(Between Chapters) Essay Without Shame

Lest anyone be confused, this is bonus content between chapters. It’s a real essay by the real author, not some weird fictional essay-within-a-play. ^_^

I hear that children born in Chessicky County have little barbed wire fences built right into their skin. They’re spiky and prickly and some of them are electrified.

No one ever messes with the children of Chessicky. There’ll be some trouble-causing guy around, and the children’ll shout, “Stop! Don’t touch me!”

And the trouble-causing guy will be forced to admit, “I am actually rather intimidated by the thought of touching you.”

“Ha!” say the children. “That’s because we learned our lessons from McGruff, the Crime-Stopping Dog!”

Then they stop, drop, and roll. Just because they can.

Most people don’t come from Chessicky County.

I hear that Ebeleth is a languid town. It’s a languid town full of languid people and all the clocks are slow. Sloths run free on the streets. There are sloth crossing signs. They show pictures of sloths. Actually, people are generally too languid to make a whole picture of a sloth. They generally just draw a stick figure and say, “You get the idea.”

Sometimes someone will come racing around the curves at 5 mph and they’ll see a sloth. The sloth is crossing the road! There’s nothing else for it—the driver has to brake!

That’s how languid Ebeleth is.

There’s a lot of drama in Ebeleth, but it tends to be lower-key than in other places. Like when a kid’s peers tempt her to do drugs, it’s kind of like this:

“Hey,” says a peer. “One day, when we’re old enough to drink the demon booze, do you think we should also try marijuana? I mean, to make the sloths more interesting?”

If the kid is a good Christian, she naturally replies, “Get thee behind me, Beelzebub! The languid movement of the sloths is God’s own sedative!” But if the kid is wicked and reckless, she might respond instead with, “Tempting! When I am 18, please look me up and we can further investigate this plan.”

In Ebeleth you can’t pressure people very hard. If they don’t want to crack, they just won’t!

When boys and girls begin to notice one anothers’ bodies in Ebeleth, they say, “That is vaguely interesting. I find myself lecherously imagining the marriage bed. But first I must complete my high school, college, graduate, and post-graduate education. A person must have priorities!”

Once, a terrorist was extraordinarily rendered to Ebeleth.

No, really. It was extraordinary.

You have to wonder what they were thinking.

The torturers of Ebeleth tried. They really did. They showed the terrorist many episodes of 70s and 80s television shows where hard-assed people tortured other people. They said, “If we weren’t so squeamish, that’s probably what we’d be doing to you!”

The terrorist did not crack. He’s still there. He’s grown to rather like 70s and 80s TV and no longer wants to bring down Western civilization, so that’s kind of like a happy ending.

Anyway, most people do not live in Ebeleth.

This essay is a little bit about my own abuse history, and why I write about the things I write about.

Children that do not live in Chessicky County have finite ability to protect their boundaries. Abusers that do not live in Ebeleth can apply an unbounded amount of force. This is why abusers can break children.

So I’m not ashamed that my rapist succeeded in damaging my internal world. I’m not ashamed that I tend to dissociate symbol and referent. I’m neither ashamed nor surprised that I don’t recognize myself, emotionally, as a person. I went through Hell, and there’s nothing I could have done to prevent that or prevent it from having fallout. That’s pure physics.

And it’s pretty much why I write what I do, I think. That and practice.

In short: Man tortures child. Hilarity ensues!

38 thoughts on “(Between Chapters) Essay Without Shame

  1. Sometimes, I find myself being in the situation of recognizing that something has happened to a person I know that I have no real way of understanding. My experience is limited, and likewise is my ability to extrapolate from the known to the unknown. In such situations, I generally have no real option other than to say that although I don’t understand the things that’ve happened to them, I wish that they hadn’t happened.

    Perhaps oddly, for we’ve never met and not really even corresponded, I do find myself caring about you and what happens to you. This doesn’t really do any good, but it’s just a side effect of being me. Because of this, I must say, if you feel the need to talk or vent to someone, feel free to contact me.

    I don’t really expect to be taken up on this. No doubt you have plenty of close friends who you’d rather talk to than some random stranger on the internet. Still, this is one of those things where, as a result of me being myself, I must at least offer, regardless of whether it’s useful or relevant.

