Introduction, by Nina Roberta Baker......

The following essay was written in Erics' first year of college. Fresh out of High School
and into another `brand new' environment, Erics' adjustment was much like all young people though not so many of them are willing to be so candid about it. I am presenting it here as an example of what the feelings and perceptions of our young people are.... feelings that I have seen again and again, suppressed and repressed by fear of the criticism which revelation often brings.
It is for that reason, primarily, that I am sharing this with you. I am hoping that you may see and remember that our youth face a very different perception from our own. Youth is filled with ~absolutes~ such as "always & never" and they live in a world so complex and stress-filled that they need to be able to relate their feelings and thoughts without criticism and exhortation to see things in other ways than what they experience on their own. Life is an unfolding and growth of understanding in which we come to comprehend ourselves and make our individual adjustments to the environment of peers and circumstances around us.
I feel certain that Solomon was seen very much the same way that Eric was viewed by many who knew him. A restless searcher of the mysteries and meaning of life, humanity and spirituality ~ and of the interweaving of all three into everyday choices and actions. He had a voracious appetite for this search and for wide and all-inclusive materials of learning about others who also wrote and shared their own bravely candid feelings, thoughts and opinions.
At sixteen, Eric helped to create and publish the first literary magazine at our local
"Central High School" from which he graduated in 1992. That publication caused such a stir of controversy and concern that the offices of the principle and School Board were flooded with calls and complaints! He was a Junior at the time, and the controversy and ramifications which accompanied his first endeavor at literary offerings was quite powerful! The community was inflamed that he wrote as he did and wanted a stop put to it! I was informed that we should seek psychiatric counseling for him at once.
In the years before and since that publication, there have been many suicides, and in each case that I was privy to know details about - the tragedy came with little to no recognition that anything was even wrong! Is that no wonder, when to speak of depression, fear, and/or thoughts of ending ones' life which is perceived as an unendurable suffering which could not be born longer.... brought about a great flurry of action such as this rather than a listening, compassion and comprehension of the difficulty and painful transitions of adolescence to young adulthood? Stifle the speaker! Give him a prescription and turn him over to a counselor for such perceptions which are labeled "abnormal and unacceptable" must be molded (as quickly as possible) to conformity and acceptable perceptions.... Never mind that the fears and feelings have foundations and causes which might be better addressed and dealt with!
Erics' poetry became at once, much in demand and appreciated by his peers who knew all too well, that the words were an expression of nearly-uniform feelings in all their hearts at one time or another as they struggled to achieve and fit in somewhere. We had a conversation about it when the storm broke loose and I like a statement Eric made at the time, "Just because we think about suicide, doesn't mean we are planning to do it!" It was, as he explained, a quick and easy solution which occurs to most teens whether they own it or not, but few dare to express it to just anyone and certainly, not publicly! It is as old as man himself, I am sure, the permanent solution to temporary problems......
In Erics' biography, I will be explaining the extraordinary challenges and pain that Eric faced from the very first day of school when he stood alongside of other children his age and found that there were great differences between himself and the larger majority. It wasn't until years later that any of us even realized the extent of those differences <the bottom-line root of those myriad of differences and inability's or difficulties being that Eric, unlike the rest of us, due to corneal defects, saw 7 or 8 or everything where the rest of us see only one! More about this at another time>.
The point I want to make here is that Eric lived even MORE outside of the ~norm~ of life than most of us ever must face. And although it manifested itself as a spatial problem and various difficulties, the cause of which (visual) was not known at first.... what Eric had to deal with was the fact that most of his schoolmates could do many things that he could not. And, that peers can be, and sad-to-say, more often than not, are, quite unkind and intolerant of handicaps. So kindergarten, which he had anticipated with such enormous delight and innocent expectations.... became a cruel and harsh introduction into the world of not fitting-in and not knowing why or what to do about it. Eric, my beloved son, had a crash-course at the age of 6, into the experience of ~standing alone~ in a crowd, and of having to be courageous whether he wanted to or felt he could or not.

There is a cover page before the title to Erics' paper and he wrote there......


Existence and Fatality:
The Life and Times
of
Eric L. Baker

All Materials Copyrighted 1992 By Author

=============

Irony.....

