Category Archives: Adventure

A letter to Julia, age 6 (Part One)

Jack wrote this to my daughter in June of 2000, while he was still living on his y2k property in New Mexico.

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Dear Julia,
In every flock of chickens, there’s usually one called the “cluck.” The cluck is the stupidest chicken in the flock–stupider even than the roosters, or other roosters, if it happens to be one itself.
I’ve watched this flock of chickens for a long time now, wondering which chicken was my cluck. For a while it was definitely the big white hen, whose name has slipped from my memory. Later, I thought it might be Crooked Beak– old Crooked Beak certainly is as stupid as a chicken needs to be.
The guineas don’t count– they ain’t bred for smart or stupid– they’re cunning, but really a lot more stupid than chickens–can’t find their way out of an opening they just came in. So who, says I, is my cluck?
I’ve thought a lot about this and finally reached a stunning realization: I have an entire flock of clucks! With the exception of Lady McBeth, every chicken I own is stupider than all the rest–stupider than a chicken has any business being, except Lady McBeth.
Can you imagine the odds against that? Thirty or forty clucks all in one flock? It’s like rolling boxcars 10 times in a row, or drawing to an inside straight (something no gentleman does) and ending up with a straight flush. For a while I wondered if there wasn’t money to be made from this, but I finally realized that nobody pays attention to such things anymore, more’s the pity.
Fact is, most people don’t even know what a cluck is. Some don’t even know what stupid looks like in a chicken. And some have so much in common with clucks that they find a sort of kinship with them– I suppose I’d have to put myself in that category. Shore do like these chickens, even though it’s plain to me they are a flock of clucks.
There are about 15 little chicks out there now. The chicks are a good mix, some of uncertain parentage, but one obvious silky, and the yellow one that had to come from an indiscretion by Rosencrantz. Likely he’s seen the error of his ways now, with this poor dogie chick that looks too much like him for deniability running around and wondering whether water is to drink or to drown in, and what became of its ma an pa. I’ve begun pulling eggs from the remaining brooding hens. Mostly they aren’t good mothers– likely as not to kill a chick if they don’t like the looks of it, or forget it’s theirs and not be a mama to it, letting it starve or get kicked around by other hens.
The yellow chicks have had a lot of that– one has been beaten up pretty badly and I think it won’t last the night. The other is the only one left, though healthy and protected for now. On the other hand, the mamas all seem to dote on the silky offspring. Guess they remind them of how sweet and cute and what good dancers their papas were.
Anyway, if you ever hear anyone refer to me as “the cluckster” you’ll know what they are referring to. When they say it, you might notice a bit of a sneer in their voice, or a curl to their lip, but never you mind. I’ve done as much to earn the title as any man on the planet and I’ll wear it with the same pride and charming savoir-faire as the idiot down the road wears the title “rancher.”  After all, the reason there are no clucks among cow critters is that exceptional stupidity is almost impossible to identify in creatures at that level. Who ever heard of a stupid snail or fish? Same’s pretty much true of ranchers these days I expect.
(to be continued)

Flying Story: Citabria Killeen

I spent several years trying to find new ways to frighten myself in a 1947 Cessna 140 without killing myself. Lots of hair-raisers and close calls in the left seat.

But I was with a guy who later became an airline pilot one day in his Aerocobra, him piloting, and came nearest to scaring the pants off me.

We were buzzing the house of a pilot friend during the super bowl game, lower and lower, then up, hard around and back down and over.

The guy in the house came running out and sprayed us with the water hose….. spray all over the windshield and we couldn’t see anything except out the side windows.

We had a lot of airspeed coming down so John pulled the nose up hard and up we went until the airspeed was gone gone gone and we were a couple of held-breaths from being scattered all over someones yard.

Last possible fraction of a second John kicked the rudder hard over and we reversed nose down, plane falling, not flying. Full throttle and the plane got enough fly into the wings to allow him to pull the nose up in time to knock down the television antenna, tear up the prop and send guy-wires from the antenna whipping around battering and tearing the wingtips.

We staggered back to the airport and hid the plane in John’s hanger hoping to avoid an FAA in-flight accident report.

Close enough for government work.

