Ktismatics

30 July 2007

Invisibility Cloak

Filed under: Reflections — ktismatics @ 5:47 am

The night before last I had another isolation dream. This time I was in high school trying to do some sort of geometry proofs, and having a difficult time of it. I wanted to call somebody up to ask how it’s done, but I didn’t know anyone to call. I was feeling panicky, not knowing how I was going to complete the assignment. But my performance anxieties were overwhelmed by the impotent rage I felt at being so isolated. I had a sense that I could probably do the proofs if I just stopped looking for help and figured it out. But I was determined to find someone to telephone with whom I could discuss the work, all the while convinced that there was no one. An old friend was there with me; he said he’d call someone he knew and have that person talk to me. But as he’s dialing the phone I’m raving in frustration, to the point where my friend refused to call his friend because he was afraid of how I’d sound in the background.

I’m reading the seventh and final Harry Potter book, my daughter and wife having already whizzed through it. Just past halfway through the book Harry has decided to shift his focus from destroying the archfiend Voldemort to equipping himself with the means of defeating death itself. Legend has it that a wizard can accomplish this impossible feat if he possesses three specific magical objects: one, the Unbeatable Wand; two, the Resurrection Stone that can bring dead people back to the land of the living; three, the Invisibility Cloak, by means of which one can hide from any enemy, including death himself. Harry’s chums, Ron and Hermione, are skeptical: surely this is just a legend, a story to tell the kiddies. But, Harry reminds them, I already own one of the three objects, and you both know it. And they have to agree: Harry’s Invisibility Cloak is the real deal. It always works; its power never fades; it is immune to all counter-charms and spells and hexes.

Let’s say you have an Invisibility Cloak. It hides you from your enemies, from those who would destroy you if they could. It buffers you from interference, allowing you to pursue your private schemes without interference and to hone your skills before putting them to the test. It lets you explore dangerous and forbidden realms without compromising your safety or your reputation. All in secret you’ve amassed a storehouse of arcane knowledge, mastered strange spells, delved into the hidden realms and stolen their secrets. You’re ready to face death himself if need be.

But now, ready to unveil yourself, you discover that your Invisibility Cloak has wrapped itself around you so tightly that you can’t take it off. No one can detect your presence. What you know, what you can do, who you’ve become — hidden. You demonstrate your powers but no one is watching, or maybe they convince themselves it was an accident, or act as if it hadn’t happened at all. It’s as though you’ve become a ghost haunting the world of the living. But even more you’re haunted by it, by its separateness. It’s as if you’re already dead.

Of course you can continue to take advantage of your invisibility, cultivating the kind of uniqueness that only isolation affords, but if no one can ever see you what’s the point? You stop watching, learning, creating, caring — as if you’re already dead. Would you even care if you found the Unbeatable Wand if nobody knew who was wielding it? And instead of bringing people back from the dead, wouldn’t you rather find the magical Stone that can transport the living across the barrier of invisibility so they can see the ghosts of the lonely dead?

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20 Comments »

  1. It’s that trail of crumbs that gives you away. It didn’t work great for Hansel and Gretel, but then they just got one shot at it. From under the cloak can drop bits or boulders for others to see.

    I’d take the Unbeatable Wand if offered; I don’t know what I’d do with it, but I think its got more potential for change.

    Meilleurs voeux!!

    Comment by blueVicar — 30 July 2007 @ 8:26 am

  2. Interesting. I have a friend who used to struggle a lot relating to people because of arrogance. We were talking about why he has an eaiser time relating to people than I. We ended up asking whether my lack of trust in people from the get-go, my lack of giving people the credit they (might) deserve…is because of my arrogance or because of how their concerns with stupid pop-culture stuff (for example) is their willful and active quest to make me insignificant. Is the reason for my lesser ability to relate well with people and be a good conversationalist (for example, as my friend very much is) my arrogance or my insignificance?

    ————————–

    And…where on God’s green earth is Erdman!?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 July 2007 @ 11:26 am

  3. Here.

    I spent some time exploring that very same “God’s green earth” you referenced.

    Please note that your name was mentioned on a recent post.

