Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire

I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’m going to be writing anything of real informative substance today, despite the fact that I brought my laptop with me and am using it to write this.  There will be no sugar discussion and no discussion of the neuropathology and pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s today.  For that (and other things) I apologize.

Unfortunately, I had almost no sleep last night—perhaps two or three stretches of nearly a half an hour at a time, not really any more.  In between, I’ve been having trouble with GI issues, presumably from something I ate.  I felt like I was going to throw up a lot of the time, though I never did.

That’s all very pleasant, I know.

I apologize for being such a downer, but it’s apparently just the way I’m built.  I’m not one of those people who was put in this world to bring joy or to be a shining light or to cheer people up.  Not that I think anyone was “put” in this world for any purpose.  People just happen like everything else, and things just happen to them.

I think my first real, visceral encounter with this fact happened forty-two years ago this Thursday, December 8th, when John Lennon was murdered.  I had just turned eleven a month and a half earlier.

I’ve written before about the fact that I literally cannot remember any time in my life when I was not a Beatles fan, being the third born in a family of three children, all of whom were/are Beatles fans, with my birth coming at the very tail end of the sixties.  All my life I’ve known most of the Beatles songs by heart.  I don’t remember learning them, they’ve just always been there, like nursery rhymes but better.

And then, of course, John Lennon, who had just released his first new album in years, was shot dead outside his home by a “fan” who likened himself, apparently, to Holden Caulfield.  This was, perhaps, the beginning of my realization that the human race is not worth preserving, protecting, or saving, which later came to be expanded to pretty much all life on the planet and possibly in the universe.

John Lennon, who brought great beauty into the world, whose work continues to bring joy to millions upon millions of people—and who rightly said that it was more appropriate that the Beatles were honored with MBEs than soldiers, since the soldiers got their honors for killing people and the Beatles for making music—was dead on the pavement in Manhattan.  Meanwhile, the man who killed him, instead of having been dunked up to his neck in Drano for ten minutes a day until it finally killed him, is still alive, with three hots and a cot daily supplied by the people of New York for the past forty two years.  The killer has lived longer since that murder than John Lennon had lived when he was murdered.  And the killer is still eligible for parole, though for his sake, he should hope he is never granted it.

I had originally put that cockroach’s name in the previous paragraph, but I decided not to include it after all.  I have no desire to contribute to any perverse reward of him being famous for having destroyed a brilliant artist.

Meanwhile, the likes of Donald Trump and Herschel Walker and Vladimir Putin are well-known public figures, the former alive and “well” in his late seventies, and are even admired and respected by a fairly substantial group of people.  And, given the number of people who wear tee-shirts commemorating and revering Che Guevara and other historical politically/ideologically motivated murderers, and the failure of so many on the left to recognize how like the Soviets and the Maoists—and other, preceding Inquisitions—their attitudes of ideological conformity and historical revision are, it seems unlikely that history will vindicate and lionize those who actually worked toward enlightenment, toward peaceful, just societies, the rule of law, freedom of expression, and above all the necessity of free exchange of ideas for advancement and improvement; there is very little reason to hope that the human race will improve.

Such improvements as have been made, as have happened, are the products of a vanishingly small proportion of the members of the human infestation.  The vast majority of humans are no more advanced than the average australopithecine as far as their personal contributions to society go (to be fair, they are mostly no worse, also).

And don’t make the silly, naïve mistake of imagining that other animal species are kinder or gentler or more in balance with their world than humans are.  They are simply less competent, less powerful, and so cannot exceed their natural equilibria.  If their predators are removed, prey animals multiply until they drive themselves into starvation, usually taking other species with them.  When predators gain advantages, analogous catastrophes occur.  It has happened numerous times in natural history.

Life, to a very good first approximation, is characterized by selfishness, fear, pain, and loss.  “Nasty, brutish, and short” doesn’t begin to provide an adequate summary, though “quiet desperation” is indeed the state of many humans.

Honestly, I’ve become so disenchanted with this planet, with the universe itself, and with existence, that if I were so inclined, I might dedicate myself to the destruction of all life, simply to prevent the pain and suffering of future generations.

But I’m not certain enough, and I have no respect for certainty that exceeds the degree of its justification in evidence and argument.  And I don’t have much sympathy for those who willfully infringe on the autonomy of other creatures, intelligent, pseudo-intelligent, or otherwise.  So basically what I try to do now is endure, perhaps hoping for something that will change my mind, until I can make my quietus.

But I will say this:  if John Lennon’s killer were brought before me and I had a weapon, I would gladly kill him.  I dislike having to share air with him.  I know that he suffers, and that he had no more choice in doing what he did than anyone else does, but I don’t really care.  There are plenty of far more innocent, far more benevolent, people than he who suffer, and who die, while trying to do their part to make the world ever so slightly better, or at least to do no more harm than they absolutely must.  It’s not a matter of thinking that he “deserves” to die, though by most estimates he probably does.  But “deserves” is a vague term, and is used too often to justify atrocities.  So I would not claim any right of justice or vengeance or anything of the sort.  I would be making an aesthetic choice.  “My” world is uglier with him in it, and it would be that much less ugly with him dead.  I don’t want to see him suffer, nor do I want him to suffer.  I simply would like him gone, just as I would like to paint over a stain on a fresco.

On that pleasant note, I’ll call this blog post to a close.  Apologies for being such a downer, as usual.  I wish I could feel “justified” in trying to be optimistic, or at least to feel supported in that by a preponderance of evidence and rational argument.  Alas, I cannot bring myself to that conclusion.  So, I will instead conclude this writing for today.

Well, here we go again.

It’s Saturday—the one that comes two days after Thanksgiving, though I don’t think it has any special designation—and as I said I would, I brought my laptop with me, so I’m using it to write this post today.

I didn’t play any music or write any fiction yesterday.  Obviously.  I mean, I haven’t written any fiction in months, now.  I’m not sure how many.  And although on three occasions I’ve done a tiny bit of plinking on the guitar and once on the piano, it’s really been nothing like what I did in the past.  I just don’t have the desire to do it, even though I used to enjoy it.

As I’ve said, I used to enjoy fiction, mostly fantasy/sci-fi and horror.  I have a difficult time forcing myself to read any fiction anymore; even the Japanese light novels are getting daunting.  Non-fiction that I would normally have enjoyed, like books about physics, or biology, or psychology, or even politics and sociology, are all just blah.  Most of the videos I want to watch, I’ve already watched, over and over again, and though I am able to enjoy things repetitively, and I always have been, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve just about squeezed what I can out of the ones that I like.  I haven’t even been able to get more than a few dozen pages into Sean Carroll’s new book.

And now, here I am, sitting at the train station on Saturday morning, ready to go into the office.  The person who last triggered my meltdown on Monday*, was off yesterday and will be off today, enjoying his holiday, and will get paid for his bending of the rules.

All the people I love in the world are elsewhere, with the ones they love, presumably enjoying their holiday weekends—I certainly hope they are—or just enjoying themselves in a faraway land, experiencing other cultures and so on.  And I’m here by myself, near the distal dorsum of America’s flaccid, syphilitic penis.