    -Eric

  2. I’m nowhere near as elloquent as Eric, but also wanted to let you know that you have friends you’ve never even met. We wish you well, always.

  3. Elegant? [edit”>Errr… Eloquent?[/edit”> That was just a verbal spewing of thoughts with its form constrained by the habits I’ve developed through reading and writing.

    -Eric

  4. Come off it, Eric. It was too eloquent.

    On the other hand, offering sympathy is a lot like offering pity. So I’ll say, instead, that what you have gone through makes you who you are, and who you are, Rebecca, is a fascinating person who has written some of the best stuff I’ve ever read, and some of the best games I’ve ever played, and even if it took utterly abominable acts on someone else’s part to create that person, that person has contributed wonderful things to my life and to the lives of many others.

  5. Metal –

    You have it backwards.

    Abuse destroys. It does not build. It destroys. That is the intent, and the actuality.

    Building can come from overcoming the abuse, from repairing the damage, from trying to heal the scars. It does not come from the abuse. It does not come from the beatings, it does not come from the molestation and the rape, it does not come from the torture.

    Abusers deserve no credit, no matter how incidental, for anything good that any of their victims become.

  6. Abuse destroys. It does not build. It destroys. That is the intent, and the actuality.

    Exactly. That’s the paradox. How can evil, destructive acts prompt the creation of something good and fine as a reaction?

    I don’t believe in Divine Providence. I don’t think that everything happens for the best or that this is the best of all possible worlds. I find it, in general, difficult to credit (in the words of Douglas Adams) “that any godlike being who could order the disposition of particles at the creation of the Universe would also be interested in directing traffic on the M4….”

    So what twist of moral logic is it that allows evil to produce good? How is that possible? Do the words “evil” and “good” have any meaning at all in the face of that paradox, or should we perhaps replace them with “ugly” and “beautiful”?

    Compost is ugly. Flowers are beautiful.
    Orson Scott Card’s homophobic bigotry is ugly. His stories are beautiful.
    Abuse is ugly. Hitherby is beautiful.

    You can have flowers without compost. But the flowers grew from the compost, and denying that gets you nowhere.

  7. Well– and you can’t have heroism without disasters. People most often shine brightest when surrounded by shadow.

    It’s as if suffering and fighting is the easiest way to bring out the shine. And trying and failing is the easiest way to learn, and breaking and healing is the easiest way to grow stronger.

    I’m sure this would be an easy route to improvement if suffering were universally more palatable than it is, and didn’t produce quite so much waste.

  8. But the flowers grew from the compost, and denying that gets you nowhere.

    You’ve certainly got a point there, but I’m pretty sure I’d be a happier man if bad shit didn’t happen to people I like.

    Rebecca, as always, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. They are very much appreciated.

  9. it seems to be a time of bad things and tellings of bad things.

    the one thing I can say about bad things is that bad things create silence.

    it’s not why every year the world gives us spring, and fresh breezes and birds singing. But it’s there, anyway.

    I hope it’s warm where you are, and that you enjoy spring, because I can’t say anything.

  10. You can have flowers without compost. But the flowers grew from the compost, and denying that gets you nowhere.

    Again, you really don’t understand. The abuse is not the compost. The abuse, to use your garden analogy, is the boot crushing the plant every time it tries to peek its head out of the ground.

    I speak from deep personal experience when I say that I’ve had to spend an extraordinary amount of time fighting the scars, aversions, and pains left by deep repeated trauma in accomplishing everything I have managed in my life.

    I know a number of other abuse survivors. We’re the ones who know and have been through it. None of us were made better by it. We have all had to fight it, and some of us fight it still, to accomplish things.

    Abuse is not like adversity. Adversity can make you stronger. Abuse is simply about breaking you. It’s not something you grow from. It’s simply something you figure out how to survive.

  11. its like we have war stories.

    war stories are incredible. They tell you about amazing acts of courage, sacrifice, everything, the most admirable and most discpicable truths of human life.

    we don’t have war stories to say “wow, war was really inspirational to this guy, I should go sign up in the army and then I’ll have stories like that!” no.. no, that’s not how it is.

    We have war stories to remind us that despite everything, war is horrible and has to end.

  12. we don’t have war stories to say “wow, war was really inspirational to this guy, I should go sign up in the army and then I’ll have stories like that!” no.. no, that’s not how it is.

