State of Flux

You know who I was, not who I am. I am in a state of flux, a man engaged in constant mutation from one form to another. Every breath I take in leaves a different person’s mouth. The change takes place quietly and without show, but snapshots of my psyche taken days apart could reveal stunning adjustments to my thought processes. On one day, I may be the picture of serenity, a calm and contented fixture in a stable and placid environment. But the next, the fury and fire inside me can consume planets—if the inferno doesn’t engulf me in an inextinguishable conflagration first.

If the energy storms that take place inside me were plotted on an oscillograph, the image would frighten even a seasoned psychic reader. The medium would see heat-driven tornadoes of molten rock incinerating entire galaxies. And then in the lull that followed, ice sheets a thousand frigid lives deep would preserve the seeds of the future, buried in the ashes of time.

The view looking in from outside does not reveal the changes; at least not so vividly. That external scene shows a man in the soft throes of fermentation, stooped a bit as he battles the inevitable decay that comes with age. As the years go by, the image changes in more obvious ways. Thinning, greying hair. A growing midsection, fueled by too much food and drink and too little exercise. Skin growing dry and soft. Sagging, empty sacks of skin that muscles once filled.

So, a contradiction exists between the exterior deterioration and the internal cyclic, saw-toothed, emotional whirlwind. It is in spite of and because of that contradiction that I am unknowable in the present. I can be accurately described only in the past; the present is far too turbulent for either words or understanding to capture. And the person I will become in the future is describable only to the extent that I will bear no resemblance to either the present or the past person I am or was.

Though I speak as if “you” were the one who finds it impossible to know who I am at this moment, that inability extends to me, as well. And the “I” of whom I speak probably describes you, too. We all are in transition from who we were to who we will be. We are never who we are for long enough to know ourselves in the present. Your internal oscillograph may not be as chaotic as mine, but I suspect the zenith and nadir of its cycles do not approximate a flat line, either.

If time would slow down for long enough, we might be able to examine the waves of the plotted lines in sufficient depth and detail to know who we really are; in the big picture, I mean. We might be able to adequately understand the emotional swings, from high to low and back, so we might better control them. But, then again, we might not.

Even in my periods of tranquility, passions of every kind course through me like whitewater rapids. Love, hate, lust, anger, rage, ardor. Those emotions power my life just as surely as food and water.  In various ways, they define who I am, even in those moments of calm and placidity. They shape the route my energy flows, too, when fury guides me across a terrain pockmarked with deep pits of anger.  I picture all these emotions as viscous fluids, each one a different color, spinning in different directions inside a massive vessel. The fluids never mix with one another, but they intersect in thin rivulets as they spin, creating illusions that they have merged into new colors. But when the spinning slows, the thin rivulets join with their uniquely colored flows and congeal into thick rivers.

Reading what I have written frightens me a bit; I can imagine a psychologist recommending institutionalization for a person with my thought patterns. But it would be a short stay, wouldn’t it? I mean, I will no longer be who I am in less than a moment’s time. So my deviance is a thing of the past, never the present.

About John Swinburn

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