I think I stay here because, honestly, I don’t feel like I deserve anything better, and anyway, this apparent ASD that I probably have—or whatever psychopathology I have that mimics it—makes it very difficult for me to contemplate changes to any given situation, even though it’s far from ideal.

After I got out of prison, I decided to come back to Florida after a brief visit to my parents, instead of staying with them (I was invited to stay), because I hoped to be able to see my kids sometime relatively soon.  That, of course, did not happen, and I don’t give high odds on my ever seeing them again.

I’m certainly no good at being pushy about trying to get my own way in interpersonal relationships.  I didn’t fight my divorce or any related stuff, never fought about how much child support to give—I was happy to give as much as I was asked.  Frankly, there was nothing better for me to do with my money.  I honestly have little to no inherent sense of having any rights of my own, certainly with respect to other people, though I will tend to demand that people keep their hands off of me, literally and figuratively.

So, I missed the last few years of my parents’ lives that I could have spent with them, in the vain notion that I might get to see my children sooner.  And, of course, that was why I pled guilty in the first place, though I consider myself innocent according to the law as I understand it.  I certainly never willingly broke any laws, but was trying to help people who had chronic pain, such as I have.  I’m not claiming my thought processes were clear or ideal, and I was certainly naïve and foolish, but I never meant anything criminal, and certainly made no profit.

But I figured, three years’ plea bargain (with time served counting toward it) was better than a chance at a longer sentence, especially since I’m not a likeable sort with whom a jury might be expected to sympathize; or so I was told by my court-appointed lawyer.

This is the way the state extorts people into taking “shorter” offered sentences rather than going to court to fight legitimately for their side and their rights.

Anyway, I gave all that up for what turned out to be a pie in the sky notion.  I lost my medical license, my community, my use of skills that I’d put years and years of effort into gaining, and I lost the last years of my parents’ lives, and I lost my children anyway.  I wish I were just some selfish prick who was good at looking out for number one and living for his own enjoyment.

Well, no, no I don’t.  I despise such people.  But sometimes I envy them their ability not to care what anyone thinks of them, or what impact they have on others, no matter what they do.  I mostly don’t worry too much what other people think of me, but I do want people I love not to hate me.  I’m not sure I’ve been very successful at that.  I’d also like to be able to be with my kids and I certainly didn’t want to be divorced, or to disconnect from various other people, but I’m not good at people, it seems, though I was always good at being a caring doctor.

Oh, well.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s all pointless and irrelevant, and I don’t expect I’ll ever see my kids again, any more than I’ll see my mother and father again, though for different reasons.  I guess not seeing my kids is my punishment, or whatever the proper term is, for being utterly incompetent at human relationships.

It sucks, but I can’t get the rules changed as a special dispensation for me.  And I certainly don’t want to inconvenience my kids in any way; I want them to have the dreams they want to achieve, to do what they want with their lives and to enjoy the world as best they can.  Same with my old friends, and my ex-wife, and her family, and everyone else I’ve known.  I’m not interested in being the center of anyone’s attention, unless it’s something they feel good about.  For instance, if they like my writing or my music, I don’t mind if they pay attention to that.  But I’m certainly not worth derailing anyone’s plans out of any sense of obligation or anything along those lines.

I have no idea what I’m trying to say, today.  I’m getting bored with this blog, both today and in general.  I’m calling it good for now.  We’ll see how Monday goes.

*I want to make it clear that he was not the primary cause, he was merely the last straw…but he does often put himself in that position.

Calling 988 is NOT painless with T-Mobile

I’m probably not going to write too much this morning.  I don’t feel much like writing.  In fact, I almost just decided to use my phone for this, even though I brought my laptop with me when I left the office yesterday.  But I thought about the pain in my right thumb and decided, you know what, since I have the laptop with me, I’ll use it.

I left work precipitously yesterday, over the fact that, once again, I was being asked to tacitly approve of a bending of the rules that were set not just by me but also by the boss and the other people who were now wanting to bend them, and all at the behest of the same miserable worm that often pushes us into that situation.  And maybe because of my apparent Asperger’s, or just because of my moral code, or just the truly abysmal mood I was already in (just check yesterday’s blog to find out about that), but I just basically said, “Fuck this,” and got up, packed up my laptop, and left the office.

I texted my main coworker to apologize, and told him that I was going to call 988 once I got back to the house, because I’m at my wit’s end.  I also texted my sister, who was also very supportive, and my coworker told me that the boss apologized to me for putting me in that position.

Anyway, I ended up at the house, which I don’t consider home, and it took me some time and a breather to work my way up to calling the helpline.  This is because, the last time I called the helpline, many years ago, while I was out on bail during my personal downfall/debacle, I got picked up by the PBSO, handcuffed, and taken to a place I think was called the South County Treatment Center.  The deputies didn’t know how to use their handcuffs very professionally—trust me, I’m a connoisseur—and did some nerve damage to my left wrist in the process that lasted almost a year.

So, I finally decided to call 988 yesterday, only to find that T-Mobile prepay would not allow the call to go through, even though I’m paid through December 11th.  I got online to investigate this, and signed into the account, just to confirm that, yes, I was paid up, and I was.  So then I got on their chat function, trying to tell them about the issue and asking, basically, “What the fuck?”

But the person on the chat said that I had to call the toll-free number specifically for T-Mobile’s prepaid system, that they couldn’t do anything or even say anything about it on their end.  And, of course, even though I’d said that I was trying to call the suicide prevention hotline, they used their same cheerful but useless prepackaged, computer-generated phrases to say I had to call their stupid other service first.

Well, it occurred to me that if I could call their stupid toll-free number, I could probably call another, so I told them to fuck off (or words to that effect), and then looked up the 800 number for the old helpline, and I found that it was still active and would redirect automatically to the same place to which 988 goes.  When I started dialing it, I realized that I still had that old number as a contact in my phone, having put it in there just in case, some time ago.

Anyway, I spoke to a pleasant woman who was quite supportive and calming, until I had to use the restroom.  One reassuring thing was, she asked me if I had any immediate plan or method of killing myself, or if I was thinking of killing myself.  I told her, I think about killing myself every day, and have all sorts of possible methods, but I don’t want to be rude or make a mess for other people to clean up or to inconvenience them, so that was why I was calling them.

I guess if they think you are imminently in danger of killing yourself, then they would call the sheriff.  Which leads me to wonder, what if that was your plan?  What if you deliberately wanted to call the sheriff and then when they came, attack them and make them shoot you?

That was not my intention, of course, though such ideas have occurred to me at times.  I finally got off the phone and took care of the restroom business, let my sister and my coworker know that I had called, and that I was going to bed.

I wish I could say it had solved my problems and I felt worlds better, but I don’t think anyone expects that to be the case.  Still, I’m here, for what it’s worth*, and I’m writing this blog, though I’m not working yet on the follow up to my initial neurological post.

