Running Slow

My computer has been running quite slow for the past twenty-four hours. The reasons for the slowdown are beyond my ability to know; I know only that the machine takes its time to perform every task given to it. Screen refreshes take many seconds. Opening software applications takes minutes. Saving work takes hours…days…weeks…months…years.

I believe I’m still working on a novel I began writing in 2014. At this rate, it may be ready for publication about the time the sun explodes in a dying flash, its source of fuel consumed in a spectacular, final fireball before the final darkness befalls our solar system. That being the case, there’s really not much point in continuing to write the thing, is there? Well, unless I want to know how it ends. And, with the sun’s fiery demise, I know how IT ends. So maybe I should direct my attention toward something that gives me greater pleasure. What might that be, though?

I could try my hand at seduction, endeavoring to persuade a married woman to abandon her husband for an afternoon of steamy, sultry exploration of emotions pent up since the 1970s. Or I might steal away to a firing range, where I could work on polishing my skills with deadly firearms with an aim toward becoming an accomplished assassin. Maybe, instead, I should visit a car dealership and demand to test drive a monstrously powerful “muscle car,” in which I would speed away, dozens of police cars in hot pursuit. Another option might be to sneak into an animal shelter, where I could unlock all the cages and release the inmates into the surrounding neighborhood. An option I’ve never considered until this very moment is this: walk into the local police station and announce that my name is Hyacinthe Collier and I wish to confess to a future crime, the details of which are as yet unclear but which will be sufficiently grizzly to warrant a headline-grabbing trial and certain conviction.

Hmm. Only the first option holds any significant appeal; the danger associated with the others is too great to merit serious consideration. Of course the danger in the first one could be excessive, as well, depending on the circumstances surrounding—and the intensity of—the dalliance. All of this raises the question in my mind: how does one define excitement? And where does one draw the line between entertainment and excitement? Is there such a clear line of demarcation? And, if so, where does one cross the threshold between excitement and adventure?

In my mind and without the benefit of dictionary or thesaurus, I am trying to define “excitement.” So far, I’ve come up with “a state of emotional arousal.” Well, that could apply to any number of conditions, including that business with the married woman or the high speed chase. And the rest. Perhaps my dilemma is that I’m attempting to define the parameters of the matter as if the answer were to be found in a thesaurus. Excitement. Adventure. Enthusiasm. Elation. Ad infinitum. Words. Just words. Words do not define excitement. Adrenaline does. Within moments of the body’s experience of a stressful experience, adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) spills into the bloodstream, triggering a host of reactions and responses from various components of the body. So, perhaps what I need is not a dictionary but, instead, an epi-pen.

No, epi-pens are to be used only in situations involving life-threatening allergic reactions. To my knowledge, I don’t have any of those. So, what to do instead? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Thrust myself into circumstances that will prompt in me a sense of abject terror. Like the circumstances I described above. Forego the thesaurus and, instead, just absorb what follows potentially self-injurious behaviors like speeding the wrong way down heavily-traveled freeways or leaping between high-rise buildings or jumping onstage and stripping nude during a recital by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Those sorts of adrenaline-pumping experiences.

Another question. At what point does an interest become a fascination become a passion become an obsession?  We live along a continuum of emotion—a tightrope upon which we walk every day—rarely coming to grips with the fact that we could fall off at any moment. We could slip gently from interest to fascination or plunge directly from passing fancy to uncontrollable obsession. The danger surrounds us in every instant. Yet we wander deftly between menace and pitfall, jeopardy and risk, hardly even pausing to realize the perils we face. We are, indeed, magnificently oblivious creatures, aren’t we? Either stoic or stupid, methinks.

I wonder whether we humans sometimes tire of safety and comfort and ease. I wonder whether, on occasion at least, we need danger and discomfort and stress. Can we become stodgy and brittle and mentally frail if we don’t force ourselves to experience fear and put ourselves at risk of the unknown? I think I have grown too soft and mushy and insufficiently resilient. I am too easily crushed under the weight of a feather pillow; too readily brushed aside by vaporous ghosts whose only substance exists in my imagination.

We need to be challenged. We need to be tested. We need to be thrown into a roiling sea, attached to an anchor and left either to swim to safety or drown in our rebellion. This day is shaping up to be another odd one. Time to shower and shave and confront the demons. It is not the time to be running slow. It is time to run faster and faster and faster.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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