Erics' teacher, Katherine Grimes, English 101, circled the word Fatality and wrote:
"This hasn't happened yet".
Then she commented on the bottom line (copyright statement) :
"This is really unnecessary- and perhaps a bit pretentious."

AUTOBIOGRAPHY ASSIGNMENT
as completed by Eric L. Baker

on November 9, 1992

CHAPTER ONE
Birth and Beginning

Woodstock is not a big town, at least not in the metropolitan sense. Its' grocery stores, restaurants and "hangouts" are populated by the local inhabitants with a certain sort of careless gaiety, a characteristic that is difficult to find and much sought after in present day communities. Some people still don't think of locking their doors at night, and the crime statistics speak to their merit. Not much happens here at all.

The town is located exactly between Winchester and Harrisonburg, two of the biggest cities in Northern Virginia. This brings the usual flock of tourists wanting gas, food and trinkets that supposedly will help to turn their ten-minute stopover into a permanent memory. Despite the constant influx of strangers bearing the latest political and social revelations of the world, the people here take little note of what happens outside the sheltered parameters of the "town limits". The older I got, the more this attitude began to aggravate me and thus I began my quest for answers

Here is where it all started. Woodstock, the birthplace of my discontent, soon festered into an annoying reminder of WHO I wasn't, not WHO I wanted to be, and from these moments on I became a part of the counter culture known as "New Wave". These events are mostly indicative of my later years, however, and before I jump into those, I should probably give the background of my upbringing.

I was born in the local hospital at Woodstock. Shenandoah County Memorial was the first dwelling I ever inhabited in the beginning of a long and shadowy existence. Home life was never really stable due to a vile and abusive stepfather and my mother was (and still is) torn between hating and loving the strange creature I refuse to call my parent. The older I got, the more erratic his behavior became, and it was extremely hard for me to carry on a normal, gleeful acceptance of everyday life as a result of living in such chaotic circumstances. Consequently, I began to see the dark in things long before the light,

The first day of school was really hard for me because I had never really experienced anything for six years but the confines of yard and house. I interacted little with the kids in my neighborhood (few that there were) and felt extremely uncomfortable with them, as if I were more of a sideshow that they flocked to gape at rather than a true human being. This provided the basis for viewing kindergarten as a time when I really began to grow bitter about people. I was the unofficial oddball of my class and was constantly harassed because of my differences. For instance, I tied my shoelaces different than my classmates and they found this hilarious. So hilarious that they would tie my shoes to the legs of my desk when I wasn't looking and howl with sadistic pleasure as I got up, toppling the desk in the process.

I was always the last in line and the last picked in team sports (I was the one the teacher grabs by the shoulders and thrusts towards a group of sniveling snobs and says how important it is that we don't make others feel left out). I was, in cold truth, the class leper. I went through that whole year without a friend that I could sit down and really spill my heart to. I went to bed at night cursing the day that I was born and seeing my "companions" as little more than demons sent to burn this observation into my cranium. When kindergarten closed at the end of the year I looked back at the building where I would eventually spend five more years and wept. Wept because I could not understand what I had done to warrant such treatment at the hands of people to whom I had done absolutely nothing at all. The events of that first year set in motion the course which has brought me to where I am today and has helped prepare me for the rigors of my lingering education.

The rest of my time at W.W. Robinson was just as bad as the first pathetic year. Kids just didn't care for those who are different and as the years dragged on I became an increasingly easy target. Sometimes things would escalate into violence but I never really struck back and they interpreted that as an exploitable weakness. I began to shrink away from everybody I came in contact with, assuming that if I were to appear non-existent, people would leave me alone. This attitude manifested itself more and more, and by the close of my forth-grade year, I was little more than a shadow. Junior High was much of the same story. The only difference was that the level of physical intimidation was higher. I guess people were intent on establishing a reputation for themselves by being seen as a "stud" or the schools' resident "Tough guy". Somehow, I endured it all without sacrificing any of my beliefs in order to fit in.