But I will close with a public service announcement, or two of them:  First, if you or someone you know has trouble with depression or other mental health issues, or what have you, please keep the following information in mind:  The three digit number for the national suicide helpline in the USA is 988, and the 800 number is 1- 800-273-8255.

The second suggestion is, if you think there’s any chance you or a loved one might need urgent mental health help, don’t do business with T-Mobile.  The fact that I couldn’t get through with the initial 988 number was almost enough to make me decide that it wasn’t worth trying to get help, that this was the world telling me I should just die.  Fortunately my combative stubbornness came to my aid, and I had to try to solve the problem because it did not make sense.

Fuck T-Mobile.  But thank goodness for the people at the suicide help line.

*Nothing, in the greater scheme of things.

There is no room upon the hill

It’s Monday, and I was loosely considering writing the second part of my discussion of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc., today, but yesterday (and to a lesser extent Saturday), I got my head thrown for a loop by something that other people would probably consider minor, and because of that, I didn’t do any preparation, such as reviewing some of the latest information on the subjects, so I’m going to put that off a bit.

It’s rather strange how fragile my mental state has become—or perhaps it was always so, but I didn’t know, because my surroundings were such that I was not as vulnerable, or because I avoided the mistake of ever getting used to anything going as I expected or hoped.  In any case, my usual Sunday routine is to get up relatively early and do my laundry in the morning.  It’s two to three loads, and it’s the only day in the week that I can do my laundry, given my schedule, so I’ve kind of carved that out as the way things work.

It was my understanding that the new people living in the outer part of the house knew that; I’d asked the owner to make that clear, and hitherto it’s been good.  It feels like it shouldn’t be much of an imposition on anyone, since the remaining six days of the week are theirs to do what laundry they will as they please.  I do pay for the cable and internet, and for (more than) half of the water and power, despite there being only one of me.

I laid in just a little bit—for me anyway—yesterday morning, which means until about 8:20 am, before going out to do my laundry, only to find that there was a load in the wash and the dryer, just getting started, and the lady was there with some man I haven’t seen before, though he’s not important.  I tried stammeringly to remind her that I need to use the laundry on Sunday morning, that it’s the only day I can do it, and please to leave it free in the future, but I think that I didn’t say half of that, and not just because of my very rusty Spanish.  I was just so stressed out, and felt so angry and anxious and irritated that my words kind of froze up, and I don’t have any idea what my expression looked like.  I also felt almost as though I was going to cry, which is quite embarrassing.  I finally said, “por favor” a few times before retreating into my room.

I know for a fact that my face doesn’t adequately convey my emotions—apparently neither does my voice nor my writing—because I frequently find that I when I am horribly depressed, and having suicidal thoughts, and am trying to send out some kind of request for help, and expect that it’s obvious, and that someone will say something about it, people act just they way they normally act.

I don’t know, maybe they aren’t acting like they normally act, but I’m no good at reading them.  In any case, my experience of their behavior doesn’t seem to change.  Thus, my frequent reference to the line from Brain Damage, the penultimate song from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon:  “And when the cloudbursts thunder in your ear / you shout, and no one seems to hear”.  (It’s followed by what is, for me, an even more poignant and heartbreaking line:  “And when the band you’re in starts playing different tunes / I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”)

Maybe it’s just that people have seen me get depressed and stressed out so often, and I’ve tried to express how horrible I feel so often, but no one has done anything or recognized it or something, but I haven’t killed myself yet, so it’s probably okay just to leave it, he’ll get over it and keep on going, since that’s what he’s always done so far.  But, of course, past performance is no guarantee of future results, as the dot-com bubble, and the housing bubble, and the 2008 banking crisis reminded us, though it feels as though most people had never realized it before, and probably most people have never internalized the lesson even since those big slams.

Anyway, there’s a reason that the reference to the straw that broke the camel’s back became a cliché.  When a rope is fraying steadily, for a long time it looks like it’s still holding—after all, it doesn’t tend to stretch as it frays, especially not if it’s a modern, polymer rope—but when it fails, it does so abruptly, and often catastrophically.

Too many metaphors.  Too much mixing thereof.  Sorry, but I’m having trouble being very organized.

Anyway, just having my laundry schedule screwed up—I had to wait hours for the person’s laundry first to be done in the wash, then for them to clear it from the dryer while my first load of wash waited, finished washing, in the washer—really fucked me in the head.  It didn’t help that I couldn’t go for a walk as I’d hoped to do, since it’s been pissing down rain for the last thirty-six hours or so, with a fairly steady wind that makes umbrellas pointless, since your lower half is going to get wet no matter what.  Frankly, it’s significantly more inconvenient than the “subtropical storm” was a few weeks ago.

So I couldn’t finish my laundry and then go for a long walk or anything, or really do anything else while waiting for the laundry machines to be available*.  Not that I would have done anything edifying or useful, but I had planned (as I mentioned) at least to review some more recent stuff about the diseases I’d begun addressing.

This is not the only thing that stressed me out.  Saturday, I made the mistake of making a slightly substantive comment on a post in a blog that I follow, and another reader replied to my comment, starting the fucking idiotic response with “You’re missing the point”, and then spewing some irrelevancy about something that didn’t pertain to the point I was making; and by the way I had not missed the supposed point this person thought the original post was making.  It just wasn’t pertinent nor frankly in any way persuasive.

Anyway, I felt very angry—probably inordinately so—and made the mistake of replying (substantively, I think, and not rudely) to the comment, trying to make my own point clearer.  But now I don’t even want to go back to that blog, and I certainly don’t want to get involved in the comments section anymore.  Maybe some people enjoy such argumentative interactions, but they make me want to go full Hannibal Lecter, or maybe just full Thanos, frankly, and that just ends up making me feel more horrible about myself than I already do.

I’ve had lots of other little stressors getting to me far out of proportion to their actual importance—after all, nothing at all is actually truly important—and it’s just highlighting for me again, in case I should ever start to forget, that I don’t belong in this world, I’m not a member of this species, I enjoy very little about the fact of being here, and that little seems to be shrinking asymptotically toward zero.

I can feel each straw gathering on my back in such moments.  I don’t have any idea when it might break.  It doesn’t help that my back always hurts, of course, but it does make the metaphor apt.  I don’t know the extent of my endurance, and I guess I won’t know until it breaks.  But it is being worn down.  I can tell because I’m getting more and more stressed out by milder and more foolish things all the time.

It’s particularly frustrating, though in a different way, when someone, meaning well, asks me how I’m doing or “checks up on me” in passing, because I have to either just dodge the question—since I know people don’t really know what to do if you tell them that you’re doing terribly and wish your life would end—or just say, “Meh,” hoping that is enough to get across the message if they really want to know, but noncommittal enough that they don’t have to feel upset if they’re just trying to be polite.

But I’m not doing well.  I haven’t been doing well.  I’ve been trying to tell everyone that for a long time, and it feels like it’s silly for someone to ask.  If there’s no one who can help me get the load off my back, I’m going to collapse, sooner or later, and I honestly hope that it’s sooner.

