The Willing Suspension of a Train of Thought

Mood swings. Everyone has them. The question some of us have is whether the ones with which we deal are “normal” or, instead, symptomatic of something ominous. But it’s not just mood, is it? It’s something deeper. Something that defines who we are. Not just mood. But what would you call it? Personality? Nature? Temperament? Psychological makeup? Mentality? What?!

Psychology is imprecise. Psychology is medicine without the foundation of chemistry. Psychology is modern-day voodoo, stripped of magic yet adorned with illusion in the form of abstract art. This isn’t meant as mockery; it is simply an honest interpretation of a discipline in which I have both confidence and doubt. I am reluctant to accept “beliefs,” instead favoring theories that, having been subjected to rigorous tests, survive disbelief.

Yet there are times in which beliefs are simply expressions of untested convictions that, for one reason or another, merit acceptance or, at least, the willing suspension of disbelief. So it is with some theories of psychology. And, I might add, sociology.

Sociology was my college major. I think studying human social relationships and institutions shaped, in large part, my world view as it exists today (though my world view changes with each passing hour). The shifting sands of my view of the world owe their existence to the intersection of time and experience, coupled with the fact that I see human experience through a lens clouded by bias (but with a willingness to occasionally wipe the lens clean).

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I interpret many of the changes taking place in the world’s societies today as large-scale expressions of individual psychoses, amplified by aberrant forms of groupthink and magnified by waves of unstoppable social phenomena. In a nutshell, Earth’s population has lost its mind and is behaving badly. We haven’t yet managed to create a pharmaceutical remedy for the malady, either, so we’re just stuck with the madness. Fortunately, I am among the select few who have not been infected by the disease (and so are you). Unfortunately, I have little to no power to change the direction of the world’s societies. So, we’re just going to have to watch the decline of civilization from the sidelines. If we were truly smart, we’d begin collecting like-minded people into little tribes. Small tribes of people who respect one another and recognize that we must take care of our physical and mental (or spiritual or whatever you’d like to call it) environments have the best chance of surviving the demise of humankind’s delusion of control over the universe.

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Speaking of the willing suspension of disbelief (I was, remember?), this morning I read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in its entirety.  I’m not sure what drove me to do that. Who knows what causes such urges at five in the morning?

I feel sure I must have read it in its entirety before, but as I read it, the words were only vaguely familiar. And yet I recalled bits and pieces with almost absolute precision. “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” And I remembered that the Mariner, with his cross-bow, shot the albatross. I recalled the Wedding Guest, but I’m still not quite sure of his purpose in the poem, other than to provide an opportunity for the Mariner to tell his tale.  I was struck by the length of the poem; damn, it’s really long! But it has to be to tell such a story.

As I read the poem, some of the words Coleridge used caught my attention; for example, he used the term “bark” to refer to a sailing ship. Shakespeare used the term, too. My favorite Shakespeare sonnet, Sonnet 116, includes the word: “It is the star to every wandering bark, whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.” I was either in high school or college when I learned the word referred to a sailing ship. I took a course in Shakespeare while in college, probably during my first or second year. I remember very little of what I read, though I recall being both amazed and confused by Shakespeare’s language.

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So, the results of my endoscopy on Friday were exceptional. That is, the doctor saw no signs of disease or damage. But that fact leaves me confused about why I still feel pain after I swallow some food and liquid. As in spicy food and bread and either very cold or very hot liquid. And a few other things. Actually, quite a few other things. He prescribed a drug for acid reflux, thinking that might be the issue. Have I already mentioned all this? If so, I am confused about what I’ve written and where I’ve written it. Sorry. Anyway, I’m both happy to know my esophagus and stomach look healthy. But confused as to why my symptoms remain (though they are far, far less painful than they were at their peak). Time may explain.

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I’ve written all I’m going to write for the moment. I don’t know how long that moment might last, though, so there may be more coming in the near future.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to The Willing Suspension of a Train of Thought

  1. I’m looking forward to that first habanero, my friend. Pain be damned. Habaneros, when we allow them to, confirm that we are alive. Hell, no! They insist on screaming to the world that we are, indeed, ALIVE! 😉

  2. chucksigarsblog says:

    Glad to hear the pain has lessened, at least. And good news is good news, as mysterious and frustrating as it must be. This feels like good news. And that first habanero is going to be GREAT.

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