Ask Old Jules: Fear of getting old, Thoughts that blow your mind, Meaning of life, What people don’t know yet


Old Jules, are you scared of growing older? Lately I’ve been depressed I’ve been worrying about a lot of things. A lot of people are so negative all the time around me lately. How can I change my attitude towards this all and try to ignore the pessimistic idiots who keep dragging my mood back down again?

I’m three-and-some-change times your age and growing older doesn’t frighten me. Nor, for that matter, does not growing older.

What you’re talking about is not an age thing. It’s in the fact human beings just aren’t all that intelligent and certainly aren’t enlightened enough to give you advice worth following [though many here think they are both].

Nobody’s dragging your mood down except in the sense you’ve handed over the reins to them, said, “I give you the power to influence how I feel, how I view life, how I respond to whatever’s around me.” You have the choice not to give them that power.

Old Jules, what thoughts have you had recently that have blown your mind?

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately, about how the past within personal memory seems concrete enough, but how it resembles a venturi as it approaches the present. About how the present is gone so quickly it mightn’t exist at all as a practical matter. Any attempt to nail down the present is doomed to failure because it’s gone before you can get a hold on it.

Been trying to build an analogy or model to allow a better look at the way I, we understand time, or ignore it, and maybe arrive at a better grasp of what it’s all about, behavior of something in physics, particles or some such thing, with behavior that rhymes with the way time behaves in our minds.

Because time probably doesn’t exist. Which should mean the ‘future’ is as fixed as the past.

One of the analogies I’ve considered is something akin to a lens with the present being a retina, but I’m generally liking the venturi better at the moment.

I’m leaning to the opinion we aren’t better prognosticators, predictors of the future is because we’re looking in the wrong place for it. A straight line through the past, through the neck of the venturi and out into the future would appear to be the logical place to look, but it isn’t there or we’d be a lot better at figuring it out. I have an idea the location is being distorted by the movement through the retina or the neck of the venturi.

Old Jules, what would happen if all but 20 people suddenly vanished from the planet?

If no two of them were located within 1000 miles of the nearest other they’d each learn to live with themselves pretty thoroughly.

I’m a hermit anyway, and too many decades around the star to care much one way or the other. If I happened to be one of them I’d do my best to avoid the others until my time ran out. I’m not much impressed with humanity.

Old Jules, what do you think is the meaning of life?

It isn’t complicated. This pre-schooler figured it out all by herself:

Jessica’s “Daily Affirmation”

Old Jules, what’s something no one knows yet?

1] Why the magnet poles of the sun reverse themselves every 11 years, roughly.…

2] Why there’s a huge, empty piece of space out there [discovered since Hubble] with nothing visible in it.…

3] Why the magnetic poles of the gas giants are sometimes so far from the spin axis……

4] Why the mountain range a mile beneath the ice in Antarctica doesn’t meet our expectations derived from our speculations about how mountain ranges are formed.……

5] Pretty much everything else.

November 20, 1963, Letter from Korea

8:30 PM
20 November, 1963

Dear Folks,

 Got your letter, the fruit cake, and the peanut brittle, etc. All today, all the guys and me too were awfully happy to see it come. Thanks!
 Please pardon the fact that I haven’t written recently.  We have been in the field for about two weeks now, and it looks at the moment as though Thanksgiving will be spent out here.
There has been a lot of rain, snow, sleet, and a cold that just doesn’t seem to care how many clothes you put on. Commo seems to have been hit hardest by this alert. The phones have been silent for about 3 days. I’m beginning to wonder if there is anyone else left out here but us.
 Still, a battalion of tanks came down the river bed headed north about an hour ago, and the engineers have been skittering around ever since trying to undo the damage they did.
You know, it’s hard to believe I was 20 years old as of yesterday. It has been an awfully fast year. And a lot happened during it.
 This tent has all sorts of things in its favor that no home should be without. A field phone that doesn’t work. A coal-oil stove that soaks the ground around it in kerosene, a typewriter with no carriage throw, a file desk with nothing in it, and a camouflage  (this is probably the most useful thing around, because air harassment  has been nil in this camp). I imagine this camp is one of the smallest, most nearly forgotten ones in Korea at the moment. There are about 8 CP tents here, and numerous pup tents around. It consists of civil affairs personnel, 16 personnel, DSO personnel, and a few non-combatants. There is no activity whatsoever in camp the majority of the time. The best I can figure it we are somewhere to the rear of division rear, along the Han, and north Seoul and Yong Dong Po. I understand (through the grapevine) that EUSA HQ moved out of Pusan and the 7th Division is up on the line with the 8th and 9th Cavalry right now. Also there is a kind of confirmed rumor that the 7th Special Forces Group has moved off Okinawa and is up there with the best of them. The Slikky Boys are terrible out here. The Colonel caught pneumonia this week and they hauled him south this morn. 
 Closing for now- write soon and I’ll do the same.
 Happy Thanksgiving!
As always,