Anyway, that’s an unpleasant way to start the week.  I’m sorry.  I’m not much fun.  And I’m sorry about that, too.  I’m sorry that I’m such a waste of a person.  It’s not how I would prefer to be.  It’s not who I’ve tried to pretend to be.  But pretense can only be carried on so far if it requires so much energy to do, and if it just makes you feel like a liar and a fake, when you already feel like a stranger and, above all, a monster.

Oh, well.  The universe wasn’t built for me, that’s for sure.  It’s under no obligation to be the way I wish it were, nor do I have any business complaining about the fact that I’m not who I might wish I were.  I don’t want to be anyone else, of course; I just wish I were a better version of me.

Maybe somewhere out there in the multiverse, if there is such a thing, there is a better version of me, possibly an infinite number of them.  Of course, there would therefore also be an infinite number of even worse versions of me, based on the mathematics of the situation.  I wonder if I’m close to the mean, or the median (these are tricky concepts when dealing with infinities, in any case), or the mode, or if I’m an outlier.  It doesn’t really matter, I suppose.  As far as anyone can tell, this is the only universe with which I have to work, and I am the only me that there is, and I am the only way I can have been.

How disappointing.

*I did at least get to watch Lydia Ko win yet another golf tournament, apparently a big one, and that’s always good.  I would have watched that anyway, but it’s still good.

Nothing of worth can ever truly be “unconditional”

It’s Friday now, and for many it is the last day of the work week.  If you are one of those people, congratulations.  If you expect to work tomorrow, as I do, then, well, congratulations on having gainful employment.  It’s not a contradiction to consider both cases worthy of celebration.

I’m writing on my phone today because I didn’t want to take my laptop to the house with me‒I took my Radiohead guitar chords book home with the notion that I might actually get the acoustic guitar out and do some strumming, and the book and laptop together seemed likely to make my backpack unpleasantly heavy to carry.  Alas, the strumming part didn’t happen, but I couldn’t retroactively choose to take the laptop with me.

Because of that, I’m not going to write about Alzheimer’s and/or Parkinson’s disease today; I feel that I can deal with them better when I can type more naturally, and so I’ll address those things perhaps tomorrow.  Today, I’ll try to address a random, walk-in set of topics that crowded my head this morning for unclear causes.  The things that popped into my mind as I headed to the train station included the notions of healthcare as a human right, unconditional love, and free education (free anything, really), all loosely linked to something a coworker of mine said yesterday.

I’ll start with the middle one, because it presents itself (rather intrusively) in my mind in the form of the old song, Unconditional Love, performed way back when by Donna Summer and Musical Youth.  The chorus goes, “Give me your unconditional love; the kind of love I deserve; the kind I want to return.”

I may have written about this notion before, but do you spot the logical flaws there?  First of all, the notion that one can (apparently) demand another’s love, conditional or otherwise, is rather obscene and also unworkable.  But that’s a separate issue from the notion of “unconditional love”.  One big problem with this is revealed in the second line of the chorus:  that such love is the kind the singer deserves.  But if it’s unconditional, then‒to quote the movie Unforgiven‒”deserve’s got nothing to do with it”.  If love is unconditional, then everyone and anyone (and presumably anything) deserves it.  That’s what unconditional means!

Perhaps they might have meant something along the lines of “non transactional” love, but if so, they reveal hypocrisy in the next line, “the kind I want to return”, because they’re saying, openly, that their own love is not merely conditional but also transactional…I’ll love you if and only if you love me unconditionally.  Maybe that was supposed to be the message of the song, to ridicule such words and thoughts and attitudes toward love by revealing their absurdity, but it certainly didn’t come across that way.

On we go to the notion of healthcare as a human right.  This is something one sees at times brought up and bandied about by activists of various stripes, and I can readily understand and sympathize with the urge, but it is illogical.  One cannot have a right to anyone else’s skill or work or abilities or resources, and the provision of healthcare requires these in spades.

True rights are and can really only be rights to be free from things‒free from coercion, free from threats and violence, free from theft, free from censorship and from unjust imprisonment, that sort of thing.  To claim a right to the work of other people, especially if one claims that right precisely because that work is so important, is the opposite of any kind of right or freedom; it is coercion in and of itself.

Now, it may be that a society could decide that it is best for everyone, as a whole and as individuals, to provide (and therefore to pay for) healthcare for all its citizens without any at-the-time-of-service charge, since illnesses and injuries are often unpredictable, and they do not choose convenient times to strike.  A society may decide that taking away some of that danger, that threat, that uncertainty, will be better for everyone and anyone.  It’s not an unreasonable idea.  But that doesn’t describe any kind of right, even if one is a citizen of a society that has chosen that path.  Give it the credit it deserves and call it a privilege, and one that should be cherished, not a right.

This ties in nicely with the notion of other “free” programs or privileges, the main one that comes to my mind being that of “free college education”.  As with most positive, physical things, the notion of “free” simply doesn’t apply.  Air is free (for now), because it’s pretty much everywhere, and it doesn’t require any work apart from the effort of breathing.  But education requires many resources, including the information gleaned by the innumerable predecessors who worked to develop the knowledge that is being shared, and the time and effort of the scholars and teachers who are sharing it.

Some of this is getting cheaper and easier thanks to advancing computer and communications technology, but those things also required the efforts and resources of numerous people before they became available to so many others, most of whom do not have the knowledge or skill to recreate such resources on their own.

Again, this is not to say that it is not worth considering whether a society might be well-served by making education available without local charge to all citizens who wish to participate.  It may be well worth the expense and effort involved for the society, in the long or even the short term.  I’m a big fan of public primary and secondary schools, and I wish they were better funded and in a more egalitarian way, because there are untold numbers of people with great potential who have not been able to realize it because they had effectively no local resources available to do so.

This is truly a shame and a tragedy.  Who knows what scientists or artists or innovative business people (and so on) we have lost without knowing that we lost them?  But calling for there to be “free” education is silly.  Someone, somewhere, has to “pay” for every good thing that requires effort in transforming the world into a desired form, decreasing local entropy by expending energy and producing compensatory entropy increase through the efforts made.

This all ties in‒in spirit‒with the complaint by a coworker yesterday, who moans frequently about lack of money and a fear of being unable to pay rent, etc., but when the boss asked her to come in this Saturday to work, so she could make more money, said she just can’t work six days a week.  Of course, she doesn’t work six days a week, she hasn’t worked six days a week that I can remember.  I work six days every other week; if I don’t, things don’t happen for the many people who come in on Saturdays voluntarily, to try to make a little extra money for their own expenses.

The problem was not with her choosing not to come in on any Saturday‒that’s her decision, and she is the one who loses the opportunity to make more money‒but with her complaint to me that it’s just “not fair” to have to work six days, which is truly nonsensical given to whom she was speaking, and given the number of people who voluntarily come in and work more Saturdays than not.

My response was pretty unsympathetic.  I told her that “fairness” is a fiction, at least as she’s apparently imagining it.  There’s no injustice in her being encouraged to work an extra day once in a while to make extra money, if she’s truly worried about her expenses.  If anything, it would be unfair for her to expect to make more money without doing extra work.

