Fear came a-knocking on my door, ‘knock, knock, knock’ it went. ‘Knock, knock, knock.’ I ignored it though; I stayed in my bed and pretended it wasn’t there.
Fear came a-knocking on my door, fear came a-knocking on my door. I stayed quiet of course, hoping he would go away. Hope’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It springs eternal, so they say. It really does spring eternal – they’re not joking when they say that.
Hope springs eternal and so does fear! So does fear. Fear springs eternal to my breast anyway. The fear grows stronger every day and the hope has become pretty damn forlorn at this stage I can tell you. The hope has become better damn forlorn at this stage but I cling to it all the same. I cling to it all the same.
‘But suppose you die?’ my mind says to me with a big wink of its eye. You didn’t think of that now did you?’ You didn’t think of that.
I’m driving down the road. The advert on the billboard tells me that Coca Cola is going to come in a sleek new can now. Something different, a whole new look. It’s happening real soon – maybe it’s already happened. Maybe the billboard’s been up a while. My heart is filled with jubilation…
Jubilation is a great thing isn’t it? You can’t get enough of it. Bring it on, that’s what I say. Bring it on. Bring on the sleek new Coke cans. Some genius in PR has come up with a good one there – they’re playing a blinder!
I have an odd type of relationship with my mind. Well, I suppose it’s not that odd really. I suppose it’s pretty much the same as anyone else’s relationship with their mind when it comes down to it. It’s odd the way we keep thinking that we’re odd, isn’t it? We always think that we are the exception. That’s funny, isn’t it? That’s the thing that I’ve learned anyway – that there ARE no exceptions.
Fear came a-knocking, fear came a-knocking. I always used to think that I was the exception. It wasn’t even a thought really – it was more of a deep-down awareness. I knew I was odd – and not in any sort of a good way, I hasten to add! Not in a splendid or magnificent sort of a way; more ‘odd in an acutely embarrassing sort of a way’, I guess I’d have to say. More ‘odd in a shameful way’.
‘The shame of existence,’ I call that. ‘Existence-shame’ – shame pertaining to the very state of existence. ‘We’ve all been there,’ I joke halfheartedly. The joke has fallen flat though. As flat as flat can be. I’m met with stony silence, the same as always. As stony as stony can be…
Sometimes I notice that I’m in the world. ‘Hey buddy,’ I say to myself, ‘you’re in the world! Check it out…’ Yeah whatever, I think to myself. Quit annoying me. Quit bothering me – can’t you see I’ve got other things on my mind? Sometimes I notice, sometimes I notice. I try to take an interest in life – I really do. ‘Hey look, there’s life’ I say to myself. Take a bit of an interest would you? Why don’t you walk up to life and introduce yourself? Why don’t you walk up to life and say hello?
I sit at one end of the room and my mind sits at the other. From time to time we trade insults. ‘Hey shit-for-brains,’ my mind says to me, ‘why don’t you ever do anything with your life?’ Hey shit-for-brains, why are you such a loser? Why are you such a loser? Why are you such a loser.
I for my part try to come up with some sort of stinging riposte, ‘Shut the fuck up you cunt,’ I say curtly, after considering my reply at length. Why don’t you just shut the fuck up.
People often try to say that your mind is you. That’s their inspired addition to the ongoing discourse! People are full of inspired additions to the ongoing discourse, aren’t they? They really are. You bet they are…
I was happy and successful so I took a selfie. ‘Take a selfie, take a selfie, take a selfie…’ my treacherous brain cells were telling me. My lethally treacherous brain cells. They’ll tell you anything, did you know that? Those treacherous old brain cells.They’ll bloody tell you anything…
I was out and about, busily validating myself. Out in the big bad world, out in the wild wet beyond. Doing my thing, trying to generate the appropriate level of personal validation for myself. ‘That’s some job,’ I hear you say, ‘how did you manage that?’ Well, I’m smart enough, you see. I know what’s what when it comes to the old self-validation. I know a few things all right.
What I did is that I went and stood by the side of the road holding up a big placard that said ‘I am a valid human being’. Getting the message across. Plenty of people saw it as they drove by I can tell you! They got the message loud and clear all right – I can tell you that for nothing.
