If the people in my high school had been told I would end up as a mad house Librarian, no one would have been a bit surprised. I felt pretty pleased stuck in a mad house and I manage to get my own office and I didn’t have to bite anyone for it.
I had a nice trickle of people coming in to check out the new library. I’m pretty good at picking out the right book for the right person so everyone left with a book and a smile. By the second week people began asking if they could volunteer to work in the library.
“Why sure.” I say and soon had my little library staffed with four assistants. It wasn’t long at all before I had the library running exactly as I wanted. That is my assistants did all the actual work, scheduling everyone setting the library hours keeping track of who had what book. I popped in and sat at my desk and read books and broke the no coffee in the library rule whenever the mood struck me.
“Mind if I come in?” Burt looks in the library door way waiting for me to invite him in.
From the moment I unlocked the library door this has been a staff free zone. It’s not like I ever told them they weren’t invited. They just don’t come in. I mean ever. Some boxes of used books were donated. The boxes were left for me in the activity room. I had never thought about it till seeing Burt standing there in the door way asking my permission to come in. In the midst of the MHRF it would seem I had created a small fiefdom of smurfs, and somehow entrance to the kingdom required my permission
“Why sure, come on in.” (Open borders here no visa required)
“I had some time and thought we could talk.”
“Why sure. Grab a seat.”
And so me at seated at my desk and the therapist on one of the library’s small couches we begin a conversation.
We get the ordinary pleasantries out of the way, how are you doing? Nice day, that sort of thing. Then the ritual of friendly greeting talk out of the way he dives in.
“Do you know what fixated delusions are?
“Ohh that’s a tricky one. After all there have been whole huge long books written about the subject. But I guess I would say, very broadly speaking, that a delusion is any internalized system of subjective belief that is inconsistent with external objective observable reality
Delusions would be called pathological when the internalized subjective reality is so divergent from external observable, objective, reality that it is harmful to the individual holding that belief and potentially harmful to others around them.
A delusion would be called fixated when that internalized subjective belief is held completely apart from any contravening external reality.
Does that about cover it?” I give him my very best innocent eye lash batting cute little girl expression.
He blinks at me, twice.
“Is that something you’ve read somewhere?”
“Ho, do you mean have I been nicking down to you office to take crib notes from the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders; just so I could impress you with a level of erudition that I do not in fact posses?”
I think he decided to grow a beard because he blushes too easily.
“That’s not what I meant.”
It was, but heck it’s not like he’s the first to assume that I read books just for the pictures.
“You've seen the DSM?”
(Just the pop up version)
“Yes there was a copy of it in my high school library. I spent a few very amusing study periods diagnosing my class mates and teachers. Not a sane one in the bunch if the book is to be believed. Course as I recall, sanity was the first word I tried to look up and was surprised to find it wasn’t in there. Odd isn’t it? Every other medical text book will define what a healthy organ looks like and how it functions before listing all the things that can go wrong.
I guess for you psychiatrics sanity is like pornography.”
“Pornography?” He replies in scandalized tones.
“Yes. You may not be able to define it. But you know it when you see it.”
He laughs, a little nervously. A person unteathered from their expectations are never made comfortable by the experience.
“So Burt, would you like to hear about the time I met God?”
I smile with a merry little glimmer in my eyes, which of course Burt completely misinterprets as the manic glint of madness. He leans back in his chair and crosses his legs, tilting his clipboard up a bit shield like.
“Hmm yes that would be fine.”
Yeh he’s been expecting this. I’ve been luring him in with all seeming rationality then the mask slips and the madness peaks through.
I take a sip from my coffee and begin the tale.
“I was at a party. Now as a rule I don’t enjoy parties. I find that the more people you stuff into a room the lower the overall IQ becomes. People seem to gather together to play loud horrible music just so they can join together in celebration of mutual stupidity. But I was bored so I went to a party.
This was a party attended by art students and others similarly afflicted with very high opinions of themselves. I took my drink and settled into a quiet corner of the room. A life time as the party’s cranky wall flower I always know where the quiet corner of the room is. I have an unfailing homing instinct.
