Aceeid!

Just before sitting down to write this post, I ingested a cocktail of diphenhydramine, guaifenesin and levomenthol.

It’s not as exciting as it sounds

[If it’s excitement you want, sign up for the apoplectic.me tiny letter distribution here.]

Yeah, the inside of my skull feels dry, but it’s not that exciting. I don’t think the cough syrup will trigger any incredible insights for the blog.

As it happens, I’ve never taken any psychedelic drugs, notwithstanding the convincing argument for their controlled use in the essay opening Ian MacDonald’s Beatles book, Revolution In The Head.And I probably never will, given my status as the proud owner of two fortuitously smooth 2mm brain aneurysms in the shape of Cheetos.

They don’t look that smooth

I’ve been in a car driving down Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, dozily thinking I’m on Edinburgh’s Ferry Road.  I have a memory my from stroke-induced hospital stay — I forget if I was in Methodist Hospital or The Hospital For Joint Disease — of lying in a boat travelling down the Nile, sweating profusely under a head bandage and being accosted by mosquitoes. Oh, and the JV Squad’s production of Party In The USA! during this year’s Edinburgh Fringe was entertainingly trippy.

Neverthless, this does suggest a worryingly insubstantial amount of research for a story I’d like to write about a guy who drops some acid. The idea is, he’ll be looking at his hands and they’ll be subject to a bunch of my straight guy clichés of hallucination. Growing longer, changing colour, vibrating. Then the vibrations become more intense, spreading to the rest of his body until the vibrations are so violent he splits into two versions of himself. These two protagonists, and a number of further duplicates, then find themselves in a parable concerning choice, predestination, chaos, fate, parallel universes and this like.

Yeah, I know films like Primer have strayed into this kind of territory before, but hopefully there’s something fun to say. Blog favourite J.G. Ballard felt, after all, that to write about the world in an interesting and relevant way as early as the Twentieth Century meant to write a form of science fiction.

Goop on The Persistence of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide in the Plasma of Human Subjects (1998)

Not unlike my Nile fugue, I woke up at 5 a.m. the other morning, quite disoriented. The curtain was open, and it was already bright. I was aware that we were already almost slipping into September. The autumnal equinox was approaching. Soon my birthday and my second Strokiversary will have passed. It feels like we are on the downhill side of 2014, and time is picking up speed.

An unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time. Or some cheese.

Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth likes to check the depth of the drill holes in my skull. Among other things, they’re a reminder of the impossible experiences we’ve survived together over the past couple of years. As I lay in bed and time stretched and contracted, I put my fingers to my head and imagined time pooling in the divots. Not unlike (or, entirely unlike) the matter flowing down density ropes and gathering in node-like wells and discussed by Friendoftheblogpaul in the comments to The Case Of The Peculiar Details.

I awoke, fascinated again by time, and resolved to learn more about it. Of course, Melvyn Bragg has discussed time on BBC Radio 4 with very smart people Dr Neil Johnson and Professor Lee Smolin  on In Our Time. This very late Twentieth Century episode of the blog’s go-to guide for the ununderstandable begins with a quote from the beginning of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, in which the author imagines travelling through time:

The palpitation of night and day merged into one continuous greyness; the sky took on a wonderful deepness of blue, a splendid luminous colour like that of early twilight; the jerking sun became a streak of fire, a brilliant arch in space

I think that’s brilliant.

But not a hair out of place

In another story I’d like to write, things take a turn — for the worse, I think — when the protagonist stops celebrating his deathday. That is, the day on which he died but came back to life on the operating table. But do anniversaries have any meaning when, as Neil Johnson puts it, there is no universal clock in the sky reflecting Newtonian time? When time is relative to the observer, and even different at the subatomic level of that observer? Am I doomed to feel my divots disappear and stop celebrating Strokeversary? f course, but it turns that notwithstanding Paul’s cheeky remark that physics has been “ruining it for everyone since 1675!” science runs to the rescue.

On In Our Time, Lee Smolin refutes the claim that time is intuitive; we just think it is. We have an intuition of causality, and of irreversibility, and of how we throw a ball. Which of these intuitions of “time” finds a deeper meaning. All of them? None of them? Well, it turns out intuition and its guide to certainties is problematic.

Intuition is not a thing we are born into…. Anyone who wants to, I think, can learn relativity theory and your intuition about time genuinely changes — you undergo a transformation; you are a different person when you learn relativity. Which is something I recommend to everybody.

Sitting comfortably, kids?