    Comment by Erdman — 30 July 2007 @ 11:54 am

  4. The Unbeatable Wand… wandcraft seems inseparable from the ability to generate powerful incantations and to speak them with authority. Casting a spell seems to require that the witch or wizard imagine the fulfillment so vividly that it becomes reality. What role does the wand as physical object play, do you think? Do you think its power resides in making the world conform to the witch’s intentions, or does it make those intentions stronger?

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 July 2007 @ 12:10 pm

  5. This business about arrogance versus insignificance I think is right on target. It would be a particularly brilliant psychological move to use one’s arrogance to make the other person feel as though s/he was the arrogant one. The subtle wielder of arrogance generates a retaliatory response, at which point the subtle initiator raises his/her hands: okay fine, you’re the smart one, nobody doubts your superiority. And now the responder finds him/herself feeling rebuffed and insignificant, while at the same time having left an impression of arrogance on the social world. The loser walks away puzzled; the winner reinforces his/her position as top dog.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 July 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  6. Erdman, on the other hand, seems to have no qualms about making himself visible. Here he hasn’t showed up here in weeks, and what’s his first move upon his return? Does he comment on the poignant post and the thoughtful responses? No, he waits for someone to mention his name. “Here I am!” Erdman responds, salivating. “Here’s a link to my post! Come see what I said about you over there!” Welcome back, Erdmanian Tornado.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 July 2007 @ 12:20 pm

  7. Erdman,
    please note that I have commented on said post.
    :)

    Doyle,
    Whose the winner/looser? You or me? I was just referencing a whole inner question of my own. Which I figured might relate. But maybe not. Knowing humans…I’m going with “probably.” But I don’t really even know what that means, exactly…I haven’t even resolved the “battle” in myself.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 July 2007 @ 12:51 pm

  8. Why you or me as winner versus loser? I thought my response related to your comment. Was I unable to see you, or were you unable to see me?

    And I couldn’t help but notice that your comment on Erdman’s blog links to that arrogant bastard JKA Smith. Oooh, he even mentions Baudrillard and everything.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 July 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  9. “Why you or me as winner versus loser?”

    “The subtle wielder of arrogance generates a retaliatory response, at which point the subtle initiator raises his/her hands: okay fine, you’re the smart one, nobody doubts your superiority…The loser walks away puzzled; the winner reinforces his/her position as top dog.”

    “Was I unable to see you, or were you unable to see me?”

    I don’t know. I am now confused.

    And…would my not addressing your comment about Smith and Baudrillard be tantamount to my commercial real estate agent’s not addressing my pleas for less pop culture BS?

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 July 2007 @ 1:11 pm

  10. FYI the reason I’m not addressing the Smith and Baudrillard comment of yours is becuase I just don’t know what to say. You sound a bit bitter/angry at the moment. Sounds like there’s not much I can say. In my mind, Smith had a good point that pertains to Erdman’s post. And I happened to see the same billboard when I was in VA just recently.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 July 2007 @ 1:13 pm

  11. “Making visible.” I think I just realized something. I think you were suggesting that I was suggesting that you are arrogant but that I did not just come out and say it. If I knew that the problem in either your situation or mine was in fact arrogance, I probably would have just said it. But as it stands, I really don’t understand how to resolve my own desire to have significance (which you also have) with the world’s lack of desire to accept my gift…and with the world’s lack of desire to care about anything that is “foundational” or “essential” but would rather consume itself with gaseous coulds of pop culture images.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 July 2007 @ 1:31 pm

  12. “I don’t know. I am now confused.”

    Ah me. I was very pleased with this post. I had a sense after finishing it that I was ready to start seeing some of the things I used to see when I felt like isolation was a valuable but time-limited exercise for seeing something different, when seeing alternate realities offered openings to creative engagement and fellowship rather than just frustration. Your comment about arrogance versus insignificance I thought was completely relevant, and I responded with a related observation of my own. I was surprised that you didn’t see the connection, as if I was obtuse and thinking more about me than about you. My comment on Erdman was a joke, as was my comment on Smith. It’s as if you and I are acting out the scenario I wrote in my response to your comment, with you turning me from the amusing/perceptive/open/humble guy who wrote the post into the bitter/angry/closed/arrogant guy who thought he was responding with sensitivity and humor to the discussion.

