https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/159838938858/houdinis-box-by-adam-phillips…Real magic is the illusion that there is such a thing as real magic…
Years ago Houdini became for me more than just a famous magician and escape artist. I felt I knew him. Back in grade school my mother provided me a book allowance so that monthly I could order a few dollars worth of titles off a scholastic list our teacher provided. I remember ordering a book about Harry Houdini, eagerly awaiting its arrival, and after reading it being in awe of his story. I could not believe all the trouble Houdini made for himself. There was also a Paramount Pictures film made the year I was born in 1953 about the life of Houdini that starred Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. I loved that movie. And my blood rushed within every dangerous obstacle and subsequent escape Houdini ever made. Reading Houdini’s Box
has now taken me back to that time as a young boy and also forced another look into what originally impressed me so about this man. Of course, it isn’t really Houdini I am looking for. In fact, it is my very own mirror I am gazing into.…To boast is to shout down claims of one’s inferiority, the vanishing act in which one’s shame disappears…
For years I made efforts to overcome my fears. Whether it was learning to stand up to bullies or embarking on long-distance excursions in order to prove how adventurous and brave I was, I continued to fail at convincing even myself. My list of sallies is long and could be construed as winsome. I was lucky to survive them. Even after more than six decades fear, in its many guises, continues to threaten me and I reluctantly face it willingly with the confidence to succeed in light of its many dangers. …The sheer scale of fear between people—the terrors and uncertainties people can generate in each other—make a life of exits and more occasional entrances a virtual necessity. A person who is running away from something, the psychoanalyst Michael Balint once remarked, is also running towards something else…Things are not frightening because they are real, they are real because they are frightening.
Surprised at the age of thirty-two to learn from a substance abuse center that I was an alcoholic, and immediately carrying through on the center’s instruction, I attended the first of my initial one hundred contiguous AA meetings. After establishing a base of sobriety I branched out into paid therapy sessions beginning with a respected past member of the clergy who had gone into private practice. Dr. Tom Bumpus was my first terrible mistake in recovering from a disease that had affected me in ways that are still present at my current age of sixty-three. I believe it was my second session with this crackpot when he asked me what I thought my problem was. I remarked that it was this fear I had felt for so many years that was at the root of what ailed me. He called me a liar and informed me that all addicts are liars and I was no different. I was shocked that this so-called doctor would treat my most honest attempt at expressing the truth behind my disease with such disdain and ridicule. I walked out his door never to return. But Tom Bumpus scarred me and continues to haunt my good nature even thirty years later. Reading Adam Phillips immediately conjures up that doughy goofball and I remember how he made me feel so ashamed and doubtful of myself. Of course, because he was an authority figure, I questioned my truthfulness and attempted to place the blame on my failures directly on my own inability to perhaps be honest with myself. But thirty years of uninterrupted self-examination has provided me ample opportunities to prove and galvanize my belief in the power of that fear, and I remember still vividly the many times I have been forced to flee or overcome it by standing my ground and taking steps towards it. If asked the same question today I would answer that for good or bad, fear is the driving force behind me. …the absence of desire and real death, of which the death of desire is a foreshadowing, are the two great hauntings…
This morning I am feeling old and unimportant. My wife is still in bed as she generally remains sleeping for another two hours after I initially rise to read and write in quiet. But I am bothered this morning by her oldness too. She is not the same young girl I met when we were seventeen. Though she remains desirable to me, and most likely will always interest me sexually, she could not possibly be as alluring to others these days as she used to be. Nor am I. Looking back on our life together I can see where her attractiveness played a most important role in my personal happiness. She being desired by a person not myself. And I am grateful that she stayed faithful to me. I was rarely jealous, and if I was it was of my own doing. Beverly was remarkable in the sense she could have been with just about anybody she wanted to, but instead chose me. But now it does not matter. She is no longer the young woman she used to be. Not only have I lost interest in our risking an infidelity, but she cares little about the sordid fantasy as well. It used to be what we did for fun. We were collaborators. And my reading Adam Phillips this morning led me back to a time I believe was seductively delicious. This morning he mentioned [b:In Praise of Older Women: The Amorous Recollections of András Vajda|1396806|In Praise of Older Women The Amorous Recollections of András Vajda|Stephen Vizinczey|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1183270721s/1396806.jpg|1386976] and I remembered Beverly enjoying that book herself many years ago. And this morning I wonder what that book would mean to her now? The novel details a young man’s obsession with older women and his being with them sexually. Perhaps my young wife, even back then, was subconsciously dwelling in the possibility
Adam Phillips posits that escape is about what it is we want. One can either escape into doubt about what one wants, or one can escape from doubt about what one wants. For example, a pervert knows exactly what he wants. And he will flee from the confusion and uncertainty about what he wants and whether, in fact, he wants anything. The convinced are in flight from the experimental nature of wanting, from the fact that you can only find something else that you hadn’t known you wanted. The unsure are in flight from acting on inclination, from following the compass of their excitement. For the unsure there is always a safe haven of compromise, of world-weary wisdom about the impossibility of satisfaction, and the noble truth in disappointment: whereas the convinced live in a different kind of inner superiority, the belief that they really know what everyone really wants, but that they are the only ones with the courage, the recklessness, the moral strength, or the good fortune to be capable of the ultimate satisfactions that life has to offer.
The teacher [a:Gordon Lish|232097|Gordon Lish|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1267719924p2/232097.jpg] instructed us to be open and frank in order to entice, and as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, to name my bird without a gun
. It is a fact I continue to follow their advice. And trust their words ambiguously.