Junior High encompassed the fifth through the eighth grades and I went through them in sort of a haze. Nothing really made any sense although I received good grades and was often commended by my teachers for my "exceptional" behavior. I never really thought that sitting in the back of the room for forty-five minutes saying absolutely nothing was exceptional behavior, but compared to the rest of my classmates, the silence I shrouded myself in was probably a welcome relief for many of my teachers. Every day became another blur of walking to class, eyes down, and praying that no one would notice me. After all, this was junior high and by now I was giving up any hope I had amassed beforehand of a workable relationship with anybody. Everyone around me was dating and bragging of their sexual conquests as casually as one might drink a glass of water. Although my hopes were fairly well vanquished, I still desperately hoped that there would be somebody who could help me understand what was happening to me. There were times I probably could have gone out with somebody, but I wanted a relationship that didn't depend solely on sex for the purpose of being together. Besides, I offered little in the way of physical attractiveness and didn't play any sports.

Whenever I would start foolishly imagining these things, I would return to the present circumstances I was immersed in and discover that the world had grown steadily colder. It seemed to be increasing to the point where the blood in my veins became like ice, freezing in a silent fire that spread itself throughout my limbs. I ended my four years as alone as I began them, with the summer lying ahead like a vast, burning desert and only the prospect of my last four years in a public school system to sustain me.

The hot summer that marked the beginning of my high school days was different from all the others. I had done a tremendous amount of thinking over the three month hiatus as to what was really happening to me and how I would respond to the hellish tortures which most certainly awaited. The fact that I had gone to school with my classmates for the past eight years did provide for the prospect of a fresh start, and I was pretty well resigned to my indefinite isolation from the social aspects of life. Walking through those doors on the first day was probably the hardest of it all. I was greeted by the same cold, calculating stares that had haunted my sleep since the first fateful days of my education. The thing that startled me the most was the fact that the same people who had made my life such a nightmare now kept their comments to a few strands of remote conversation. I was simply considered weird and suicidal, an enigma to be avoided at all costs.

Due to my rejection at such an early age, I quickly learned to rely on myself for the essential needs any human requires. I was my own best friend and companion and I substituted books, music and cinema for the spiritual interaction I had been deprived of. This soon led to my being immersed in the brooding, Gothic-subculture of modern realism. I read every book I could get my hands on and devoured vast quantities of music. I listened to everything from metal to orchestra. People never could understand how I could swing into the parking lot moments before the tardy bell with Queensryche blaring one day and Dvorak the next. No matter, they did not need to comprehend my actions, and I certainly was not going to attempt to justify them to anybody.

I had revamped my wardrobe over the summer thanks to the meager earnings of my summer job and now had an extensive collection of black shirts, pants, shoes and the like. There were entire weeks where I would wear nothing but black and not speak a word to anyone. The more withdrawn I became, the more depression set in. I would sit in class and feel as if the entire world were merely a dream. I often thought that I was a character in someones' imagination and constantly hoped that they would kill me off before the dream progressed to a total state of degradation. This was the person I had become. Somewhere along the way I had learned to cry without shedding a single tear, scream in silence at the misery that drove me to my knees and embrace the blackness of my heart as the only reliable emotion to be experienced

This same scenario was played out year after year until I graduated. The only break I received came in my brief escapes into nature that I took when the pressure became too great. I would sit within the shaded forests and by the banks of the thick green rivers and write all the words I could not say. Everything I wrote was a reflection of what I felt. There were no easy avenues to self-expression, and I used writing to give me the voice I never had, the voice I would grow to both hate and love. I loved it because I could finally say what I meant and I hated it because it did nothing to quell any of my pain. I often couldn't write fast enough to put all the images I conjured up up onto paper and was afraid to show anybody because they often were entirely too personal. Every move I made became a risk , and I was tired of having everything I undertook turn into a catastrophe.

My acceptance into college was not really something that I can honestly say I was looking forward to. I relished being set free from the confines of a conservative educational environment but at the same time, I was deathly afraid of the new social setting I would be thrown into. The time here is passing by like a slow fade to black and I am just as alone as I was back home. Every day is like a clock. I hear the seconds whisper by like the heartbeat of the wind, and all of it is rushing past me at a fluid pace. I stand here watching and say nothing. Everything that happened before is being repeated again. I often think of David W. Elliot and his observation: "Reality is a funny thing. There are no defenses against it but madness." How true.