Thoughts About Relationship Issues

Most of this is from the Q/A site where the Ask Old Jules questions come from.

Guys what do you honestly want from a relationship/marriage?

Nobody wants the same things. I’m approaching 70 times around the sun and one of the things I’d do differently is sit down with individuals going into relationships with me and discuss thoroughly what expectations each had, the stuff that goes without saying, the “assumed” stuff. I’d want to know and communicate the minimums, the maximums, the bottom lines.

But nobody ever does. Asking strangers in the genre won’t help. Some of us gotta have someone beat us, tie us up, some of us want drugs, money, rock and roll. Some want to eat popcorn and stare at a TV all day picking our noses. We’re all different.

I left a lot of unhappy women along my back trail and I have fond memories of all of them. If I was the sort of person worries about such things I’d think they didn’t do themselves a favor by spending months and years with me as a primary piece of their lives telling me how much they loved me, valued me how great I was, but carrying bitterness or hatred after I left. I think they’re laying aside something they loved at the time in favor of retrospectively hating it and me.

Maybe they’d feel better about it afterward if we’d put it all down on paper ahead of time and each signed it. I never made a secret of my intentions. The secret was they believed they could change me into something I wasn’t.


What you want is for you to decide in your own life. What anyone else thinks about it has zero value. What you think about the wants and needs of others is of zero significance.


Standards is a word with implied superiority, wisdom, morals. Treat it that way if you wish, but it’s horse manure for you to attempt to preach it on the streets.


Dependency relationships last as long as you put up with them. My main one lasted 25 years, me thinking I could fix it. When I finally left she blamed me for not giving her an ultimatum, said she didn’t realize how important it was for me. That’s been more than 20 years ago and I still puzzle over it (and still miss her good points).

Die early and avoid the fate.


Is there an age after which it’s pointless to bother with marriage?

I’d say 16 would be a good age to begin the comprehension, but it took me until I was almost 50. That approaches two decades of finding out a lot of women haven’t realized it yet.


Depends on what both members of a relationship openly agree ahead of time to have expected of them and live up to. There’s no “normal” tacit agreement until it’s agreed to by both parties.

All this moralizing is about moralizing. It isn’t about reality and fleshed out characters. It’s about how the people answering hope it will be in their own lives measured by their own values, then extended outward by default as how everything should be for everyone so’s to make anything else unacceptable (down in the microscopic environment of their own lives and heads).


My personal experience with married women (I wasn’t married to) was that they loved telling me in a motel bed after sex all the things they hated about their husbands, his inadequacies, his most personal traits I didn’t want to hear.

But that’s only about 100 women, plus or minus. Probably some who didn’t go to bed with me were different.


A long relationship is 20 years. A relationship less than five years is a lark.

Leave the fling behind you and learn from it. If you feel lost it’s because you had a dependency relationship and you need to do some self-examination before hooking yourself onto someone else to sponge drama and a life from.


Bringing home dvds and toys?

I don’t have a partner, but if I stood to get one of those digital microscopes with a usb to plug into the comp they sell as being educational for kids, I’d consider it a beginning of a long relationship. Followed up with a DVD of Doctor Strangelove I’d consider a temporary long relationship.

Why is marriage so important? Marriage is a key relationship in our lives. What are three good reasons this is true?

People love dependency relationships
People love drama
People owe it to the kids to have marriages, mama and papa, one each


Is marriage an unnecessary risk?

