Original Sin

They are everywhere and mostly unrecognized, paths we have taken and routes we have abandoned. Some are emotional and physical, some moral, some mental. Most are of little consequence to us, or to the world at large, and pass unnoticed from our perceived reality, almost as if they were not there to begin with.

But every now and then there is a fork in the road that is of such earth shaking magnitude that the very world is changed. Yet few of us recognize the event for what it really is…..or was. In the vast history book of time, even the magnitude 8 or 9 earthquakes often warrant little more than a sentence or two, if any mention is made at all. Why is that?

The ultimate expression of our ego is when we declare we are aware, that we see clearly, our vision 20-20 and without fault or flaw. While the reader may scoff at such a silly notion, that we would actually claim to see clearly for we all understand we are human and thus prone to (the occasional) error, our ego does not believe this to be silly at all. Our ego wants us to believe we are always correct, with no error or blunder, because believing so tends to cut down on uncomfortable Cognitive Dissonance.

Since we spend the vast majority of our conscious time engulfed within, and influenced by, our ego (and if we deny this it is most likely our ego talking) it would be foolish to think we perceive anything as it truly is. We willingly don rose colored glasses in an effort to ignore our ugly truths, both small and large, in favor of our more carefully sanitized reality. Then again, the further we travel from the authentic life, the more difficult it becomes to recognize that which we no longer truly understand……the truth……our truth.

I would like to engage in a thought experiment, though it will be presented as fiction, make believe if you will. The purpose is to allow the reader to try on a new suit of clothes without fear or consequence, to crank up the imagination and apply liberal doses of empathy. While we all understand the concept of walking a mile in another person’s shoes, the real goal of this little ditty is to place you not in my shoes, but squarely in yours. In order to do this I shall create a small poetic fiction for you to have fun with……and just maybe to explore.

I do this to disarm and seduce, to engage and engross. If I were to point to ‘you’ (or God forbid myself) while venturing into difficult areas, the egoic defenses roll up and the rational mind shuts down, auto pilot safely on. No one likes to be pointed to, let alone to be piously lectured.

But if I were to expose a fictional person as human and vulnerable, then it is safe for the reader to venture in, and try on, the make believe skin for shape, size and clarity. After all, you can’t be hurt by what is not real and most certainly not about you. And isn’t that the ultimate purpose of a story, to provide an all expense paid trip down the rabbit hole with the assurance of a return ticket back home?

At some point or another we have all experienced a situation where we are having a very difficult time absorbing a concept, fact or thought process when suddenly everything comes together, like a light bulb just turned on. For me this usually occurs when information is presented in a different manner or by a different person or process.

Since this is written from ‘David’s’ point of view, he will be narrating his rocky tale for you. This is also my first foray into some very clunky rhyme in an effort to change up the delivery so that you might swing at the pitch. Please indulge me as the ultimate purpose is to view our current situation from a very personal point of view, that of David. Let us begin.

Empathy - Clean


David’s Story

My thirty five year marriage to Mary was always off track, but it really began to fall apart the day after the attack. It’s best not to begin this at the point we went off track, but rather with the benefit of hindsight and looking way back. We met three weeks into my junior year, and for me it was love at first sight. But Mary spurned my initial approaches, and it was months before we had our first night.

I was persistent, though some would say stubborn and still others might say dumb. I sent flowers, I changed classes, I was forever beating my own drum. She was intelligent and beautiful, and I feared she was more than I could manage. But Mary came ‘round and I thought myself lucky to have turned her to my advantage.

Regardless of her motives, we joined to build a life, though it was always on her terms and rarely did I win a fight. While I wished to believe ours was a marriage of equals, as in so many unions in life it was a joining of un-equals. She demanded her space and since I feared her loss, I conceded her what she took, shut my eyes and stifled my remorse.

But in return she bore my children, kept my house, helped nurture my career. There were burning questions I dared not express, “do not go there” she said quite clear. We worked through the rough spots and she appeared at times resigned. I convinced myself I was as well and lived my life as I defined.

It was easier when I was younger, full of blind drive and great hunger. My future in corporate finance assured us a life time full larder, though Mary was never satisfied and relentlessly drove me ever harder. But my offsite business meetings and her weekly socializations kept Mary distracted and helped quiet her unhappy vocalizations.

Still her strange absences, missed phone calls and many unanswered questions, pointed to trouble at home and I worried about her indiscretions. But when I would probe, Mary would lash out and accuse; something I could not fathom which left me all the more confused.