In a sense, nature is always fair; the laws of physics apply everywhere and for all time, as far as we can tell.  They make no exceptions and provide no “get out of jail free” cards or cheat codes to anyone regarding their application.

Other than this, any notion of fairness is purely a human invention.  It may, in some senses and cases, be very good to seek and to create, for a society and for the individuals within it.  Indeed, I would say that it is worthwhile.  But it too is not free; it requires effort, and it requires ownership of one’s responsibility for one’s share of the effort.  It is not unconditional.  To expect unconditional anything from anyone or anything is not fair, but is in many ways quite the opposite.

Education is very good and beneficial, and probably the more of it we have, the better, all other things being equal.  Reasonable pay for good work is certainly a good thing.  Healthcare is an almost miraculous good that we take for granted at our peril, but which would almost certainly benefit all of society more if it were more efficiently and evenly available.  And love is, quite possibly, the most wonderful and beautiful thing the universe has ever brought into existence.  We should show these things the respect they deserve by not taking them for granted in any way.


But if you blog it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and it’s time to resume my traditional, weekly blog posting day after a brief hiatus last week due to a rather lackluster tropical storm.  I expect there will be another hiatus next Thursday, since it will be Thanksgiving here in the USA, and that’s probably a more universally observed holiday here than anything but New Year’s Day (the latter being mainly observed because many people tend to be much the worse for wear after New Year’s Eve).

I’m not going to pick up the discussion of Alzheimer’s and/or Parkinson’s disease today, largely because I’m writing this post on my phone*.  Also, Thursday has traditionally been a day for blog posts about writing, especially fiction.  This makes it a good opportunity to address something raised by the same reader, StephenB, in a comment after yesterday’s blog, in which he asked what my thoughts or approaches were to writing good dialogue.

It’s an interesting topic, not least because I’ve never really thought about trying to write good, let alone great, dialogue.  I have, however, always (as long as I can remember, anyway) enjoyed reading both good/great dialogue and good/great narration.  But the greatness of such writing was always measured by how much I enjoyed it or the story in which it took place, and was from my point of view, never in deference to what anyone else said was good or great.

I’ve always tended to notice passages of writing that I find moving or eloquent, and I read and reread them, and often involuntarily memorize them.  In high school, almost every day, I would write some quote or other on the little-used blackboard of the orchestra room**.  I’ve also always loved characters who used words well‒they’re usually villains for some unclear reason‒in various books and movies and comic books and whatnot.  A big part of the reason Lord Foul is one of my favorite villains is because of his way with words (as well as the fact that, despite being a Sauron-style “big bad”, he actually speaks in the stories)***.

I’ve also always watched people around me and listened to them, mostly to try to discern how ordinary people talk and interact and communicate, which has often been far from intuitive for me.  If someone has peculiar habits of speech or sayings, especially funny ones, I’ll tend to remember them, and sometimes these will appear in my characters’ speech.

But when I’m writing dialogue, whether in a story or a play or whatever (it’s been a long time since I’ve written a play or a screenplay, but I did write them, once upon a time), I’m not really trying to make the dialogue good.  I’m not even really thinking about it as “dialogue”.  To me, the characters in my stories are just people‒real people in a sense.  I don’t do any formal process of, for instance, deciding someone’s background or motivations or nature, partly because, as far as I can see, no real people have such clearly defined backgrounds or motivations‒real people are messy and fuzzy‒and partly because it seems boring.

So, when my characters are speaking, they’re just talking to each other, as people talk to each other, and the subjects and words depend on the situations and the vague tendencies of the person talking.  I will have people try to be funny, when the character wants to try to be funny, but I can’t always tell if they’ve succeeded (and it’s often, ironically, funnier when they haven’t).  Sometimes characters get the right words out and make what they’re trying to say clear on the first attempt, and other times the other characters don’t quite get what they were saying, and they’ll have to clarify their point, sometimes with exasperation.

But real people, as far as I can see, don’t do “dialogue”.  They just talk to each other, and it’s very free-form and impromptu and usually quite messy, but sometimes fun.  And, as I said, the people in my stories aren’t anything but people to me, even the “bad guys”, and so they are prone to say whatever they say in any given situation, and succeed or fail at communicating depending on their luck, skill, or circumstances.

Of course, I do a lot of editing as I finalize stories, but I suspect that I edit dialogue far less than I do narration.  I certainly don’t bother trying to be grammatically correct when people are speaking, unless that character is someone who likes to try to do that, because most people‒even I‒don’t speak in grammatically correct sentences.  Occasionally I’ll tweak something if it’s said in an awkward way that’s not a natural kind of awkwardness, or I’ll add something if it occurs to me that this character really wants to say a bit more about a particular subject than was written originally.

And, of course, in The Chasm and the Collision, the characters sometimes deliberately choose not to swear when they definitely wanted to swear, and would have done so, if not for my decision, on my father’s recommendation, not to have any swearing in the book (since it was “kid” oriented).

So I fear I have little advice to give about writing “good dialogue”, but personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to do that.  I doubt Shakespeare ever tried to write good dialogue specifically; he probably just had his characters say what he thought they would say, both to have fun and to advance the plot (and often tweaked into iambic pentameter).  He ended up making some truly great dialogue, but I think his goal was just to write an enjoyable, moving play that people would be willing to pay to go and see.  The man had to make a living.

I’m no Shakespeare (clearly), but I basically just read what I enjoy and try to write what I enjoy, and my characters aren’t Characters, they’re just people.  They don’t do dialogue, they just talk, like people do, often saying stupid things, and interrupting each other, talking way too much, too loudly, and in singularly unflattering ways.  I don’t know if that counts as any kind of advice or insight; these are just my thoughts on the subject.

That’s my own “dialogue” for the day.  I hope you got some fun out of it, and that you have a good day, and a good week, and have whatever conversations you have with your friends/loved ones that seem to fit.  And, of course, please comment here with suggestions for subjects and topics or inquiries regarding matters about which you’d like me to write.


socrates dialogue bubble

*I didn’t bring my laptop when I left work early yesterday, exhausted beyond belief by Monday and Tuesday nights.  I wish I could say I’d gone on some kind of binge on those evenings, but alas, I can’t even usually finish a single glass of wine, and apart from caffeine, allergy medicine, and OTC analgesics, I don’t use any drugs.

**The orchestra teachers were pretty easy-going about this, presumably because I was a good student and the process was nominally educational and occasionally interesting or amusing.  They did give me the “dusty cello award” in my senior year, near graduation, for my idiosyncratic habit, and that very much caught me off guard.  I never really realized it was odd or funny.

***He’s the second person we “meet” from the Land, in the chapter “Invitation to a Betrayal”, and I doubt I will ever forget the final paragraph of his warning to Thomas Covenant:  “One more word.  A final caution.  Do not forget whom to fear at the last.  I have had to be content with killing and torment, but now my plans are laid, and I have begun.  I shall not rest until I have eradicated hope from the Earth.  Think on that, and be dismayed.”