I think it’s a waste and a self-destructive dependency relationship involving two people. Risk isn’t included in the mix. Whatever happens is just part of the rest.


30ish is one of those crucial ages when women wake up and discover they’ve been stuck with decisions they were too young to make when they made them.

No reflection on you. You were too young, also.


If spouse cheats it’s your fault?

What your spouse does isn’t a statement about you (and sometimes not about him). It’s a statement about a relationship that’s out of balance one way or another, one that doesn’t fit. Nature hates anything out of balance and individuals behave the ways they’re driven by nature. Mostly, anyway, especially when they’re young and the hormones are raging.


Ideal age woman for a 25 year old guy?

The simple fact is you need to find a woman of 40 who might be able to put up with you. When she ditches you get another one of the same age until you get there and one keeps you.

Wasting time with a woman under 40 is playing with worthless toys that carry a scorpion sting without being able to give you any wisdom you wouldn’t find for yourself.


I was married for 25 years. The far too many women over the succeeding 20 or so years might have each still been in my life if it weren’t for the marriage issue. I never intend to marry again and I make no secret of it. But almost everyone of them secretely thought I’d change my mind. Made themselves miserable convincing themselves I did them a disservice by not doing what I carefully told them up front I wouldn’t do.


Does a woman always need to climax before sex?

It helps. Multiples help. A partner who “listens” to the body of the woman and plays it the way a good musician plays an instrument helps.

It ain’t worth the price of admission if you aren’t sending her through the ceiling.


Ask Old Jules: What’s good about life, What’s it like without hope, How texts shape our understanding, Why are humans superficial, What things we have no control over

3.22.03 and back ups 1017

Old Jules, what makes you feel good about being alive?

Acknowledgement of it by gratitude and forgiveness of everything it isn’t. Gratitude for that, also.

Old Jules, what is it like to be without hope?

It can be a place with a lot of quietude and satisfaction. Hope implies expectations and the antithesis of acceptance. For a person who believes expectations are a source of distraction from the better things in life and that acceptance is the fundamental goal for transcending this hostile reality being without hope is an accomplishment of major importance.

Old Jules, how do scholarly texts shape our understanding of the world around us?

Texts become doctrines. Doctrines bypass the need to reason, explain or question. Religious texts and scientific theory resemble one another in that regard. Each develops a priesthood and warrior partisans hiding along the roads to ambush new or opposing thought.

Old Jules, why are humans so superficial?

I suspect it’s hardwired, then reinforced by social conditioning. Which creates a filtering process resulting in the ‘greats’, the non-superficial among humans being purged through all manner of peelings off and classifyings if they pull it off successfully. The overall superficiality of humankind assures the ones who make it out and poke their heads above the general run will be tougher, more determined, and probably more able than those who were merely ‘above the normal’.

Old Jules, what things do you think we have no control over?

The minds, attitudes, activities and choices of other human beings,
Anything we can’t actually touch [as a practical matter] for the most part
Anything that’s already happened, which is a huge part of our consciousness and perception.

Forgiveness and Fundamental Nature of Reality: Excerpt from a letter, Part Two

I need a transition here to something else I want to say and the transition is awkward in this thought flow, almost trite.

One of the thornier paths we can choose to avoid self-damage is forgiveness. The only virtue in that path is that it avoids the even more destructive route of the state of unforgiveness (self- destructive- our unforgiveness rarely harms anyone but ourselves).

But genuine forgiveness by its nature has to be an act of self-forgiveness- a recognition that we are flawed- full of warts- that those flaws and warts are the water and fertilizer to our growth—with that recognition we can then recognize and forgive flaws in others without setting ourselves up on a superior moral plane and thereby stumbling into one of the multitude of tiger-traps hidden in the path of forgiveness.

When the path of forgiveness is allowed to lead into the more worthy path of self-forgiveness along with a recognition of the true nature of our flaws and warts, our failures–  all the instruments of growth—we’ve found a true path… along that path are the flowers of gratitude for the otherwise most devastating circumstances of the human condition.

The ultimate recognition that your life is about YOU- not about anyone else, is one of the phantoms we chase through life after life- until we recognize that simple, obvious fact we cycle through our lives blaming others, praising others, emulating others, seeking praise, seeking approval, seeking recognition in the eyes of others by doing for other and so on ad infinitum.