CHAPTER 2
"Cult of Personality"

Personality. n. (plural - ties) I.) Distinctive character of a person. 2.) Notable person.

According to Websters' definitions, personality is what sets us apart from our peers. When I was growing up, however, I didn't want to be separate. I wanted to be accepted for who I really was, but as my first chapter already explained, that was not to be. These early incidents probably had more of an effect on my personality than I realized and I spend a lot of time wondering what I would really be like if things had been different. I don't begrudge the person I am now. Actually, I have learned to accept my position in life without a lot of senseless complaining and have concentrated instead on examining what my purpose here really is. The older I got, the less focused I became on what my peers thought about me. This led to my being strongly absorbed in the cultural revolution I mentioned earlier: "New Wave".

I first stumbled upon this phenomenon on one of my frequent trips to the Harrisonburg library. I often went there to escape the prison-life environment of school, and since my mother didn't mind, I would spend the entire day buried in the words of hundreds of different authors. There I learned that what I was feeling was what other people were struggling with too. Here were adults who couldn't make any sense of the universe and found trivial reasoning, that man engaged to justify his own mistakes, as hollow as the actions themselves.

Reading became my world, and I immersed myself in scores of books. The more I read, the more I became certain that how I felt and how I responded to other people was not "unhealthy", or "suicidal". I was only responding to a situation that I couldn't understand. Every time I was called into Guidance and reprimanded for my "anti-social" behavior, I became even more withdrawn. I was thought of as the only gloomy person in a universe of happiness and I, in turn, saw everyones' happiness as a direct result of the artificial joy they surrounded themselves with. I couldn't understand the reasoning behind getting so drunk on weekends that you weren't able to remember where you lived. I found no love in the idea of having sex with a girl whose name you learned halfway through the act. I watched in silence as people would build their complex walls of stereotypes and class division, associating only with those who fit into the proper categories. This was what it was all about? This is what happiness was? I wasn't even sure myself anymore and was simply thankful that people had left me to my own devices.

The school had, of course, been in contact with my mother and warned her about my precarious poise over the lines that separated heaven and hell. She was always aware of my "depression" if you could call it that, but she didn't say much when she was notified. She simply reiterated the fact that it was my life and I had to make my own decisions. We never really spoke much of my beliefs and attitudes. I was always in my room or out and whenever we did get to talk it almost seemed sort of artificial. We did disagree over religion a lot and she would often become upset at the notion that I was rejecting the beliefs that I had been raised to embrace. The fact that we both loved each other very much was still evident however, and I am extremely devoted to her still. Although we think very differently about matters, we will always be there for each other.

The further I investigated all the sub-culture available for consumption, the more immersed I became. I began renting scores of underground films and amassing volumes of "alternative" music. I based my decisions on what to buy and what to read not on what everyone else was doing or whatever the latest fad was pushing. I chose instead to digest things on an emotional level. I became attracted to things that I felt were perfectly reminiscent of the situation I found myself in. Thus, the things I chose to listen to and read were often of a negative and nihilistic viewpoint. My mother often complained that I was letting these people run my life for me and that in so doing, I was stifling my own creativity by not allowing myself any true outlets of self-expression. I felt this observation was entirely false and we would argue insistently about what she saw as the "manufactured" me and the me I saw as the result of a hellish existence. This partly led to our not communicating as much as we should have and probably is part of the reason why I was not as homesick as most other people are.

The fact that I had no social contacts at home (or here, for that matter) led to my simply substituting what I couldn't get in the physical sense with the spiritual sort of companionship. Every time I play a tape or CD or read a book of poetry, I think of the experience much in the same way two friends would sit down and talk. Since I can't talk in words, I "speak" back by writing my own responses or observations in the form of poetry, stories or whatever means I choose to express myself. Sometimes it simply entails going off into the woods and merging into the blackness of the trees. Quite often nature can do more than a hundred-dollar-an-hour psychiatrist could ever possibly hope to accomplish.

