Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of Awareness
‘The division of faculties which results from the technological dilation or externalization of one or another sense…’
Now bidirectionally visual and audible. Even tactile. Personally mobile and ubiquitous. Multidimensional, immersive, and nearing a fully-connected social environment–orders of magnitude beyond cold television and hot text. All senses engaged and remixed. Versioned and archived. Your dilation recorded live for all to see.
‘is so pervasive a feature of the past century that today we have become conscious, for the first time in history, of how these mutations of culture are initiated.’
Is it possible the gap between those who are conscious and those who are unaware is growing? There’s more than one gap, and each one is a perspective–some potentially dangerous. What are the consequences? The past century is the past five years now.
‘Those who experience the first onset of a new technology, whether it be alphabet or radio, respond most emphatically because the new sense ratios set up at once by the technological dilation of eye or ear, present men with a surprising new world, which evokes a vigorous new “closure,” or novel pattern of interplay, among all of the senses together.’
With what we are now building we should expect a radical new setup of sense ratios with a potential onset more rapid than we could ever think. The ‘closure’ may be transformational and violent beyond our wildest dreams. What happens when you add two-billion people to the mix almost overnight when compared to historical or geological-scale change rates? The time between system shocks is decreasing. Multiple shocks seem to be arriving during the lifetime of a single human.
‘But the initial shock gradually dissipates as the entire community absorbs the new habit of perception into all of its areas of work and association.’
And we’re just at the beginning of the biggest shock ever with the potential for the next one to be something that we can’t even recognize. If we weren’t conscious of how these mutations were initiated before, it seems to follow that we won’t be able to recognize our next initiation.
‘But the real revolution is in this later and prolonged phase of “adjustment” of all personal and social life to the new model of perception set up by the new technology.’
McLuhan, M. THE GUTENBERG GALAXY. 1966. p. 23.
This is what worries me.
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After interviews I’d often be so wound up I’d hop in a cab on Market Street and tell the driver to take me to the far side of Golden Gate park where he would drop me off and I’d walk back to my truck parked back down town. The wandering walk sometimes takes several hours, and I often return after sunset. I watch the city age over years.
I exit the park and start up the curved sidewalk that leads to the MacDonald’s marking the entrance to Haight. Today my back sizzles with stripes of pain wrapping testicles and toes. I walk as fast as I can. I approach the Anarchist Bookstore and enter after ignoring it since my first and only visit more than 15 years ago.
It looks the same. A grey slim man with a sparse beard is busy under a pair of headphones. I walk past him and pick up a book containing line drawings of female reproductive anatomy in the form of a coloring book. I’m amused, and I put it back to reach for another that claims to be one that kids should have but would never be allowed. It contains drawings of monsters and unicorns having sex. I drop it back on the shelf with a thwack and turn to see if the man behind the counter is disengaged enough to help me. He’s still busy.
The desire to consume language is overwhelming. I do not enjoy wasting my time with words that do not matter.
I wait for his focus to break so that I might get a pure unmolested-by-bother answer.
He removes his headphones while I’m browsing the store’s most insincere and humorous magazines. I approach the counter. He smiles and asks how he might help me. I explain how painful events have answered many questions but left me with a new interest: I want to go back to the beginning and use my new eyes.
He nods and smiles. And says:
I follow him five or six feet to the bookshelf beside us.
I do not look at the book. I pull out my money to pay. He returns to his position behind the cash register and smiles.
‘How long have you been here?’
‘Seventeen years or so.’
‘Do you own this place?’
He laughs out of the side of his face. I asked the wrong question.
‘It’s a collective. We all help out.’
I smile and grab my change.
‘Thank you for your help.’
I exit the bookstore and turn right toward lower Haight.
Very far from pursuing the natural order from the lower to the higher, from the inferior to the superior, and from the relatively simple to the more complex; instead of wisely and rationally accompanying the progressive and real movement from the world called inorganic to the world organic, vegetables, animal, and then distinctively human-from chemical matter or chemical being to living matter or living being, and from living being to thinking being-the idealists, obsessed, blinded, and pushed on by the divine phantom which they have inherited from theology, take precisely the opposite course.