I’m not suggesting that doing for others is a bad thing- I am saying that the almost inevitable next step of elevating ourselves as a result of our having done so (in our own eyes- and always one eye on the approving glances of others) and especially when we make a fetish of it, is contrary to growth.

This is an ingeniously contrived reality we’ve chosen for ourselves here—it’s easy enough to understand how during the course of human history so many conflicting explanations as to the nature and purpose of life have emerged.

However, with all that, the reality hung two absolutes before us and lit them in neon—it was always there for every human to see, insistent, inarguable.

The first is the fundamental nature of the reality: every creature or life form must kill at least one other life form to live. ( Lichens and certain other plant forms are the exception, however, even most plants depend on the decomposition of the remains of living creatures for life).

This is an incredibly predatory reality- a fact which we’ve mostly forgotten through the eon, or failed to recognize the significance of it.

In order for us to achieve growth in this reality or any reality the way to growth must be to somehow act contrary to our own nature. However, we can’t possibly live without killing- even at a cellular level our bodies are engaged in warfare with other species.

And yet, given that fundamental truth, somehow the purpose of our lives here must be partially contained in the nature of the reality we chose- it’s too overwhelming otherwise.

Based on that, I’d say the ultimate goal we have here, the golden ring we are reaching for must be to spiritually transcend our predatory requirements for survival- not defeat them, but transcend them spiritually.

I believe that probably translates to recognition and respect for the oneness between ourselves and that which we consume at a profound spiritual level- I think this is what St. Francis was getting at.

We didn’t come here to voluntarily starve- we didn’t come here to kill ourselves with guilt or grief for the creature we kill- we didn’t come here to submerge ourselves in killing – to become the best killers in the entire reality- we didn’ tcome here to sanitize our killing and hide from it by wrapping it up in clear plastic so it’s unrecognizeable as a part of the creature that died to provide it as food—

What’s left? What’s hardest?

We continue to kill- experience recognition, gratitude, respect for that creature, each creature that was forfeit for our survival. I think we probably had lost the battle for this as a species, not as individuals, long before the words “ And God gave dominion over…” ever were written on some clay tablet.

Finding the reason we’re here was probably never intended to be easy. Almost as soon as the words were said they begin to mist, to cloud. “Brother Hawk”- “Brother Raven”- “Brother Rabbit”- somehow assume a meaning other than the fundamental and obvious.

Hmm… I’ve digressed. I’ll save the other absolute for another time.

Owning the Past, Deserving Kindness–Excerpt from a letter, Part One

I think it would be a timely thing for you to cease the self-recriminations about things- the past is past, now is now, future is future.

The past is sealed, dated, and notarized- filed away. The future is little more than a ghost of the imagination, of potential potential. Any focus or energy we direct to either of those is wasted energy if it goes beyond idle reflection.  Both drain the significance of the moment- all this to say the gift of hindsight is truly a gift only if we tame it and don’t allow it to become anything more than the elevator music of our lives.

Despite appearances, you own the past- it doesn’t own you. You have the power to force it into the back room closet or allow it into the dining room to eat at the table with you or into the living room to sleep on the couch and get into the way of your life and the lives of others.

The concept of deserving kindness is another one that’s destructive to the growth of the soul. We don’t go through life on some roller-coaster of worth or value based on our behavior of today, of last week.

I don’t know whether the physical manifestation of each of us in this reality is of equal value or not, but I think I can say with certainty the issue isn’t whether a person deserves kindness or not. Certainly each does. Sometimes we fail to remember this- some of us never learn it. You aren’t a paragon of virtue in this regard, and neither am I. Few people are. In the coming times some people might demand to be killed, by their behavior. Probably in those circumstances even, the real challenge isn’t in the avoidance of our responsibility to slaughter another human – the challenge will be to do it with kindness in our hearts, without malice, hatred, rancor. With the same respect for another human who demands the cessation of his life through his choices as we have for the chicken-killing hawk, the rabbit, doe, a fawn that steps into our sights at a time when our bodies demand a meal- the mouse which by its nature chews its way into our corn.

