November 7, 2023

In the Shade of Doubt.

Machine learning, AI; I’m not sure I know the difference.

Out of curiosity, I ask ChatGPT the difference between questioning and doubt. It answers quickly, “…’questioning’ is an act of seeking information…”

Thinking back to when I first questioned.

Coming into the world, I was naked, disoriented, the air cold on my skin. The steady beat of a heart beside me in the darkness, gone, replaced by hands, swaddling, and unfamiliar voices. That was the first time I cried.

I didn’t know my future—pulled away from everything I thought I had been. I didn’t know I was separate, different. I was afraid.

Facing the unknown, uncomfortable, cold, and for the first time, I was alone.

Fear, an anticipation that what is to come will be negative. A self-defeating belief, embracing ignorance.

Walking, noticing where I am, what I’m doing, being present, I feel less afraid.

In the beginning, I had no reference, no other experience. I couldn’t walk. Newly independent, wasn’t fully independent, I needed more than love, I was helpless, I wasn’t ready. I wouldn’t be for years.

Take a half step, another half of a half, and another half of that half, and the space between steps is infinite. How can I cross an infinite space? I cross because I have no other choice. I take a step. I grow older.

From the beginning, I’ve had questions. Questioning isn’t doubt.

I’m listening to music, William DeVaughn is playing, singing in a smooth high tone, “Though you may not drive, a great big Cadillac…” (1974, Roxbury Records Corp.).

Early on, I didn’t doubt because I didn’t understand expectations, mine or others. Answers misaligned with experiences are where I found doubt. Like learning there is no Santa Clause out there looking out for good. I cried again when I found that out.

Perhaps it was the fear of disappointing an other that led a person to lie, thinking it’s caring. Those little lies, though, cause seeds of doubt. I gave up the tooth fairy on my own, no tears.

About doubt, ChatGPT shared, “… ‘doubt’ is a more emotional state of uncertainty.”

The uncertainty of disappointment, the fear of not getting or giving or finding something expected, emotional because the expected has some level of personal importance, attachment.

My parents divorced when I was a tween. Gifts on birthdays and holidays included a few practical items of clothing and maybe some fruit from both parents. My mother, of humble means, would give me something like cycling gloves, or a water bottle. I was a cyclist back then. My father, better off but not extravagant, would give me a couple of books he had read that he thought I might enjoy. I was always grateful for both.

One of the gifts confirmed that I was loved in that moment for who I was, the other, for who I was hoped to be.

When parents are the only window to the world, little things sometimes have a lot more meaning than they may have for an adult. As a tween, the world is still big, questions loom, like “Who knows me?”

DeVaughn continues, “Gangsta’ whitewalls, TV antenna in the back…” his tone lower, still sonorous.

As an adult, I wake before the sun to silence and often shortly thereafter I notice a low whine, a whisper disguised as water rushing through a pipe, someone in the building is showering. I rise and check the mirror. I begin shaking.

In Qi Gong, a warmup to get chi, life energy, flowing involves shaking and waking the organs of the body. I suspect my spleen is missing or maybe, my liver. I struggle to breath and my sinuses seem filled with concrete.

I work to remove toxic people from my life, still, others step up to replace those I’ve left, people who believe themselves more important than others. People anywhere ensconced, immersed, obsessed by their own needs. People claiming to be aware, yet their awareness is only as a phantasm of their own projections, unaware of the actual existence of anyone and everything else in the area as they cling to delusions of their own suffering, which they then project onto others and act with the privilege and authority of drunken debutants. Everyone else is a problem.

Remove a toxin.

I don’t want to hang out with these people let alone follow them in my life, at work, anywhere.

I remember my mother visiting me and my then wife when we bought our first house. My wife and son were in the kitchen, and my mother whispered, “This is nice, but where are you?” I laughed and showed her my desk hidden behind closet folders in the front guest room.

My first home, and in retrospect, I’m not sure I was ever actually there. The upside, I couldn’t lose what I didn’t have.

I was married 33 years. Divorce was right. Now what? The process took too much space, too much time. All-consuming, crowding out the vision of where to go next with the simple desperation to get out, to get away, to quiet the incessant dissonance of morning to night miscommunication. Phase next slipped from sight. I didn’t prepare myself, not sure I could have anyway, and yet, I didn’t doubt.

DeVaughn croons on, “You may not have a car at all…

Doubt lingers in how to live, where to go next. For so long, it seemed like there was only one direction to go. Until there wasn’t. Immobility. Doubt that there really is anything more to do, anywhere else to go, anyone else to be.

Immobility, it wasn’t a product of not knowing where to go though, more a profound disappointment. What I had expected, hoped, and worked for, for decades, didn’t turn out as I had wanted. I’d been pretty attached to that vision, almost to the point where I considered staying in something toxic.

Childish. Still hurts no less but still a childish, foolish, delusion. Despite thinking I didn’t know what to expect, I unwittingly had thoughts of what things should and shouldn’t be that were not being met. Had I been more on top of my life, I would have known not to put myself in the situation in the first place. The ability to ask a few more questions would have helped, but emotions tangled those questions up.

Faith in hard work didn’t pay off. It revealed nothing. I was doing what I thought I had to do, what I thought we all do. After years of doing the work though, I’m not even sure what I was working for, perhaps that’s devastating, I can’t make up my mind.

Lost or at a loss?

I ask ChatGPT, “is doubt a symptom of depression?”

It answers simply, “…Yes, doubt can be a symptom of depression, but it’s essential to recognize that doubt in and of itself isn’t solely indicative of depression….”

Or is it a symptom of fear?

Again, it answers, clearly, simply, “… Yes, doubt can be conceptualized as part of a continuum of fear, especially when considering how humans process uncertainty and potential threats.”

Although respectful of the first answer, the second resonates better with my feelings.

DeVaughn continues, “…But remember brothers and sisters…” the tone sonorous, warm, reassuring, “You can still stand tall, Just be thankful for what you’ve got.


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author: In the Shade of Doubt.

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