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Power over people is a very interesting thing. We see it a lot in the animal species of the world. The strongest animal usually gets the first choice of meal and mate. In more complex species, it becomes more of a power dynamic. That position of dominance is given with an expectation that the animal with the most power is there to defend its group and therefore when the time comes, that animal will use that power to protect those that protect them.
But unfortunately, that’s not the way it works with humans. Humans are greedy, anger-filled meat sacks that are hell-bent on destruction. There are really only two things that can change the way that a human wields power. Education is without a doubt the first. The more you know, the more you are able to look at a situation objectively and make the right decision. The second one, however, is by far the most important trait that we as humans have. It’s called compassion. The ability to see suffering or injustice, or even to see a viewpoint that is not your own, an attempt to understand it.
I realize that compassion probably has a much deeper definition, but as it relates to this story, that’s the one I’m going with. My parents wielded an incredible amount of power over me and had neither education or compassion. Every event, action, and reaction was subject to interpretation that was devoid of these characteristics.
Beyond the other three versions of abuse that we endured on a daily basis, there was a fourth that I could never really understand until I became an adult.
I don’t believe they understood the concept of what they were doing or even what it was called, but both of my parents were masters of gas lighting. For those of you that don’t know what gaslighting is, it is the ability to make you question your own reality. Now I’ll explain how they did this in a little bit, but I would just like to let you know that there wasn’t an avenue that my parents were afraid to go down when it came to the treatment of their children. And it’s also important for you to know that children are the product of the environment they are raised in. For those of you that are not parents, it means that you get out ten times what you put in.
For example, if you are angry and violent with a child all of the time, chances are that child is either going to be angry and violent towards everyone else or they will become incredibly intimidated by anyone that poses a threat to them.
In my case, I got the worst of both worlds. On the outside, I was meek, easily intimidated, incredibly unsure of myself, and in a constant search for a foothold. Anything that could keep me from spiraling further down into what was no doubt the pits of despair and depression. But on the inside, there was a demon that was behind each and every single one of my thoughts. I say demon in a figurative sense. I don’t really believe I was possessed by a demon of any sort, but that’s about the best way I can describe it. My thoughts about everything tended to edge on the violent, vulgar, and oppressive side of things. In short, I was a child with rage and hatred boiling inside of me, but my timid exterior didn’t have the balls to let that out.
The gaslighting that I was speaking of earlier came in the form of persuasion. Over a number of years, I had been convinced that what I was experiencing was the norm for most families and that my parents were a much better alternative than being separated from them. See, they had made me believe that if I told anybody about what they were doing or how they were doing it, then Social Services would swoop in and remove us from them. To most of you listening or reading this, you would probably say, “yes, that’s exactly what needed to happen.”
But it was my lack of understanding of that process that made me scared. First, I figured that if I said anything to anyone it would get back to my parents and they would punish me harder. If Social Services showed up, my parents would just lie to them and convince them that nothing was wrong. And when the social workers left, I would get my ass kicked rather hard.
Furthermore, my understanding of what would happen if Social Services did take us away was perverted. My parents quite effectively led me to believe that when Social Services took children away from their parents, they immediately placed those children into juvenile detention. When you’re somewhere between the ages of six and 13, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched, especially when it’s literally been beaten into you.
So essentially I was gas lit into thinking that what was happening to me wasn’t wrong and that I really was just a piece of shit human. Funny how people with power can make those without it doubt their own self-worth.
Be careful with the power that you wield.
The only thing I could do was grit my teeth and deal with it. But that kind of disgust can’t swim around inside of a child with no outlet. It’s got to go somewhere. For me, it made its escape from me in three distinct ways.
The first was art, the second was my appearance, and we'll get to the third in a minute.