    I think it depends on the story.

    I know I encounter plenty of stories, in a lot of different media, that are all about the glory and heroics, and not so much about the blood and guts. They make people, often kids, say, “Man, I want to be like that.”

    As for abuse vs. adversity, I think the line between them is not so clear, though I agree they’re not identical. There are a lot of different ways to abuse somebody, last I heard, and many of them aren’t intentional attempts to break somebody else, they’re a side-effect of somebody else being screwed up and unable to deal with it.

    If we’re only talking about one specific variant of abuse, like ongoing sadistic sexual child abuse, that’s fine, but I’d rather such terms be clarified in any arguments that spring up.

    Part of me wants to say, “This is an ugly conversation to have– those are ugly words to type.” But Rebecca’s not ashamed and not hiding, so neither will I.

    But I do think that Hitherby Dragons is Rebecca’s attempt to apprehend and answer various questions about the relationships between abuse and glory, suffering and perfection, and the delicate balance of pressures from nature and nurture in shaping identity and one’s legacy. Or perhaps I should say, one’s dharma…

    Anyhow, I have it on good authority that there are more chapters left to tell than written so far.

  13. (Edited at RSB’s request. My apologies to everyone for the flame that used to be here.)

    Solarbird: I am here to discuss a literary work, and the associated philosophical questions which bear on that work. I do not see that it is necessary to compare scars in order to determine who has the right to comment on that work, or those philosophical questions. You are neither equipped nor welcome to judge my personal history.

    If you disagree with my literary criticism or philosophical argument, please rebut me within that realm, rather than stating that I “don’t understand.”

  14. Your essay is stupendous. It builds very subtly a structure that the reader doesn’t necessarily see, and then very suddenly, the full weight of everything that has come before is focused to a single point. It is very powerful. Thank you.

    I can’t think of much else to say that doesn’t sound vapid, or hasn’t already been said. There are a couple of things I want you to know though:

    I have a deep respect and admiration for you, based on your writing, your apparent ideals and how your carry yourself in various fora. Thank you for being you.

    Hitherby has been helpful to me in coping with my own problems. Thank you for your wisdom.

    In some way I don’t really understand, the honesty and openness you’ve displayed here is both inspiring and impressive. Thank you for that as well.

  15. I have a pragmatic interest in resolving tensions and keeping this forum someplace that I like to read.

    Metal Fatigue, your most recent comment makes me unhappy. I think the denotative content is okay. I think it is the connotations and implications of the rhetorical form you used that bother me. Please address this in some fashion.

    Rebecca

  16. Heh. I had just logged on to delete my earlier comment and try again.

    Rebecca, I apologize for making you unhappy. I shall rephrase my response to Solarbird in a less inflammatory fashion forthwith.

  17. Sometimes I dissociate, but the process of unity continues. I don’t know why I came apart, but sometimes I have suspicions. Often I simply memorize what is expected, even what seems crazy, and go on.

    I wonder sometimes if I will ever have a normal sexual relationship. I spend so much time trying to sublimate desire, forget that I am sexual, yet it creeps back in anyway. I put off self-release as much as I can, going days without it, yet eventually I cave in to the release my body has learned. Nowadays I would like to forget that I am ever a sexual being, except for the other half of the time when I desperately want someone in my life.

    I am not a blushing virgin, but my early relationships had unhealthy patterns, and I lost my virginity after graduate school to someone who wanted a dominance and submission relationship. In college, I fell into a crowd interested in BDSM games, which promised to fulfill all my wildest desires. They only taught me that unrestrained sexuality is hurtful, and that seeing people as objects or expressions of lust damages the soul, or the psyche. The Monster is a part of me, and I can see the cycle of abused and abuser in myself.

    I was never forced to do anything, except that the world requires things of us. Not just the sexuality, though that aggravates, but the mere act of trying to comform my behavior and thoughts to what the world wanted wore me down. It took me a while before I realized that I was talking about myself in the plural; most days, I can prevent this, unless I’m very tired. The latest, and hopefully finally precise, diagnosis of Asperger’s did not include disassociative tendencies. I know better than to talk about that, at least for now. I’d like to have a legal career and am not at the moment interested in additional medicine, though I might ask for it or therapy down the road. I wouldn’t know; I may ask you for advice again sometime.

