A youth lays back on a psychologist’s sofa; the sofa is purple.

Youth: I’m missing my mom this morning; she died five years ago. I remember asking her once why she didn’t help manage a family-run business and–

Psychologist: I don’t want to interrupt, but I will this one time.

Youth: Yes?

Psychologist: I love explanations; make them as flowery as you want!

Youth: Uh, well, there’s a business and she didn’t want to run it.

Psychologist: Huh.

Youth: The only really irritating thing about the business is the family.

Psychologist: Huh.

Youth: The cousins themselves. These cousins, you see, come from a diverse array of obnoxiousness.

Psychologist: I believe the term is obnoxiousness-es.

Youth: When my mom was alive, I asked her why she didn’t run the company. She laughed and said, “Are you kidding? I don’t want to be around those people. Life is too short.”

Psychologist: Lovely.

Youth: Yes, lovely, but what I don’t understand about my mom is that she worked a high stress job for a number of years. I assume she hated it. It made her cry at night, so that sounds like something one would hate.

Psychologist: Tears have many motivations.

Youth: At the time of my mom’s night tears, I asked my dad to get a job so she could stop working. I even said, quote, “I would respect you if you got a job at the supermarket; everyone will think you are retired with lots of money.”

Psychologist: You were worried about your mom?

Youth: And I’ll never forget what my dad said, “Oh, no! God’s giving me my Sabbath Rest. I’m waiting for my ministry.” No exaggeration. “Waiting for my ministry.”

Psychologist: And then what happened?

Youth: My mom died of cancer. Breast. Stage four.

Psychologist: And how did that make you feel?

Youth: Uh. I feel that my mom bled out her health to this soulless corporation… and, well, she bled out her health to her husband. She bled out her health to the ministry from God whatever that means. I want to put the word ministry in sarcastic quotation marks. “Ministry.”

Psychologist: The way you spit the word so venomously communicates.

Youth: Okay, good.

Psychologist: So, how do you feel now?

Youth: Like that David Bowie song, “When you’re a boy.” David Bowie wrote this song about how great it is to be a boy, and the song makes me think about the girls.

Psychologist: 49.6% of the population.

Youth: Yes, that other half of the population: the girls.

Psychologist (singing): “When you’re a boy, you can buy a home and everything!”

Youth: The line is, “You can buy a home of your own / When you’re a boy/ Learn to drive and everything / You’ll get your share / When you’re a boy.”

Psychologist (looks at watch): Thank you for correcting me.

Youth: But when you’re a girl? Taking my mom as an example: When you’re a girl, you keep the family together through the power of your good humor, wash all the dishes, cook all the meals, do the laundry, fold the laundry, deal with annoying sons who ask pointed questions about your life choices (which contribute to you crying at night), work a stressful job, get breast cancer, and die at the age 63.

Psychologist: When you’re a girl.

Youth: My question is, why didn’t my mom say to the corporation for which she worked, “Are you kidding?”

Psychologist: Or her husband?

Youth: Or her husband, sure; I knew you’d say that.

Psychologist (leaning forward in chair): Everything wrong with your life is because your parents didn’t love you and/or were mean to you. For example, spanking: were you spanked as a child?

Youth: Individuals aren’t everything; a larger culture produces behavior, too.

Psychologist: Don’t change the subject.

Youth: I’m not: Individuals are free to take actions, but we are also defined by our context. Long and elaborate debates put us on either side of those two: individuals or the larger context. But I’ll tell you the deeper truth is this:

Psychologist: What?

Youth: There is no way to square a circle.

Psychologist: You are not making any sense.

Youth: Pie. Three point one four one five nine two six five three five. Humans need a number like pie to express the ratio between an individual and a context, between a radius and a circumference. Our best science is an approximation; our best science says, “Ah, well, this is a transcendental number.” We can emphasize the circle or the square, the circumference or the radius, but the deeper truth is pie: a ratio between two things that remain always in relation.

Psychologist: Your parents are guilty–

Youth: There is no final word. There will never be a final word. There will only always be a ration about the relationship between the parent and the larger culture that produced the parent.

Psychologist: Your parents–

Youth: They nurtured my nature. They nurtured me and they were defined–myself too,–by a larger context. We are all defined by a larger context, and we are free to do what we want. These two concepts never touch one another perfectly: the circle and a square; our nature and our nurture. Art, science, religion: these are our best approximation.