At 14 years old I found myself spending four periods a day in the art room. It was around the age of seven that I noticed I was “blessed” with the talent for art. By the early teen years, I had developed that skill into a relatively powerful tool. I was adept at illustration and my skill set was growing rapidly. The art room was one of the few places in my entire world that looked upon me with any kind of favor. My teachers sucked. My fellow students sucked. The principle of my school was a fat, bloated, embezzling bastard and they all caused me to pretty much hate most of humanity.
There were a few exceptions by this time. I had a couple of friends that had seen through my bull shit and wanted to genuinely be in my company. It was strange, I was paranoid, but I accepted them as friends anyway. It was about this time that I began to meet some new people. My edginess as a preteen and my quickly developing art skills caught the attention of some of the skater students that went to the school. Mind you, to this day, I can barely stand on a skateboard without falling on my face but nonetheless, they extended a hand of friendship to me cautiously.
Over the next few months, I would be introduced into all kinds of new things. Chief among them were two new forms of music that were beginning to grow in popularity at that point in time. The first was metal. I never really was one for the boy bands or the popular groups that seem to intoxicate all the teenage girls and caused the macho jock boys to secretly worship teen idols. No, I liked my music loud, hard, and as profane as I could get it.
The second was grunge. Most of you reading or listening to this know about grunge so I won't get too deep into it.
Let me put this into context for you on a timeline. Nirvana was new, Smashing Pumpkins was new, The Misfits had broken up, Samhain was at its end, and that gave birth to arguably one of my favorite groups of all time, Danzig. By today’s standards, Danzig can hardly be considered dark, hard, or edgy. However, back then most people considered it to be some pretty evil shit. I loved it. I ate up every lyric, memorized the cadence of how they were sung, attempted to emulate his howling baritone voice, and soaked up the essence of what they were selling like a sponge. It was rebellious and served as gasoline for the fires of anger that were burning inside of my soul.
And if you think that was a little melodramatic, you are absolutely right. I didn’t realize it at the time but this persona that I was absorbing was the absolute opposite of what my parents were and what they were trying to mold me into, or should I say beat me into.
Now, do you remember in the last chapter where I said that my father leaving my mother was a very important detail? Here is where that detail comes into play.
By this point in my life, my mother had gone completely bat shit crazy. The open wound in her soul that was left by my father leaving had grown into a dirty infected festering wound that forced her to seep evil profanities towards myself and my brother on a daily basis. The following statements were regarded as the average nomenclature in my household.
“You’re just like your father. I can’t believe you came out of my pussy.”
“I wish you would just die so that I could get on with my life.”
“You are a fucking piece of shit just like your father. I hate you. I wish you would die.”
“You dumb piece of shit. You can’t do anything right, can you? I wish I would die so I didn’t have to deal with you.”
“You look just like your fucking father. I don’t even know how something like you came out of something like me. Come here so I can knock that stupid look off your face.”
That list is much longer than what is written above, but I won’t waste any more paper with the words of that vile woman. She was not the only one that was berating me, though. At this point in my life, my stepfather had stopped calling me by my name. For one year prior to this point and for one year beyond this point he had begun to refer to me in a derogatory sense at every utterance in my direction. Beyond the standard slurs of dumb ass, dumb mother fucker, and stupid mother fucker, he had persisted in calling me a name that I will only say once in this book.
Regardless of what he thought, this was a slur that boiled my blood and showed me his true character every time it spilled from his lips. I hope that in his last days everyone forgets his name and he vanishes from this earth unmarked, unknown, and without identity. It’s pretty shitty when a few people at school call you some sort of stupid name. And for most kids, they can escape that stupid name when they go home. For me, however, it was the complete opposite of that. At least the people at school knew my name and would call me by it from time to time.
Once again, this is not a pity party. Think of what I’ve just told you as an informative piece of information to help you understand the direction that my understanding of God was going.
At this point, I was beginning to see darkness everywhere I looked—though many didn’t recognize it, I was smarter than your average bear and could see the faults in everything. Except myself, of course.
In short, it was my understanding that God wanted me to rebel. Seriously, I believed that if there was a God that’s what he wanted me to do. Let me break down that rationale for you.