    But sensory overload is a part of Asperger’s, I have come to understand. Sensory stimuli that wouldn’t bother someone else gets picked up by people like me, like background music in a cafe, but at least I know where the basic track of attention is supposed to be, even if it can be tiring to follow. Stronger than normal feelings — like sex — appear as so brightly tinged that they attract with pleasure and repel with such overwhelming sensation that I fear I would lose myself as before. I fear being overwhelmed by feelings, yet I wouldn’t want to live without them. So I strive for a moderate path, seek a temperate life, yet I want to live without always seeing the walls around me. Maybe the new medicine (the Lexapro) these days will keep helping turn down the volume, help me tolerate the world and even physicality more, or maybe I will give up on seeking relationships entirely sometime. The flesh is strong.

    Mack

  18. Rebecca,

    In short: Man tortures child. Hilarity ensues!

    If I can’t see the hilarity in this, I can see it in the monster having tea with the witch and Santa. You’ve imposed that upon him.

    Not at all the same , but have you seen this?

  19. Ya know, its strange. I’ve been thinking about the way they say predators have a complete lack of empathy… but having known several personally it doesn’t seem to me that that’s quite right. I don’t think they are just faking empathy. I think in some way they actually are able to empathize more clearly than other people but the way they respond to their own empathy is short-circuited or miswired somehow.

    I mean, thinking of the sickos that saw me, this scrawny starving kid with dark circles under my eyes, looking like I had a tapeworm or something, and the way they tried to “befriend” me, I think they actually thought of themselves as good guys. What else could motivate people to think its a good thing to start something like NAMBLA or whatever?

    Yup. That’s the monster.

  20. we don’t have war stories to say “wow, war was really inspirational to this guy, I should go sign up in the army and then I’ll have stories like that!” no.. no, that’s not how it is.

    I think it depends on the story.

    Of course it does, everything “depends”… or does it? I think there’s hard answer here, and I also think it’s one that isn’t kind to talk about.

  21. Of course it does, everything “depends”… or does it? I think there’s hard answer here, and I also think it’s one that isn’t kind to talk about.

    I don’t understand what you’re hinting at. I am likely to say ‘it depends’ to a lot of things, it’s true, and sometimes that’s because I believe context matters, and sometimes that’s because I disagree with what somebody has said, but I don’t know everything.

    In the case of war stories, I’ve encountered a hell of a lot more stuff glorifying war and encouraging people to join the armed forces and learn how to be snipers and hunt down fantasy monsters and stand up for what’s right than I have stuff that taught ‘war is bad and must end’.

    But I’m sure you have a different experience. And thus, ‘it depends on the story’.

  22. I can imagine a war story. It’s the kind of story where you tell your kids that you went to do something that had meaning. Its the kind of story where somebody is hurt and can’t fight back, or they are but they aren’t winning, and you go in and tip the scales so that the right people win. That’s a legend, and it’s kinda inspirational, and brings hope. It’s also a tool for making people feel better, and needs to be recognized as such.

    I think there’s two characters from Hitherby that are relevant here. The first is Evil Chair. The second is Martin.

    “Moral relativism isn’t a weapon,” Jaime says, grimly. “It’s not for fueling proselytism. It’s a tool people should use on their own to limit their arrogance!”

    Moral relativism is very similiar to a war story, because they are both a tool of Perspective. You use a “good” war story to remember that all the people in a war aren’t evil. They’re heroic and compassionate and want to do the right thing and this is the best they can think of that has a chance of working. You can have people who tell you a story about how they did great things, and maybe one of them got shot but nobody they cared about died, and how in the end the war was over and everyone went home and lived happily ever after. That’s how we get war heros.

    But the war heros remember that war is hell. Even if they’re wearing a smiling face and signing autographs. If they don’t, then they’ve lost perspective, or never had it in the first place. They’re using their status as a War Hero for glory, for ensuring that the war heros, and war victims of tommarow will sign up because they want to do something better and think it’s the best thing they can do. And maybe it is, but that’s not for me to judge. I think that war heros that don’t keep perspective are being abused for the propoganda purposes by the government. but I might be wrong about that so we’ll see.