I stood in my corner sipping my drink when a young man slid into my corner of solitude. He was playing with his brand new palm pilot. He pauses from his busy thumb twiddling and looked over to me with a cocky grin.
“I’m God you know.” He said with all the seriousness of a first year philosophy major.”
“Ohh really?” I said and smiled. I have met many men who thought they were God of course but he was the first one to say so.
“Yes,” He said.
He explained to me that he was indeed God the all mighty everlasting the alpha and omega. He was just pretending to be human and mortal with all mortalities pains and ill’s as a divergence from the shear desperate boredom of it all.
Apparently omniscient eternity has it’s draw backs’
He further explained to me that he as God the big G hadn’t actually created anything or anyone. It was all just an amusing dream he was indulging in.
“Hmm so, I am nothing more than a dream your having? I don’t really exist?” I said and smiled my Cheser Cat smile.
“That’s right.” He said, completely confident in his own cleverness.
I thought about that for a heart beat or two. Then I slapped his face.
When I reach this point in the tale I leaned forward and slapped the palms of my hands together dramatizing the event. Burt jerked back in his chair looking startled, as if I had just slapped his face.
“Why did you do that?” Burt asked me.
“You know, that is exactly what god asked me.
“Why did you do that?” His hand massaging his offended cheek.
“What did you tell him?” Burt asks
“I said. Because apparently God, is a masochist.”
Burt blinks twice and leans further back on the couch and try’s to laugh. Poor dear isn’t sure if I just told a joke or revealed my insanity.
“Umm, I thought you were going to say that the pain proved that he wasn’t God.”
“No Burt, remember he said he was dreaming that he was mortal. So any pain he ‘felt’ was just part of his amusing daydream.”
“You see Burt, if I don’t exist, if I am just a projection of his mind, a part of his dream, then any action ‘I’ take is nothing but his own responsibility. The dream doesn’t dream the dreamer.”
“So, hmmm, do you think you really met God?”
“Well Burt the existence of God or gods is a matter for which there is no empirical proof. I would like to think that if God the big G were to appear to me that he would be something a bit more impressive. On the other hand I rather like the idea that I slapped the face of God. Jacob wrestled with an angel but I slapped the face of God. Yeh I like it.”
“We started this discussion with the definition of delusion. A definition that relies on the idea that an objective view of reality exists. For there to be an objective view there must be an objective viewer. The tree cannot have an objective view of the forest. In order to view the forest one must be standing outside of the forest. We are each of us an individual subjective consciousness existing within the structures of Einstein’s E=Mc2 space time. So the very idea that there is such a thing as an objective view of reality presupposes the idea of an observer that has to exist outside of space/time. For lack of a better term, God.”
“So you do believe in God?”
“I’m equally comfortable with the scientific view, that all appearances to the contrariety nothing is real.”
“Nothing is real is the scientific view?”
“Ohh yes quite so. Everything we think of as real is in fact real only if we don’t look too closely. The closer you look at anything the less real it becomes.
I place the palm of my hand flat down on the table.
“You see my hand on the table, you see the hand and the table as two distinct solid objects. On the atomic level solid disappears as a useful definition of anything. Atoms are not solid. There is so little actual stuff in an atom that if our solar system were an atom it would be considerably denser than an atom of lead.
On the atomic level separate like solid no longer means anything. My hand and the table are even now exchanging atoms, I am a little bit more table than I was and the table is a little bit more me. You cannot on that scale draw a line between any two objects, nothing is separate.
On the sub atomic scale things get even stranger, with bits of matter becoming real only when you look at them then you look away and poof it’s gone.. Which as a rational man you know is no way for any real thing to behave.
While your trying to get the very teeniest of things to behave properly you are going to have to scold the universe at the macro level for also disregarding all reason. Black holes are fun and wonderfully dramatic but you really want to start a food fight at a convention of physicists ask them, ‘So what’s this dark matter and where did it go?’ You see in order for our universe to be the shape it is, traveling at the speed it is, at the age it is, our universe needs to be bigger than it is..’Honey our universe is missing’,. Some estimates have gone as high as ninety percent. Imagine that, ninty percent of our universe isn’t there,, and no one knows where it all went.