They go from the higher to the lower, from the superior to the inferior, from the complex to the simple. They begin with God, either as a person or as divine substance or idea, and the first step that they take is a terrible fall from the sublime heights of the eternal ideal into the mire of the material world; from absolute perfection into absolute imperfection; from thought to being, or rather, from supreme being to nothing. When, how, and why the divine being, eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect, probably weary of himself, decided upon this desperate salto mortale is something which no idealist, no theologian, no metaphysician, no poet, has ever been able to understand himself or explain to the profane. All religions, past and present, and all the systems of transcendental philosophy hinge on this unique and iniquitous mystery.1 Holy men, inspired lawgivers, prophets, messiahs, have searched it for life, and found only torment and death. Like the ancient sphinx, it has devoured them, because they could not explain it. Great philosophers from Heraclitus and Plato down to Descartes, Spinoza: Leibnitz, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, not to mention the Indian philosophers, have written heaps of volumes and built systems as ingenious as sublime, in which they have said by the way many beautiful and grand things and discovered immortal truths, but they have left this mystery, the principal object of their transcendental investigations, as unfathomable as before. The gigantic efforts of the most Wonderful geniuses that the world has known, and who, one after another, for at least thirty centuries, have undertaken anew this labor of Sisyphus, have resulted only in rendering this mystery still more incomprehensible. Is it to be hoped that it will be unveiled to us by the routine speculations of some pedantic disciple of an artificially warmed-over metaphysics at a time when all living and serious spirits have abandoned that ambiguous science born of a compromise-historically explicable no doubt-between the unreason of faith and sound scientific reason?
It is evident that this terrible mystery is inexplicable-that is, absurd, because only the absurd admits of no explanation. It is evident that whoever finds it essential to his happiness and life must renounce his reason, and return, if he can, to naive, blind, stupid faith, to repeat with Tertullianus and all sincere believers these words, which sum up the very quintessence of theology: Credo quia absurdum. Then all discussion ceases, and nothing remains but the triumphant stupidity of faith. But immediately there arises another question: How comes an intelligent and well-informed man ever to feel the need of believing in this mystery?
I notice the fabric of incidents is woven a little too tight. My synchronicity sensors start screaming at me: ‘Wait, this can’t be!’
I hand the photo over to Mr. Private Equity and say ‘This is why I do it.’
‘This wall. This is a symbol. Of why I do it. This wall is part of the playground of the elementary school where my kid’s soccer team meets for practice. What does it look like to you?’
‘I don’t know. Some sorta barrier or something.’
‘Right. It is. It’s a dodge ball wall. But that’s not the most interesting fact about this wall.’
If I pause too long between sentences I begin to fear the phrases coming out of my mouth are meaningless. Just words in random order.
He looks confused and maybe even a bit threatened. I feel the hair on the back of my neck go on end.
I ignore his twisting face and continue.
‘This wall is made of one-inch plywood. And that hole in the middle. It’s completely worn through. It’s about the size of a torso of an eight-year-old child. How many dodge ball games do you think it took to make that hole?’
He becomes agitated. I do not give up.
‘And, my next question is, how many kids did those dodge balls wear through before making a hole like that?’
He’s now fully aware that I’m naming him as an accomplice. I wonder if he will imagine acts of revenge later, after I’m gone.
‘That’s why I do what I do. I’m always at war with those human traits that wear through children.’
Nothing to fear here.
‘Now, how does that stack up to what you are asking me to do?’
He leans back in his seat. I put the photograph back into my backpack and finish my iced tea.
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Howard Joseph Sicore 1940-2014
My father’s father was always a painful subject, but he brings him up as we enter a room of brown chairs filled with despair.
‘My dad never taught me anything.’
He describes how alcohol ruined his family. That Roger, his brother three years younger, was his father’s favorite.
‘Always gave him things like cars.’
A woman interrupts to ask something, but before she can finish he blurts, ‘Howard Sicore. Seven. Twenty-one. Forty.’
