I used to love sitting alone in a chair and reading a good book. Nothing brought me greater pleasure. I would read a novel a day while enjoying the background sounds of birds chirping and cats meowing. Nothing was as effective in diminishing my stress and anxiety as a good book. No matter how bad the conditions of the world or my life- the printed words on a page could lift me out from my psychological squalor and re-plant me in a space of wonderment. I look back upon these times with utter envy. I even become emotionally enraged towards the man I was in my twenties. I am not only jealous of the large chunks of time that he had to drift of into the pursuit of knowledge but I am furious that it has all gone away.
Now I cannot read a book without having to get up and do something after twenty minutes. I become aggravated, nervous and I am distracted by these demons that seem to be hovering over me and disrupting my concentration. My thoughts begin to race and I struggle to stay focused upon what ever story or non-fiction work I have chosen to read. But no sooner than I can get past a few pages is there the loud voices of little demons that whisper scary things into my ears and poke sharp objects into my chest making me fearful what might happen next. I try to tune them out and push them away with positive visualizations or a smile- but they are ferocious and do not easily relent.
I know nothing good lasts forever, but there are still so many books left that I want to read. I want to return to that time when I could read peacefully for hours, day upon day- without the little brats whispering in my ear: “is your heart beating irregularly?” or “shouldn’t you be doing something more constructive.” Some times these little demons keep shouting things at me like “watch out, watch out- your head might explode!!” or “run, run, run for your life…death is coming, ha ha!!” My own inner monologue is not loud enough to silence these intruding voices and rather than continuing to read I give up and go do something else.
I have not been able to read a book from front to back for months. These little intrusive demons are getting the best of me. They also sneak into my head when I go for walks and drive my car. If I am not constantly reciting a mantra in my mind or singing a song- they will sneak into my silence and cause me great anxiety and grief. The little demons are wearing me down, forcing me to drink more wine and taking me away from the one thing that has always been of great importance to me- my intellectual life.
Without my practice of diligent daily reading my intellectual acumen has become as watered down as a cheap cocktail. I have not been able to think or write upon the great themes of philosophical dialectics or cultural theory like I had once planned upon doing. I have not been able to write great novels that compare with the best of works by Tolstoy, Kafka or Bernhard. I have not been able to go into my career as an honorable college professor who specializes in Ontology and Samuel Beckett. Rather- to defend myself against these little demons and attempt to save my own life I have had to go towards the New Age. I have had to practice meditation, do Yoga, recite mantras and start wearing beads and stones to defend myself against negative energy. I have had to seek out healers and been told by many that I must get out of my mind and start to become more grounded in my body. The very thing that I put so much work into cultivating has become my demise. My intellect has become the very portal from which these demons can access my nervous brain causing me such scary afflictions as to make me consider taking medication. These voices and disruptions get louder and louder every day- if it continues I may send out invitations to my own beheading.
photograph by Keith Purdy.