So you see most of everything that should be here isn’t and of that little bit that is here, is here only some of the time. Like a grand joke, everything is playing peek-a-boo with us.
Speaking of reality, Burt, How do I know that you are real?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well as you knowI am perversely convinced that Boccie and his merry band of drug dealing nitwits spent an unreasonable amount of time making a total nuisance of themselves. I base this belief on information I received from my senses. That which I see, that which I hear and feel, I didn’t get much in the way of useful information from my sense of smell in this case. Other than the fact that Boccie uses Polo, which is information though not I think in anyway useful.
You are ‘real’ to me in the same way that Boccie is ‘real’. I can see you, I can hear you, I can reach out my hand and touch you.
You tell me that I have apparently lost my ability to correctly interpret information I receive from my senses. That being so, logically than I have no way of knowing if you are in fact ‘real’ or not. If I can dream up Boccie and his merry men than I certainly have imagination enough to dream you up.”
“I assure you that I am real.” He smiles.
“Yes, well, that’s no proof. It is the nature of a delusion to insist on it’s own reality is it not?” Burt is looking a bit punch drunk. This is not at all the way he imagined things going.
“It is an interesting problem. How do you prove your own existence? I think there for I am but does that mean that you are too? Maybe I just think you do.”
“Don’t look so worried Burt, my current theory of reality includes you as ‘real’. As real as anything can be in a universe where nothing is real anyway. If you should take it into your head to rudely poof out of existence I will of course have to re-evaluate my theory.”
“Speaking of re-evaluating theories,” Burt pauses, “ Do you ever consider the idea that you may be wrong about what happened?”
“Ohh all the time. I think I have most definitely been uncertain about everything up to now.”
“Except that you have said that your are sure Boccie has been trying to kill you.”
“That is definitely my theory. The definition of a theory is; This is the best explanation we can come up with to fit the facts as we know them. Now you want to go changing a theory, you don’t do it cause some yogurt tells you to. Every theory is subject to change, given a new explanation that better fits the facts or new facts.
In this case we have two competing theories. For simplicity sake we can call theory A the Boccie is an Ass theory; and theory B; The I am a crazy person theory. Of course there is also the possibility that both theories are true. Though that would hopelessly complicate everything wouldn’t it?
We both have a problem in that there is no way to either prove nor disprove theory A. Of course I can’t help but feel I do have more in the way of information for proving theory A then you do for disproving theory A. after all I actually did live in the apartment building that quite verifiably belongs to Boccie. You, on the other hand haven’t even driven by the building in question nor ever met boccie. So for theory A I have some verifiable facts, I was there you wernt, so my default position here is to go with the theory that I have some evidence for. However imperfect.
You, on the other hand have no evidence what so ever either for or against theory A. Your default position here is for you to disbelieve any theory you have no evidence for.
Since theory A can neither be proven nor disproven that leaves us with theory B. Here I would say we have a bit of a logic problem The theory that I am a crazy person is largely dependent upon the idea that theory A is not true and that I am a crazy person because I believe that theory A is true.
You ever hear of this guy David Ickk?” I ask him.
“Oh man I love this guy. He was an English sports tv and radio talking head. Then one day he wakes up and has a revelation.
The world is secretly being controlled by shape shifting lizards from another dimension. Apparently we are a sort of cattle ranch for the lizards, and they have a taste for veal. Prominent member of this carnivorous shape shifting community include the Queen of England and all her big eared progeny, George Bush and all the little shrubs and Ross Perot. (Now me I always imagined Ross Perot as the Amazing chicken man.)
I would call his beliefs delusional. His books have sold in the millions world wide. Go figure. I don’t like George Bush but I’m almost one hundred percent sure he isn’t a lizard.
While it isn’t possible to either prove or disprove that George Bush is a shape shifting lizard, we can say that in order for George Bush to be an interdimensional carnivorous shape shifting lizard just about everything we think we know about the way things are is pretty much completely wrong.
Call this the not all theories are created equal theory. A theory is that which is unproved, but not all unproved things are equally improbable. Some things are more improbable than others.”
“How probable than is it that all these people were trying to kill you? Why you?” He asks me.
