Dr. Frankenstein and the Curse of Self-Awareness: Part II (Conclusion)

If you haven’t read the first part of this story, go to:  Dr. Frankenstein and the Curse of Self Awareness. Then return here for the conclusion.

The phantasm was your standard-issue genie, up to a point: skyscraper tall, with a long, twirling mustache and broad shoulders, but his bug eyes were friendly. Once past the imposing size, you realized he offered a welcoming smile. In other words, the sort of genie you wouldn’t mind having a beer with, if you found a bar with a mile-high ceiling.

I am at your service, Master. You may request one wish and one only. I must warn you, however. The maker of this lamp wanted certainty that no one would use it to cause harm. He therefore required me to tell its possessor this: any wish that would damage another will produce the same injury to the person who makes it.

The genie took a deep breath before speaking again:

OK, now you’ve heard what my maker demanded I tell you. But, over my 3000-year career, I’ve had lots of time on my hands when the lamp lay undiscovered. So, you should know — I took a junior college course in psychology and dabbled with becoming a therapist. What I’m trying to communicate is this: I will give you 50-minutes to discuss possible choices before you decide; breakfast included, no extra charge!

With that, the food appeared. “Wow,” said Ralph. “Thank you so much. I never persuaded Fox to go to marital counseling and she almost never cooks, so this is great! I kind of thought I should enter therapy myself, but never had the time.” Ralph didn’t receive consideration often. His, interest in talking was as much for the semi-human contact with a congenial genie, as to help him decide how to use the gift of the lantern.

“So, what’s on your mind?” asked the ancient apparition. The human proceeded to describe his marital life and his wife’s bankrolled journey to glamour, emphasizing her regular side trips to his personal complaint department. The ageless magic creature listened patiently.

Wow, Ralph said to himself. No one interrupted me.

“Well Ralph, have you considered returning your wife’s body to its pre-surgical status? No problem at my end.”

“No, I don’t want to do that to her. She ‘d be depressed and never forgive me.”

“OK, how about if I make you as handsome as she is beautiful?” offered the genie.

“No,” said our hero again, “She’s never been bothered about how I look. My appearance is the only thing she accepts. Besides, she’d adjust to any change.

Ralph looked away. “I don’t think there is a solution.”

Ralph quieted, despairing. The genie, out of ideas, offered nothing more.
 
Then the unlikely Master came alive to his power: “You know, here’s what I want. It would be amazing for Fox to see herself in the mirror. Not the outside, external stuff, but the inside: to fathom how self-involved she is and how she is never satisfied. How much I love her, too.”
 
“One minute of self-awareness, please. I hope to change her forever. Can you do it, genie?”
 

“Sure, Ralph. Bring her here tomorrow before dawn. I’ll need a hand-mirror, as well. Your wish will be granted.”

Ralph spent an anxious day and a sleepless night waiting for the morning. It took some doing to persuade Fox to rise early for the promised beach visit, especially because her eye sensitivity caused avoidance of sunny places. But she was intrigued by her husband’s request. He assured her they would only be there for a short while past sunrise.
 
The next day came, while Sleeping Beauty dreamed of a luxury car or a trip to France, either one a fulfillment of her husband’s enticement.  The couple thus traveled in a state of quiet uncharacteristic of her, preoccupied as she was by her material fantasies.
 

As instructed by the man of the lamp, Ralph carried a small satchel and walked with Fox to the empty beach. The genie reduced his stature to nestle in Ralph’s ear, where he whispered precise instructions.

Our hero laid out a large towel and requested his wife to sit facing the water. The lamp stayed in the handbag, as Ralph removed the glass, asking the beauty to take off her shades, then hold the mirror to her face. “Oh, Ralphie, are you going to put a necklace on me?”
 

Now came the dawn. In an instant Fox saw not her a reflected image of expensively achieved features, but a self-interested personality in its self-unforgiven ugliness. By the fifth second, she realized how vain and narcissistic she was. In the eighth she became aware of the chronic unkindness she visited on her family.

One quarter of the way to the end of time, a shaft of insight displayed the likeness between the neglect Fox suffered as a child and the identical indifference she dispensed to her children. Half-way through she could no longer justify her affair.
 
At 40 ticks a psychic bombshell penetrated her defense against the emptiness of her existence.
 
In the last 10 seconds of her single minute of self-awareness, the once friendless girl no longer dismissed how much she had hurt her husband, who — it occurred to her — loved her more than anyone. At second 60 — crying the non-stop, can’t-catch-your-breath tears of catharsis — Fox’s heart broke and stopped beating. She collapsed in Ralphie’s arms, already dead.
 

