Thursday, February 25, 2010

office call at the mental hospital

I had a service-call at a mental facility, one of those privatized ones that are springing up all over the place. Their server was down and I had to replace a hard-drive and load the software right there on the premises, where they registered new patients.

They wheeled this guy in on a gurney, and to my horror, left him there, strapped down, right next to where I was working. "He's harmless" they told me. They just had to get his room ready.

There was a tube in his arm, maybe he was sedated. His left eye was cataract marble white. Grey beard stubble, and yellow buck teeth. For a crazy guy, his face was very serene. His voice was very weak, but over the hum of the server's fan, I could hear him speak. And this is what he said, as well as I can remember:

"Can I explain the hidden meaning in my heart, or make up something impressive if nothing is there? If I find nothing there, what then? Is there nothing there, or do I just fail to see it? What if there is nothing inside? What if there is nothing profound to be found? If I am simply a consumer, a bank account, getting and spending, filling the tank and burning it up, eating and sleeping and shitting and fucking—if that is all I am, then what? If I have nothing to say, if I am as pointless as I suspect, then what? There is nothing there except the remnants of syndicated network television, commercial jingles, pop music, and high school angst.

"Have the things I've seen and read and thought combined to form any worthwhile ideas? Are there any original ideas in my head? Am I an individual, of just one of billions, billions past and billions future, billions present, a monkey chasing bananas for no reason?

"But there is something. There is something in my stupid brain, this brain that has not existed before in the entire existence of the universe, this brain that will never exist again once I've shuffled the coil, this brain unique to all other brains, memories of every person I've ever met, every meal I've ever had, ever conversation, everything I've ever done, my idiosyncrasies, my thoughts, my opinions, which, through an incredible coincidence, are the only thoughts in this entire world that make perfect sense. There is some kernel of truth, not cynical, not witty or shocking, but something new and unheard of locked inside my noggin. What combination of thoughts will unlock the next thought?"

"Why are you here?" I asked. "What did you do?"

"I am a breaker of rules! I cannot accept pre-formed answers, handed down generation after generation. Capitalism has been around for thousands of years, but why do we rely on a system that was developed by primitive people? What system will come after this? Will chaos intervene, or will new thinking overcome bad habits of getting and spending, inclusion and rejection, the artificial need created on a planet that has room for all? When will artificial lines be erased? When will we see the humanity in those different from us? When will reason trump fear? When will courage trump ignorance?

"The present day requires present day ideas. Old men in expensive suits are relics. Greedy men are evil. The old ways of doing things are complete bullshit. Tradition is bullshit. Religion is bullshit. The two-party system is a lie. Capitalism is a lie. Jesus Christ is a lie. The United States is a lie. Nationalism is a lie. The public school system is a lie. The dollar is a lie. The President, Congress and Supreme Court are all lies.

I asked, "But what is true? What is truth?"

"The idea of 'truth' is a lie. Just because the word 'truth' exists in the English language does not mean that there exists a thing that corresponds to that word. The word 'dragon' exists, but that myth is not real. The same goes for the myth 'truth'. The same goes for the myth 'justice'.

"The monkeys in charge of the lesser monkeys don't care about 'truth' or 'justice'. All they care about are the bananas."

Then two orderlies came in, told him to shut up, and wheeled him into the hospital.

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About Me

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I am the author of 5 books: Android Down, Firewood for Cannibals, The Cubicles of Madness, Robot Stories, and most recently, Various Meats and Cheeses. I live and write in Michigan. My website is at