When I came back home I posted a few home-made memes on Facebook, explaining that just because people think you’re not valid, that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing. Just because some people might think (or say) that you’re not a significant and important human being that isn’t necessarily going to be the case at all. That’s called ‘educating people’ you see. That’s called ‘raising awareness’ – putting the old memes out there, putting the jolly old memes out there.
“My brain cells told me to do it,” I told the magistrate. I was refusing to take responsibility of course. That’s the usual story – I’m always refusing to take responsibility. That’s not my fault though…
I was full of excuses. I was a mass of excuses – I couldn’t come out with them fast enough! I was like a human machine-gun. I was being led to the place of judgement. It’s a recurring dream of mine – there I am, being led – very unwillingly (needless to say) – to the place of judgement. The air is thick with my excuses. I was like a writhing worm trying to wriggle its way off the hook. Desperately trying to avoid having to take any responsibility.
I was writhing like a carrier bag full of live eels. Like a black bin liner full of eels on methedrine. I was going to say, ‘like a black bin liner full of eels on methadone’ but they wouldn’t be quite so lively in that case, would they? That wouldn’t be the same thing at all.
Writhing, writhing, writhing and you know that it’s only a matter of time before the bag bursts asunder under all that frantic pressure. You never saw so much writhing in all your life and so now you’re frightened. You’re worried that bad things might start happening.
“Suppose you die,” my mind told me insistently, “yes, yes, yes, suppose you die – what will you do then?” You’re hooked on the mind’s narrative now and you can’t let go. You can’t get away. You’re hooked good and proper. You’re going crazy; your mind is going back-and-forth, back-and-forth, frantically trying to come up with an answer. ‘That’s put the cat amongst the pigeons,’ your mind says to itself, full of grim satisfaction. ‘That’s put the jolly old cat amongst the pigeons and no mistake’…
‘Five things confident people never do’ the advert on my laptop screen is telling me. Don’t you know want to know what those five things are? Then you can not do them too, you can not do them too…
I began my lament in the customary fashion, as is my custom. It is my custom always to begin in my customary fashion. Everyone has to have customs after all – I’d be a fine idiot if I tried to pretend that I didn’t have any customs. A fine idiot I’d be. It is my custom to always begin my lament in my customary way, as I have just said, and I make no apologies for it.
Lying frenziedly like a bastard I ended up in the Kingdom of Lies with little more than the shirt on my back, a pair of stained jeans, and a pair of worn out old trainers. I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. Everything was strangely ugly – wherever I looked I saw ugliness. Men’s faces were ugly; women’s faces were coarse and sullen in their expression. Even the dogs in the street were ugly. Malice hung in the air like incense. I couldn’t find a mirror to look in but I have no doubt that I would have been ugly too. I’ve been made ugly by my lies, after all. I have been made ugly by all the lies I have told…
There is a terrible stubborn part of us that always seeks out suffering wherever it goes. It stubbornly pulls down the thick veil of ignorance upon itself, even though this veil of ignorance is horror itself. What horror could be worse than this? To be swathed as we are swathed with the rough and foul-smelling blanket of ignorance is the only horror, when it comes down to it. This is the root of all horror; no horror other than this truly exists – it is like a deeply disturbed dream that never comes to an end.
What a wretched dream this is! We moan and writhe and strike out wildly in our delirium. I wish I were a master of words so that I could convey something of this horror to you. Men and women of this age lack the imagination to know of such frightful things. They are bland, insightless creatures, unacquainted with the netherworld that underlies our comfortable consensus reality. It has not been disclosed to them and therefore they are without fear. The horror of the netherworld has been disclosed to me however; it has been disclosed most fully to me and yet I have not the ability to communicate it to others. Is this not always the way?
Men and women, the well and the unwell, the strong and the weak, all mixed up together in the same soup. People chaotically intertwined, limbs appearing here and there as if disconnected from the bodies they belong to. Each person lost in a private dream, mumbling and muttering nonsensical talk. Every now and again someone utters a cry and kicks out in their pain and confusion, causing pain to someone else, causing pain to whatever dreamer the kick connects with. All of these slumbering yet restless people crammed in together like sardines in a tin, each one oblivious to all the others, each one lost in the incommunicable horrors of his or her own personalised nightmare, each one walking or stumbling or crawling down their very own garden path. Please – just take a look at this unconscious mass of humanity thrown together in the very same soup, and yet at the same time so very far apart, so very far apart.