These actions soon developed into habit and since I have learned to be alone for the majority of my life, the isolation I now endure is nowhere near as hard as it was in my earlier years. I still often think of what it would be like (or feel like, for that matter) to have a girlfriend. I find love still invades the sanctuary of my most pensive thoughts and I am constantly torn between reaching out and staying within. Eventually, however, the risks somehow always outweigh the benefits and I can't help but question whether there is any truthfulness in love at all.

The fact that I have no companionship does not mean that I always feel entirely alone. It is difficult to explain but there are times when, for the faintest second, I can understand what is really happening here. Beneath the pale white glow of the moon I sometimes feel as if the answers to all I've asked are on the tip of my tongue and I want to scream them out. Other times my tears are as silent as my frustrations. The ethereal night combined with the silence somehow set an unnamed flood of emotions loose within me and I want to die, to live, to whisper and shout all at the same time. There is so much I do not understand and so much I want to know that I feel like an empty ocean-bed, just waiting for the torrential downpour that I hope will eventually come. Maybe it has what I'm looking for or perhaps it's only an illusion and I end up becoming a victim of my own hallucinations.

I have also always been fascinated with the idea of my own death, perhaps because it offers finality (at least in a physical sense). I think about what lies after. Is it better? Is it worse? Is there anything at all? The fact that I constantly think about death does not justify the assumption that I am suicidal or that I have a "death-wish". I have always pondered the finality of death because it signifies the end of everything as we know it. When the religious theories and the scientific explanations are stripped away, the fact of total absolution remains. It is an unavoidable situation, lurking in the depths of reality to take what it claims as its' own. All the knowledge that we have amassed in our progress (or regression) is futile against it. We can only ponder and wait.

I often dream about my own death and continually picture it taking place in water. I'm quite sure that it will take place by drowning, but I don't know why I think that way. Drowning has always seemed so peaceful to me, like slipping underneath the covers at night, yet I know that the body will fight against its' own death. The lungs will swell for lack of air, the brain will panic at its' lack of oxygen. Whether death is self-inflicted or accidental, the body always does whatever it can to live, as if the lines between mental and physical reality are not really controlled by us.

The fact that I constantly see water as my final pitfall is perhaps related to this phenomenon. It is amazing to conceive of the complex qualities which make up such a seemingly simple liquid. The way it absorbs and reflects whatever is shown upon its' surface and the smooth mirror-like finish which coats it at night are all amazing. Water is always the most placid at night. It becomes as quiet as the clouds which hover above it and as still as the moonlight shining through the silent fog. These are the times when I feel most alone and the most a part of something. The only trouble is that I can never understand what it is that I am becoming a part of. I sometimes think that somehow I am confronting my own death and simply accepting it before it actually takes place.

It is also during these times that I most sincerely wish that I had a woman there beside me. I wonder if I would think about death then or if her presence would supply the missing link necessary to make me feel alive. There, in the darkness, is where I feel the most emotion but all I can do is feel. I can't do anything with it except write it down and have it come back to haunt me when I stumble upon it again at a later date. These area the times when I most desire the presence of a woman because I picture her as somehow understanding what I can't explain and there, in the black and white glow, we can say anything... by saying nothing.

This is my personality told in the best way that I can explain. Perhaps none of it makes any sense at all or maybe it all falls into some category or social dogma. I have only attempted to relate my thoughts and feelings which, in turn, make me the person that I am today. Robin Guthrie, of the Cocteau Twins said, "We don't fit in-between the sunrise and the sunset." and she is right. Personality is just what it sounds like. A word that's used to define a persons' feelings and attitudes, nothing more. I have attempted to relate mine the best way that I know how: honestly, and if it proves to be a disastrous undertaking, then I have only succeeded in proving my precious judgments of human behavior correct.

CHAPTER 3
"Aspects of Chaos and the Inner Realm"

As a result of my personality and my lack of social interaction, I tend to think of worldly events such as politics and social problems with little interest. This does not mean that I don't hold certain positions on arguable issues but merely that I keep them to myself most of the time. If I feel comfortable around someone who I think will listen without judging or interrupting every time I speak, then I will most likely relate my position to whatever we happen to be talking about. Most people think that this type of communication means forcing your opinion on someone else or convincing them their viewpoint is entirely wrong. When I talk to someone about a controversial issue, I expect to be simply listened to and have my opinion respected. People who attempt to convert everyone to their side are the most annoying personalities on the face of the earth. If people would simply shut-up more and listen to one another with an open mind then we would have half the trouble we do today. I prefer keeping my views to myself because I find that people are seldom tolerant of any opinion but their own. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy debating others on current issues or disagreeing over modes of traditional thought, but I really have no desire to inflict my opinion on others or to be told that I am constantly in the wrong because my views happen to be different than somebody elses'.