With my earning power climbing along with social status and corporate rank, we muddled through the rough times as I learned to remain mentally blank. But with our two children now finally off to state college, Mary’s absences and transgressions left me constantly on edge. While I feared asking too much for I might not want the knowledge, not knowing what was happening often drove me to allege.

It was while driving to a client late one morning that I received the call; the police informed me that Mary had taken a brutal fall. I drove straight to the hospital where Mary had been taken, she had been brutally beaten, why were the police so mistaken?

So many questions, so few being attended, how could this be, my world was upended. I was told it was a home invasion of the most destructive kind; they took some money and jewels and anything else they could find. I protested confusion, my home was secure, but the police were satisfied when Mary was demure.

I demanded they find them, what the many discrepancies meant, but with their paperwork complete, soon their interest was spent. So after two weeks of rest and rehabilitation, I gathered up Mary and off we went on vacation. She was frightened of our home unless I greatly expanded; it seemed the more security I offered the more she demanded.

While our extended family gathered to wish us all well, they did not want to look closely and most certainly not dwell. That approach seemed to quiet Mary, but it just furthered my depression. Something was very wrong here, but no one seemed in the mood for confession. To my family I was now the injured party, Mary was looking better in fact quite hearty.

With my incessant inquiry and pestering question, I was considered ill and in need of professional attention. My brother took me aside and told me to stop my protestations, it was Mary who was the victim here “how dare I have expectations?” I was alone in a house full of family and friend, everyone satisfied to look past Mary’s bruises and my troubling bend.

The following years were a slow downward spiral into hell, heartsick, my calm and resolve descending as well. First she wanted more security, then a stronger window and door, once one thing was installed, it was ripped out for some more. The distraction this caused did not bode well at work, my job in jeopardy I feared demotion to file clerk.

I was being bled to death, both my sanity and my wealth; I could deal with most assaults, but not my failing health. For all her numerous faults, this was not the Mary I wed, nothing I did would please her, her demands were never fed. After seven long ugly years of this, it was decided I would say goodbye, she had found someone else, someone she had on the sly.

Looking back over the years it is now abundantly clear, that I willingly participated in the deception I did fear. Even now with the advantage of time and distance, I’m still working through the details of the self destruction I gave my assistance. Recently while clearing out some old boxes from deep storage, I found some love letters to Mary next to an old first mortgage.

While I had always suspected that Mary had kept a lover, what I discovered in that box was that her lover was my brother. To make matters worse he was her lover during the attack, and it seems from the letters that it was he who beat her black. Mary then conspired with my brother to cover his track, by staging the theft and beating as a false flag attack. What does one do, where does one turn, when one is betrayed and then left to burn?

End of David’s Story

Who is that woman - Clean

Many of us claim to have known to some degree or another about the coming danger of those who presently rape, rob and pillage our homes, our economy and nation, our sense of self worth and community, our national pride and honor. Then again how much of that is actually our ego talking, protecting ourselves from the trauma of the shock and awe scorched Earth operation presently under way.

Still there is no getting around the fact that deep down inside, during the quiet of the night when we wake with a start and the mind begins to race, that we are hurt to the core, betrayed by all that we wanted to believe in, did believe in for most of our life, taught as children about what was just and right. It sounded so good; it sounded so right, sea to shining sea of free souls gently governed by a benevolent authority derived of the people, by the people, for the people.

Who among us at some point or another did not avert our gaze, bow our head and quicken our step before crossing the street in order to avoid what we suspected might be going on down that dark alley just off to the left. A mugging maybe, none of your damn business; hurry along there serf and mind your P’s & Q’s. You owe, you owe, so off to work obedient consumer you go. Forget what you saw, forget what’s up ahead, just dream of that overdue bill dancing around in your head.

While I may claim this is not what I signed up for and thus I am not responsible for the present day mess, there is no denying that I left to others the moral and personal responsibility I abdicated to monitor and police the system while I pursued my own dumbed down distractions, self interest or mind numbing pleasure.

Or did I simply forget that section of the social compact I now claim to have been defrauded of, the part where I promised to apply my attention and diligence and in return receive my reward? But isn’t that what voting is for on that hallowed second Tuesday in November? Yes sir, I do my part every other year, isn’t that enough?