All this to say that unless we purge ourselves of the concept of whether we deserve kindness or respect for our own choices and behavior we’ll be unlikely to overcome the far more difficult challenge of giving respect and kindness to others when they make choices which are so contrary to our own interests or values. Not to say our responsibility doesn’t extend to looking out for our own interests forcibly if needed- just that when we do we dassen’t ever fail to do so in the recognition that this is a fellow soul on the long path- that where he is we’ve probably been or will be in some other life.

Despite our ego-driven beliefs to the contrary, most of the things we do or say, kind or unkind, have little importance in the lives of others. In those rare instances where this isn’t true the reason isn’t in us, but rather in the person who chooses to make it important. We have little influence on that choice in another person—rightfully so—the business of our lives is our own choices, which are plenty challenges enough.

So, when we choose to be kind and show genuine respect to others it has little to do with the other person or that person’s behavior- it’s a kindness to ourselves, mainly.  A recognition of our own thorny path- our own failures, and therefore a willingness to accept that other person and the thorny path that person walks.

Ask Old Jules: What if it’s all wrong, Meaning of life, Is life good, Does not thinking result in violence, Letting go, The ultimate question


Old Jules, what if everything in your life is wrong?

Unlikely, though possible. The only reason for your life is to provide fertilizer for plants and act as a host for essential parasites. If everything is wrong in your life it’s the result of using a commode or toilet fixture that flushes into a public sewerage system.
If you want to correct that problem a garden spade will suffice.
But if you aren’t carrying any essential parasites or serving as a host for any, try sleeping in a public hostelry. You’re almost certain to take home bedbugs and fleas, at the very least.
Eating the occasional flea will provide you with tapeworm and other internal parasites.

Old Jules, what is the meaning of your life?

We’ve been provided the opportunity to serve as hosts for essential parasites and important pathogenic micro-organisms. That is the meaning of our lives.

Old Jules, is life good in your vision? In Genesis 1, God saw that creation was good, it says that 6 times including at the end. We can either see it as He does or we can distort it into another vision. Is life really good and bad or evil, or do we just mistakenly see it that way?

The deity the savage tribes of the Middle East created to justify their violence to their neighbors is quoted saying many things including those you mentioned. “Smite them all, destroy their crops, enslave their women,” was a favorite, with “Shall be stoned,” as a close runner-up.
That deity adopted by those primitive savages isn’t ‘good’ by any standard I accept, and nothing that deity is imagined to have said can be construed as ‘good’ [except Proverbs, I suppose, and the aesthetic beauty of Psalms, along with the beautiful irony of Job].
But life is good anyway.

Old Jules, does one who does not think…resort to violence?

No. I’ve occasionally used live traps, but a bullet to the brain is still required. In fact, a coon inside a live trap will sometimes choose to get the bullet earlier, rather than later. Coons communicate this desire by trying to reach through the wire grid and ripping the pantsleg of the person carrying the trap across the meadow to dispatch them where the fleas they’re carrying won’t jump off too nearby.
I’ve thought about this considerably.

Old Jules, how do I let go of some bad stuff that happened to me in the past? I can’t stop going over it in my mind.

You can become an adult, accept the past as being outside your control, and allow yourself to graduate from the International Reservoir of Whiners into the Planetary Society of People Living Their Lives The Best They Can MbM [Moment-by-Moment]

Old Jules, what is the ultimate question? the questions of all questions. the cream of the crop, the most intelligent question a mind can think of.

How many fingers am I holding up?


On Paranoia and Sociopathic Behavior, written in 2003

From Jeanne: My apologies for the weird formatting, I have not been able to figure out how to change it. Jack was referring to the years of being stalked and harrassed both before and after y2k. 

One interesting outcome of the prolonged period of attention I've undergone
over the past few years is that the result has been the reverse of what you'
d expect.  Instead my residual paranoia intensifying, it actually has
diminished during the last year or two.  This has manifested itself in a
number of different ways I don't care to go into, but in other ways that are
worth mentioning.

Keeping in mind that, concurrent with the activities of these people, my
material and human resources have essentially vanished; I've come to the
point where I really don't care much what they do.  When all this began I
was already in a mode of reexamining my entire value system.  The things I'd
valued most were in the process of going away, anyway, along with the value
I placed on them.  I've become a person with almost nothing to lose.