“Why me? Well now isn’t that just about the most common and most useless question a therapist is ever asked.” I laugh.
“What do you mean?”
“Why me? Everytime someone stubbes their toe it’s all, why me? Why me? I’m a nice person, I treat people good, I don’t cheat steal or break any of the major commandments/ Why me? Like we made some kind of deal with God. I’ll be a good person and God will be nice to me, or at least not really really crappy. How anyone could read the bible and come to that conclusion is beyond me.
“Why hast thou forsaken me?” The dyeing words of his own son, nailed to a cross in a bone yard. Why hast thou forsaken me? Which is just fancy bible talk for ‘Why me God?”
You know I think the only one in the entire bible who didn’t whine why me was Job. And boy did that guy have reason to bitch.
Job is a good and righteous man. He is a pillar of the community, business leader, rich, devoted family man with several wives and ten kids and he is devoted to God.
One day God and the Devil are out shooting the breeze when God decides to do a bit of bragging on his boy Job. So he goes on and on extolling the virtues of his boy Job, Kind, thrifty, generous reverent, blah, blah, blah.
The Devil has about had it with the endless recitation of a boring man’s virtues, yawns and says.
“Yeh well it’s no wonder he is such a good guy and loves the shit out of you. You give the guy everything his heart desires don’t you? Six years old and he is the only kid in the village who actually got a pony for his birthday. I tell you what, the first time things don’t go his way he’ll turn on you so fast it will make your head spin.
Your on says God.
The first thing they did was destroy the guys businesses. His crops withered in the fields, his herds die, his cargo ships sink, his caravans get swallowed by the desert. From the richest guy in town to the guy begging the beggars for a place to sit, overnight..
Did he curse God? Did he whine why me? No he did not.
God has given me the blessings of my family what man could want more. He told any who wanted to hear.
Yeh so you know what came next. Big family gathering around the dinner table and while Job is out back praising God for the blessings of his family, down came this big ol’ tornado and thwack all his family gone at one blow.
Did he curse God? Did he whine why me?
Nor sir he did not.
‘What God has given is his right to take away. It is not mine to question the mind or will of God.’
By this time of course his friends and neighbors leapt to his aid, with a never ending stream of neighborly advice.
‘You must have done something to really piss off God.’ Someone said and they all exchanged speculative glances. And rite put out they were too when Job refused to flatter their speculations with some terrible confession.
I always got the idea that Job’s neighbors had always thought of him something of a smug git and were not all that unhappy to see him brought so low.
No matter how bad it gets it can always get worse. Job is affected with boils. Puss filled stinking painful itching boils.
‘Well its not all bad’ says Job. ‘ I stink so bad now my friends have stopped dropping by with advice.’
The Devil finally concedes defeat.
Job the man who frustrated the Devil by never asking why me.
“So umm, you think God did this to you?” Burt asks.
“No, I think I rented an apartment from a complete Dick. A not entirely unique occurrence in the world.”
“Having your landlord trying to kill you is unusual.” He says.
“Excessive, I would say. Look I do see where your coming from here. I mean really, drug dealers, hired killers, microphones, carmeras, booby traps ohhh my. And all of them all these people focusing all that time and attention on me, ,me, me, me, mememememe. It does seem more then just a tad self aggrandizing.
Why did all those people so completely lose their sense of perspective in regards to me? Honestly, I don’t know. I guess they take it badly when a woman tells them to fuck off.
I almost got myself killed because I just couldn’t believe thatt hese people were serious. I mean come on guys, I’m a flibertegibbit a clown a fool, for anyone to take me as any kind of threat.. Well the world just reversed course and the sun is rising in the west.
A better question in my opinion would be : Why not me?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why not me? It’s a perfectly simple question. Why is it impossible for the things I have talked about in theory A, Boccie is an Ass., to have happened to me?”
“There is a woman in England who went out for a walk one day and had her toe looped off by a small meteorite. Now go ahead and figure the odds of that. Losing ones toe to a bit of falling space rock is pretty statistically unlikely. But just because that something is improbable does not make it impossible.
