“A secret isn’t so much what is known or unknown. A secret is that which isn’t talked about.” I’m not sure what the reader will think of this quote. It’s not famous—not as far as I know. It is attributable to me—as far as I know—for I’ve never come across this idea being expressed in quite this way, by anyone else. I first wrote the line in 2006, for an article I wrote for a now defunct newsletter for my local chapter of EBCAMFT. At the time, I was applying a principle to the treatment of families enduring the psychological impacts of addiction; to the rules that govern communication within closed systems, resulting in alienation, broken attachments, and in therapy or drug treatment: aborted or stalemated progress in relationships.
Though not referenced explicitly in The Situation until the novel’s climax, the same principle pervades the emerging story, and even more so the backstory that’s contained in the novel’s predecessor, Crystal From The Hills. It starts with the backgrounds of individuals, within the psyches of shamefaced people that once raised my troubled protagonists, Chris “Crystal” Leavitt, and Bryan “Weed” Tecco. Chris, for example, was born to a couple who, like countless others, fell in and out of love before callow longings had even run their course. Love’s remainder, such as the birth and subsequent parenting of Chris, was a long, drawn out epilogue—the loss of narcissistic fusion was the quiet tragedy of both of their lives. Mother had a lover, Chris intuited, from a mysterious vase discovered in their home’s basement. His clue was the incipient appearance of a “Shadow”—a vision of a strange man in this case—positioned next to the vase, implicating an untold story with muted knowingness. Chris has been dogged by “Shadows”, at least intermittently, ever since, and like his future friend, Weed, has long since fashioned his own interpretations; extrapolated meanings he attaches to secrets and then applies to the workings of the world.
Secrets govern systems, I unoriginally explain in Working Through Rehab, my non-fiction about adolescents in drug treatment settings. Some systems, like gangs, or youth cliques, cannot be controlled, which is either a blessed phenomenon or a disturbing one, depending on your point of view. Kids, I discovered, quite ably police one another in the keeping of secrets. Snitches get stitches, they command, bullying without apology. Or else they threaten ostracism through ever increasing cyber-space sophistication. Few dare to break the no snitching rule, and few adults really know what to do about it, especially if they’ve lived by the same rule.
Ultimately, my fiction, like my therapeutic biases, extols the virtues of whistleblowers, led by a shadowy figure named Jules Grotius (the designer of the game “The Situation” and of course modeled after Julian Assange), and challenges those whose apparent solution to conflict is silence. The disclosure of secrets, and more importantly, my Grotius character’s pronouncement that the paradigm of public discourse must change for the social good, redeems the burdened history of those who have felt marginalized for seeing what they see, feeling what they feel within systems of all kinds: violent, non-violent; hierarchical; those pretending not to be hierarchical. In my life, I have craved belonging, or actually belonged, to various systems, units of society, all committed to one degree or another to unique, internal truths. These units have had different names: family, nation, school, team, club, clique, company, agency, men’s group, treatment team, couple; society. They’ve all had rules and self-proclaimed, distinctive virtues. They’ve all demanded conformity and punished separation. And they all have secrets.

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