The Short and Tall tales of Tom Scruple: Preface
This is a little short story, or beginning of a longer story that I wrote. It is partly about trying to understand myself better you could say. I read somewhere recently that you should write about the things that you find raise your own emotions. The issue of self expression, and getting frustrated not being able to express yourself to others is something I have found in my life to be a common issue, so I thought I would have a go writing about it. Hope you all enjoy it…
Freedom of speech is what distinguishes the free man from the slave. Many people may use it merely to belch or cough or curse at an opportune moment. But the freedom is there to use your speech box as you see fit. Imagine if you will, a person without this freedom. A person incapable of expressing his inner most feelings of disapprobation, even through a mere cough. A person with no voice at all. Now surely this person would drive himself crazy, or tear himself apart, you may think. But in the case of Tom Scruple, you would be wrong in this thought. Tom Scruple didn’t tear himself apart. He didn’t drive himself crazy. He simply waited patiently. The thoughts and the emotions were stewing and stirring up inside him. But he contained them. He found a place for them within his own mental landscape. He created a world with his thoughts. But not a schizophrenic one, not a delusional one. For Tom Scruple was still just Tom. A boy becoming a man with a single responsible personality.
How, may you ask, could such a tragic individual get by in his day to day life. He could not procure the things he wanted, for he had not the ability to express and assert to others the things he wanted. Instead, he had to watch while others got these things. His school friends would go off and make their careers, find their partners and have children. Tom would like to have these things to, but he could not assert his desire for these things properly. So he had to learn to not be attached to the things he desired most. He had to overcome his envy and hatred towards others for getting these things and parading them in front of his nose. Of course, they did not really do this, it was just how Tom perceived things from his skewed perspective. This was something he would have to learn also. The motives you impute on others are often a reflection of your own feelings at that time, and have little to do with the actual motivation of these people. Here was another thing Tom would have to detach himself from. So Tom became more and more detached from others. But he still loved others and still had strong feelings for those he cared about. He just could not find the correct way to express his feelings. Consequently, when he tried to express his feelings he would make a fool of himself, which put him off trying again, which made it all the less likely he would ever learn how to express his feelings properly. It was a tragic vicious circle that poor Tom Scruple was locked in.
This then is the boy becoming a man who is at the center of our story. He may have continued happily on in his own pursuit of detachment from his surrounding world and took it to its natural conclusion, were it not for a fortuitous turn of events. A strange thing began to happen, Tom noticed. The more he became happily detached from others, the more others seemed to start taking an interest in him. The less effort he put in to trying to please others, the more others wanted to be pleased by him in some way, he found. It was quite an illogical happening, and it took Tom Scruple a good amount of time to get his head around just what was going on here.
However, Tom was in no good position to handle this attention. It did not suit the comfortable lifestyle he had made for himself. True, it was what he wanted deep inside. But he had long ago resigned himself to not getting the things that he wanted. It came with his quite peculiar inability to express himself properly, he thought. It was a limited life, but at least it was his way of life and it made him distinct from others. It gave him an identity. This new found attention and interest from others threatened to swallow up his sense of identity, and Tom Scruple had no intention of letting that happen.
So Tom resisted the attention from others. He became a fencing expert. He always knew when to back out of an interaction with another in order to avoid their attack. And this was how he always saw it. It was not an option that this other person could be friendly, with good intentions. Heaven forbid such blasphemous thoughts. All people were looking to further their own ends and to manipulate you in line with their ends. That was the first commandment of Tom Scruple’s faith. It never occurred to Tom that he could join this game and impress his ends upon other people also. For, as we have already seen, such seemed impossible to Tom. The concept of expressing himself genuinely to others was the most ludicrous thing you could suggest to him. It was not that he wouldn’t try his best. It is that he would most certainly fail. It was like he didn’t speak the language of anyone else when it came to expression of self. Expression of self translated into Tom’s language as, smile, be polite, wait for the person to go away and then breathe a sigh of relief and get back to his own train of thought.
Other people kept coming back though. Tom Scruple’s thoughts became more and more over taken by this strange interest in other people. It did not sit well with his proud stoic philosophy of detachment. Tom was approaching either a crisis or a revelation, or a mixture of both. It was all up to Tom. Did he want to close himself off from the world in the relative safety, but certain boredom, of his own self. Or was he going to open himself to some of these peculiar worldly interests and people that tweaked at his mind? Tom was like a snail, peeking in and out of its shell. Would he ever amble out of that shell and become a fully evolved slug? Tom Scruple gave it some thought. Most likely he would, but most likely he would be squished as soon as he ventured out.