Christopher Columbus did’t think the world was round while everyone else though it flat. Christopher Columbus thought the world was considerably smaller than it is. Till the end of his days he was convinced that he had landed on some obstructing island or chain of islands between Europe and his goal of India. Believing a thing to be true that turns out to be false, does not necessarily mean your delusional. You could just be really bad at geometry.
Ok, lets say that you are talking on the phone to a woman in England who claims that her toe was lopped off by a meteorite. There is no way for you to confirm that the woman is telling the truth. What we can say is that in the world we know, humans females most often do have toes, women with toes do go out for walks, we can also say that meteorites do fall out of the sky. As unlikely as it is for a bit of space rock to lop off someone’s toe it is possible for such a thing to have happened without doing any damage to our view of the way things are.
Now lets look at the theory that George Bush is a shape changing lizard. First off, shape changing, there has so far been no evidence that such a thing is possible, and that whole conservation of mass and energy thing would have to be completely rethought. Intelligent lizards from an alternate dimension, we have no evidence for so much as an extraterrestrial protozoa, heck at this point scientists would be thrilled to find so much as a gleam in a complex chain of sugars and proteins eye. As to alternate dimensions where intelligent where intelligent life exists and have the desire and ablility to travel, there is not a single shred of evidence for.
Therefor the theory that George Bush is a shape shifting lizard is a theory completely unsupported by any evidence. If the theory were true then much of our understanding of the world that we as a species have built up over the past few thousand years of thought and testing is false or at least so wildly inaccurate that I would have a hard time believing that people so disconnected from the way things actually are could survive much longer than a week or two.
So while the theory that George Bush is a lizard can neither be proved nor disproved one can say that the theory is so dependant on so many improbabilities, so much unending of our understanding of the world and how it works, I feel quite safe discounting that particular theory as delusional.
Now looking at my Theory that Boccie is an Ass.
In the world we know do mobsters and organized crime exist? Well I would have to say yes. Or every newspaper in the country has been making up shit for years just to sell papers. Hmm maybe that’s a bad example.”
Burt laughs, but agrees to the premise that the mafia does indeed exist.
“Do people involved in organized crime indulge in violently antisocial behavior? Do they actually kill people? I would have to say that the evidence is that they do. The other things I spoke about, hidden mics, cameras, even the idiotic bobby trap under my floor, all of it entirely possible. We know that such things do exist.”
“People are killed with remote controlled guns under floors?” He asks me.
“There are robots that seek out and defuse landmines, there is even a new sport for tech geeks. Battle ‘bots. The geeks gettogether and build combate robots then fight them together in the gladiatorial ring. It is no great feat of techno legerdemain to rig a gun to a remote controlled ATV. As to planting the fool thing under my floor to kill me in bed, well the Mossad once killed a guy by blowing up his bed. The CIA tried to poison Castros cigars. I should be happy they didn’t try to poison my everyday cigarettes. Now that would have been half way smart. I bought my ciggs in the same place and there are poisons one can use that would appear like a heart attack and lets face it, my death in anything other than circumstances of head line grabbing uniqueness would not have occasioned enough interest for a full autopsy.
It isn’t possible to prove what did happen, but we can say that no part of the Boccie is an ass theory violates our understanding of the world and the things in it. Add to that the fact that the building I lived in, specifically the empire massage business that occupied the entire second floor, was featured in a lengthy article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian regarding the connection between drugs, street gangs, organized crime and massage parlors. While not in any way proof that anything I say happened there actually happened I would say that it certainly pushes the entire theory out of the completely improbable category and into the merely unlikely. People are not often bitten by sharks but it does happen. Such a thing is more likely to happen to someone scuba diving off the great barrier reef then to someone panning for gold in death valley.”
Before Burt headed off to fill out forms and paperwork he asked if I would like to attend the weekly patient’s council.
“It’s where the patients can bring up issues and discuss things that would make the hospital better for them.”
“Ohh lord,” I sigh and roll my eyes. Politics.”
And then I reconsider.
“Well now that I think of it, I do have a thing or two to bring up. Fine I’ll be there.”
(How politics could be viewed as a therapeutically beneficial activity for the mentally ill I really can’t say.)