He’s receiving drips while sitting in a repulsive brown chair like those found in a delivery room for the husband to sleep, a recliner, with a side table for coffee.
‘These are all good people here.’
Everyone laughs. A man is wheeling over his tri-mix of drips to grab a couple of bags of free potato chips. Howard interrupts him.
‘Having fun yet?’
‘It is what it is.’ Says the stranger.
My father smiles and returns to his normal state of introspection.
‘I’ve a log cabin in mind, and someday it will be real. And a 1937 Ford two-door sedan. A kind of red. Tinted rear windows. In my three-car garage. Two stories. Bedroom, bathroom upstairs. If I can get this floor covering project going. I’ll keep investing more and more from the sales.’ He pauses, characteristically rubs his chest, sighs and looks down. ‘Just dreams that I have. You just don’t know if it will work or not, you know?’
He acts immortal. I’m just listening.
‘It’s nice to have dreams. It’s fun to think about things.’
He talks of his hair and concedes it’s time to get a haircut. Later in the day he will walk into a beauty school, where the young women there will treat him with dignity as they trim off all that remains, a few half-grey finger-sized strands of hair, and his sparse beard, down to stubble. When he stands to walk out of the salon, he looks just like his father. I do not tell him this.
‘I met your mom in a pool hall. The Blue Boar. I was friends with this heavy set guy, but he got mad at me because I talked to her first.’
He describes their circle of friends during their dating years. There was Pat Rogers in Fort Worth. And Jim and Carolyn. His brief descriptions of them leave more questions than answers.
‘I don’t know why she said this, but Carolyn said his penis was too small. Can you believe that?’
He is enjoying this.
‘I met your mom, and we’d gone over to my apartment. It was the first time that I kissed her. I just turned around, and I held her, and I asked her, ”May I kiss you?” And she let me. Ask her about that.’
This is one of his most valued memories. He is genuinely happy.
The subject returns to his brother.
‘Roger turned gay. When we were kids. I found them alone by the Santa Anna river. Well, I won’t say any more. George Herman. That’s who he was with.’
He says he never told anyone this happened. He protected his brother.
Happy birthday, Dad. I miss you.
Eight months old today, he has had various forms of seizures, up to hundreds per day, since myoclonic jerks sent him to the hospital in March of this year. But the infantile spasms that began later—small crunch-like postures that happen in clusters throughout the day—erased his ability to smile, to hold his head up, and to roll over. He’s now a huge tank of a seven month-old boy. Handsome. Gorgeous rolls of baby fat. Smells divine. But he has a life-threatening and limiting condition that will never go away.
In April, after months of tests, the neurologists agreed that Clyde was environmentally insulted by either a virus (like CMV) or a random ischemic event as a fetus in the second trimester that affected the formation of his brain. In patches, generalized and widespread across both hemispheres, and in every area except for the occipital lobes, neurons failed to migrate to the cortex. They call this polymicrogyria: many small folds. There is a spectrum to this disorder, and Clyde has the most severe type.
We try to ignore the prognosis. Yet, we must write it here, because we are thinking it to ourselves every day: He may never walk, talk, or be able to care for himself independently. There’s a ten percent chance he could die in his sleep, and a greater chance that he will ultimately be taken early by cumulative bouts of aspiration pneumonia. He already shows signs of spastic quadriparesis, global motor delay, severe cognitive impairment and refractory seizures. He can’t use his hands. Just now trying to hold his head up–an ability that disappeared when he was two months old, at that same time his smile disappeared–he simply cannot smile. He appears content. As his parents we’ve learned to recognize this, or so we hope.
Again, ignoring the prognosis: He seems to change every day. Tiny eye movements during a touching moment show he’s smiling inside. A random thrust of his arm seems to mean he’s reaching out. A furrowed brow shows some intent. And that is hope. We are holding his hand through life.
We’ve been mostly quiet because we needed time to understand what was actually happening to Clyde, grieve for the passing of Damon’s father, and deal with job and healthcare loss and delays. To grieve for Clyde. Throughout, our friends and family have been our anchor and our levity. We are thankful.