Shame

You might not think the best way to spend your first day of freedom after a lengthy incarceration would be to immediately resume stalking the tranny hooker who knocked out six teeth and had you put away to begin with…

That’s how I roll. — Phil, Choke (2008)

In Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke*, narrator Victor Mancini talks about someone he idolizes, a male internet porn-star (if one can call him this) who runs a channel of videos all of the same activity: The pornstar bends over and a monkey stuffs walnuts up his butt.

The ability to do that, posits Mr. Mancini to expose yourself to the world presenting a situation that tasteless, that absent of modesty, without any pretense of propriety, is power. It’s the power to act without concern for social norms, which stop us from doing so much.

This is in the same spectrum as the will to act, demonstrated by Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects (1995), which he did by heralding a roaring rampage of revenge by murdering his own family, showing that no sense of morality or decency or attachment will give him pause in his mission of devastation. And the same social mechanisms that keep us from peeing in a metal pipe to recover a lost ping-pong ball are the same ones that keep us from stealing people’s stuff, or killing them for it. It’s also the same thing that drives us to outrage when we hear about social injustice (like police officers beating up schoolgirls).

So being ashamed is a sign that we’re human, that we have a sense of social propriety and can fit into civilization, at least to some degree.

But some of us aren’t looking to murder entire crime syndicates. Nor are we interested in engaging porn involving simians and drupes, but would like to put up a few words without our inner critic telling us how we’re going to be sorry when we do. Having been raised to be ashamed of making mistakes, making one in public transcends mere awkwardness to agonizing distress. Posting a bit that says something I think is important — and then discovering I said it wrong, or I misspelled a word or my logic was spurious — feels to me like posting a video of a monkey stuffing my rectum with walnuts.

Maybe I’m afraid that if I say something untrue, I’ll lose all credibility. If I offend someone, I’ll lose all credibility. If my logic isn’t ironclad, I’ll lose all credibility. If I drone on for too long, if I’m not easy to read, if the truth I present is too uncomfortable, I’ll lose all credibility.

Maybe I overvalue credibility.

NaNoWriMo is a marathon writing effort run by the Office of Letters and Light.** Every November they encourage all participants to write 50,000 words in one month. I’ve used it for a while to set other far reaching goals. And for this month, my goal is to put something at least two-hundred-fifty words on this blog, even if it’s just about rectal walnuts and monkeys.

* That is, the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. the bit about the internet porn-star guy is conspicuously absent in the movie.

** I’m not exactly on good terms with OLL — they may not ever rememeber who I am — but I’ve had disagreements with their Municipal Liasons about what kind of language, literary or otherwise, is appropriate for youthful eyes. (I tend to have a Sallingeresque attitude regarding adult language.)

So I don’t associate with NaNo or OLL directly anymore, but I think their cause to encourage writers is a good one, so I’ll still echo their signals from my decaying orbit. And I’m still the official monitor / facilitator for a year-round Tuesday writing group.

Also, I requested the OLL gift store to produce an official NaNoWriMo coffee cup sleeve. This would be a convenient, portable thing by which to flag fellow WriMos at cafés. And they don’t want people producing unofficial NaNoWriMo products. I asked for five years. And for five years they told me how brilliant an idea it was. And yet for five years they’ve produced nothing in the way of coffee sleeves. NOTHING! Yes. I’m bitter.

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