Men used to know my name once – in another age, at another time. They used to know my name but now they do not. Now they do not. My name is Steve, for what it’s worth, for whatever difference that makes. If it helps you at all to know that. In this age, when people see me coming, they don’t say “Here comes Steve!” They don’t even see me, they don’t even notice me. They don’t realise that I’m here. I’m not the sort of person that anyone particularly notices it’s true. There is something about my personality that makes me instantly forgettable. Or maybe it’s my face. It’s as if I don’t exist. When I say something everyone ignores me. Whenever I make a point it is invariably lost. I persist however – not particularly enthusiastically perhaps, but I persist.
Well all the evil mind-manipulators manipulated away for all they were worth. They loved being evil of course – boy did they love it! They loved it so much. All the evil old mind manipulators manipulating away – would you just look at that! Boy they sure do love it.
So our story begins – as all good stories do – in the far distant future. Humins were extinct – they had manipulated themselves out of existence. The physical world had been discarded – humankind had evolved into a series of self-replicating ‘n’-generational topological hyperreal transforms living in a world made up of pure algebra. Every day has become one big multifactorial equation that we have to solve before we get past it – if we fail to find a solution then we’re trapped forever in the universe of error-signals flashing malevolently red. That’s some pressure, I can tell you! Pressure is the name of the game in this far-flung future-world…
Who knows, you might discover that you yourself are an error, an error that can’t be fixed, possibly a fatal one. Maybe the whole system will shut down? You wake up screaming only to find that it wasn’t a dream. You wake up crying for forgiveness from the Universal Digital Mind but you’re told that the system doesn’t recognise you. You’re told that you have two more login attempts remaining. If you fail to enter the correct details your account will be deleted.
You wake up screaming only to discover that it wasn’t a dream.
Everything is different in the future of course. Everything is different in the future only actually it’s the same. Instead of saying “Hello good buddy how’s your day going?’ when you meet someone you perform a recursive iteration creating a fractal pattern that is both interesting and unique. This fractal pattern spreads out from your core like an aura and they respond in a similar fashion. Both parties continue on their way after this, attending to the relevant functions that they have been allocated by the UDM. You have no time to waste – you have to solve the equation of life after all and you’ve only got four hours left to you before you hit the deadline. You’re struggling but you know that you get there in the end. You’re wrestling with a cupboard full of abstract intractables but you know it’ll all come good in the final shakedown. You hope it will come good in the final shakedown. You know you have to remember to carry the one; you mustn’t – on any account – forget to carry the one.
If you’re not so great at maths however then this will translate into social anxiety straightaway in the algebraic world – you’re afraid that you’ll fumble your computations. You’re worried that you might not be able to keep on juggling all the irrational variables that make up the equation – maybe you’ll let one drop? A hot prickly flush spreads from the top of your head right down to the soles of your feet at thought of it. The shame is so intense that you think you going to pass out, ‘Suppose I forget to carry the one?’ you say to yourself, utterly panic-stricken at this stage. The panic is utterly overwhelming. You’re having a nightmare. People are talking to you but you can’t hear what they’re saying. You can see their lips moving but that’s all. Their eyes are very big and googly – their eyes look like giant poached eggs swimming in the air before you. You’re in a terrible fluster; you’re freaking out big time. You’re Captain Freakout and your crippled spaceship is heading straight into a catastrophic meteorite storm…
‘Micro-dosing is for wimps,’ you tell yourself – ‘I’m going to eat the whole damn sheet…’ You’re trying to be brave. All around you your so-called mates are egging you on: “Eat the sheet, eat the sheet, eat the sheet,” they chant. The sheet is so fresh that it’s still damp. It’s straight out of the lab. It’s only a few hours old. You’re fearful. You’re fearful because you don’t want to make the wrong decision. You don’t want to make a bad life choice. You’re under pressure – you’re afraid of being a coward, you’re afraid of being a wimp, and so you stuff the whole sheet into your mouth. Frantically chewing, making sure that you don’t waste even a single drop of the saliva that’s running down the chin. Each drop is precious; each drop is loaded with a super-powerful super-potent cargo of military-grade deliriant. You convulsively swallow the last bit of cardboard and then wonder what you’ve done.
