III. 3. Michael Makes His Final Move


A circumstance in itself is a fact, which exerts a certain influence on our action. Any fact, constituting any reality (present, past or imaginary) can become a circumstance to our current action, i.e. a part of our perception of the environment.

Facts which have remained in our memory can be extremely powerful circumstances. How does this work? Our memory stores certain facts for us because at the time of their occurrence they related in one way or another to our self-perception. A certain situation (combination of circumstances) coming from the outside can trigger our sense memory or create associations which might cause the reemergence of the fact from our past and transform it into a circumstance, influencing our action. This fact might have never disappeared as a circumstance from our perception of the environment; yet its place in the overall hierarchy has been dependent on the importance of the “competing” circumstances, and might change with time.

A couple of months after the unfortunate event in his girlfriend’s apartment (chapter III.2.) Mike and his buddies Ken and Fred are sipping their cocktails on the second floor of the town bar. Suddenly, after a heated debate downstairs, a fight erupts. Upstairs, a frightened silence falls over the tables. Everybody looks tensely at each other, not knowing what to do. For each of the three young friends the situation is slightly different though. Ken doesn’t seem to even notice what’s going on. He’s having a good time, and there’s absolutely no reason for him to stop what he’s doing. Being six and a half feet tall and over 270 pounds, he doesn’t have to worry – he can handle any gadfly who dares to bother his party. Obviously, for Ken the fight is just a fact, which doesn’t relate to any of the circumstances of his self-perception, hence it doesn’t become an outer circumstance. Fred, who is also a well-built guy, doesn’t look so calm. Being a jiu-jitsu fighter, he shouldn’t have a reason to feel threatened either, yet the noises from downstairs seemingly distract him. He fidgets in his chair, his hands nervously tapping the table. Fred’s perception of the environment has turned the fact of the fight into a circumstance. His self-perception includes the understanding that it is his human duty to intervene and pacify every violent situation he becomes a witness to. In fact, this inner circumstance is part of his code of honor… But it is not him who suddenly jumps from his seat and rushes downstairs. That’s actually Mike, who, short and slim as he is, should be the last of the three to itch for a beating. As we already know, he is not a fighter, and the only sport he has ever been involved in was… well, chess. Why would someone like him risk his good health to intervene in a fight for no apparent reason? What is the inner circumstance that has outweighed the estimation of his insufficient physical strength (the natural and most relevant circumstance to top his self-perception at this moment)?

Maybe we should look for another outer circumstance (the trigger) – the one that not only shoots the fight to a top position in Mike’s perception of the environment, but even turns it into an event, so that he interrupts his chat and runs to the fight scene. What if among the scared and stunned visitors on the second floor, at a table in the corner there sits his former girlfriend with another guy? Since the breakup she has barely talked to him, and at first he suffered miserably. Later he let himself getting engulfed in his half-term session, and after that intentionally started to take more extracurricular assignments than required. All this, together with the prolonged hours at the gym exhausted him enough so that he had almost no time and energy to think and whine about the love he lost. Life was starting getting back on track. But today her showing up in the bar with a male companion withal plays a bad joke on Mike. The whole excruciating pain from before overtakes him again, this time even more severe and unrelenting. In a flash he grasps how much she means to him, and how pathetic his attempts to get over the love of his life have been. The two outer circumstances – her presence in the bar and the exploding fight – mix up in Mike’s head in an almost fatal combination, which changes significantly his self-perception. His self-protection is completely outrun by his long procrastinated self-projection – to an extent close to hysteria. Why otherwise would the reasonable awareness of his physical insufficiency be substituted in his inner hierarchy by the burning necessity to jump in the middle of a fighting scene where he can be very seriously injured?

Mike sees the scuffle not as a danger, but as an opportunity to show the courage he lacked before so that he can redeem himself, and hopefully get his girlfriend back. The determinant cause for this extreme behavior is, of course, his girlfriend’s absence from his life. It has been losing strength for quite a while, giving way to other circumstances in Mike’s perception of the environment and gradually turning into a mere fact from his past. It takes only the accidental encounter in the bar to completely change everything, to wind this circumstance back in its priority position and throw Mike into a totally alien and reckless behavior.

Facts that are non-existent in reality could work in a similar way. The most obvious examples are the ones we create due to ill understanding of our environment. A whole range of reasons could drive us to the wrong conclusions about it, from simple misunderstandings to prejudices to unsolved inner conflicts and complexes (chapter II.5.). Imaginary facts of this kind become circumstances in our perception of the environment more often than it seems at first glance. They could also be more harmful than an innocent daydream that makes us feel better, or the amusement park rides whose fake worlds charge us with real emotions. From the husband falsely convinced of his wife’s affair to the racists and xenophobes who see other humans as bearers of negative and dangerous qualities, mankind has greatly suffered from its imagination. On the other hand, of course, there is art and especially religion which have fed humanity with imaginary facts for ages. Throughout history for many, many people, these facts have become important, sometimes even crucial circumstances.

© 2009 Peter Budevski

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