The steady, menacing tick of the clock
(which happily my aging ears can now barely hear at all...)
On household navigation
As a vibrant young person, you walk around your abode confident in your step and your destination.
“I’ll just fetch my watch from the nightstand and get about my business!”
And there it is, right where it’s supposed to be! And you knew it with certainty, and aren’t you mentally crisp and samurai sword sharp!
At some point, many years later, you find yourself in a room downstairs. You look around, confused.
“Why am I even here? I was just upstairs, I think.”
But in the early stages, you need but a few seconds reflection to set the machine triumphantly back to order.
“Ah, yes, of course! I was looking for the Flaubert! It should be right…over…THERE!”
Success! Somewhat delayed, true, but not overly distressing. You have the Flaubert, after all!
Then, this starts to happen: on arriving in the strange place without knowing why or how, you start the reflection to find the answers, and your attention flits away to something else, like a naughty child being questioned on a matter he is not interesting in discussing.
“Aha, that trash can needs emptying. Let me just attend to that, and perhaps I’ll tidy this desk just a bit after, and then I’ll remember why I came down here.”
And, chores complete, you then just trudge back upstairs empty-handed because you’ve forgotten that you were downstairs in the first place not to empty the trash or tidy the desk but to do something you can’t remember and that now is lost forever in the abyss.
The computer’s hard drive is closing in on complete failure, but the catastrophe is thankfully so thorough that any theoretical ability to fret over the fact has been replaced by the innocent contentment with having emptied the trash and tidied the desk.
The fewer working neurons there are, it turns out, the lower the chance that any of them will have anything to do with the cognitive work of generating regret at the loss of other neurons! God has a merciful plan indeed!
On bodily pain
Stage 1: “Why are my arms hurting so much after that exercise that I’ve done a hundred times before without any pain? Maybe I need to stretch more before exercising tomorrow. Where is the ibuprofen?” Ten minutes after taking the medicine: “Ah, that feels better!”
Stage 2: “My arms have been aching for two weeks straight now, even though I stopped doing the exercise that made them hurt. Where’s the doctor’s phone number? I’d better go downstairs and look for it.” (See On household navigation, above).
Stage 3: “How is it possible to be having pain there? Nothing has ever hurt there before. I’m sure of it. Never before in my life has that part of my body hurt. I’ve in fact only been marginally aware that that region of my body existed, so far has it always lay outside the realm of possible pain. I didn’t know that part of the body could hurt. Are there even any nerve endings there? It can’t be good that this thing that never even gave me a hint that it could hurt is hurting. Am I dying? Maybe I have cancer. Yes, I almost certainly have cancer, and I’m probably dying. Where is that damned doctor’s number?” A pause. “Wait, who is my doctor?”
On leaving home for the weekend
Once upon a time, you made no plans. A friend called.
“A concert in another state? This weekend? Sure, let’s do it!”
Throw a few things in a bag, make sure the gas tank is full, and off you went. Total time from initiating the work to leave the house to being in the car, moving forward at a high rate of speed: perhaps five minutes.
Time goes by.
You get older.
You accumulate stuff. Now, on leaving, you have to ensure that some of the stuff is looked after. That takes time. You worry about your stuff, more and more. What if something happens to your stuff while you’re away? That would be bad. How to protect your very important stuff?
The most important step is to make sure that it’s all properly locked up.
“OK, I just have to check the doors and I’m ready to go. Front, back, side. Two locks on each door, and screen doors too. All locked. Good.
I’ll double check them all just to be sure. Don’t want to accidentally leave one unlocked. That could happen.
Now then. Did I turn the stove off? Yes, I think I did. I’m not sure, though. I’ll go back and check it again.
Have to turn the water off too, I remember reading somewhere that you’re supposed to do that even on a short trip. Can destroy the whole house if you have a water leak in a short time if the water’s not off.
There, done with the water. Good move, that.
Now, are the windows closed and locked? I never really open them, how could they have gotten open? I guess it is theoretically possible that I might have opened one and then forgotten that I opened it, and left it open, and it’s still open, and I never noticed. I’d better check them all just to be sure. Twice.
OK, that’s done. Great! I’m just about ready to go.
Wait, what about the doors? Are they locked? Did I already check them? I’d better check again, just to be sure.”