I've never been a person much influenced by fear, in any case.  Fear comes
in a lot of forms. Fear for personal security; fear of death; fear of loss
of valued possessions; fear of what others will think; fear of being alone;
fear of growing old; fear of bodily discomfort; fear of hunger and disease.
These all tend to run in groups.  A person who lacks the fear of one
probably always has a fairly loose hold on the others, too.  Today, as never
before, I've become a person who literally has nothing to be afraid of.

The probably unintended end result of all this is that I believe I'm
actually being cured of my paranoia.  A strange consequence, considering the
motive was obviously a kind of terrorism intended to do just the opposite;
intended to induce terror and intensify paranoia.

A while back I was staying at Deano’s for the night, watching television.  HBO or one of those things had a  piece they’d arranged that rattled me a bit.  There’s a guy in prison in New Jersey doing consecutive life sentences called the Ice Man.  These folks arranged for him to be interviewed over several days by an FBI psychiatrist who’s probably the top man in the field of homicidal abnormal psychology.

As I watched and listened, I was stricken by the similarities in attitude between the Ice Man and myself.  He described a number of things in detail, along with his attitudes toward them, and I found myself nodding in silent agreement while Dean squirmed in discomfort and protested that I ought to find another channel.

The Ice Man was a man with a childhood home life that resembled mine in some important ways, though he was a city boy.  His dad was a bit like my step dad, and his mother, a lot like my mother.  He described some things he did to animals as a child which weren’t too unlike some things I did to other kids, and probably an animal or two.

 The Ice Man killed someone at a fairly early age; not in a fit of rage, but in a cold, calculated way.  He had a tendency to respond to people who fucked with him, or fucked with his head, by killing them.  He did it close up and personal.  During the interview, he claimed he didn’t get any particular joy out of it, didn’t really feel anything at all.  He described one occasion where three young men were harassing him on the road.  He stopped the car and went to his trunk to retrieve a handgun there.  The other car stopped and the men walked over to him.  He killed all three and drove on.

The Ice Man became a hit man.  He says without pride or emotion that he’s probably responsible for the deaths of more than 200 people.  He says the only ones that ever gave him any feeling at all were those involving a particularly prolonged and gory torture.  He didn’t like those, and he didn’t understand why.  The fact it gave him some kind of feeling caused him some wonderment.

During the interview, the Ice Man described his attitudes toward a number of issues, his life (outside the killing arena), and generally his feelings about himself.  He was asked about some specifics concerning his lack of fear, his attitudes toward the things he did, and his own understandings about himself.

The Ice Man said he agreed to the interview in hopes of getting a better understanding of himself.  He said he wasn’t surprised other people experienced fear in certain situations, or revulsion (when compared to Dahmer’s revulsion to cutting up human carcasses), but that what he couldn’t understand was his own lack of similar feelings.

Toward the end of the interview the psychiatrist suggested they turn the situation around and allow the Ice Man to interview him, the psychiatrist.  The killer thought about this a moment and showed a subdued pleasure when he explained that this was his hope when he agreed to the interview.  He wanted to try to understand why he was the way he was.

The FBI man (a pretty cold fish, himself) explained that an unfortunate combination of three psychological traits combined to make the Ice Man the way he was.  One was fearlessness, which by itself might easily have been channeled into positive avenues.  The second was a sociopathic personality.  The third was paranoia.

The sociopathy, minus the fearlessness and paranoia, would have probably resulted in him  becoming a small time crook, a politician, or a used car dealer.  The paranoia, minus the sociopathy and fearlessness, might well have just caused him to be abusive to his family and caused him a lot of unhappiness and years of therapy.  All these conditions exist separately in individuals throughout the population in a surprisingly high incidence rate, and are manageable on a personal level.

The combination of the three, the FBI man suggested, along with his being in a place where there were mob contacts, were the key to the Ice Man’s long and successful career as a hit man.  

As I digested all this I realized what a close call I’ve had this lifetime.  I started life as a sociopath.  I didn’t know it until my experience in the jungle in Hawaii, when I got my first real look at myself during the extended time of solitude.  I can still recall, after my return from the jungle, reading about sociopathy for the first time, and realizing that was what I was, had been prior to the jungle experience, and had a strong tendency toward even then.