Politics are also of little interest to me because I have been around long enough to realize that what is wrong with the world can only be fixed through a change in attitudes and individual actions. Anyone can promise to lower crime, fix the economy and make sure America remains the most formidable nation. But without people willing to think towards these ends and cooperate by making the necessary sacrifices, the promises become simply political rhetoric. Much of what we hear anymore is simply geared to placating audiences and makes them think that by casting a simple vote, the world will magically change into Paradise. This opinion does not even take into consideration the rampant presence of special-interest groups, greedy politicians and crooked government spending to fund covert operations of which the public will never have any knowledge. Plato stated that politicians should not be allowed to live separate from the people nor should they be allowed to possess vast wealth lest their heads become swollen with the importance of their position and the purpose of their being there begins to take a back seat to self-interest. This is obviously what is happening in politics today and it will take an awareness by people as to their own role in this problem as well as a realization of what needs to be done to correct it before any real action can take place. Voting simply isn't enough

Ethical principles and moral philosophy are also areas in which I tend to do things in non-traditional ways. I don't think that any of us can honestly say that our morals are the results of our own design. Each of us is directly effected by the environment in which we are raised. Our parents' opinions in addition to those of our communities are instilled in us from the very beginning of our lives and it is not until we grow both intellectually and physically and are exposed to a wider a wider variety of thought and tradition that we begin to question the fundamental principles of our upbringing. This then leads to us rejecting some of our previously-held beliefs and adopting new ones. We seldom, however, reject all the principles we were raised to uphold. For instance, the majority of people agree that it is wrong to kill another human being except in extreme cases. The reason that most people accept this belief is that it is a universal truth shared by everyone in our culture and varying from it carries severe penalties and consequences. Additionally, most people have little desire to kill another person because they SINCERELY believe that it IS morally wrong to kill another human being. This belief is not the result of a personal conviction until after it has been firmly planted in the mind by cultural tradition. No one can honestly say that from birth to adulthood a person is automatically born with the knowledge that to kill another human being is wrong because we are not raised in that manner and have not had the opportunity to witness such a cultural revolution because we are preconditioned to THINK that it is morally wrong. This obviously is the result of being biased in our upbringing.

In the same manner, I feel it is wrong to kill another human being because that is the way I have been raised. I do not, however, accept that notion blindly. The older I became, the more I saw the fallacy of killing another person as a means of ending a disagreement or simply because of trivial differences. I also believe that there are exceptions. When my life is threatened and killing another individual is the only option available, then I will do so without remorse. Euthanasia and the death penalty are also exceptions. I firmly believe that if a person wishes to die due to illness or excruciating circumstances, they have every right to do so. In the same manner, if an individual terminates the life of another without regard for that persons' wishes regarding their own life, then that individual should be punished by death. The arguments used to defend and attack this position, namely, the fact that statistics disprove a theory that the death-penalty lowers crime because of the possibility of it being imposed on the criminal are completely irrelevant to the matter of it being just a moral and ethical punishment for the following reasons. The death penalty operates on the principle that if one callously takes the life of another then that individual should suffer the same fate as that of his victim. This is the principle theory behind invoking the death penalty in such cases. The effectiveness of the sentence is not measured in how many crimes it successfully prevents but relies on the carrying out of equal justice for all involved. If it were viewed in the numerical sense then it certainly would appear to be an ineffective punishment but it is meant not to prevent crime but to punish those who engage in it. Consequently, the carrying-out of the death penalty becomes a matter of regarding the absolution of justice between the family of the victim as well as the murderer who should accept such a sentence as a result of their action. When viewed in this manner, the above argument becomes little more than an emotional response based upon being opposed to an action on little more than personal conviction that it is wrong.