The Monday misadventures of a moribund moron

I’m writing this blog post under rather unusual—but not entirely unprecedented—circumstances:  I’m already in the office (and using my laptop!) as I write this because I never returned to the house last night.

I had boarded the usual southbound train, but even as I did, I felt a vague sense of foreboding.  Well—it wasn’t all that vague, come to think of it, because there had been an announcement flashed up that one of the northbound trains was delayed thirty to sixty minutes due to an accident involving the train.  This never bodes well.  The Amtrak heading southbound had already dilly-dallied in the station about fifteen minutes longer than it ought to have, delaying the train for which I was waiting.  Still, the southbound train came, only about twenty minutes later than usual, and I got on it, foolish child that I am.

Two stops along, the train came to a station and the conductor and guards came around saying that everyone had to get off the train, that there would be shuttles coming to bring us down south to the next station or something along those lines.  I didn’t have much choice but to join the crowd, heading for the rough bus-boarding area of the station, but the noises from the nearby engine, and the crowd, and the tightly packed, noisy bodies—as well as the unexpected change in routine—were all quite stressful.

I waited for a while, texting my sister and a coworker, mainly to try to relieve my tension, trying to figure out if either the house or the office were in reasonable walking distance.  The office was ten miles north (workable in a pinch) but the house was twenty-one miles south.  By the time I reached it on foot, it would have been almost time to get up and leave for work.

A few city buses came and went—these weren’t the shuttles, but some people got on them, desperate just to get moving, I suppose.  I couldn’t really tell what anyone was saying or doing, because the tinnitus in my right ear had been acting up ferociously all day, and I could (and can) hear even less on that side than usual.  In any case, I wasn’t going to get on the bus, because based on my web search, it would take two and a half hours to get to my destination by bus, if they were even still running down my way by the time I used them.

Soon, though, there was an announcement that a northbound train was coming—going back the way I came—and it was coming on the side of the track that I was on.  The fact that I also had to use the restroom, and there are none of these in the train stations (nor on shuttles, which still hadn’t arrived after nearly an hour) made my decision for me.  I got on the train and rode the two stops back north, got off, and walked to the office, stopping for some unhealthy fast food on the way, because why the hell not?  It’s not as though I particularly want to be healthy (though I do want to be thinner—I’m putting myself on a strict calorie count/restriction now, since it would be nice not to be so fat when I die).

And that’s where I spent the night:  at the office.  My sleep was probably as good as I ever get at the house, though that’s not saying much, and the industrial-carpeted floor is as good for my back as the futon/floor I sleep on at the house.  The only real issue is that I don’t have a shower, and I can’t wear my usual Tuesday clothes today, which is a little distressing.  I also have to wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row, which is quite annoying.  And, of course, I can’t change my socks and underwear.

At least, as I commented to my sister, there’s no one waiting for and/or worrying about me.  There’s never anyone waiting for me to worry about me.  My presence or absence has no impact upon anyone in the world, beyond the immediate and superficial.

So, anyway, here I am at the office already/still, and I don’t have anything else to write about today but the stupid events that happened yesterday evening, which would be far more tolerable if there were any good reason to bother doing any of it.  But there really isn’t.  There’s no point at all to anything I do.

No one has offered me any ideas for topics about which to write; so far there’s apparently nothing about which anyone is interested in my point of view, nothing of worth or of note in my life anymore.  I don’t have any place that I consider—or that feels at all like—home anymore.  I’m lonely and I’m empty, but I find other people stressful and frustrating and their behaviors borderline inexplicable and irrational.  And they’re too loud and chaotic.

On top of that inherent noisiness, of course, there’s that constant, very high D half-sharp* in my right ear, 24 hours a day, that’s been going on for about 15 years or so now, and which has gotten worse recently.  Every now and then, I get a brief run of tinnitus that suddenly pops up in my left ear**, and when it does, I’m horrified that it might be the onset of a permanent noise such as exists in my right ear.

The right ear tinnitus started suddenly, while I was working at the Treasure Coast Forensic Treatment Center, where the heavy metal doors were controlled remotely via a buzzing electromagnetic lock system, and they all had to be slammed shut.  One day while I was there, a shriek suddenly started in my right ear, that piercing, steady, banshee sound vaguely reminiscent of the background noise of an old video monitor that only very young people can hear.  It’s been going on ever since.

Thankfully, it’s only ever lasted less than a minute at a time so far in my left ear.  I don’t know what I would do if it persisted.  I’d be inclined to shove pens and/or pencils into my inner ears bilaterally, but I know that, since tinnitus is related to damage to nerves and closely related structures, such interventions might just do harm without helping stop the noise.

Medical education can be useful sometimes.

Anyway, that’s that.  I’m at the office already, and I’ve told you my dull and dreary, but nevertheless very stressful, tale from last evening to this morning.  If you want me to write about something else, than give me suggestions, as I mentioned yesterday.  Ask me questions.  Ask me anything.  I can’t promise I’ll be able to write about any and/or everything anyone might ask, but I do have a pretty broad knowledge base, and I’m good at learning new things as well.  I would really be interested in your inquiries or suggestions.


*There seem to be some other notes mixed in, but it’s hard to tease them out, and the D half-sharp is definitely the most prominent one.

**It’s never the same pitch as in my right ear, of course—this is only to be expected, since the nature of tinnitus and the damage that causes it involve processes that are utterly unlikely to coincide, pitch-wise, between the two ears.

A call for topics

It’s Monday morning yet again, despite my best efforts‒the beginning of yet another pointless work week in the dreary tail bit of the year, when the sun sets at 5:31 pm local time, thanks to the outmoded “daylight savings time”, making people like me, who are already dysthymic/depressive and are also subject to some seasonal affective problems that much more unstable.  Spread the word: daylight savings time causes significant morbidity and mortality* and does no one much, if any, good.

I’m writing this on my cell phone again, or “smartphone” if you will (though dumbphone seems like a better term given the way most humans use theirs).  I deliberately didn’t bring my laptop to the house with me over the weekend.  It’s not as though I’m writing stories anymore; I’m just writing this ridiculous blog.  So there’s no particular impetus to make the writing process easier for me, as using the laptop does.  I might as well use the smaller, lighter device when I don’t feel like carrying the heavier one.

I had a reasonably boring weekend, which I guess is a good thing.  I watched a few movies, and I went on some comparatively long walks‒I think I totaled about 12 miles over the course of the two days.  I also spoke with my sister on the phone on Sunday, and that was good.

That’s about it.  That’s the extent of my non-work life.  It’s the best I have to offer, and it’s as like as not just to get worse as time passes.  But I was able to force myself to get almost eight hours of sleep on Friday night and Saturday night, thanks to Benadryl and melatonin.  Oh, and of course, I did my laundry on Sunday, as I always do.

Sorry, I know this is really boring so far.  I don’t know what to tell you.  I didn’t really have any subject in mind for today, other than my brief diatribe about daylight savings time and depression/seasonal affective disorder.  Obviously, it’s a topic that affects me significantly (no pun intended), but there’s otherwise not much for me to say about it.