I worked a lot of years on that sociopathic issue.  It still lurks there in my background psychology, willing to be turned on if I’m willing to turn it on.  I’ve held it mostly in check consciously for many years, but occasionally have allowed it to emerge.

It was a number of years later when I realized I was also clinically paranoid, with a touch of manic depression thrown in for good measure.  The paranoia, I channeled into some pursuits that, while they weren’t precisely positive, they weren’t negative.  I used to be described by my friends as the MOST prepared person for any eventuality, they’d ever known.

The difference between the Ice Man and how he spent his life, and me and the way I spent mine, was merely a matter of luck, manifested in life experience.  The jungle time gave me an early awareness of one of the crucial ingredients of the soup that might have led to a life spend in some bloody avenues.  My relentless curiosity and introspection was a trait he lacked.  While he merely wondered why he didn’t experience the same feelings as other people, I dug and read and probed to understand.  The "spiritual" awakening in Tucson after my return from the jungle further contributed and acted as a brake on my behavior; helped me to understand how the kind of person I was differed from the kind of person I wanted to be.

I’m not suggesting I’ve entirely overcome any of these tendencies.  I’m not even suggesting I’ve succeeded entirely in holding the associated behaviors in check.  What I am suggesting is that I was handed a big job of work when I came into this life, and that, considering that, I haven’t done too badly.  

I think the sociopathy, I’ve succeeded almost entirely in overcoming.  The spiritual pursuits allowed me to balance and offset the sociopath tendencies.  This is not to say I couldn’t still do almost anything, completely without feeling.  But it is to say that I don’t want to do those things; don’t want to be the kind of person who does those things.

Strangely enough, as I mentioned earlier, the last few years of attention from a whole cadre of sociopaths seems to be taking care of the paranoia.  I’m only beginning to realize what a debt of gratitude I have toward them, no matter what their intentions.  These damned people are curing me without intending to.  It's entirely a matter of luck.  I might have gone through the rest of my life as a paranoid, knowing I was a paranoid; dealing with it, but with it always an issue.  It's clear to me these people would never have done what they did with the intention of helping me get rid of it, but I was fortunate enough to be within their focus; to receive their full treatment, and to have come through without doing anything to cause the chips to fall on the other side of the issue.

I've been puzzling over why the activities of the opposition ended up
affecting a cure, of sorts, instead of resulting in havoc and mayhem as they
probably intended.  I think the key point was the introduction of a
protracted series of actual threats to a person already prone to paranoid
fantasy, and acutely aware of that tendency.  By offering actual, verifiable
threats into the equation, the desire for survival forced me to carefully
examine both; to compartmentalize each, and to use a lot of caution in
discerning which was which.  They forced me to learn to distinguish between
paranoid fantasy and realtime threat on a relatively constant basis by
inserting a prolonged real threat.

In the short term, this probably wouldn't have happened, and had the process
ended in a relatively short span of time, I'd probably gone on just as
paranoid as ever; just as prone to paranoid fantasy.  Had I also been
isolated during the process, there probably would have been similar results,
or possibly much worse.  However, I had some friends to help me measure what
was fantasy and what was real.  Because I had outside confirmations that the
threats were actual, not fantasy, I maintained a (sometimes thin) hold on
reality.  Instead of the intended pathological result, I think my mind began
to chase down the roots of my unique brand of paranoia.

As I said earlier, fear (paranoia) requires as a basis for continuance,
having something of value to lose.  Concurrent with the harassment my
material resources and personal relationships eroded away.  With them a lot
of the "things" that served as anchors for the paranoia also gradually faded
out of importance or vanished entirely.  Meanwhile, my spiritual beliefs
were being internalized to a such a point as to allow my natural
fearlessness to be bastioned by a spiritual awareness that, a) I really
needed to get out of this life without adding any complications to the next
one;  b)  the things that were happening here, on an eternal scale, didn't
amount to much; and c)  from a spiritual perspective, whether those people
decided to kill me or not was irrelevant.

Once again, a lucky combination of circumstance.  But pure luck and nothing