On Eating Glass and Other Horrible Pleasures

I’ve never eaten glass, but if I were to do it, I’d choose to chew ground red glass. I envision a crimson goblet changing from hard red glass into a fine pink powder as the grinder did its work. My imagination will take me only so far when I contemplate the way my mouth might feel as I consumed the remnants of what once was a beautiful water goblet. The revulsion I would feel as the crushed and powdered glass filled my mouth overtakes my fantasy and transforms it into a monstrous phantasmagoria. But I know it’s all in my mind. I would never knowingly eat glass.

Yet the curiosity that gives rise to that imagining gives rise to other, equally bizarre, daydreams. How would I feel if I placed my left arm in a guillotine and the blade suddenly dropped, severing my limb in an instant? I can imagine a sense of confused disbelief and horror, followed perhaps by excruciating pain.

What good does it do me to imagine such things? I think imagining events that almost certainly will never come to pass is an exercise that makes the brain elastic and able to process real events with greater malleability. And it enables me, if I choose, to describe the events or to paint them in words that make the events believable. By “greater malleability,” I mean the brain can more quickly discard the sense that a real event, strange and traumatic though it might be, is a trick played on one’s imagination.

There may be a danger in imagining awful circumstances, though. By thinking them through, applying logic to what happens and the order in which it occurs, one might normalize them. For example, imagining a treasonous politician being hacked to death by someone wielding a sharp machete might lessen the horror of witnessing such an event take place in real time. Maybe not, though. I suppose it would be unethical for a psychology professor to conduct an experiment that measures individuals’ responses to such an action; one group would be instructed to imagine such circumstances before witnessing a real hacking, another would witness the hacking without the benefit of pre-event conditioning. I’m pretty sure that would be a breach of professional ethics. Though I wonder whether the ethics issue could be overcome if the investigator could reasonably claim that the research subjects were incapable of feeling fear or pain…no, just no.

Ghastly though it sounds, the idea of focusing intently on how swallowing ground glass might feel can be instructive. So can it be to imagine all sorts of other horrible experiences. When we remove the shield that protects us from horrors around us, I think we’re better able to understand and express the experiences that arise from exposure to horrible experiences. Granted, one may not wish to understand and express those experiences, but understanding is the foundation of knowledge. So, understanding even the most grotesque aspects of our lives, whether real or imagined, helps build knowledge about ourselves and the world in which we live.

I think I’m spewing words just to spew words. I’m not sure I believe anything I’ve written. That is a clear warning to me a writer; if I don’t believe it, neither will the reader. Yet I started with the premise that I would imagine godawful circumstances and write about how they influenced my mental state. I don’t know that I’ve done that. Instead. I took a sharp left turn down a dark alley, where I was mugged by unethical research psychologists wielding sharp knives. They called themselves “students of darkness,  but I know them by their first names, Brett and Mark. Even from a distance, I can see that they are slimy, as if they had bathed in a tub filled with fish oil and human blood. When they realized I was a male, they pushed me against the wall and shouted “we’ll find another subject, one that we can joyously molest!”

Can you see from the preceding paragraph how the distorted mind works when confronted with obstacles to logical thought? It breaks through those obstacles with madness and brute force and then leaps over the remnants of the broken barricades like a deer leaps over a tall fence. Speaking of deer, I saw on Facebook yesterday that a young woman I know only casually killed her first doe, using a crossbow. I pitied the animal, but envied the woman and her husband for the venison they will soon enjoy. That combination of pity for the deer and envy for its killer is an odd mixture. It’s like love and hate, oil and water, truth and fiction all joined together with a rubbery material that can be bent but not broken. Yeah, I can’t quite describe it, but I can see it behind my eyes.

It’s after 7:30. Way late to be writing anything. The sun is up and light would flood the room if I were to open the shade, which normally I would have done an hour ago. But my fingers lusted after the feel of the keyboard and I had no control over them. But now I do, and so I will divorce myself from the keyboard and go about my bidness.


About John Swinburn

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