What is Dead Men Tell No Tales? It is a selection of (hitherto) undisclosed, private ruminations and epiphanies. Most take the form of (slightly) edited letters to unnamed recipients, but some have been scavenged from the depths of private journals recently rediscovered. Over the next little while (however long it takes – days, weeks, months, years?) I’ll be posting them in episodic fashion for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent audience.
In Epic Catastrophe, our young author makes a series of unfortunate miscalculations and mistakes with one KL. Metaphor seeks to provide context to the previous letter, as it was largely misunderstood by its recipient.
[My opening is a response to her quip about providing me with some unedited honesty.]
You want some unedited honesty? Try this (the only edit made was this disclaimer being added to the top):
As previously stated, nothing will make sense without the proper context. And each new piece of the puzzle requires yet more context to understand…I would need to relate to you the entirety of my life, but I tire of that sort of thing.
I am analogous to a character with whom I assume you have zero familiarity – Fei Fong Wong from a little thing called Xenogears. I also assume you will never experience Xenogears for yourself, so I’ll clue you in on the important details.
Fei is revealed, after much plot progression, to be suffering from a kind of multiple personality disorder. When he was a young boy, he experienced severe trauma (at the hands of his mother, no less!) that caused his true self to recede inside his mind. Another personality manifested – a personality that would later become known as “Id” in the world of Xenogears, and whom you are led to believe is a separate character until you learn the truth. In any case, the original Fei is referred to as the “coward” by Id, because the coward forced all of Fei’s negative experiences onto Id. Id becomes a reckless, homicidal killing machine of unparalleled power, until finally Fei’s father splits Id’s personality and creates a third persona (that you are first introduced to when you meet Fei).
This is analogous to what I’ve become. As a boy, I suffered trauma at the hands of my mother (emotional, however – not physical, like Fei’s). This trauma instilled in me a lack of confidence and a propensity for failure in meaningfully connecting with people I liked. I began to learn how to live apart – live alone – and even adopted the hypothesis that my dying alone was a foregone conclusion. As such, I did as much as I could to insure that scenario – sabotaging the only good relationships I had in my life and further entrenching my isolation. I became consumed by my hatred and loathing. I was similar to Id in a sense (minus, you know, killing everyone).
Then I met Haley. She, as a person, did not affect me. But the relationship further entrenched my belief that human beings, are, by their very nature, deplorable. It takes a lot to rise above our baser selves, and few do. Yet at the same time I realized that living as I had – destroying relationships, sabotaging friendships, and generally just being an asshole – wasn’t solving anything either. So a third personality emerged, a sort of apathetic answer to my base hatred. Like, yeah, the world is terrible – so what? I don’t care. Just let me go about my business, mkay.
That’s about where you met me. Like the theme song says, “No one but me can save myself but it’s too late / I can’t think, think why I should even try.” I see no purpose in rescuing the child inside of me that was lost, and my apathetic answer to hatred proved to be equally destructive, and less enjoyable to boot. It is no longer an active, seething hatred, but something different. A kind of acknowledgment that humanity is flawed, over-arrogant… The kind of attitude that leads to relativism, the idea that my life is worth no more than any other life is worth no more than any other life. That extends to everything – your viewpoint is no less convincing than my viewpoint than any other viewpoint. There is justification for anything in this world. And right and wrong are moral judgments, and morals are a strictly human construct – there is no physical law that correlates to “good” and “evil” in the universe, or to “right” and “wrong.” “Right” is what an organism must do to survive, and “wrong” are actions that doom that organism to death.
And with these kinds of attitudes, I can join the military with no qualms. Send me to Iraq, give me a gun, tell me to shoot whoever, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care.
More song lyrics for you: “You don’t understand me and you probably never will (probably never will) / Got a tendency to self-destruct, and a soft spot for the filth / A hair trigger temperament / A switchblade for a tongue / I’m a walking one man genocide / With a black belt in corrupt / Everything I touch turns to ashes”
What do I want out of life? The same thing most people want. Love, a family, kids. To satisfactorily complete my life’s work (in this case, my novel). Simple things, honest things – things always inexplicably outside my reach. So in the meantime, I squander time.
The stubbornness of people – the insistence that their view is the one and only correct view, coupled with the unwillingness to admit when one is wrong – is what primarily disgusts me.
I realize there are huge logical flaws in my conceptions of the world and the conclusions I’ve reached. Gaps exist because I fail to let anyone fully enter in my head space. And ultimately, I just need time to heal. One might compare this to a renovation – you must DESTROY the old before you can build the new, and thus my self-destructive tendencies.
The Fei analogy does not hold to how I actually view myself, but it was something I had thought of that was interesting (and it was a reference to something I’d wager you’ll never experience for yourself) and as such I threw it in there. Because why not? And how’s this:
[01:00 AM] John: I think I will probably live the entirety of my life alone. Every experience I have seems to lend credence to that notion.
[01:02 AM] John: Maybe related to a bit of philosophy I attached to from the better part of the Ender’s Game series (i.e., the part most people hated)
[01:02 AM] John: True understanding between people is impossible.
[01:02 AM] John: Too many barriers. Language itself is a barrier.
[01:03 AM] Soltis: You have to already understand them.
[01:03 AM] Soltis: If you don’t, language won’t help you to.
[01:03 AM] John: I think “understanding” is a hoax.
[01:03 AM] John: An illusion.
[01:04 AM] John: As relates to other people.
[01:04 AM] Soltis: Not always.
[01:04 AM] Soltis: But mostly, yes.
[01:04 AM] John: You might be able to predict them, or have some empathy for their situations, and be pretty damn accurate.
[01:04 AM] John: But to completely understand someone? I don’t think so.
[01:04 AM] Soltis: You wouldn’t be able to, yourself, at the moment.
[01:06 AM] John: Say I did something completely shocking. Something which you never thought I’d do.
[01:06 AM] John: Died in the process of doing it. You might guess at why I did it, and (knowing you) may even be convinced you would know my motivations. But how could you be assured of your understanding?
[01:07 AM] Soltis: That would depend on the deed, really, but you’re so conflicted, right now, and shut off, that I don’t pretend to understand you.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: I have a working understanding *with* you, that is, we have some agreement of philosophical convention.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: But do I really understand *you*? Hell no.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: My understanding is limited to precisely what you described — prediction, familiarity, and sympathy.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: Not much more.
[01:08 AM] Soltis: You don’t let anyone in your head.
[01:09 AM] Soltis: I don’t blame you, but it makes understanding you impossible.
[The bulk of her response:]
“I’m going to have to think about this awhile before I respond. I feel like you, in trying to separate us, are almost trying to manipulate your own feelings, and be mad at me.”
I am not trying to separate us. It is all very complicated. And I am not mad at you. To be more accurate and honest, it would be truthful to say that you have disappointed me in the past, and because of that disappointment I am wary to give you trust again. However, realize that I trust no one, and do not take my distance from you personally, and we should be just gravy.
[It takes her some time to muster a response.]