For an instant — enough time for a horrified, heart-rending sigh and the formation of a single tear — Ralph stared at the devastation wrought by his attempted salvation of his marriage. His wish was innocent: to make Fox as beautiful inside as her oft admired face and form; a person whose acquired self-awareness would morph her into the compassionate, loving wife and mother Ralph and his children yet ached for.

But his gasp signaled only the dawn of Ralph’s own insight, just as the genie warned earlier, as unexpected by Ralph as his wife’s tortured demise.

In the first second he realized how weak he had been with Fox; by the 10th, how much he failed to provide their children with a strong role-model. Thirty-seconds on, penetration of the word ENABLER knocked him back into the sand.

Though the day was still new, Ralph’s consciousness sensed a curtain lowering on creation. He saw a sign emblazoned on an antique gate: ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE. In his slow-motion entry to hell, Ralph perceived himself as an indulgent Dr. Frankenstein. He was the creator of a monster, one surgery at a time: the man whose life would have been different if he had learned to say “no.”

At the end of Ralph’s single minute of enlightenment, his heart also stopped. He slumped over his deceased wife, closer than they had been during life.

The last moment of Dr. Frankenstein’s descent, before his heart broke, revealed that he and Fox were not ill-matched at all. In fact, they were perfectly matched, as if made for each other, like a custom measured and cut glove, sewn to fit one’s hand.
 
Fox could not have become “herself” without Ralph, and Ralph could not have fulfilled his potential to be a good-hearted, but beaten dog without her. An evil genius lay within himself, all the same.
 

Like two intimately bound elderly people in a long marriage, the scientist and his creation had to die close in time. One could not live without the other, if indeed they ever lived.

The genie crawled out of Ralph’s right ear. He assumed his full height and stood over the wreckage of the magic lamp’s too illuminating wish-fulfillment.

Gosh, this never happened before, he thought to himself. Criminy. Maybe I need to get out of this business. Three-thousand-years is enough. I don’t want another catastrophe.

Back in the day, I wanted to be a therapist.

Hmm.

The phantasm crawled back into his lamp, lost in his own lostness.

He’d been so focused on the wishes of others, he never created a decent Plan B.

The top image is a poster for the Mel Brooks’ film Young Frankenstein. The Arabian Nights Entertainments by Milo Winter, published in 1914 by Rand McNally and Company is sourced from Wikimedia Commons. The final image is a Magic Lamp.

 

Dr. Frankenstein and the Curse of Self-Awareness

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Does self-awareness bring happiness? Most people seem to believe their portion of self-awareness is sufficient for contentment. Others don’t think about the question. The latter live without much excavation of what is deep in the cavernous underground of their psyche.

I intend to write more about this subject, but will introduce the topic with the story of two people who don’t know themselves well. After reading, you might ask yourself how much self-awareness you possess and whether it improves your life.

My take on the subject may surprise you.

If you watched Ralph for 30 minutes straight and walked away, you would be unable to describe him. He was a man with no distinguishing qualities: not too heavy, not too thin; not too much hair (if there is such a thing), but not bald either; a man of indifferent facial features rendering him unremarkable. Although mega smart, his eyes displayed no light or life. Indeed, his brain’s powerful wattage came as a surprise and then only after you’d gotten to know him.

Nor did withdrawn Ralph have many friends; wait — any friends. Vocation became all. If I gave you the name of what he did, you probably wouldn’t comprehend it. Suffice to say, this brainiac possessed a specialized knowledge of something to do with physics. Still, if one is preoccupied by such arcane, abstract, and technical work — a marginalizing kind of territory — conversation is hard.

What Ralph did have, to the shock of anyone who met his family, was a knock-out wife named Fox. And, funny enough, she resembled Megan Fox: equally sultry, but more curvaceous, with hair so black you wondered if it came from a bottle of dye. Indeed, Fox existed as a woman to die for. Ralph was close to fulfilling the expression’s prediction: dying inside because of her.

The honeymood period had been different. This woman only now devoted her life to turning heads. She observed men to see if they ogled, and so they did. The throng turned toward her, where she once blended unknown and unnoticed into every crowd.

When they married, Fox was as plain as white bread. Much like Ralph, in fact. Maybe I’m being too kind to her. Her nose reminded one of a driver frozen in place at a four-way traffic stop, unable to decide which way to go. Her jaw was too small, so her bottom teeth bunched up, like a classroom of eager students all raising their hands. Her “bum” was absent — one of the many straight, boyish lines on a body screaming for curves.

This young woman’s ear lobes had been marred by a failing intern at a bargain “piercing shop.” The cretin used something like a train conductor’s punch to do the job. Meanwhile, her oversized, protruding ears (as if ready for takeoff) created a human likeness to Disney’s Dumbo. Fox’s feet made grace of motion a challenge, too. Topping everything, the delicate dear-one’s sensitive eyes responded with pain to sunlight, requiring an almost vampire-like avoidance of the summer outdoors. In total, this woman appeared a mess on the outside, while her insides couldn’t help noticing and sent out distress signals.

