Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sick Thoughts

Broken Social Scene--"World Sick" (mp3)

One of the things that you hope will happen when you are really sick, either lying in bed or sitting in a chair, too lethargic to move unless you have to, unwilling to shift a blanket from its semi-covering of you unless you become pointedly cold or uncomfortable, fixed upon a single spot or window or, as Emily Dickinson might say, "slant of light," unable to conjure a coherent thought about the daily activities that must be going on around you out there beyond your control or concern, is that your brain, cleared of everything except continually checking in on the internal workings of your body, will center on some valuable contemplation of either the meaning of life or the state of the universe, if the two are to be separated.

Human contact does not call to you, except on your own terms. You appreciate the texts and the concern behind them, but that does not mean that you actually want to talk to someone, unless you want to talk to them right at that moment, at the moment of the phone call, and that would be a very, very lucky coincidence. You have already retreated too far for that.

Food does not call to you. To get up, to walk to the kitchen, perhaps even to open the refrigerator, seems like an insurmountable task, and then, even if that door is open, you know that you will have to prepare something and that, after all of that effort, you will have to half-force yourself to eat because taste buds get as sick as anything else, or perhaps it's the loss of smell, and whatever you put in your mouth will taste dull. Salt, you think, maybe salt. Maybe your mother will magically appear with a plate of two soft-boiled eggs on top of two pieces of toast, all sliced up so that toast gets soggy and topped with salt and pepper. An hallucination, at best.

Music does not call to you. A beat, a throb, a voice, a high-pitched anything that invades the silence of the house would be too much. Better to listen only to the mechanical rhythms of appliances in other rooms, on other floors.

And so you are left only with your mind. If your body has become the diving bell, your mind is still the butterfly and it can still flit freely about touching what it likes, landing where it wants to. Your hope is that it will make a discovery, open a new door, decide a forgotten dilemma, chart a new course, conjur up a pleasant memory, strengthen your resolve, drift toward an epiphany.

Sadly, it does not happen, this hoped-for insight.

You'd think that you would at least get current on current events, try to figure out Egypt or budget battles or unread issues of something, but those hold not interest. Nor do the books you are reading call to you.

And as you search the universe, or the universe of your mind, for the essential questions that you want answered, you can only come up with these:

1. The Moody Blues--yes or no?
2. When did reality TV move beyond an ironic joke?
3. How much does everything we have add up to?
4. Did I ever think of the year 2011 decades ago and, if so, what did I think it would be like?
5. Are my students reading? Why not?
6. How did Jello get invented?


There is an apocryphal story, told by Neil Young himself, that he wrote "Cinnamon Girl," "Cowgirl In The Sand," and "Down By The River" all in one day while lying in bed with a 103 degree fever. Because he has a habit of not telling the past the same way twice, I hope that this story is not true. "Love Is A Rose" dashed off while in the bathroom taking a crap I can handle. But the idea that these three classics could be crafted at a temperature where my brain doesn't even work right leaves no hope for the rest of us who seek to arrive at some meaning based on our contemplations while ill. It makes my being able to step away from the entire rat race for a couple of days and come up with absolutely nothing even more disheartening.


troutking said...

1. No.
2. Quickly.
3. Too hard.
4. I don't know, you might have spent all your time thinking of the year 2525.
5. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.
6. Yeah, who thought cartilage could make a delicious dessert. Kinda like Jerry Seinfeld wonders who decided horses would make great glue.

Billy said...

So funny that Trout and I had the same gut reaction: we had to answer those damn questions...

1. Not so much.
2. Do game shows count? If so, 1955.
3. A hill of beans, according to Bogey.
4. I thought of 2112. Because Rush told me to.
5. Some of them are reading SparkNotes. Some of them are reading stuff you didn't assign. Some aren't reading.

jed said...

you know Neil's brain works in funny ways....