and have way of emulating it. In a sense, we are refugees for life.

My work often centers around the force that is called intuition. The magic that attracts the right people and the right opportunities and the right passions into one’s life. Intuition is the inner spirit that gives us hope or optimism every day of our lives. Intuition, I think, is the foundation of ego.

Intuition is knowledge obtained from an  ability to know or understand something based on your feelings rather than facts. Every great writer or artist was intuitive, every leader, politician, actor or great political leader. Lincoln often said intuition was his faith and his sword, he could never trust the facts  presented to him.

Intuition is the will and the drive to seek more and more out of life than money and argument or power. In my case, the search for a healthy ego has led me to authenticity. I am learning to be honest with myself and I am honest with others. This does not always make everyone else happy, and it is harder than lying, because I can no longer tell people what they would like to hear, but what I believe.

It’s a different world.

But it makes me happy. My ego is a bit like Frankenstein, patched up, I think, with bolts and bones sticking out all over the place. Sometimes people run in  horror or fear. I fight fiercely for the right to speak my mind freely, to make my own successes and mistakes, and to stand in my truth, and I am willing to suffer and sacrifice for that freedom.

It is everything to me, it is my way back.

17 January

Ice Storm, Midnight: Iphone X Update

by Jon Katz
Ice Storm, Midnight

I woke up to the sound of ice bouncing off the roof and windows,and I went outside with my Iphone Xcamera, the only light was the sensor light on the back porch. The phone camera picked up the shot and caught the ice and snow as well, captured the eerily feeling of the night.

I am very happy with the iphone X or Ten, as it is also called. It is easily the best piece of technology I have ever owned, and the best smart phone, although the 8 Plus Maria has is just about is also great.

I have had no serious problems at all with the new phone, it is quite easy to use, and I am delighted and fascinated by the AI elements in the phone, it does grow and change and adapt to me. The Face ID works instantly and every time, even in the dark, and I am addicted to the animated Emoji, it may save my relationship with my granddaughter, who lives in New York and now thinks her grandfather is a cute puppy.

Well, whatever works..

I am grasping the future of Artificial Intelligence, the phone is growing along with me, and reacting to me.  The next step up with be a SmartPhone Robot, this practically is one. It took only a few hours to figure out how to navigate the phone comfortably and without interruption.

.The phone X is very fast, the image quality is outstanding. I seem able to pull in a cell signal from anywhere, and the battery lasts at least several hours longer than the Iphone 6 plus.

Siri is easier and more efficient, and I do not miss the home button for a second. The wireless charging is great, it is so easy to charge the phone, I just put it down on a small black circular pad and it charges. No cables.

People groan when I tell them the cost – just over $1,000 – but I use it many times each day for work and photos and monitoring my finances, e-mail and messages.

I do not believe it is overpriced in any way. I just don’t have anything negative to say about it, and for me, that is a bit shocking. I am still not using one tenth of all the new features, I use it mostly for the basics. This is the phone for me, and I have not regretted getting it for one second.

The new camera is affecting my photography – especially the portrait lens. This is a $3,000 camera they have in there, there are still things my big full frame Canon can do that the X can’t, but I am using the phone for many of my portraits, and I am very  happy with the photos.

The phone is changing my understanding of photography. All in all, I have only wonderful things to say about this phone. Maria is just as happy with her Iphone 8, people have to sniff around and see what works for them. The Iphone X works for me.


17 January

Bedlam Farm Pastoral: This Photo Is For Sale

by Jon Katz
Morning Pastoral

My new photo-for-sale gallery is up and running. I sold a lot of photos before Christmas. This photo, Bedlam Farm Pastoral, is for sale for $130 unframed 8 1/2 inches by 12 1/2 Inches on fine rag paper. Maria is handling the sales, she gets a commission on each photo sold.  You can contact he at maria@fullmoonfiberart.com.

17 January

Love Shrine, Life With An Artist

by Jon Katz
Love Shrine

I found a beautiful icicle today and brought it to Maria, she loves beautiful objects like that. Later, she went to lunch and brought home a piece of chocolate for herself. When I went outside, I found a little shrine, she put the icicle in a candle holder and the chocolate in a small dish.

I asked her what this was, she said it was a Love Shrine. I think I get it, but am not sure. Living with an artist is exciting, stimulating and unpredictable. She sees the world in a unique an fascinating way. The Love Shrine is outside in the snow and ice.

17 January

The Aziz Ansari Chronicles: Inside The Minds Of Men

by Jon Katz
Inside The Minds Of Men

As an older man, I believe in mentoring younger men, which is not always easy, since younger men have a tendency not to listen to anybody. I have been following the very fascinating Aziz Ansari story and controversy, many people think it is a turning point for good and bad in the Metoo movement.

Nobody needs me to jump in on this story, hundreds of people have already done that, and I have nothing to add to what I know of his encounter with a young women who accused him of harassing her by pressuring her to have sex when she didn’t really want to.

She claimed it was harassment to her, there is a great argument about that.

It seems nothing Ansari said or did was illegal, but there is much discussion about whether it was right.

Many women have come to his defense, suggesting this was an unfair overreach, that  the real problem is that many women have not yet learned to speak up for themselves and take responsibility for themselves and walk away.

