It feels almost like my childhood was a mashup of the movie It,* and Never Let Me Go.**
I've been coming to terms with just how much of my childhood self is inaccessible to me. Last night I had an apparently deeply triggering conversation with a childhood friend. Afterwards, a more recent friend managed to clarify the extent to which I had simply lost access to my perspective as a child.
Today I made some progress, and got some detail on things like:
There wasn't a binary compartmentalization between books (real) and mundane life (fake), there was some kind of more complex thing going on where I was conditioned to let reality slide out of focus for my intellect so that I could implement a Pass As Normal procedure. Passing As Normal isn't actually an opinion about reality, just a behavior.
My friends and I were definitely aware that something was wrong with the grownups, but it somehow didn't feel available to discuss the problem directly. We were being kept in this locally humane setting by adults who were trying to be kind to us now but definitely expected us to eventually go and participate in the world that had dimmed their inner light.
I fantasized about how maybe as an adult, if I could hold onto memory, I might use my power to interact with children in a more real way. I've clearly betrayed that fantasy at critical points in my life by allowing myself to be distorted by the imperative to Pass, though perhaps I'll recover some of what I lost.
Another childhood friend recently found an old diary where on one page he had literally just written the word "remember," over and over.
There was a shared attitude that you just couldn't expect adults to listen to reason, sometimes they just Did Things and you had to accept that even if they weren't making sense
My memories are probably still distorted, but it seemed like mutual knowledge that adults were on autopilot a lot of the time in ways we weren't, I didn't have the sense that my peers Just Did Things, or power tripped in triggered ways (though I didn't have that language at the time) the way adults did.
Crucially, the drive to Pass As Normal isn't actually an opinion, just a behavior; though when trying to remember what else there was, I initially confabulated opinions to justify my behavior. Its actual function was to go along with power, grooming me to assume a position of privilege among the Gentry by playing Werewolf.
I'm reminded somehow of another friend's champagne socialist mother, who claimed to "not understand" Agnes Callard's excellent New York Times essay on total silencing, and said that it was "burdening" her by making it all about Callard's feelings (the exact opposite of what the text explicitly says!).
Careful questioning revealed that what she actually meant by this was, "I resent that I don't know a stereotyped conversational response to get out from under the burden of understanding this." (That's a near-verbatim quote of a characterization she explicitly agreed to.)
So it's not that adults don't listen to kids. It's that among the privileged classes I interact with, being an adult means not listening ever, and - relatedly - imagining that the impostor procedure for Passing As Normal and Going Along With Power is the true mind, suppressing the processes responsible for generating true answers and correcting errors. No wonder the light has dimmed.
Before we can figure out how to rekindle the old lamps with untainted oil, we have to purify the temples of our souls, nonjudgmentally distinguishing the clean from the unclean, mind from impostor, light from darkness. Happy Hannukah, everyone.
* A demon with an affinity for water that takes the forms of a clown and a giant spider terrorizes a group of children (killing some), who band together to defeat it, and commit to rejoin each other at some specific date in the future. Years later, as adults, they remember their commitment and come back, but can't quite remember what happened in their childhoods or why they wanted to reconnect. Despite their denial, people start dying again, and they have to recognize and face the clown-demon once more.
** Clones are specially bred for the purpose of harvesting their organs in adulthood, for transplanting. They are brought up in special boarding schools in order to give them some semblance of a normal life while they physically mature.