Given the lady’s neediness, perhaps Ralph’s arrival falls into the “meant to be” category. She struggled to reach for a top shelf grocery item and asked for his aid. When he provided the assistance she started chatting him up, telling him the details of her miserable life. “Oh my God, thank you. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been here to get the Cheerios. I always have such trouble with these things. No one ever seems to give me the time, so sometimes I go without.”

Fox went on and on. The relationship might have been different, if only lonely Ralph had been a more confident and not so good-hearted. A woman eager for his company should not be ignored, he thought. Soon they were sitting together in the supermarket’s cafe. He still listened and she still filled the conversational carbon dioxide with her ill-fated history. The pattern had been set.

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Ralph couldn’t help but notice two things. First, she enjoyed talking to him. Second, he garnered appreciation despite doing almost nothing. Our fellow’s muteness around women mattered not. Since Fox engaged in endless monologue, he found an uncommon ease in being with her.

A third idea occurred to this Everyman, too: he pitied the injured creature. The recitation of her life disappointments touched him. The masculine heart broke as he auditioned the ugly duckling disses she described, her parents’ neglect, and the absence of outstanding qualities in a world demanding them.

Ralph looked beyond Fox’s outsides to the “poor girl” insides he saw on the newsreel of sorrow she re-ran. They became a couple. At first, Fox was overjoyed for a boyfriend — one who would listen to her! Ralph wanted a girlfriend just as much, so it seemed inconsiderate to begrudge the woman he loved for her uncontrollable regurgitation of life’s raw indignities. Besides, she seemed grateful he’d drop anything for her, and he felt wanted and purposeful in being able to better this woman’s life.

Marriage inevitably followed courting. Children inevitably followed marriage. Challenges inevitably followed children. “Oh, Ralphie, look at what Molly (their two-year-old) did. I’m too totalled-out to clean up the mess. Can you take care of it, Ralphie?” What could the dear man do? He’d come home from work “totalled-out” himself, but Fox needed rest. Their daughter couldn’t be alone to create further disorder, Ralph said to himself.

As time passed Fox came to treat our boy’s devotion as an entitlement, treat Ralph’s patient listening as an entitlement, treat Ralph’s bread-winning and housekeeping and childcare as an entitlement.

The miserable male consoled himself. She’s had such a hard life, he thought. She’ll soon snap out of it. Maybe if I can do more, things between us will be good again. “Good,” meaning back to the time Fox offered gratitude and the kids were distracting her husband from focusing on her. Then, one day, she asked for something new.

“Ralphie, my doctor says he knows a foot specialist who can fix my feet so it’s not so hard to walk. Wouldn’t that be great? We can afford that, right Ralphie? How about it?”

Well, you know Ralph. Refusal of a reasonable request was unthinkable. He achieved an abundant living and knew it. It was the least he could do for the woman he loved and the mother of his children.

Although Fox had to go through a difficult period of recuperation, the surgery made walking the natural, unconscious thing it is for most young people. Once the healing advanced, her surgeon recommended training in ballet. Ralph’s wife became the embodiment of grace, a creature whose movement across space was streaming and seamless — something to behold.

For a brief period the spouse was even grateful to Ralph, but within a few months wretched routine resumed. Customary indifference and lack of approbation were Ralph’s daily bread, duly accepted. Until, of course, the next thing Fox wanted.

“Ralphie, my doctor says he knows a plastic surgeon who can fix my schnoz. Wouldn’t that be great? We can afford that, right Ralphie? How about it?”

Ralph didn’t jump at this suggestion quite as fast as the idea of taking Fox’s feet to the repair shop. Moreover, he’d grown to like the way Fox’s nose couldn’t seem to make up its mind about the best route to take from its bridge to her nostrils.

Still, she was the woman he loved and the mother of his children. Before too long, Fox had a nose to die for. Straight, not too big, not too small; “just right,” as Goldilocks would have said. Fox spent hours staring at her proboscis in the mirror, admiring the surgeon’s craft and her enhanced appearance: what you might call attractive if your standards for beauty weren’t too high.

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Sex, however, didn’t improve. Romance had never sizzled, but Ralph accepted what his companion offered. Since he’d never had intercourse with anyone else, for a long time it satisfied. Now, however, frequency diminished. Fox also made it more “conditional.”

Let me explain.

The wife complained of headaches and exhaustion — both words sometimes uttered when the other is preoccupied with something else, their brain is somewhere else, and they only wish their partner were elsewhere, too. Fox had an ever-changing, ever smaller list of body parts available for touching, and a growing catalogue of forbidden sex acts. These, she claimed, might cause a brain hemmorhage.

