12/12/12 (B)

Castro Vinas Street in Santurce is a neighborhood where people let baskets down on ropes from their second or third floor balconies and let them hang there, awaiting a delivery. It’s the kind of place where an old man in shorts spends days out on the sidewalk, painting the low stucco wall around his house. This man’s wife is inside, cooking. And in the late afternoon, as I walk by the wall–still wet with light blue paint–I can smell supper.

Many of the people in this working class, San Juan neighborhood are Dominicans. I’ve met two of them: a young man who has a fruit stand on a side-street near Castro Vinas and Angie. I bought some tomatoes and oranges from the young man today, and we started talking. He’s from Santiago; I took a photo of him with the fruit. The other Dominican I met is Angie, Sabrina’s downstairs neighbor.

I had Dominican coffee at Angie’s apartment around 5 pm yesterday. She comes from a Philippino family, looks 56 (is 76), lived in Manhattan for ten years, and once owned a house in central Massachusetts. We complained about our children, gloated over our difficult lives , and cackled over handsome “Jeff,” the Dutch Couchsurfer whom Sabrina hosted a few days ago. It was satisfyingly dark and macabre conversation.

I had three coffees yesterday. I went out to Kamoli Kafe in the morning for a double espresso; then, after wine with lunch (salad), I had a single espresso at a little gelato shop (of course, I had to get some gelato, too); then, coffee with Angie. Got wired.

So many people buy lottery tickets in the DR, here, and even in Haiti.

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I am becoming a better guest: more generous; more considerate; quieter, less demanding, and more observant. I hope I’m also becoming a better listener.

The haunted, tortured, demonic part of me is getting weaker and weaker as I feed it less and less. The Addams Family respects and nurtures the devil within, that part of the Self that sometimes serves me and, at other times, rebels and tries to destroy me.

Gollum (or Golem) is the dark side of me and Goody Two Shoes (or Pollyanna) is the light side. If I were all Pollyanna, I would be weak and sterile, so I keep a little dark thing in the closet. But if Golem triumphed, I’d murder people and do other horrible things. The trick is to never let either side take control. The secret is always balance.

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Definitions of POLLYANNA

: a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything
and
: a person regarded as being foolishly or blindly optimistic.
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It’s the second definition that is troublesome.
Being idealistic is wonderful, but not if it means ignoring the terrible things that routinely occur in life. And often that’s exactly what it means: being intentionally blind to reality in favor of a dreamy, self-satisfying view of life. This is an attitude that allows crimes like child abuse to continue right under our noses.
I know people who refuse to act (let alone see) when negative things are pointed out to them. They take a stance that seems good (seeing the best in everyone), but in reality it’s very selfish and self-righteous. Such people want to be happy all the time, never troubled by a care. In addition, they want to be perceived as people who are always good. They never acknowledging the bad things that go on, and they certainly never letting those things touch them.
For most people, being happy means dealing with negative things when they see them. They act to help victims.
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Idealist

1.

a person who cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc. Synonyms: optimist, perfectionist, reformer, visionary, utopianist. Antonyms: pragmatist, skeptic, cynic.
2.

a visionary or impractical person. Synonyms: romantic, romanticist, dreamer, stargazer. Antonyms: realist, materialist.
3.

a person who represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are: My friend is an idealist, who somehow thinks that we always agree.
4.

a writer or artist who treats subjects imaginatively.
5.

a person who accepts the doctrines of philosophical idealism, as by representing things in an ideal form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are.

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Golem

In Jewish folklore, a golem (play /ˈɡləm/ GOH-ləm; Hebrew: גולם) is an animated anthropomorphic being, created entirely from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms and medieval writing.

The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late-16th-century chief rabbi of Prague.

Etymology

The word golem occurs once in the Bible in Psalm 139:16, which uses the word גלמי, meaning “my unshaped form”. The Mishnah uses the term for an uncultivated person: “Seven characteristics are in an uncultivated person, and seven in a learned one,” (שבעה דברים בגולם) Pirkei Avot 5:6 in the Hebrew text (English translations vary). In modern Hebrew golem is used to mean “dumb” or “helpless”. Similarly, it is often used today as a metaphor for a brainless lunk or entity who serves man under controlled conditions but is hostile to him under others. “Golem” passed into Yiddish as goylem to mean someone who is clumsy or slow.

(from Wikipedia)

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Gollum

Gollum is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien‘s legendarium. He was introduced in the author’s children’s fantasy novel The Hobbit, and became an important supporting character in its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. Gollum was a Stoor Hobbit of the River-folk, who lived near the Gladden Fields. Originally known as Sméagol, he was corrupted by the One Ring and later named Gollum after his habit of making “a horrible swallowing noise in his throat”.

His life was extended far beyond its natural limits by the effects of possessing the Ring, which he frequently referred to as “my precious” and “my birthday present”. After Bilbo Baggins took it during the famous Riddle Game, Gollum pursued it for the rest of his life. During his centuries under the Ring’s influence, Gollum came to love and hate the Ring, just as he loved and hated himself. Throughout the story, Gollum was torn between his lust for the Ring and his desire to be free of it.

(from Wikipedia)

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The line between dark and light is thin. Being an idealist or Pollyanna or optimist can be very good or very bad. The dark side is never totally good and never totally bad. It’s never totally bad because we need it to balance the “Pollyanna Principle.”

Wikipedia:

In 1978 researchers Margaret Matlin and David Stang provided substantial evidence of the Pollyanna Principle. They found that people expose themselves to positive stimuli and avoid negative stimuli, they take longer to recognize what is unpleasant or threatening than what is pleasant and safe, and they report that they encounter positive stimuli more frequently than they actually do.

Matlin and Stang also determined that selective recall was a more likely occurrence when recall was delayed: the longer the delay, the more selective recall that occurred.

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So the Golem is present in Pollyanna. It’s like the symbol for the Tao.

In the dark half, there is a little light; and in the light half, there is a little darkness.

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