On the inside I’m screaming for validation. I, the supremely un-validated one, am screaming out for validation – how grotesque is that? Grotesque isn’t the word. They avoid me wherever I go, of course. They avoid me like the plague. The world avoids me and my constant clamouring for validation. I’m left on the outside, very much on the outside. The looks I get from people you wouldn’t believe! The looks I get speak eloquently if silently of utter, incredulous repugnance and that can be quite hurtful. All joking aside, that can be quite hurtful.
Apart from that life is quite good however. Apart from that life is good. Life is good, life is good. Life is richly rotund and full to the brim of extraordinarily peculiar nuances, just the way we like it! I’m trying to get back into the practice of keeping a daily reflective diary. It’s a good habit to get into – I would recommend it to anyone. I have a good idea for a theme – ‘What kind of things worked for you in the past, but don’t work for you anymore?’ It’s a kind of a self-help theme. I’m thinking along the lines of strategies you see. What kind of effective mental health strategies worked for you in the past, but possibly no longer work quite so well for you now? What kind of effective strategies for making positive life choices worked for you in the past, but don’t work for you anymore?
It’s kind of an interesting topic I think. It could be the start of a very interesting discussion. Or, in my case, it could be the start of a useful exercise in self reflection. Although in my case the exercise may not be quite as fruitful as it ought to be because none of my strategies ever seem to have worked out well for me in the past. Or even at all. I like to use words like ‘strategy’ and ‘positive’ and ‘effective’ because they’re so empowering. We all need effective strategies, after all. Where would we be without our effective strategies? I know all the right words you see, but it’s just never worked out for me. I like to make positive life choices but they never work out for me either. None of my strategies or my life choices have ever worked out for me. They backfire on me every time…
I used to think that if you made a positive life choice then that would be a validating thing, but now I can see that that it doesn’t necessarily work like that – not for me it doesn’t anyway. I think the reflective diary exercise has helped me to gain a little insight there at least! You see the thing is that if you’re not a valid person in the first place then no choice that you could ever possibly make is going to be valid either. You’re trying to jump over your own shadow!
If you’re not a valid person then nothing you do can be valid – if you can make valid choices then you must have been valid in the first place, which rules me out. Invalidity cannot come out of invalidity, after all. If it happens to be the case that you are not a valid person then everything you think is going to be invalid, everything you say is going to be invalid, everything you do is going to be invalid. End of story. Or it’s ‘the beginning of the invalid story’, if you want to put it like that. It’s the beginning of a big long invalid story where you work hard and read all the self-help books and try all the strategies but never get anywhere. If you’re coming from what is fundamentally a ‘wrong’ place like I am then you can forget about all about ‘positive life choices’ – you really can! You’re barking up the wrong tree there my friend. I may be stupid but I’m also smart, you see. I may be stupid but I’m also smart.
It’s at times like this that I remember my old school physics teacher, Professor Solenoid. Professor Solenoid was a rusty old ‘Gamma class’ robot and his teaching circuits no longer worked as well as they (presumably) once had done. His lessons were confusing and almost invariably off topic but we nevertheless always came away learning something. Not about physics, admittedly, but about other things. In one class for example we learned about logical paradoxes. As I believe I have already mentioned, the old professor’s teaching circuits were pretty well fried at this stage but he still always launched himself into his pedagogic role with gusto. The lesson was supposed to be about electromagnetism (or at least, we surmised that it was) and the Prof started rambling on about iron failings. We politely corrected him and pointed out that he probably meant iron filings but the professor was adamant. ‘No’, he roared, in his hoarse and at times quite incomprehensible voice, ‘it’s iron failings I’m going to teach you pipsqueaks about today!’ He then leapt out of his chair with an iron bar in his hand and started laying into us with a vigour that was most unusual for a robot of his age. ‘How dare you presume to question me,’ he bellowed, sparks flying crazily from his ancient capacitors, and he ran up and down the classroom raining blows on us. ‘I’m beating you because you’re failing’, he told us wheezily, ‘or perhaps you’re failing because I’m beating you…’ This is how he taught us about logical paradoxes, you see. We had to go home that evening and write an essay entitled ‘Which came first – the failing or the beating?’ I wouldn’t want you to think that our teacher was cruel or abusive though – we were sturdy young robots and we could take a beating without any bother. We didn’t have any pain circuits either so the beating didn’t really make much of an impression on us, either physically or mentally. We were made from molybdenum steel and were very hardy. We were after all designed to live on the surface of Miranda, Umbriel and Ariel, mining for Yttrium and Scandium, and it would have taken a lot more than an iron bar wielded by a lunatic robot professor to do us any appreciable harm! There wasn’t one of us under twenty tons weight. Some of us were constructed out of pure neutronium and were to be sent to conduct experiments deep in the planetary core of Uranus itself, so you can see that we were a resilient bunch! That’s a long time ago now of course and I don’t know why I am sitting here reminiscing whimsically in the way that I am. Perhaps it’s because I’m now getting old and erratic in my ways, just like old Professor Solenoid. I’m not as sharp as I used to be – all too often I find myself performing a computation and then losing count halfway through and having to start all over again. All too often, all too often. Sometimes I would be talking about something and then change topics randomly in midstream to something completely different. Nobody minds though. Nobody minds… Nobody minds since there’s no one else here to mind – I’ve been dumped on the scrapheap with a load of old refrigerators and washing machines and microwave cookers and iron filing cabinets and children’s pushchairs and prams and old Ford Fiestas and what have you and I can’t do anything about it because my arms and legs are rusted through. I’m not depressed about it though. I’m cheerful enough. I don’t have any emotion circuits you see (or a ‘giving-a shit circuit’ either, for that matter!) so it’s all the same to me…
I am trapped in the web of my own obsessive thoughts about myself – I’m as trapped as trapped can be. ‘Welcome to my world,’ as they say. Welcome to my world. Not that anyone would be in the least bit interested in my world, of course. Only I care about it really. Only I care about my world really and actually I don’t care about it at all! I pretend to give a damn in order to get on with myself, which is important. I pretend to be interested in my own world so as to so as not to cause any unpleasant scenes. I pretend that I give a shit in order to keep things on an even keel. In order to avoid the horror, really. We all want to avoid the horror when it comes when it comes down to it and who can blame us? We all want to avoid the horror of seeing that we don’t really care about our own petty lives or about who we have allowed ourselves to become and so we keep on pretending. We keep on pretending that it’s all great fun and that we’re having a wonderful time. That’s pretty grim, isn’t it? It’s a grim old story and that’s a fact. We’re obliged to keep on putting a brave face on it and that’s the thing. That’s the thing, that’s the thing, that’s the jolly old thing. That’s my little song you see – I sometimes sing it in order to cheer myself up. Not that it ever does of course, not that it ever does….
People sometimes ask me what’s so very interesting about my rotten old obsessions. What’s so damn interesting about them, they want to know. What’s so bloody great about them? Just what the hell is so bloody wonderful about them? You might well ask of course, you might well ask. They are dry old things these obsessions of mine. They are deadly dry. They are dry like dust. Dust to choke you, dust to make your eyes stream, dust to gather in big weird clumps under your bed. My obsessions are like a word you say over and over again until it loses all meaning whatsoever. That’s how dry my obsessions are. So what can I say? Yes I act as if am very interested in them, yes I put a lot of effort into them, yes they are all I think about, but am I interested in them? What do you think? What’s your opinion on the subject? People sometimes ask me, people sometimes ask me.
Obviously I have no interest in my obsessions – what’s to be interested in, after all? The object of my jolly old obsession is myself, my very good self, my most excellent and worthy self. ‘Pleased to meet you,’ I say ingratiatingly. ‘How’s your cotton picking day going boy? Great to see you. What’s the Craic? Welcome to my world – welcome to the world of me! Do I like myself? Not really. Do I get on well with myself? No. Do we have a good working relationship? No. Are we keeping everything on an even keel? No. How are you getting on there, boy? Are you having a good time? Pleased to meetcha , pleased to meetcha , pleased to meetcha. The truth of the matter is that I’m very, very tired. That’s the main thing. That’s the main fact of my existence right now. Fatigue. I’m too tired to make sense anymore. I’m too tired to care what I’m saying. It’s so very hard to coax and cajole the jaded old disillusioned ego to keep on jumping through all those bloody hoops. You’re screaming in unashamed frustration. All the repressed bitterness of your life is coming out in one big raw burst. And boy is it raw! Screaming at that poor disillusioned, de-motivated, dysphoric ego. Trying to get it to jump through all those bloody stupid hoops but it won’t. It’s given up the ghost, it’s lying down and it won’t get up.