This is so much more than just about who has the power and who has not, who is not in jail, who is too big to fail and who disappeared into the night like a lost letter in the mail. This is about being violated in a manner most of us have never experienced before. We have been violently assaulted, robbed and beaten before being cast aside and abandoned on the side of the road. Worse, we have been threatened with more if we do not stay silent, and then spied upon in the most personal and supposedly protected manner.

This is about loss and grief, about pain and punishment, about personal redemption and the road to perdition, about our complicity, complacency and willing participation with our tormentors before, during and after the fact. This is about personal shame and public humiliation, about the betrayal of ourselves by someone who we (desperately) wanted to believe was trustworthy when they were most assuredly not.

This is about self betrayal, both individually and collectively. We were either blinded by our own lust and greed, or duped and dummied by ideological drugs. Just because we were lied to does not mean we should have suspended disbelief like hapless children told to mind our business and eat our peas. David knew something was wrong, deeply wrong, with his relationship, but he made the decision, conscious or otherwise, to ignore the warning signs and enjoy the ride for as long as it lasted. What right does he have to be indignant over his brother’s betrayal when first he betrayed himself?

But most of all this is about fear, at times stomach churning, spine tingling, hair raising fight or flight terror from the realization that if this truly does end up going in the direction it is becoming increasingly obvious it will, that we, meaning you and I and all those who we hold dear, could be in real mortal danger, if not directly from our tormentor, then from the effects and fallout of our tormentors thrashing and gnashing death throes.

Nearly all of us……well, all except our benevolent dictators, appear to be permanently caught in the first four stages of the Kubler-Ross black hole of loss and grief, endlessly circling around Acceptance in the center while rotating through Denial, Anger, Bargaining and Depression on the periphery. One would think we would eventually succumb to the gravity of Acceptance in order to move on and make significant personal changes, but as long as our velocity and centrifugal force is great enough to counteract the gravity well within we will not quickly pass through this insanity.

This finally gets me to the point of this dissertation. While it is comforting to believe that if only ‘they’ or ‘them’ would change their ways we could rid ourselves of this mess along with the sociopaths in charge, thus absolving me, myself and I from any blame or responsibility, the truth of the matter is that the present state of affairs is just the symptom and not the disease.

The illness can and will be found within, in our dysfunction within ourselves and with our interactions with each other. The health or discord of a society is a reflection of the health or dis-ease of the individuals that comprise that society. One must think of this in the same way one would blame the chain for breaking when it fact it was the weakest link that failed. Only in our case society’s chain consists of all weak links, some better or worse than others, but all ill at ease. The answers always lay within. Maybe we should take a long look some time.


Cognitive Dissonance

Original Sin - Clean

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7 thoughts on “Original Sin”

  1. Cd

    I must say of all your posts here as well as on ZH, this one was the most disturbing for me. That you have nuanced it as a third person story even heighten it. I am a highly empathetic person and betrayal is one experience I am acutely familiar. Unfortunately, those of us who carry this trait are living in a world where the majority of people could care less they damage us. Self absorbed and driven, they pursue their own impulses like moths to flame. Lemmings over a cliff, ignoring all warning signs.

    For so many years I felt like all the skin of my body had been scored by a rasp. Walking through my day people would bump into me without thinking, not seeing the pain it caused me. Fearing I would become mentally ill I retreated into myself and put the rest of the world at arms length. I found relief hiding in my personal cocoon. I was fortunate to find someone who, though did not understand why I was so withdrawn, respected who I was and made no demands that I change. Perhaps this was the key.

    After 30 years, I made the decision to venture out. I had come to realize my Sanctuary had become a prison and not a refuge. Instead of running from my damaged self, I turned around and faced it. I finally forgave myself for my failings and poor choices and saw them for what they were. A young girl who did the best she could at the time and who was not Bad. I did not deserve what was inflicted on me and I had to forgive myself. This was the hardest part because the Voice told me I was Bad. I had listened to the Voice as truth and drank it’s poison daily. Now, I had to do battle with the Voice and was sorely afraid. I had given it great power over me. The vanquishing of the Voice I consider my greatest life victories though few know of this. It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. It is not completely gone. Occasionally it whispers in my ear when I am distracted but I quickly see if for what it is and, as I shine light on it, it quickly escapes to the shadows like an exposed roach.

    When unburdened from soul damage, the resultant lightness is indescribable. It’s discarding a pack pack full of heavy stones while hiking a mountain path. Soon you can’t fathom how you carried them for so long. All you can do is feel the joy of your dancing heart.