    Martin doesn’t have a good quote. Martin is something that I personally despise. I’ve called him a demon in the past, and I think that’s true. He’s not anything unique, anything more than any of us are individuals. He’s not a person, he’s a god. And he’s just one more Brother in a long line of Brothers, and I’ll tell you why.

    (I’ve also called myself a demon, and an angel, and many other things – the point here being that I struggle with my own flaws, and probably see my own flaws, when i see them in other people, magnified a thousand times in terms of how important they really are)

    Martin is a force of transformation. He sees suffering, and thinks suffering should be transformative. By doing this he makes the Monster able to be presentable to the people and in that sense is just as much a part of the monster as Sebastian. (Edit: maybe Martin IS the monster’s shiney tie?)

    He makes suffering good, because suffering is like a prayer to Martin. If you need someone to brighten your day, suffer – and Martin will come. Martin makes you better than even the other people, so the people who are suffering get to be better than everyone else. It makes people envious and want to suffer. Because if you suffer, Martin will come, and will change you into something that makes up for your pain. And thus people will go to the monster, and if the monster gets you.. well, Martin might not be able to help you. But he’s trying! and if he succeeds, if your gamble pays off, you’ll be better than everyone else.

    I don’t think Martin is evil though. Martin is just a boy, really, 13 years old? he’s doing pretty good. I don’t think Martin realizes that if he makes suffering transformative, then suffering is acceptable. Buddha realized that suffering was unacceptable, and tried giving people an answer to suffering whether they suffered or not, so that they could change. Buddha is an answer to suffering, but suffering isn’t a prerequisite for the transformation. Transformation happens, regardless of if you suffer or not. That’s why Buddha is more mature than Martin.

    Martin might figure out what Buddha is all about though. He’s certainly not the next Buddha. I think Martin might realize that he has to transform things that aren’t suffering, as evidenced by him messing with barbie doll souls. It’s not hurting anyone, but he thinks it’s wierd. I don’t think he understands why he has to do that though. It doesn’t matter if he has a right (I’d say NO, I don’t have the right, but I’m going to do it anyway), but he might look back at it later and say “Hey… people were changing without suffering.. that’s pretty good! How did I do that?”

    I think Martin and Jane will go away, and I wonder who they’ll become next.

  23. That’s a very interesting take on Martin, but I’m not sure it takes into account that Martin succeeded in freeing Jenna from the monster when none of her other siblings could.

  24. they all freed her, it just has a evolving definition of “Freedom”. Maybe back then, she couldn’t conceive of being free in the way she is now. I get a very definite feeling of “baby steps” from the sequence of “imaginary” brothers. I don’t see any reason to assume that Martin is the ultimate assumption of that prototype.

    Is Jane really any freer now than she was in the firewood world? Does the monster, then or now, really have any power over her?

  25. Jane seems to think that things are different, and better, since Martin found her. I figure she’d know better than anyone.

    After all, she knows Martin better than anyone else does, and she trusts him.

    -Eric

  26. Martin’s a good kid. He’ll go far. But he’s dispicable, because he’s allowing the monster to exist.

    Is he a necessary evil? Maybe. I’ll go with yes, since he’s a god and all. Human beings don’t have necessary evils. Human beings have choices, compromises, and challenges.

    But he’s still playing calvinball with Jane’s sanity.

  27. Martin is allowing the monster to exist for the present. This story is far from over! The impression I got from The Fable of the Lamb (1 of 2) is that Martin and Jane are using the monster as a way of changing the operations at Abhorrent, Inc. When that’s done, who knows what will happen?

    (I also got the impression from that story that the monster thinks he will be able to control Martin. I suspect that he is — in the immortal words of Lois McMaster Bujold — dangerously mistaken.)

  28. On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the monster thinks he can control Sebastian, and I suspect he’s right.

  29. That’s because Sebastian is a few components short of a collection of things, emotionally speaking, and the monster has a lot of practice at manipulating folks.

    Notice that stuff involving Martin and Jane has repeatedly thrown the monster off his game, while he seems to feel right at home with Sebastian.

  30. Sebastian is a hero, and heros and monsters have very ritual ways of interacting (including ritual ways of breaking the rituals here and there), while Martin is… someone who makes cynicism goggles.

    (And Rebecca is a genius and an artist and a really keen person.)

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