Monday, September 10, 2012

Seven Moments of Ross

Text CC 2012 by MJ Vilardi, Creative Commons  
May be shared with attribution

1. Skinner Box Part I

            Anyone who knew Ross for more than a a few days (minutes usually) came to the quick realization that he had a voracious appetite and Rasputin-like tolerance for intoxicating liquids and mind-altering substances. At Antioch when he flung open the Doors of Perception great things would swoop in and amaze us: the Space Brothers whispering secrets of the cosmos; Earth sprites and green fairies, like those Ross would encounter at Findhorn in Scotland, hiding behind the monster cabbages; and of course, shadow specters of ourselves, trying, from their vantage point outside of timespace, to offer a few tips on how we should be living. 

            But the DC Edition of Ross was different. He was drawn into the oblivion and little-death that drugs offered, and his writings and drawings became muddy, derivative, and disappointing. Sometimes, through the haze, he produced little gems, like his dark screenplay "The Reaper," based on a film he'd seen years ago. But even then, he had almost no patience or focus to discuss the logistics of getting a film produced. And I noticed something peculiar: every time we came close to a success, Ross would say or do something that would discredit our efforts. The pattern suggested a self-defeating dynamic that protected him against failure. If you never really try, you can't be accused of failure if things don't work out. I suspected this complex had roots in his troubled childhood. "I am not one of life's walking wounded," he said once, with sudden, inappropriate anger. Ross never elaborated, but it was obvious that something weird had happened with his Father. His Dad was a prominent professor of psychology. "He raised me in a Skinner Box in the basement," Ross said cryptically.  

            There was a point at which Ross felt he could extend an olive branch, and patch things up with the old man. He called to say he was going to visit them in Michigan. "Son," the Father said, "You should know that I keep a gun, and I know how to use it."       
The awful depths of this cruel story wouldn't become clear until many years later, when I met Dr. McConnell. At Ross's funeral. 
(Stay tuned for Part II, coming soon!)