Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Chekov Character

May 14,2006

A Chekov character:
“…………………everything that was important, interesting, essential, everything about which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that made up the quintessence of his life, went on in secret, while everything that was a lie, everything that was merely the husk in which he hid himself to conceal the truth, like his work at the bank, for instance, his discussions at the club, his ideas of the lower breed, his going to anniversary functions with his wife--all that happened in the sight of all.


May 14,2006
     A certain individual has a terrifying and unexplainable bout of insomnia in which he is tormented into wakefulness by the most monstrous nightmares. Doctors at the hospital tell him that he must enter a program in order to receive the proper monitoring of medication. He agrees out of desperation.
     The hospital waiting room is like a deserted train station at night: grim lighting, no windows, hardwood benches, no pictures on the walls. A doctor in a white coat comes silently and motions the prospective patient into a narrow room with a single weather- beaten desk. He asks the normal questions of  personal identification without looking up from the forms on which he is writing nonstop. Then, all of a sudden, he asks the patient why he has come there. The question seems out of order in view of the patient’s current frame of mind after five sleepless days and nights and yet the patient is surprised to find that he has a ready answer. He says without a moment’s hesitation: “I hate my life.”
     The doctor looks up at the patient with curiosity. Perhaps he is not used to such direct answers.
     The patient cannot explain why he said that.  He was unaware that he felt that way. Sometimes there are answers that one carries around for a whole lifetime  without knowing it, waiting for someone to ask the required question. When the question is finally put it’s like a password that opens a secret door so that the answer, long imprisoned, is at last free to express itself.  Enlightenment often comes by that route.  So do not think that you don’t know the answers: they’re all there if and when you need to know them. Ask your emotions to speak. Ask them to put words in their mouths so you can understand what they want. They will answer.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm Wondering Why


I’m wondering why the pricing labels on CD music discs are always stuck on over the section which displays the track information. If you thumb through the racks in any store you’ll see that every CD music disc has the pricing labels stuck on in exactly the same spot on each case. Can that be an accident? It’s too dumb even to be termed stupidity. I don’t buy a CD unless I can see the list of tracks that are printed on the back which is usually never.
And what’s the story with the little white square labels with the price prices on them. They’re cut into three sections so that when you try to peel one section back ever so gently the whole section tears off at the perforation. Now you have to begin again, usually with a razor blade, on the next section. Invariably a blob of the price tag remains stuck to the case of the CD. If you try other means to get the sticker off such as rubbing it with an abrasive pad then the plastic of the case is damaged so that every CD in your collection has an unsightly blemish on the case either from nibs of paper which cannot be removed or else from scratches applied in an effort to remove them.
I’m also wondering why the manufacturers of CDs insist on putting that infernal strip of transparent tape over the edge of the CD case so that you can’t get the case open even after you’ve gotten the wrapper off. The tape is impossible to pull off in one piece.
What’s the matter with those guys who package CDs? Why does every product have to be covered with stamps and labels like a vacationer’s trunk? CD packaging is so problematic I’d just as soon pirate my music from the internet.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Comparing Oneself

May 7, 2006

Comparing Oneself

A certain patient has a visit with his psychiatrist. He’s feeling low, anxious, perhaps a little depressed. An irrational sense of dread is nagging him. He’s listless and paces the office. Finally he goes to the window and looks out.
The doctor’s office is in a hospital complex of historical brick buildings with genuine slate roofs. The walls are covered with ivy up to the rooftops. The complex has new sidewalks, sprawling lawns and an abundance of shade trees. Two one way roads, separated by a grassy island of maple trees, meander down to the hospital entrance which has an imposing assemblage of wrought iron gates. The center island is a favorite of joggers.
Directly below the office window the patient sees a man walking his dog. He has a cup of coffee in his hand and a newspaper tucked under his arm. The dog sniffs at every bush and tree trunk. The man allows the dog free reign and ambles after.
The patient observes the man and dog for awhile and then suddenly says to the doctor, who is inspecting some sort of paperwork, “Now there’s a happy man down there doctor……..out in the morning sunshine walking his dog, cup of coffee in his hand, newspaper under his arm. What a lucky guy.”
The doctor stirs from his concentration
“What’s his name?” the doctor asks absently.
“His name?” The patient looks puzzled.
“Yes……his name.”
“How should I know?” the patient answers with a shrug.
“You don’t know him?”
“Of course not! He’s just a man walking his dog……”
“Precisely the point,” the doctor answers and now he sits back in his chair and speaks to the patient directly. “You don’t know anything about this man. For all you know he may have just been informed by his doctor that he only has a short time left to live. Or maybe his wife just died and he’s walking the dog and feeling his grief. How can you tell who he really is? Can you know by looking down at him from this window? It’s a very small window on the world, believe me.
“I note that you compare yourself to other people all the time. You reckon your acceptability according to how you score in these comparisons. But you’re less than democratic in your choices of people with whom to compare yourself. You never compare yourself, for instance, to the Albanian refugees who have been driven out of their homes with just the clothes on their backs, who have to sleep on the ground without shelter, who have nowhere to go and nothing to feed their children. How come you never compare yourself to people like that? You only compare yourself to fantasies in order to sustain a frame of reference for your own rejection.”
With this the doctor smiles knowingly and splays his hands, palms upward.
The patient stares blankly, nodding his head, noting a point well taken.