My own code of ethics and morality is made up of what I have chosen to accept from my childhood upbringing and what I have seen as reasonable principles from my reading. I did not blindly accept anything from my upbringing as being accurate simply on the basis that that was the way it has always been and, therefore, must be correct. I attempted To look at things as non-biased as possible and make my decision based on the fact of whether they appear to be true, logical principles that would allow for the greatest diversity and individualism possible. I don't advocate doing anything under the sun on the basis of selfishness (ethical egoism) or "If it feels good, do it" (hedonism). I believe that man has certain responsibilities to his fellow man, the biggest and most important being the right to think and act freely without fear of persecution. In the same manner, people must be willing to accept the responsibility of their actions and not infringe on the rights of others to the point where their being an individual causes harm to another person.

This is essentially how I feel about ethics and morality. I think people should have the right to be themselves and have the willingness to respect the opinions of those who do not fall into the majority of everyday thought. I also feel that belief is an ongoing process. There may come a time when I see things in a different light than I do now. Or I could remain true to the way I think about things at present. The decision to change my opinion may come about because of new facts or circumstances that I was unaware of beforehand but I feel comfortable about how I view things now and doubt that a change will occur anytime soon.

Peer-pressure has always been of little concern to me. I find the majority of people my age very boring and immature. I don't necessarily think I'm better than they are but I probably enjoy reading a book alone in my room more than I'd enjoy going to a party with them. Almost every decision I make is comprised of my own feelings and my own thoughts. I quit worrying about what people (except mom) would think of my choices a long time ago. The older I became, the more I noticed that being individualistic was becoming a trend in itself. The only problem is that people aren't developing their own looks, styles and thoughts. The majority of them are buying into the pre-packaged plan of "Weirdness" which includes wearing trendy avant-garde clothing and listening to post-modern music. For instance, everyone thinks that Red Hot Chili Peppers are gods now simply because they heard "Under the Bridge" being played on the radio. Everyone is buying the album because "The band is so cool." and they are suddenly riding high on the album and singles charts. This is great and all but it's just a fad. In a couple of months this group will be replaced by some other band that has been around for years and is being marketed to all the individual wanna-bes. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and The Cure are all prime examples. I have been listening to Chili Peppers for years before they became a household name. Pearl Jam and The Cure have been around long enough so that if you mentioned their name among your peers two or three years ago, they would have laughed in your face because the trendy artists were Def Leopard or Madonna at that time. Now everyone runs around campus talking about the Red Hot Chili Peppers as if they had been fans of this group for eternity when they only heard of them that morning on American Top Forty. How pathetic. I firmly believe that there is a major difference between true individualism and "Selling-out" to be trendy and accepted.

I will continue to dress in black and gray, wear my trench-coat and black leather gloves and listen to post-modern music whether or not it remains cool to do so because that is what I have been doing since early adolescence. Everyone who is doing the above now will soon become disenchanted with it as soon as a new fad comes along. This indicates true individualism as opposed to wanting to be accepted by doing what everyone else is doing. I am the person I am because that is who I choose to be. It makes no difference to me if people choose to accept me or not. I will always be confident in the knowledge that I am true to myself regardless of what everyone else is doing.

CHAPTER 4
"Projections"

When the time came to decide on a college, I already knew that I wanted to attend a school where I wouldn't be a number in a computer or one of thousands upon thousands of students who were simply being milked for their parents money. I chose Ferrum for its' small rural setting and its' apparent interest in students. I felt that I would fit in better here than I would in a big state school. So far it's been a fair experience. Socially, it's just like any other school but academically its' smallness allows for the maximum learning environment where the professors are easily accessible and willing to help you through their courses. There's nothing about the school that I find really disturbing (at least not yet).

Now that I have embarked on the voyage into adulthood, I have come to realize just how fast time is passing and how frail one human spirit and body can be compared to the rest of the world. I find myself thinking about growing older and where I'll be ten years from now. Material things like a house and a car are important aspects of my adult life but other than that I don't really want much besides the best stereo equipment and tons of CDs. I don't think material things make up for emotional needs I lack in my life but they certainly ease the pain of not having them. I can substitute love with devotion to my books and music. I really don't expect to be rich and famous and, in a way, I hope that never happens because I don't want any of the prestige and glamour associated with those things. As long as I've got the basics I need to live my life, then I'll be happy.

