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Tilting At Windmills

The columnist is coming off a long stretch of writing about serious issues. What happened to the fun stuff? Let’s take a peek and see which category this offering falls into.


Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."  

"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza. 

"Those you see over there," replied his master, "with their long arms. Some of them have arms well-nigh two leagues in length." 

"Take care, sir," cried Sancho. "Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone." —Part 1, Chapter VIII. The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha  byMiguel de Cervantes 

Have you ever felt as though you were tilting at windmills; attacking imaginary enemies; fighting unwinnable battles, rowing futilely against the tide; $%£*& into the wind? If you’re honest, your answer should be an unequivocal, yes

We all have our battles. We all have our personal demons. And we all feel persecuted at times. But oftentimes the perceived enemy is not the enemy at all. Sometimes, if we’re honest with ourselves; the truth is that, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I know I’m not using this within the same context as when it was first put forth by Walt Kelly in his celebrated comic strip, Pogo, but I’m exercising my poetic license. Yes, I have one! It’s hanging on the wall in my office. 

If you’ve answered, no, to the question posed in my first paragraph, please get to the hospital right away. When the doctor checks your vitals; I believe you’ll discover you’re dead. So I guess we’ve established that if your answer to my question was, no, you’re either a liar or your dead, correct? 

I suppose there’s one other possibility I may have overlooked. But I guess since I’m talking about it now, I haven’t actually overlooked it at all; it was just a bit tardy popping into my head. 

What’s the other possibility? Excellent question, but don’t be so impatient! I was just about to tell you. You’re probably not going to like this, but I’ve already accused you of being either a lair or a corpse, so how much more damage could I possibly do to your fragile, little psyche? 

The remaining option is that you’ve been deceiving yourself; you’re blind to your own proclivities; a behavior most of us will manifest at one time or another, assuming we fall into the genus Homo. No, silly! That has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Fortunately, I got a pretty well-rounded education at old MHS and did quite well in Biology. College Biology – not so good! They expected me to attend class regularly and study too! That didn’t work for me. 

So, here’s the scoop. Human beings belong to the genus, Homo, which includes the species, Homo sapiens . I’ll let you decide whether or not you fit into that group. If not, no need to continue reading. Just go wrap your prehensile tail around a branch, hang happily from your tree and chomp on a banana. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful life. 

Okay, get ready. The time has come to be blinded by the light. You’d better slip on your Foster Grant’s. 

We all have issues. Some of us have issues with overeating; some of us have issues with drugs or alcohol. Some have problems with low self-esteem; others struggle with Narcissism, a sense of inflated self-importance, thinking that everything is about them. The list goes on and on. 

Everyone struggles with his or her demons – everyone! So, assuming that I’m correct in my assertions that ‘we all have issues’ and ‘everyone struggles’; it’s safe to say that you and I are included here. So what’s your issue? Or are you so blinded by it that you can’t see it? Or maybe you’re sweeping it under the rug. When you know you have a problem, you’re freed-up to work on it. When you can’t see it, it will eat away at you, destroy you. 

Lest you think I’m picking on you, please understand this; as a former pastor of mine used to say, “Every time I point a finger at you I’ve got three pointing back at me.” I suppose that technically the thumb is sort of pointing at you too, but let’s not get nitpicky, okay? I still lose whether it's 3-1, 3-2 or whatever. Not that I’m keeping score, it’s just that I hate to lose. That’s one of my issues, but to be quite honest; I’d just as soon sweep that one under the proverbial rug I spoke of earlier. 

When we acknowledge that we have areas in our lives that need some work; we are said to be Consciously Incompetent. But when we have no clue that there are areas where we are lacking; we are said to be Unconsciously Incompetent.   

The Conscience Incompetent has hope. He’s aware of his shortcomings and hopefully; he’s willing to work on them. Not so with the Unconscious Incompetent. This poor soul is totally oblivious to his personal deficiencies while fully proficient in pointing out everyone else’s flaws. Since he is unlikely to seek help being that he doesn’t see his problem; there is little hope for the Unconscious Incompetent barring some sort of epiphany. 

Hey, we all have our problems. For instance, I carry around a lot of anger and animosity because I’ve been held down by The Man. I’m not sure who The Man is; but I know he’s been holding me down. It certainly isn’t my doing. I’m not taking responsibility for it, so it must be The Man

Yup, we all have our stuff; things we carry around with us. And sometimes, if we’re fortunate, we have a Sancho Panza, a compadre, a loyal friend who will tell us the truth - even when it hurts - whether we want to hear it or not.     

