Synchronicity - Episode IV - A New Hope

Mon Oct 21 2002 10:50PM -0600

A Worthless Exposition:

(This whole beginning is not the reason why I decided to post today--the whole point of this comes later.)

So now I have my own domain and I don't have any time to do anything with it. I don't even have time to write! (It's not the first time I've wondered if there's such a thing as mental obstruction, the psychological equivalent of bowel obstruction. Maybe the madness that I'm currently experiencing is the mental version of septicemia.)

But I remember a conversation I had with my sister when she and my brother came out to visit me a little more than a week ago. She was expressing her disgust with the "writers" of her generation, her peers that are all into spoken word and poetry, etc., etc. I mean, I don't know if what she tells me is anywhere near reality. I'm completely out of the loop, what with being submerged in this med school thingie, and not having any time to write and even pretend that I write, and being, by her reckoning, old, despite only being 5 years older.

But she tells me that many of her peers do this "writing" thing because it's cool and trendy. Apparently, some spoken word performers don't even write their own material. A number of them join a collective, and it turns out that only one or two of them actually mastermind the whole operation and write things for everyone else to perform. Bizarre. And they still call themselves writers.

And then she contrasts this to one of her friends, who she considers an authentic writer, who actually has his own material and is proficient with the written word, and she starts commenting that real writers don't do it because it's cool and trendy, and I finish her comment: It's because they have to.

So. A real writer doesn't write for fame and glory. They write because they couldn't stop even if they wanted to, their brains would explode or something, or they'd go mad. In a sense, maybe it is madness, what with the compulsive aspect of it all. And with this realization, I wonder again if I haven't sold my soul.

The Point:

In any case, speaking of madness, the reason why I mention synchronicity is because of the books I've been reading lately. Two completely unrelated authors (OK so I don't know if one of them has read and been influenced by the other) speak of the same theme (somewhat tangentially) and I happen to read them in rapid succession.

From Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk (The author of Fight Club). The culling song is a poem that, when spoken out loud, subvocalized, or even just thought, can kill someone.

The culling song would be a plague unique to the Information Age. Imagine a world where people shun the television, the radio, movies, the Internet, magazines and newspapers. People have to wear earplugs the way they wear condoms and rubber gloves....

Imagine a plague you catch through your ears.

Sticks and stones will break your bones, but now words can kill, too.

The new death, this plague, can come from anywhere. A song. An overhead announcement. A news bulletin. A sermon. A street musician. You can catch death from a telemarketer. A teacher. An Internet file. A birthday card. A fortune cookie.

A million people might watch a television show, then be dead the next morning because of an advertising jingle....

Imagine an idea that occupies your mind the way an army occupies a city....

A siege of ideas. The whole power grab of life.

From The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K. Dick:

The fixed idea kind of madness is fascinating, if you are inclined toward viewing with interest something that is palpably impossible and yet nonetheless exists. Over-valence is a notion about possibilities in the human ind, possibilities of something going wrong, that did it not exist it could not be supposed. I mean by this simply that you have to see an overvalent idea at work fully to appreciate it. The older term is idee fixe. Over-valent idea expresses it better, because this is a term derived from mechanics and chemistry and biology; it is a graphic term and it involves the notion of power. The essence of valence is power and that is what I am talking about; I speak of an idea that once it comes into the human mind, the mind, I mean, of a given human being, it not only never goes away, it also consumes everything else in the mind so that, finally, the person is gone, the mind as such is gone, and only the over-valent idea remains....

....upon the entering of that idea into the person's mind, nothing new ever happens to that mind or in that mind; time stops for that mind and it is dead. The mind, as a living, growing entity has died.

And, because the mind is a wondrously convoluted thing, this makes me think of an idea from Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson:

....Under the right conditions, your ears--or your eyes--can ties into the deep structures, bypassing the higher language functions. Whis is to say, someone who knows the right owrds can speak words, or show you visual symbols, that go past all your defenses and sink right into your brainstem. Like a cracker who breaks into a computer system, bypasses all the security precautions, and plugs himself into the core, enabling him to exert absolute control over the machine.

This is all tangential. But I'm sure you've heard before that reading can get you into trouble. All of the sudden I'm assailed by similar themes embedded within the recent books I've read. It's just another example of the pattern recognition capabilities of the brain and perhaps of it being tuned too high.

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