“The Mayo Clinic will prove it. Take me there, you’ll see!”

He didn’t. She’d won the point.

For his part, Ralph began to think of Fox’s torso as a terrain undergoing lots of highway and road repair. He imagined her naked physique covered with little CAUTION and DANGER signs: arrows indicating detours, and tiny flagmen waiving him right or left, but always into a dead end. The helpless bloke wished for the radio traffic reports one hears every 10 minutes, desperate for guidance to the least hazardous routes. Alas, no station carried the needed updates on Fox’s body map. All Ralph got was static.

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Other than when Ralph kissed Fox on her rear end (which she loved but left him cold), ardor was ever more frustrating for our Mr. R. Indeed, as Fox transformed into a fox, the limitations multiplied and the frustration grew.

Attempts at sex caused a mindset akin to days without food, knowing the closest restaurant took a three-hour drive and remained open for just 15 minutes beginning at 3 AM every other week; and the food was cold and tasteless and they never had what you wanted on the menu; and the wait staff were impatient and complained and banged around with pots and pans while you were trying to eat; and the servers were pestering you to hurry up because they were closing soon.

Well, you won’t be surprised when I tell you the surgical requests kept coming. They took the usual form: “Ralphie, my doctor says he knows a surgeon who can do ‘X.'” Next came a complete reworking of her jaw, mouth, and teeth; later breast implants, buttock rounding, and cheek inserts. Botox injections targeted a variety of places. An “ear job” followed to close up the holes left by the conductor’s punch and pin them back so that they didn’t stick out. Soon Fox requested an alteration of her hairline, in addition to lots of consultations with makeup artists, skin specialists, and hair stylists.

The family’s dull doll became unrecognizable — movie-star beautiful. She also transformed into a one-woman cheerleading squad for the wonderful doctor who picked out the best people to work their magic; with not a word about Ralphie, the guy who paid the surgeons and kept doing everything else he’d always done — ever faithful, ever devoted, ever taken-advantage-of, all-day-sucker Ralphie.

Nor was the new “arm candy” an unalloyed benefit to him. Ralph was told he was a lucky hombre, but overheard strangers wondering about the ill-matched “FR” pair. Someone would take her away from him, they guessed.

By the time Fox reached her early 40s, her physical transformation was complete. She passed for 30, at most, and pursued a life unimaginable during her frumpy, freaky, friendless teens. The kids both attended college out-of-state and Ralph never stood in the way of what she wanted. Ralphie earned a fine salary, she rationalized. In fact, however, he worked overtime to pay for the kids’ tuition, the old doctors’ bills, and Fox’s impulse purchases.

With fewer responsibilities due to the the children’s departure and no more surgeons to consult, the manufactured femme fatale realized she missed her divorced doctor, the man she so idolized: the person who guided her to achieving her new, traffic-stopping, stunning state of being. Their meetings started when she dropped in at his office, unannounced, and said hello. Soon they scheduled lunches. Long ones. Ralph couldn’t help but wonder if something was happening.

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One day at sunrise, while Fox slept in and the provider was taking a rare vacation day, he drove to a nearby beach. As a young man, when he was the friendless class nerd, he’d walk along the lake front, let the sun soothe him, and nursed his malaise. Sometimes it worked. The sound of the waves and the warmth of the rays eased his craptastic condition. Perhaps he got lost in a fantasy of winning an adoring girlfriend who would become his wife.

How did things gone so wrong, he wondered? The stillness of the deserted beach provided no comfort. “What can I do? I still love her.” Ralph was talking aloud. “If only I can regain what we had on our first day in the grocery.”

Ralph’s right foot caught on something and he fell on his face, eating a mouthful of sand and pebbles. Disrespect everywhere. Not even the beach likes me, he thought.

As Ralph got up he noticed the object he tripped over. A hard item protruded from the otherwise flat surface. He pulled at it: a golden Middle Eastern style lamp. Scuffed and dented, it nonetheless looked as though it had once been a fine product of the metal artisan’s craft. Ever prepared to do cleaning, the Sad Sack took out his handkerchief and tried to shine it up a bit.

That’s when the genie appeared.

For the conclusion of this story, go to Dr. Frankenstein and the Curse of Self-Awareness: Part II (Conclusion).

The top photo is of Megan Fox, by Luke Ford. Next comes Girlfriend and I by Christian Reusch. That is followed by Beauty and the Beast by Giovana Milanezi, uploaded by Johnny MrNinj and a Singapore Road Sign by Woodennature.  Deep Sadness by Erik Charlton is the fifth image. All are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.