Psychologist (looks at watch): You can call it by whatever name you like, but you have to blame someone for something eventually, and, once you do, I’ll be ready to get to work and help you.

Youth: If I start blaming people, I become a victim, which makes me helpless.

Psychologist: I’m helping you!

Youth: Helping me blame someone puts me back on this sofa next week so we can rehash the parental issues again. When I am on this sofa, I am helpless.

Psychologist: And yet you remain; why? Tell me how you feel?

Youth: I was reading this health guru fellow. Mario Martinez is his name. The Mind Body Code. He describes how some people work their whole life, retire, and immediately die of cancer–just like my mom. He says that these people mentally induce the cancer into themselves. Those are not his words. I can’t remember his words. Essentially these people don’t deserve to stop working, so they kill themselves–or their bodies kill themselves. They don’t deserve to stop working, but they did stop, which is a sin, I guess, and so the body manifests sickness and they die.

Psychologist: like guilt?

Youth: Mario says that it isn’t guilt; the body stops the mind; or, the mind puts up a barrier and the body manifests that barrier. The body creates a barrier representing the mind’s beliefs. If the person crosses that barrier, the person will grow sick and die.

Psychologist: From where does the barrier come?

Youth: Society. It is our culture that creates the barrier in our mind; we accept certain assumptions from our social context and our bodies manifest that belief.

Psychologist: Sounds like witch medicine to me; I prefer clinically-proven drugs.

Youth: Mario’s example is money. Think about how much money you have in the bank. Double it mentally. Feel what your body does. Now, double it again and feel what your body does. If you are relaxed, you can feel your body manifesting your ideas about money. You’ll grow tense or excited and reveal what ideas you’ve accepted from society about money.

Psychologist: What does all this have to do with your parents not loving you enough?

Youth: I am sure my mother was an icon of humility, servanthood, and pleasant humor to many–not just me. She didn’t transform bread into roses like the Portuguese saint, but I’m sure if she had worn those exquisite dresses from yesteryear, which the Portuguese saint wore at the time of the miracle, my mom would have had something of the je ne sais qua that makes for a saint and/or a witch.

Psychologist: Huh.

Youth: I’m sure, too, and this was why I asked such pointed questions when she was alive.

Psychologist: Ah, so it was you! So all this is a confession? And my bill (which will be enormous, by the way) will be an indulgence? Haha! Oh, god, you religious types are my bread and butter!

Youth: I believe my mom was too humble. I have no doubt–as much as it pains me to say the word–that my mother was submitting. Submitting to her husband. I hate that word submit more than the word ministry.

Psychology: Why did she submit?

Youth: Her religion. Paul makes this off-hand comment in a letter about wives submitting to husbands and it is taken as gospel.

Psychologist: Isn’t Paul the same one who quotes Hippocrates and says that men have sperm in their hair and therefore should cut said hair short to be fruitful and have more babies?

Youth: Yeah, that’s the guy. You know, I’ve never heard a pastor put Paul’s ideas into historical context; not once.

Psychologist: Do you think your mom could have been happy with someone else? If she had divorced and found happiness?

Youth: Haha, yeah right. My mom was happy. She killed herself, but she was happy. We each create happiness with a peculiar mixture of things that all together add up to our personal happiness. We are all unhappy in the same way, but our personal happiness is peculiar to each of us. From the outside, no one else finds us happy; we ask one another, “Really? That’s enough for you?” Everyone asks that.

Psychologist: That’s a good point, but you are forgetting sexual exploration and personal choice. If your mom had–

Youth: I’m just going to stop you right there you, you modern psychologist!

Psychologist: Wow, you really can pronounce certain words venomously.

Youth: My mom was happy. She arose out of a certain religious and social context. She studied art in college until she had to paint some naked hippies in art class, and who can blame her? She rejected the hippies and went over to the Moral Majority movement. She only had the two options: provocative hair or well-mannered submission.

Psychologist: My mom still smells like patchouli.

Youth: I wonder why my mom didn’t say, “Are you kidding?” to the submission issue–to religion in general, and specifically, to working so hard to hold together the family while my dad took a sabbatical for five years. Why not just laugh and say, “Are you kidding?” to all of that?

Psychologist: At some point, one must give up levity and make a serious commitment. And, you already mentioned the barrier concept, which would explain why it was her duty to behave as she did.

Youth: I’m really asking myself these questions. I’m really asking myself why I don’t say, “Are you kidding?” You know because life is short. It is.

Psychologist: Life is short.

