Saturday, January 14, 2017 11:28 AM
You know what’s scary? Thinking—thinking is scary. You think you know what you’re thinking about and then, suddenly, your imagination throws something unexpected into the mix—like slipping with a knife and cutting off a finger—and you think ‘Damn—how’d that get in there?—all I wanted to do was daydream about winning the lottery—nobody said anything about knives!’
Sometimes I’ll be thinking about something—and then I’ll realize—no, that can’t be right—otherwise, everyone would be able to fly—or something. Then I have to backtrack, to figure out when my mind ‘turned off’ onto the dirt road of Crazy-Town, while I thought I was still cruising down Logical Boulevard.
Memory is the worst of all—and it’s not just the blankness where memory should be—like when I run across someone whose name I should easily remember, someone whose feelings will be hurt to realize I having no effing clue what their name is. It’s actually worse when I remember something that didn’t happen—like being friends with someone since high school, and having him point out that he didn’t move into the area until we were in our mid-twenties.
And it isn’t that I have a lot of friends—no, it’s not that my memory is overloaded—it’s just broken. That only embarrasses me, though—the rational stuff is worse. I remember driving while on LSD—I was scared that I would confuse the hallucinations of the road ahead with the hallucinations of the windshield between me and the road ahead. I had to look ‘through’ the windshield hallucinations to see the road hallucinations—I wasn’t worried that the road was purple and crawling with bugs—I was worried about my depth perception being tricked.
They say, “Out of sight, out of mind.” And that’s what memory is like—sometimes I need cues to remind myself of things. But what about when my mind is simply out of order? How is it possible to rationalize things, past the point where they make sense, to a point where they return to nonsense? It’s as if the brain is a muscle—and a muscle has two components: there’s the raw strength of it (which I still have) and there’s the control of it (which is something I’ve lost a handle on). My brain will go after any obstacle in its way—but it lacks the control to discern between breaking through the obstacle, and just banging my head against it, over and over again.
While my specific brain may be damaged, I think there’s a little of these kinds of problems in everyone’s thinking. Have you ever gotten used to calling a friend’s dog, saying, ‘Here, boy. Who’s a good boy?’ Then your friend says, ‘Her name is Sandy.’ But you never stop calling the dog ‘boy’? Once we adjust the settings in our head, they are very hard to change—and especially hard to cancel. We’re likely to talk to people that have left the room; to scratch a limb that’s been amputated; to sit down where the chair used to be.
So, having sat on more than my share of non-existent chairs, I’ve learned to take a good look before I sit down (metaphorically speaking). My mind goes through several extra ‘safety’ steps that other people’s brains don’t need to bother with—and that slows down my reaction time, my absorption time—my cognition is down there, near the level of the mentally challenged. In effect, I have to run a ‘spell-check’ on my everyday cogitations. It’s very frustrating because I can remember a time when I was quicker than average about most mentation.
Brains do amazing things—just like the muscles of an Olympic athlete do amazing things. But, just as average muscles can suffer a moment of clumsiness, the average brain can get things wrong, in a million ways, just getting through a day. It’s odd that we can have so much faith in our own opinions, even when we are well aware that other people have other opinions of which they are equally confident. The sensation of ‘being sure’ of what we ‘know’ is only that—a sensation—it is our defense against reality—because, in reality, nobody really knows anything for sure.
That’s part of the reason I’m so outraged by the present political climate—the whole nation’s greed and xenophobia and media frenzy, really—because the mind is a delicate thing, knowledge is a fragile bit of spun glass. To complicate ‘knowing’ even further, on purpose, with lies and partisanship and secrecy and spin—it’s ludicrous—and only people with a loose grasp of actual thinking would even go down that road. I’m not sure of anything, really—and that’s a problem—but it’s less of a problem than being dead-sure of something stupid.
Worse, when you’re dead-sure of something stupid, you can debate with confidence in yourself, dismissive of opposition—a very winning front. So, we get to where we are now—when the stupidest people win all the arguments in public forums, because they put a better face on their ignorance than the thoughtful people can present against them.
The media helps a lot with all of that—they love the facile, the superficial, the sensational—and they hate the boring drudgery of actual reason and mere information. If you want actual journalism, I suggest a newspaper—the New York Times, for example, makes a habit of journalism—which is why they get so much flak from the incoming administration. But, apparently, they don’t mind—something about First Amendment protection—I hope those evil spin-monsters don’t prove them wrong.