Thomas Wictor

Thanks for the clarity

Thanks for the clarity

On this Thanksgiving Day, I say, “Thanks for the clarity, whomever or whatever you are, if you’re up-out-in there.”

I think the way the system is set up is that the more clearly you can think and see, the more becomes comprehensible and visible. If I have my car radio turned all the way up, and I’m holding an angry porcupine on my lap, and I’m wearing welder’s goggles, I won’t be able to discern as much as I could if I were driving in silence, by myself, with just my regular glasses.

Turning up the car radio, cuddling the angry porcupine, and donning welder’s goggles are all acts of free will. Doing all that and then complaining that I can’t perceive anything clearly is like…like…

Well, a little history lesson. I’ve got to apply my extremely specialized knowledge somehow.

The Germans were the first to use flamethrowers in combat, which they did on February 26, 1915, at Malancourt. No other belligerent power had flamethrowers at the time. The Germans manufactured three models of flamethrower: two portable and one static. Both portable models required a four-man squad consisting of flamethrower carrier, lance operator, assistant-grenadier, and squad leader.

The German static model had a five-man squad: lance operator, assistant lance operator, two men to open the valves, and a squad leader.

Portable German flamethrowers weighed about seventy pounds, while the static model weighed 650 pounds. The static model was carried empty into a trench, emplaced, and then filled. Sometimes the Germans dug underground tunnels a hundred feet long, from the static flamethrower to the enemy trench. The lance operator and his assistant would crawl the length of the tunnel with a 150-foot hose, dig a vertical shaft to the surface, and at zero hour, they’d pop out of the ground and roast the enemy at point-blank range.

The British eventually came up with five models of flamethrower.

1. A static device that was fifty feet long and weighed two tons. It was buried in underground galleries, and when it was used, the lance rammed up through the dirt like a submarine periscope and automatically traversed from side to side. Seven men operated it.

2. A static device that consisted of four oil tanks, each four feet tall. It weighed 950 pounds, was buried underground, and had the periscope lance that burst up from the earth. An eight-man crew was required.

3. A “semi-portable” device in the shape of a milk can. It weighed 150 pounds and was carried like a sedan chair on two poles. The hapless two-man squad used the poles to brace the flamethrower from behind because it performed a backwards somersault when fired. Also, the nozzle on the top would pop off, drenching the men in flaming oil.

4. A portable flamethrower that weighed 130 pounds. Apparently a circus strongman was supposed to carry and fire it.

5. A portable flamethrower that weighed seventy pounds and had a strap like a woman’s handbag, which was worn over the shoulder. The operator carried the device on his hip and used a hand crank to fire bursts. Since the flamethrower leaked and exploded, it was issued with a fireproof suit that completely obscured vision and hearing.

After testing these deranged weapons in battle and watching them flop catastrophically, the British concluded that the entire concept of flamethrowers was useless. Meanwhile, the Germans, Austrians, French, and Italians plowed ahead in blissful ignorance that their extremely effective weapons were worthless.

The British simply didn’t come up with the right designs. It was their own fault that they couldn’t access what existed independently of their own perceptions; namely, answers to the problems they faced. Nobody stopped the British from achieving the success of the Germans, Austrians, French, and Italians. It was their own limitations that hampered the British.

I believe that the answers to our problems exist independently of our ability to perceive them. They are there to help us and are easily accessible. However, if we distract and blind ourselves, if we insist on building flamethrowers that do backwards somersaults, we might miss what’s right there in front of our faces.

One way I achieved clarity was through understanding that many if not most people find me incomprehensible and threatening. I just had a conversation with a guy I’ve known for a while. When I told him I have Meniere’s disease, he looked it up on his smart phone and then went off on me.

“That’s not a disease,” he said. “It’s a condition! You’re not crippled! People on walkers have diseases! Cancer is a disease! Leprosy is a disease! You’re not sick! You’re fine! You think a cancer patient would rather have cancer or your so-called disease?”

I agreed with him that I’m fine. For whatever reason he found it offensive that I used the proper name for my condition. If I had to take a guess, I’d say that he was displacing onto me the anger he can’t express at someone else.

As Marilyn Monroe said, “I’m always running into other peoples’ unconscious.” It’s likely that he has a rotten life, and he made the assumption that I’m riding high but exploiting my puny condition for sympathy. Maybe he thought I use my condition as an excuse to avoid taking on the responsibilities he has, which include a demanding wife and two avaricious children.

I’ve met many people who’ve told me that my decision to remain childless is selfish. In reality, I desperately wanted children. My failures, mental illness, and terror of being an awful father precluded it. The person who got angry at me for saying that I have a disease was a perfect gentleman until I said that I’m happy even though I’m alone. He interpreted my description of my life as an implicit criticism of his.

The same thing happened in an extra-moronic way a couple of years ago, on a visit to a friend of Tim’s. She invited us to swim in her pool; since the last time I’d gone swimming was when I was eleven, I eagerly accepted. While I dog-paddled she quizzed me about my social life. Inevitably, she took great umbrage to an innocuous statement I made.

“What sort of women do you like?” she asked. “I mean, do you have a physical type?”

“No,” I said. “What attracts me most is a woman’s mind.”

“But you must have favorite physical attributes. Everybody does.”

“Not really. I’ve dated women of all shapes, sizes, races, and hair colors. The only things that they had in common was that they were all intelligent, funny, and didn’t like wearing makeup.”


She actually got up on her hands and knees, like a big cat preparing to pounce on me and rip me to shreds.

“Nothing,” I said. “But none of the women I’ve dated liked wearing makeup.”

“So you don’t like women who wear makeup? Why not? Why can’t a woman wear makeup if she wants to?”

“Women can wear whatever they want. I told you what these women liked, not what I like.”

“But do you like women in makeup?” she asked.

Banzai! I shoved the stick of my Mitsubishi Zero all the way forward and headed straight down.

“I’m more attracted to women who don’t wear makeup,” I said.


It continued for half an hour. I never went back to her house, despite multiple invitations, and Tim eventually cut her off.

I’m thankful that I have the clarity to see that the way others lead their lives has nothing to do with me, and I’m thankful that I can now smoothly and quickly extricate myself when the going gets rough.

Finally, I’m thankful that I can disengage without regrets. The ability to instantly say, “Oh. I get it. Good-bye,” is fantastic. What it means is that I’ll end my days in peace, free from assaults, displacement, projection, belligerence, and willful misunderstandings.

I’ve become the person I always wanted to be. If I can do it, so can you.