Consider what the compilers of the In Our Time archive have written in the précis of Time:

“But at my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near and yonder all before us lie deserts of vast eternity” – Marvel wrote that of love, but it could be our epigraph for time.

Not an epigraph, maybe, but a celebration. Friendoftheblogandy wishes his friends on Facebook shabbat shalom each week. I hope he won’t mind me reproducing some of his associated words here:

Although, a week is a valuable period to reflect, refresh and renew, it’s not a formulaic pattern. That wouldn’t acknowledge reality. There are other cycles, over less predictable time frames that each of us experience. I am grateful to have you in my life.

As I reflect on Andy’s thought, it seems to me that the solution to my conundrum is to celebrate Strokeversary — that is, the potential of life and learning, and my accumulated good luck in being able to imagine a life of potential — on Strokeversary and every day.

Peace be with you; thank you for reading.

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6 thoughts on “Aceeid!

  1. Ahh time. I wonder when people say “I wish I had more time” if they mean that. But anywhooz

    There’s the physics time. Smolin will do a nice job I’m sure. Arrow of time. Entropy increases. Future and past not symmetric. All that stuff. And that reflects in our life. Throw a box of sand in the air and sand everywhere. Throw a pile of sand in the air and have it land in a box. Miracle.

    But I agree that time is social. Harvests. Day and night. Diurnal clocks. Biorhythms and cycles. All that mushy wetware bio stuff I never learned but is real.

    So it has a direction and it has a pace and it has, due to our growing up on earth which has a rotation and orbit, a cyclicality. And that makes anniversaries something which make sense. Especially considering the deminimus amount of time which constitutes a lifespan, on any relevant astrological scale.

    So I dunno what to say. I will end my comment with what I immediately thought when I read your blog today. If you are talking about cough syrup, perhaps we should get together and mix up some flaming moes.

    P.S. I would have never know that was pond in guardians (which I also liked a lot) were it not for your tinyletter, so thanks!

    1. I suspect they don’t (mean that they wished they had more time). One of the performance poets we saw at the Book Festival related a Yuletide conversation with her grandmother.

      — Aren’t you having a good time, grandma?
      — I’m bored of Christmases. I wish I was dead.

      But using time is a challenge. I believe they’ve done the research backing up the theories that people on their deathbeds think, “I wish I’d spent more time with my friends loved ones,” not “I wish I’d worked harder.” But clearly, that’s not a simple calculation. The complications could fill a blog post. Working my tail off seems to have left room for recovery that might not otherwise have been available, for example.

      You know, I haven’t seen Flaming Moe’s, but it sounds awesome. Will have to fire up the Hulu/Netflix/summat.

      Thanks for picking up my poorly disguised Profsignal. I’m reminded that there may be a spot for your demonstration of differing infinities in the second story. But only if it can be done sans crowbar.

  2. The teasers of your two stories excite me – for respectively different reasons.

    The time/deathday story – because of the premise.

    The hallucinatory story – because of the imagery. My eternally-on-my-mind-but-not-often-on-my-fingertips novel has a lot of similar situations; i.e. story from the perspective of a main character in a state of mind altered by a combination of substances and progressively worsening mental/emotional health.

    I’m actually trying to devote the majority of this month to revising short stories and as much of the novel as possible. Hopefully, I’ll actually be able to keep my time free for these writing pursuits. Time is not my friend.

    1. Hey, Ron. Thanks for sharing that. It’s exciting that you’re excited.

      I hope you’re successful in keeping aside time for this writing. Not least because I’d love to see some of the results. If you have any down time (!), and bearing in mind the thin line between influence/inspiration and being whacked out of originality, Patrick McGrath is a master of the sort of narrative your novel outline suggests. It’s been a long time, but if Dr. Haggard’s Disease is half as good as I remember, you may find it worth checking out.

      All the best. We think of you, and speak of our trip to visit you, often.

  3. I’ve browsed the write-ups of Dr. Haggard’s Disease. That’s DEFINITELY going on my to-read list and right up at the top.

    Massive similarities between the premise of and narration of my novel and premise + narration for Dr. Haggard’s Disease. Completely different genre though – but I would love a masterful “modern gothic”.

    Based on a few online searches, it doesn’t look like it’s on the shelves of any bookstores here. I can easily get them to special order it though.

    1. Good good. Sadly, I don’t think my copy has survived multiple move culls, or I’d send it to ya right now. Gotta make room for Ron’s Unreliably Narrated Novel Of Undisclosed Genre.

      Intiguing….

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