    In any event, I agree that expressing disregard for pop BS and admiration for classical excellence ends up getting one labeled as an arrogant elitist. It’s sad to be made to feel defensive about expressing the opinion that opera is better than Jessica Simpson, that an opera house is better than a shopping mall, etc.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 July 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  13. “I really don’t understand how to resolve my own desire to have significance (which you also have) with the world’s lack of desire to accept my gift…and with the world’s lack of desire to care about anything that is “foundational” or “essential” but would rather consume itself with gaseous coulds of pop culture images.”

    This is it exactly. And I think our frustrations with this seemingly irresolvable dilemma causes both of us to be misunderstood. Sometimes it causes us to misunderstand each other. I think you and I are both misunderstood sensitive souls with hidden brilliance. Too bad for all those losers who can’t see.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 July 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  14. As for your first paragraph…well…that’s kind of comedic, I must say. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    “It’s sad to be made to feel defensive about expressing the opinion that opera is better than Jessica Simpson, that an opera house is better than a shopping mall, etc.”

    Truly. Maybe if Jessica Simpson wasn’t so darn hot, people would readily like her less, and we could more easily assert our enjoyment of classical cultural persuits. That was supposed to be funny, FYI.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 July 2007 @ 1:42 pm

  15. “I think you and I are both misunderstood sensitive souls with hidden brilliance. Too bad for all those losers who can’t see.”

    And too bad for us loosers, too.

    How the H#$$ do we end up misunderstanding each other!? Argh. Good observation, though.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 July 2007 @ 1:45 pm

  16. It is hard to maintain the winning attitude in a world that insists on turning you into a loser. This is the invisibility cloak in action. And perhaps being habitually misunderstood or ignored makes us both assume that we’re being misunderstood and ignored even when we’re not. And then we start turning into the misunderstanders and the ignorers. It’s vicious, dude.

    Comment by ktismatics — 30 July 2007 @ 1:49 pm

  17. “And then we start turning into the misunderstanders and the ignorers.”

    Well, shit. I remember…I’ve told you about this…I went home for Christmas like a year and a half ago…sat down on the curb across the street from the house where I grew up…realized that I had judged in reaction to being judged…and become pretty much an ass hole…and cried and asked for forgiveness. I’m not in that spot at the moment. But somehow that relates, and I draw associations in my head between the two situations.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 30 July 2007 @ 1:52 pm

  18. This is about how you internalize the projection of feelings of insecurity of other people and this creates a feeling of isolation.
    I yesterday tried to convince a student to write but she was thining she wasn’t interesting. I could hear the echo of other people telling her to stop expressing her thoughts in her direct environment (school?).
    But this is a very simple explanation and I prefer your metaphor on the invisibility cloak, elaborate and full of attention.
    I feel very fortunate that I can read and understand most of what you write, but in answering I feel I encounter a barrier of undevelopped skill in expressing myself in English and allowing myself to think. I then think this is why I keep on visiting here, the challenge is in refinement. I’m not interested in grammar issues at this point, but at the level of thinking.

    Comment by Odile — 9 August 2007 @ 3:53 am

  19. “This is about how you internalize the projection of feelings of insecurity of other people and this creates a feeling of isolation.”

    Surely that’s true of me, and probably of most people to a degree. In many situations I find it difficult to distinguish whether I’m at fault or the other person is. I also find it difficult to continue on a path without at least occasional acknowledgment from others that the path is worth following.

    Your English expression is very good. Sometimes you present your ideas in a form that’s perfectly understandable but phrased in an uncommon way. As with poetry, the unusual wording causes the reader to pay closer attention to what’s being said, to consider things from a slightly different perspective.

    Comment by ktismatics — 9 August 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  20. <q cite=”Surely that’s true of me, and probably of most people to a degree. In many situations I find it difficult to distinguish whether I’m at fault or the other person is. I also find it difficult to continue on a path without at least occasional acknowledgment from others that the path is worth following.”

    It seems so contradictory that you’re so strong on expressing thoughts, explaining and understanding and that at the same time you need acknowledgment.
    But I know this very well.

    Thank you for the reassuring words. I’m realizing I also phrase uncommonly in Dutch and French.
    Puzzling…
    It makes me think of a type of analysis in psychology where you get to rotate the axes slightly: factor analysis. http://www.statsoft.com/textbook/stfacan.html
    As if my axes are always slightly oblique versus those of others.

    Comment by Odile — 9 August 2007 @ 7:14 pm


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