Eliezer Yudkowsky has an interesting bit of insight into it that he gives as an illustrative case in his excellent book Inadequate Equilibria, dealing with, among other things, the reasons why no one has done research on much stronger light-based treatments for SAD.  But you can’t expect depressed people to take initiative to do remarkable things to help themselves, since a major part of the problem with depressive disorders is comparative inability to take positive action.

If anyone out there has any requests for subjects or topics for me to discuss in a blog post, I’d be more than willing to consider them, though if it’s not a subject about which I have any expertise, I may not be able to do anything worthwhile with it.  Still, I have a fairly broad knowledge base regarding general science, especially biology and physics.  I like mathematics, though I’m not that deeply knowledgeable about esoterica thereof‒a regretted failure of my youthful imagination when I was in college.  Similar things could be said about the deep aspects of computer science; I wish I had known how interesting the subjects were back then and so had pursued them more than I did.

Of course, I have a fair amount of personal knowledge in the reading and writing of fantasy/science fiction/horror, though I haven’t read any new stuff in a while.  I haven’t even read any of my own books in a long time.  I think the most recent horror I’ve read was Revival by Stephen King, which was pretty good.  I haven’t read much if anything in the way of new fantasy since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I’m reasonably well versed in slightly older comic book lore, especially Marvel.  And of course, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings are among my favorite books.

I enjoy Shakespeare, but I don’t consider myself any kind of scholar of the Bard.  I like his works and his words in a fairly straightforward fashion.  I also like Poe quite a lot, as you might have guessed from my recitation videos of some of his poems.

Anyway, that’s a quick summary of some of the subjects upon which I might at least feel justified in opining.  So, if anyone has any suggestions or requests in these or even other, tangentially related subjects, I would appreciate them.  I like to feel useful or productive in at least some way, so I can justify my existence to myself.  It isn’t easy.  I’m a much harsher judge of my usefulness or worth than Scrooge at his worst, and I expect no ghosts of past, present, and/or future to visit me to give me some epiphany that changes my character.

It would be nice if some rescue mission were to happen to save my soul, but I don’t see it as plausible, and I don’t think anyone thinks it’s in their interest‒or anyone else’s‒to save me, in any case.  So in the meantime I’m just stumbling along like a wind up robot that’s been forgotten by the child that wound it up, legs moving and shifting until the mechanism breaks or the spring finishes untightening.  And damn, that’s an annoyingly efficient spring.

*I don’t have the data for this, but I strongly suspect that, if the sun set at least a little later‒say an hour later, even‒things would be slightly easier for people with SAD.  It might be difficult to tease out the statistics, but SAD doesn’t just kill by increasing rates of suicide, though I’m pretty sure it does that.  People experiencing exacerbations of depression have higher rates of numerous other illnesses and accidents beyond the obvious. 

“When comes the storm?”

I brought my laptop with me yesterday after work, and I’m using it to write this post.  I was afraid this morning that I would need to avoid its use.  I was worried that there would be heavy rain and high winds at the train station thanks to the “subtropical storm” morphing into a hurricane that’s bearing straight at the east coast of Florida.  However, this morning it’s just a bit breezy, and the rain is not very impressive—more a drizzle than anything else, though it is steadier than rain tends to be down here.

I have my raincoat on, just in case.

As of yesterday, the announcement was that today the trains would stop running after about 5 pm, so I’m going to need to leave work early if that’s still the case.  In addition, the announcement was that there would be no train service on Thursday, since the storm is predicted to make landfall at around 1 am Thursday morning.  So, I may not be going to work on Thursday, since if the trains aren’t running, the buses aren’t likely to be running, and I have no other reliable way to get to the office.  If that’s the case, I probably won’t be writing my traditional Thursday blog post.

I doubt anyone will mourn.

Maybe I should take this as a sign from the universe that I should just give up on this blog post, as I’ve given up writing fiction or playing guitar or even really listening to any music, let alone singing along.  I get the impression that my post yesterday—which was on a subject I find interesting, and thus about which I tend to go on and on and on, even when writing on my phone—wasn’t particularly interesting to anyone but me.  There’s nothing terribly wrong with that, but it’s a lot of work just to spew my random thoughts into the void, when for the most part, I already know what those thoughts are.

I’ve given myself plenty of such potential “signs” to look out for, that I would take to mean that the universe wants me to stick around.  Not that I really believe in any such nonsense; it’s just a bit of frivolity.  Most of the potential signs I’ve chosen center on my love of numbers; they relate to certain automatically generated codes that happen when processing things at work.

I gave myself more than 10 opportunities over the last several months, and they’ve all failed, which was predictable.  I knew that they weren’t likely—I was looking for palindromic sequences of eight digits in an eight-digit code that turns over very rapidly, since numerous offices and businesses use the service—but I figured, since I’m a fan of numbers, and especially such numbers, if one of them came up honestly, in the normal course of business, I would take it as an indicator to reorient myself somehow, at least for the time being.

I don’t actually imagine that the universe cares one way or another whether I live or die, or indeed, whether anyone or anything lives or dies, except to the extent that the universe contains minds instantiated in flesh.  All of those that might have any pertinent opinion have shown the general tendency to find their lives more comfortable when I am not around them much, as I’m sure I’ve noted ad nauseam in the past.  So, there really is nothing significant holding me here.

Even those distant people with whom I keep in occasional contact, and who would probably be sad for a bit if I were gone, would not experience any true upheaval in their lives.  I’m disconnected from nearly everyone, beyond tenuous cobwebs; the people at the office are the ones who would have the greatest adjustments to make, but these would be rapidly achieved, and some people there would no doubt get raises as they took over some of my duties.

I’m tired, in so many ways.  I’ve slept worse than average even for me this week, probably partly because of the change in the clocks over the weekend.  And the fact that it gets so dark so early in the evening this time of year has never been good for me.  I’m on the first train of the day here, now, but I was up for hours already before I left the house.

I kind of wish for something to take the whole issue out of my hands.  I don’t tend to cross streets against lights deliberately—that would feel utterly impolite and inappropriate to me—but I have been willfully walking into the road even when right turners are approaching the intersections, hoping that someone will be reckless and run into me.  It’s a silly little thing, but if someone caused such an accident, they would be the ones disobeying traffic laws, so the fact that my “gain” would inconvenience them would be appropriate.

So far, I’ve had no luck.  I don’t really expect to have any in this sense—even if someone were to hit me, the speeds are too slow to be likely to be lethal.  Still, I have channeled the Joker (from The Dark Knight) a few times while crossing the street recently, saying, “Hit me, hit me, I want you to do it, I want you to do it,” under my breath as drivers approach the intersections.  Of course—rather obviously—no one has hit me so far.


Oh, they’ve just confirmed with announcements on the train that, yes indeed, there will be no service tomorrow (and today it will stop early) so I don’t plan to write a post tomorrow.  If you’re looking forward to my bastardized Shakespearean quote for the week, I can only apologize, but I’m not going to go out of my way to do it.  It’s not as thought there would be any point, to it or to anything else that I do.