I had a friend out in California back in the sixties whose name was Clyde. He was from England and had a thick, Cockney accent. He was a great guy but he had one huge fault. He was a compulsive liar. He told more fairytales than Mother Goose. 

Eight of us shared a house in Los Angeles right off Sunset Boulevard just over the Hollywood line in the Silver Lake District. I guess you’d call it a commune. There were people coming and going at all hours of the day and night. At times, we probably had as many as fifteen people living there, some for a day or two, some longer. We called it ‘crashing’ back then. Those who had no other place to go would ask, "Hey man, can I crash at your place for a while?" That may seem strange, but that’s how it was back then. Like I said, it was the sixties. 

One of Clyde’s stories involved him hitchhiking through Texas, being picked up by Janis Joplin, going to her place and yada, yada, yada. Every time he told the story the details changed. The last version I heard had Clyde driving Janis’s corvette at two hundred miles an hour and outrunning a Texas Ranger and a helicopter. Yup, Clyde was a piece of work! 

We all got together one night when Clyde wasn’t around and discussed what we should do about his constant fibbing. It had gotten to the point where no one would even listen to him any longer and we all liked him too much to have his problem ruin our personal relationships with him, so I volunteered to have a talk with him. 

I confronted him about his lying the next morning. Of course morning to us was somewhere in the neighborhood of noontime because we were usually up partying all night, but I digress. I told Clyde he didn’t have to lie to make himself look better to us because we loved him just the way he was. I was a Hippie back then and I said weird stuff like that. He admitted that he probably exaggerated a little and I said, “No Clyde. You lie! You lie all the time!” We talked a while longer and, of course, nothing changed. Clyde continued to fabricate his bizarre stories. I sometimes wonder if his name was really Clyde. 

Clyde stayed on with us for a few months longer and continued lying like a rug. Years later, long after Clyde had moved on; we got word that he had drowned in the Snake River. He had gone into the water up to his waist, got caught up in the current and was swept away. I don’t know why he did that. He didn’t know how to swim. 

Gee, I hope it wasn’t something I said! 

Had Clyde been given the opportunity to relate the story of his death; I’m sure it would have involved him skinny-dipping with Janis, or Grace Slick, or some other Iconic figure of the sixties. 

You were a sick man, Clyde. But we loved you just the same. I guess you were Unconsciously Incompetent. That’s okay. You have a lot of company. Or I guess I should say, had a lot of company. 

All this psychology stuff is fascinating to me. Many years ago, I read I’m Ok-You’re Ok, a book by Thomas Harris. I’m writing a book in the same genre. I’m calling it, I’m OK-You’re A Whack Job. Hey, that’s how I see it! It’s certainly not me that has the problem.

Or is it! 

I'd better give Sancho a call! I’m feeling a little persecuted right now

Make it a great week! 

Bob Havey is a freelance writer and a Mansfield native, currently living in Easton. His column "Take Me Back" appears each Friday at http://mansfield-ma.patch.com and his column, "The View From Here", may be seen each Tuesday at http://easton-ma.patch.com.

Leave RI October 20, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Bob Havey, Super article. I have a degree in psych. You brought back all of the memories of the psych classes in which we were in tears with (of laughter) especially with that OK Corral in that transactional analysis. When we role played each one you could see who was uncomfortable at the time because it was in perfect perpendicular to their actual "place" at the time. Sometimes the psych professor would be able to point out who was the easiest to be "contaminated" I think was the word, as an adult and go along with a known lie because it was easier to deal with. In a hundred years I don't think I could ever sit with the kids and say "ok..I'm okay you're ok.."right now we are talking parent and adult"..If I did that I would have to break into some kind of daily affirmation in the voice of Stuart Smalley who I think may have fallen to the "unconsciously incompetent" side slowly sinking into obsessing with self help programs. Thanks for smile Mr Havey. Refreshing it was.
Leave RI October 20, 2012 at 06:41 PM
PS..Bob I'm in line for the "I'm OK you're a whack job" book.
Bob Havey October 23, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Glad I made you smile, 'Leave RI'. Oh, and did you - leave RI?
Leave RI October 23, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Yes Bob, I work and lease out of state. My wife and I still own a house there and she's waiting on a return job offer out of state also. Thanks. Maybe I should change it to "almost left" RI..


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