    1. @Miffed

      Not sure if you liked or hated it. But I am glad it touched you, even if in a disturbing manner. We don’t grow from mundane readings.

      This piece was actually dragged out of my unfinished file from several years ago. I wasn’t sure how well the rhyme would go over nor if the final section was too stern. But I liked the piece and wanted to put it out there. So the other day I dragged it out, extensively reworked and edited it, then picked out the art work to go with it. The results are here.

      Thank you for leaving your mark under my piece. Always good to hear what you have to say Miffed.

      Cognitive Dissonance

      1. Hi CD ( and Mrs as well),

        After reading my post I can see your inability to see my view of it. I must remind myself to work though my feelings on the matter before jumping in with a response. I was very saddened by what had happened to you and the futility of the situation. It struck me personally. Some areas I just haven’t built up enough armor. It has nothing to do with you, truly.

        I meant disturbed in a provocative sense not as disquieting or shocking. Similar to yoga. When I first started my practice, I was taught to hold the postures until in discomfort but never pain. As you feel the discomfort you focus on your breath flowing through you. Certain postures evoke more discomfort than others. Camel is an extreme heart opener. It took 2 years of work to begin to do it. It still troubles me so. I prefer to keep my heart unexposed so I have just accepted the fact when I do it I will end up with a few tears at the end and just let it go. Yoga has complemented my mental journeys linking them with a moving form of meditation. Only through discomfort will a yoga practice evolve beyond the postures to a deeper spiritual level and a quieting of the mind. Something my soul had yearned.

        I am happy you appreciate my comments. Don’t be afraid to push me if you see an opening. I don’t mind being in discomfort knowing I will discover something new, a different perspective from my own biased view. Comfort is ultimately dangerous because it lulls you into a detached tranquility.

        Love and respect,


    2. @Miffed

      Likewise. This was the first piece I ever read by Cog where I turned to him and told him not to post it. I don’t think I can even explain exactly why. It was well written and I thought the rhyme and the use of a fictional story was creative. The story itself upset me, even though the analogy was spot on. I am curious to see if others will have the same reaction here or when he posts it on ZH.

  2. Cog, this is spot on. I can be overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem and do nothing or I can face the issue and change what is within my power to change. Mrs Stengel and I pondered a long time what our response would be to this mess our society is in. I admitted to myself that I had been duped by the political party I had supported. I began to focus my attention on what I could do. We became better neighbors, sharing and helping more. The causes we supported on a national level became causes we support only on a local level. We began to do our part to enhance local economy. We met once a month with other folks who were trying to figure out what was going on. As a group we educated ourselves and if nothing else we knew we had a loose knit network of like-minded folks in our community. It may have been a tiny impact compared to the problem but I refuse to keep living as though the problem doesn’t exist.

    1. @casey stengel

      For the average Jane and Joe our contribution to the present day insanity, while significant since every grain of sand on the beach is important, is still small. Thus our contribution to the solution, while significant, is also small.

      You described the process to contribute to the solution extremely well.

      Thank you!

      Cognitive Dissonance

  3. pretty much: play, get played, or find another game

    Further thoughts on pain. IMHO pain is good. When we train in marital arts we train to the point before the break. This is necessary on a number of levels.

    1. The dojo is the safest place in the world. You should be surround by friends ( and a decent sprinkling of nutters, they also serve a purpose). If this is not the case then get out as people are training for the wrong reasons. When you train your uke is doing you a massive disservice if they pull their punch, let you poorly apply techniques. Conversely, they do you a disservice if they wriggle around like an ass if you do not apply the technique that would have crippled them

    2. If you not getting hit properly in class, how are you going to be able to deal with it when it goes off in the street? The sympathetic response is going to own you. You also come to realise what is normal pain and life threatening pain (aka truma). Pain can also be trained and expanded upon like muscle. The teachers in Japan give this to you as a gift when you are their uke. It’s amazing (not at the time though :P) to see the range of pain and how it effects you mentally.

    3. The more you train, the more you realise you never want to hurt someone, unless you are forced to and then fuck it, nothing is off limits. Sensei would frequently say that killing is a sign of poor martial arts. Performing it as a sport equally so.

    4. When you surpass momentary pain- say a long distance run, where you break though a mental barrier- you feel amazing, and are able to reach new previously unattainable levels.

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