According to most monotheistic belief systems, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Those of you who don’t know what those things mean, essentially it means that God is everywhere and everything at once. He sees all, knows all. Logic would then dictate that if he is everywhere and everything that means he’s the good and the bad. This is something the Christian religion has difficulty explaining. If God is everywhere and everything, that means that he is not only the good things that happened to you but he is also the bad things that happen to you. He is not only the guy that sits up in heaven but he’s the devil that sits in hell. In fact, he is heaven and hell simultaneously.
And if he sees everything and knows everything, then he knew about all the bullshit I was going through. And if he knew about that, why didn’t he do anything? Now I know there are a lot of people that are listening to this that are saying, "Well, maybe that was a test. Maybe he was pushing you in a certain direction."
Believe it or not, at that young of an age, I said the exact same thing. To the best of my understanding, God was turning me into an anger-filled, rebellious young man and I would be damned if I wasn’t going to look and act the part. I pierced my ear, started wearing dark clothing as much as humanly possible, and dove deeper into my art.
Remember earlier when I told you there were three ways that the darkness began to escape for me? This was the third.
I started having conversations with myself. At the time they weren’t good conversations. There have been studies that say that people that talk to themselves tend to be smarter than average. I wasn’t having conversations with myself because I was some sort of crazy intelligent genius. I was having conversations with myself because I had to reason and rationalize things on my own. There was no one to talk to that knew the true depth of what was happening. People only saw what was on the surface.
I had to put some sort of purpose behind not only my actions, but the actions of those around me. These conversations often led me down darker paths that would further have me looking upon myself with disdain.
But not everything that appears bad is.
At the beginning of this book, I told you that this was a gathering of the lessons that I have learned in life. It was not so much an autobiography but a gospel, which means you should walk away from this with something. And if you stay to the end of this chapter, I promise you will.
While talking to myself often left me in a dark place it was through these conversations that I began to dissect the world around me. I was able to rationalize not only the physical things that were happening to me in the real world, but I was also able to dissect much larger and more complex concepts.
This was when I began to really formulate my own opinion of what God was. Some of these lessons wouldn’t coagulate into a cohesive thought until later on in life, but fortunately, I’m writing this book from a place of hindsight. It really helps to be able to look back at those things, find some redeeming qualities, and learn lessons from them. The strangest thing about it all is that most of those lessons come from that dark demon that was speaking to me in my own voice in those early days.
He really showed me how to pull back the curtain and see the inner workings of things. This in turn allowed me to begin learning about anticipation. However, this was a skill I would need decades to develop.
So what are these lessons? Well, I’m certainly not going to give them all to you at once. Most of them won’t make sense without context, which is why I’ve taken you down this dark path for the past two chapters. Let me see if I can structure this and find just the right words.
Lesson Number One:
Powerful things are born in powerful ways. Sometimes it takes a series of monumental events in order to create the most monumental changes. All things in this universe are the product of a violent birth but often times we only view their current beauty without paying attention or tribute to their fiery beginnings. Had life not started out for me the way that it did I would not stand before you as the powerhouse that I am.
Lesson Number Two:
Seeds of anger grow faster than anything else. They do not need water or dirt. The only food they require is a word. But those seeds do not grow into trees. They are powerful, thorny vines that will reach out and wrap themselves around anything close to them. The worst part about it is that those vines are in search of light to drown out the anger that boils inside of them. Unfortunately, all those vines do is drown out the light of those they strangle.
Lesson Number Three:
Every action and intention has lasting ramifications. It is much more than the ripples we see on the surface of a pond. The stone that is cast into the water affects the entirety of that water. You cannot throw a rock into a pond without the entire pond feeling the effects of what you have done. Do not leave your attention solely on the surface or you will miss what is swirling deep below.
Lesson Number Four:
Be careful with the power that you wield. You can leave behind a beautiful grove of trees or miles of scarred soil. The choice is yours.