Youth: And, god forbid that I’m waiting for MY ministry. Shiver. Am I? Am I waiting for something? Something divine? While those around me suffer? What are the barriers holding me in some terrible pattern? What social barriers do I accept from society–barriers that I would be healthier to ignore?

Psychologist: Are you more like your mom or your dad? How doe you feel?

Youth: Like Hercules, from birth I’ve wrestled these twin serpents: mommy and daddy.

Psychologist (looks at watch): That’s funny. Most of my clients don’t make mythology jokes.

Youth: I thought you would like the high-brow jokes; I can do low-brow, too. Fart jokes are great.

Psychologist (takes off glasses to clean): The anus, yes. I guess everyone has one, which makes for universal subject matter–and that’s the essential thing, isn’t it: for a joke to find its audience, you’ve got to find common ground.

Youth: Wow, you really know how to crush the joy out of life, don’t you?

Psychologist (puts on glasses with shaking hands): I realize that fart jokes are a branch of pseudo-philosophy, but, to be frank with you, I don’t know how to poo, so the topic bothers me.

Youth: You don’t know how to poo?

Psychologist: It is a prerequisite for my job. Trouble with pooing. A good psychologist sublimates his physical body to better manifests his mental apparatus.

Youth: I guess that makes sense…?

Psychologist (looks at watch): Thirteen more minutes.

Youth: I can’t very well say “Are you kidding” to everything; I have to grab hold of something. And, there is this barrier idea. What are my barriers I’ve accepted from society? Why don’t I just fly off into the wild blue?

Psychologist: What is your solution? What has been your solution so far in life?

Youth: Half-hearted effort.

Psychologist: I don’t understand.

Youth: I work for a soul-sucking company, so I try to do it half-heartedly. To be honest, I do dream about doing amazing things–godlike things–but rather than work prayerfully for those godlike things to arrive, I half-ass it.

Psychologist: Meaning, you drink?

Youth: Yes.

Psychologist: Ah, I get it: you numb yourself with alcohol because your job is boring and your dreams are difficult.

Youth: Yes, numb is the word.

Psychologist: This all sounds completely normal to me.

Youth: What?

Psychologist: Everyone does this! What do you think I have in this coffee cup?

Youth: Coffee?

Psychologist: Haha, take a sip. Go on, sip; I’m in good health, and the alcohol kills everything.

Youth (sipping): W-what is that?

Psychologist: A distillation from a berry; aguardente de medronho.

Youth: So, you numb yourself, too?

Psychologist: Oh, yeah. My clients always talk about poo. Always. Every session is about poo or anuses, so I just numb myself with this coffee cup. The job pays well, but I’ve always dreamed of sailing…

Youth: For years, I’ve thought that numbing myself would solve my problems: my main goals are to not be “called of God” to do something and to not care too much–or be too stressed–at work. Just a little numb.

Psychologist: Good and numb.

Youth: But what if my mom died because of the social barrier? She submitting to her husband until she couldn’t work more and she quit. She told him that he would have to get a job and she quit. And, that killed her. Cancer started there when she crossed the social barrier.

Psychologist: Five more minutes.

Youth: My mom quit her job, and this was the sin. Her body manifested the sin and she died of cancer.

Psychologist: Four more minutes.

Youth: A half-hearted life isn’t what I want; no.

Psychologist: What do you want?

Youth: To walk through the barrier. We can only approximate some things with a ratio. A circle and a square never touch but relate in a ratio. My mother’s nature and her nurture never touched but related in a ratio. She could have said, “Are you kidding” and laughed off the command to submit to Paul’s teaching and still have obeyed her religion. There has to be a ratio governing the individual and religion–and life. A divine ratio. And, it is with this ratio that the individual can walk through life saying, “Are you kidding?” to all the right things at the right moments and so live to be one-hundred and twenty six years old, which would be twice the age of my mother.

Psychologist: My clients talk a lot about death, too; death and poo are super popular.

Youth: I wish I could have helped her. I tried.

Psychologist: Oh, I think you did your best.

Youth: How does a kid circumvent the hippies, the Moral Majority, and simple household needs? And, shouldn’t he just mind his own business? As the Portuguese say, “Entre homem e mulher não se mete a colher.”

Psychologist: What does that mean?

Youth: A man and wife understand one another, so don’t interfere.

Psychologist: Well, when you’re a boy…

Youth: When you’re a boy.

Psychologist (raising coffee mug): To boys!

Youth: To boys!

The end