Every day, more and more, I feel like someone lost in a Lovecraftian landscape full of creatures that make little sense to me, and with whom I cannot effectively communicate or interact.  I know that I make no sense to them, also, or at least very little.  I suppose, in a way, I’m the alien, I’m the mutant, so I have no “right” to expect them to try to understand me.

But surely, to Cthulhu or to Yog-Sothoth or to Shub-niggurath, humans and other mortal creatures must look as horrifying and alien as those creatures do to the hapless humans who encounter them in the stories.  Cthulhu may find the presence of humans to be as repulsive (and even frightening) as humans would find an encounter with cockroaches, ants, and mice or rats in their kitchens, in their food.  If it’s evil for Cthulhu to want to destroy humans, then it’s surely just as evil for humans to want to fumigate their homes when they are infested with “pests”.

I know, I know, Cthulhu isn’t real*, but that doesn’t change the point I’m making.  The monster, the outsider—the stranger—can be just as innocent, just as horrified, just as frightened as any human in any scary story.

Fear is not the mind killer, despite what they say in Dune, but prolonged fear is erosive, corrosive, and a burden that can become too great to bear.  And being a stranger in a strange land may be a low-level kind of fear—often more of a stress and tension, really—but it is real.

And even a monster, a stranger, might hope or dream or wish that somewhere, somehow, someone would rescue it, would reach out and try to help it, so that it doesn’t have to feel so lost and alone and afraid.  But it might recognize that it has no actual right to expect that anyone would ever do such a thing, and—seeing as it is a monster, a stranger—that its nature is to be alone until it finally succumbs to its local increasing entropy.

Anyway, that’s nearly all for today.  I won’t be writing anything tomorrow.  As for Friday, well, whether I write anything then will depend on factors such as whether the trains are running again by then so that I’ll be able to get to the office okay, and of course, whether I’m even alive—but, then, it always depends on that latter variable.

In closing, I’ll refer to a different topic.  Many of you are probably aware of the very large Powerball jackpot that was recently won (or so I understand) by some human somewhere.  If you’re interested in reading a story about someone who wins a similarly large jackpot and tries to do good with it, leading to unexpected and earthshaking consequences, you could read my short story, “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” which is available as a standalone story through Kindle, and also as part of my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which is available on Kindle and in both paperback and hardcover editions.  I think it’s a pretty good story.  If you read it, I hope you enjoy it, and I’d be grateful for any feedback I’m able to receive.

Stay dry and safe, wherever you are.

*As far as we know.

A personal brush with being nonverbal

It’s Monday morning, the beginning of the first full work week in November.  I had the weekend off, so that’s why there was no post on Saturday.  I wish I could say that I had an enjoyable, restful weekend—I did at least rest some, though I don’t feel rested—but I didn’t do anything of value to me or to anyone else this weekend, except perhaps for my minimal contribution to the economy that entailed buying things to eat and some cleaning supplies.  I certainly did not socialize in any way.

I did not edit that recording of mine on the nature of time, so my apologies to anyone who was looking forward to it*.  I did do another very brief recording to myself last night, but this was mainly a reminder to me to try to write or think about something, and since it did work to remind me, I’ll mention what it was about here, now.

I was watching a video by a young woman who was diagnosed with ASD in adulthood speaking and thinking about “selective mutism”.  The kind she was discussing was that where someone apparently loses the power of speech only in specific circumstances, and for her it seemed related to social anxiety.  There are, however, instances of prolonged apparent mutism, or nonverbal state, among people with autism spectrum disorder.  Thinking about that from time to time had made me recall a rather disturbing event from my own childhood, one that I don’t think anyone else has ever known about.

I was very young when this happened.  Possibly it was shortly before I started kindergarten, but more likely it was in the first year or two of elementary school, but I remember one day I was frustrated about something I had tried to say.  Perhaps someone had laughed about my inability to get something out, perhaps someone had told me to be quiet; I don’t recall what or who the specific trigger was.  In any case, I recall deciding to myself, in an almost spiteful way, that I would just not talk anymore.  So, I made myself be silent, and for the next few hours, I did indeed remain silent, not speaking.

Then, a little later, something rather frightening happened:  I decided that I wanted to say something**, and realized that I could not speak.  There was nothing wrong with my mouth or my vocal cords or my lungs.  I simply felt that the part of my mind that produced the spoken word had been flipped into the “off” position; Broca’s area had been taken offline.  It was a bit like having taken in a post-hypnotic suggestion that one would be unable to speak; I learned years later that I was a pretty good hypnotic subject, and I did daily self-hypnosis for years starting in junior high or so***.

But that was years later.  At this age, all I knew was that, having decided earlier in anger that I was not going to speak anymore, I found that, indeed, I could not seem to speak.  I remember—I think—being in the dining room near the back of the house, where the deck door would eventually be put in, though I’m not sure if it was there yet.  I felt very frightened that I would never be able to speak again.

It occurred to me, or it felt to me—if I remember correctly—that if I let this go on, it would only be harder to break over time, and it might become permanent****.  I don’t recall exactly what I finally was able to force myself to say, after several moments or minutes of trying; I think it was something like “Hello”, or some rhyme or something along those lines, something very easy to remember and automatic.  But it was difficult.  I really had to force myself, as hard as I had told myself not to talk anymore, to do it.  I was finally able to do so.

It’s a very strange event, but I’ve never really forgotten it, thought the details are plainly fuzzy.  But I wonder if the fact that I was so close to being able to shut my speech down is related to my (apparent) ASD—according to the many tests and explorations that I’ve done—or if it’s simply that I am, as I noted, a good hypnotic subject and was able inadvertently to hypnotize myself in a moment of frustration and anger.

Perhaps “hypnotizability” is related to some aspects of autism spectrum disorders, such as the tendency to become obsessed with certain subjects or interests, to “zone out” when focused on things, ignoring the world around, and even to do various fidgety stims (I’ve always tended to fiddle with things in my hands in one way or another, from dice, to coins, to pens or pencils, to my fingers themselves, and so on).

I don’t know, and I don’t know that anyone has done much research on such things.  There seems to be a relative paucity of functional and structural neuroscience research on autism spectrum disorders, at least based on my own searches—though perhaps I’m just not deep enough in it to know where to look.  But it is interesting and somewhat disconcerting.  Still, maybe my flirtation with being nonverbal, albeit only for a few hours, is related to the phenomenon overall.

More likely, it’s just me being exceptionally weird, as usual.  I don’t know that I’ll ever find out.  In any case, no matter what, I’ve always been decent at writing, and me being nonverbal would not have spared any of you the existence of this blog.

*As if there were any such person.

**Again, I cannot recall at all what I wanted to say or why.

***I got a book about it from my father, because I had a second-hand book from the same author as his book.  My father is probably the person I’ve known whose mind was most similar to mine in many ways, so I guess it made sense that he and I had books from the same author about influencing one’s own mind.

****I’m sure there are people out there who wish it could have been so.