On the other hand, however, I think a lot about what living life alone will be like. I could conceivably get married but I sincerely doubt that will ever happen. I do know that even if I got married, I would not want children. I guess this could be called a selfish action but I just don't want the responsibility of raising children in todays' world. I would much rather spend the rest of my life doing things I would like to do.

This always leads to me pondering the effects of aging. I often feel that the best way to accommodate the inevitable process is to make sure that you are happy with yourself and content with what you have done with the best years of your life. This doesn't mean that old age can't be the best part part of your life. In fact, it may very well be the best because it allows for a lot of time to think and reflect over everything you have endured so far. Every now and then I'll think about people who are older and how they are dealing with it which starts me thinking about who best demonstrates what I want to be like when I grow older. I think Robert Redford is the best example. He is incredibly talented and has accomplished almost everything he wants to do. He directs, acts, produces and does a magnificent job of all three. He is extremely laid-back and content and it shows in all his roles. I guess being rich might have something to do with it but there are lots of people who have incredible wealth and area still some of the most miserable people on earth. When I watch Redford at work it's like watching water flow over ice in a glass. His motions are so fluid that it's like he really isn't even trying at all. If I can learn to live life like that until my death, then I'll be content no matter how long I live.

But how can I be that laid-back when I still don't know what I want to do when I get out of college? I like the idea of going another two years to a university and getting my masters' as soon as I get out of here because then I can get a really good-paying job (I guess) and not have to worry so much about trying to survive in the hell that awaits. I would really like to spend my life writing but I know there is little money in it unless I churn glamour-crap like Danielle Steele does and hope the public eats it up. I guess working as an editor or some type of publishing job will do. This would allow me to live fairly comfortably (I guess, again) and I could still type away to my hearts' content in the hope that someday something that I write will be published. One of my biggest fears is that I'll never get published or that after I'm dead my works will be recognized as classics and I won't be around to enjoy any of the money they'll make. Money is not the most important thing, however. I would be happy to just be published once and have some people read my material. If I were to start writing for the sake of becoming rich, then I would lose the desire to write what I really feel and think. I would become obsessed with where my books were placed on the charts and I would become the pawn of publishers, managers and agents. That's not what I want from my life, at all. (That is not what I want, at all).

Maybe if I found an intellectual friend such as the relationship Thoreau had with Emerson, I could move onto a remote piece of their property and live out my life in "quiet desperation". I wonder sometimes if my depression will hamper my creativity or if it's really the reason that I am so creative. Sometimes I wonder how much of everything I do is in vain and what I would really be doing if society did not place so many prerequisites upon people in order to survive. There is so much that I think about and so much that I cannot answer, so much of everything that mean everything to all that burns inside me like a cancer. Is it our destiny to question our lives incessantly without really learning anything?

I often think of myself as a vapor or a raindrop, only here for a scant second and unnoticed by the rest of the universe. Sometimes my insignificance bothers me and other times I want to curl up inside of it so tightly that I can't even find myself. It's as if each beat of my heart is out of tune with my mind and one day there will be no more blood, no more pain and the great machine will simply stop and crumble. So much has already happened, however, that I am both afraid and curious as to what might happen next. I guess so much of what I really want in life depends on myself that all the answers are inside of me somewhere, I just don't know how to reach them. I think to myself often of all the past 19 years and still marvel at the amount of events that have taken place in them. The people, the knowledge gained (the knowledge lost) and everything in-between still have the same mysterious attraction that can drive a person to the edge of their sanity and lift them up into the heavens themselves. Maybe there is no answer to it all or maybe one was never meant to be. I wish I knew.

So ends the story to this date. So many chapters can be added at a later time but for now, it is complete. John Lennon (sort of a jerk, yet somewhat talented) once said when asked how the Beatles came up with songs: "We look at where we are and what's going on." That's what an autobiography is really all about, where we are and what's going on and as Happy Harry Hard On from Pump Up The Volume said: "So be it"

Special photos from Erics' first year at Ferrum, go here to see,   #1 ~ #2 ~ #3 ~ #4

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