I was reminded of a discussion I had recently with a young man – yes, I do mentor him – about the awakening and social revolution surrounding the question of sexual harassment and male violence towards women.

We were talking about all of the stories coming out, and he and I were both a little stunned about the intensity of what we were seeing.

He said he was confused about what the line was between wanting to have sex and being a sexual harasser or predator. And this week, he is trying to make sense of the Ansari story, he and his friends couldn’t grasp what Ansari did that was so wrong. He didn’t force anyone to have sex with him, and nobody told him not to. So what was such a big  deal? Wasn’t it just bad sex, or a bad date?

I said where the line was under great discussion right now, and was probably going to move around for awhile. I said I thought this conversation was healthy and long overdue, and I urged him to pay close attention.

But since I remember what it was like to be a sexually active teenager, I told him I thought the thing he might take away from the story was not about what she thought, but what goes on in his own mind.

Like me, I said,  he was probably encouraged to find women who will have sex with him. His father probably winked proudly at him, his brother probably told him he was a stud, his friends clapped and cheered admiringly whenever he any other  young man he knew talked some women into having sex.

For many men, including me, this was the hallmark of a real man, this is what  it means to be a real man.

Getting women to have sex with you was considered a benchmark sign of virility, persistence and attractiveness. I asked him if anyone in his entire life had ever told him it was wrong to pressure a young woman into having oral or other consensual sex. He said no, no one ever had. His uncle called him “romeo,” and bought him a new Iphone when he told him he was having sex with women.

I’m not getting into the Ansari details, the issue is whether or not he pressured this person into sexual interaction – in this case, oral sex – that she didn’t want or felt comfortable about having. I wasn’t there.

I told my young friend that this was not rape or anything like rape,  but it did suggest to me that young men like him had to understand having sex in a completely different way now, if they were to be safe themselves, and keep women from getting hurt.

I do believe that few people – men or women – understand the biological and social  — and psychological –  pressures young sexually active men experience  about sex. I had an erection day and night for nearly two years when I was a teenager, it was the most uncomfortable I have  ever been with my body, and I felt like some kind of caged animal. At times, I would have done almost anything to have sex.

I remember telling my daughter to be vigilant and thoughtful around sexually active young men, any one of them could be dangerous. Then, it seemed like an extreme thing to say, but now, it just seems like common sense.

I would have done almost anything to have sex as opposed to masturbating in bed or  alongside the bad writing in Playboy  and Penthouse magazines. No one ever spoke to me about it, helped me learn how to handle it, or more importantly, helped to me to see how dangerous and aggressive such bodily impulses could be.

I felt the women I was trying to have sex with had absolutely no idea what was going in in my body or the body of my friends. Talking to my young friend, I remembered plying drinks into a female classmate in the back seat of a car and aggressively kissing her and pressing my body against her. She mostly lay rigid staring up at the ceiling, as if she were only barely conscious.

I was in an awful fever at the moment, but I did see the fear and confusion in her eyes, and took in the fact she couldn’t even look at me, let alone touch me. I remember thinking this isn’t something we are doing together, it was something being done to her. I was revolted by it, there was nothing sexual about it.

And I never did it again.

I stopped , sat up, and took her home. We became good friends. It could have easily been very different, and she never at any point told me to stop or said she was uncomfortable. And I am so relieved I did not harm her or left her with horrible memories of me.

I urged my young friend to consider comfort as well as specific permission. Just because somebody doesn’t say anything doesn’t mean they want to submit to you. It is your job to consider whether it seems like something she really wants to do, or is something she really is being pressured to do.

And don’t kid yourself, I said, you can usually tell the difference. And if you’re not sure, ask.

When someone really wants to have sex, there is little doubt about it. And good and real sex is quite wonderful for both of you. If it’s only good for you, something is wrong.

But should the girl be able to speak for herself, he asked? Yes, I said, sure, but that’ s not your business or problem, that’s for her or other women to sort out.

I can’t judge Ansara, I said (he and I are both fans) but I can judge myself, and I can judge you, I said.

It’s a confusing time. This kind of social change brings good and bad, veers one way and then the other. Mostly, you just have to think about what you are doing and how you are doing it. You will make mistakes and there will be miscommunications. But you don’t want to be hurting people or forcing anyone to do something they don’t wish to do.

If you thought you had a great time after pressuring and cajoling someone into have  sex with you, and she (or he) didn’t, then something is wrong and you have some thinking and some work to do.

You need to be aware that you have enormous cravings and drives raging inside of you, and that can make you dangerous and insensitive and prone to real trouble. The only way to not be insensitive, I said, is to be sensitive. You have to put yourself in her shoes.

You have to make sure your love is truly consensual, not just the result of your own lust and cravings. You have to remember that no is no, period. And so is “I’m not sure,” or “not ready,” or “not comfortable.” Perhaps one day, we will teach young men to understand themselves and their drives, and perhaps young women are learning how to stand in their truth and say what they really feel.

Until then, I told him, men have to get in their own minds and make some repairs. When I got off the phone, I was glad I was me, and not him, that I don’t have to stand in his shoes right now. Or the shoes of a young woman navigating some pretty choppy water.

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