Saturday, November 12, 2011


Assuming everyone is like me, it takes a long time to process bad things. Something that is unprecedentedly bad in your experience can bring your mind to a screeching halt.

When something bad happens, it's like getting a relative amount of garbage dumped on your mental landscape. Just like in real life, this garbage needs to be sorted: waste in one pile, glass in another, paper in another, and plastic in another. We need to be able to make complete sense out of it before we can move away from it and feel satisfied. The amount of time spent hindering a brain depends on what the bad thing is and whom it is happening to. Suffice it to say, the more unbelievable and unthinkable the incident is to you, the bigger the waste will be.

Someone's laziness at work makes you stay late = a wastepaper basket dumped on your brain.
Someone hits your car in the parking lot and runs away = a trash can emptied on your daydream.
Girlfriend cheats on you = dump truck unloading while you're trying to articulate your master's thesis.

You get the idea. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, real life problems trump your attempts at synthesis. The more we are exposed to human crappiness, the more quickly we can process and believe what has happened, and the more quickly we can move on. We should all be pros at this by our mid-twenties. However, every once in a while, the perfect circumstances line up and we get hit with something so unusual, so inconceivable that all extraneous thinking is suspended indefinitely until a fundamental understanding is achieved. A landfill gets torn open and you're now swimming in its contents.

Your brain is a tough customer; it knows when things aren't right and it keeps pushing you until you fix it. Fortunately, your brain also understands your limits and knows when to give you a break... but it NEVER gives up on a project until it's finished. Being faced with a virtual mountain of garbage, your brain won't let your thoughts go in any other direction until you have your piles started. "This is where the waste goes, I'll pile it here. This is where the plastic goes..." etc. Once you've put a small dent in the mountain, your brain can start picking away at it subconsciously, although it will require your full attention from time to time. The bigger the mystery surrounding the garbage, the longer it will take you and your brain to sort it into piles. This means more time devoted away from your productive and recreational thinking and onto the giant pile of garbage.

As you may have guessed, I am constructing somewhat of an allegory about specific experiences that I have had that I assume are universal. I can remember when it happened. I attempted to start a textbook to take my mind off of what was happening. I would get about 2/3 down the first page before I would realize that I had no idea what I had read. 15 or so failed attempts at the first page and I decided to give in and think about what was going on. Over time, the more I pieced together about the situation, the more I could focus on other things. The less work there was to do on the pile of garbage the more time my brain would allow me to spend as I pleased.

Here I am now, over 6 months past the initial incident, and I believe I have an understanding of the situation that I can accept. The problem is, the lack of dialogue has forced me to make assumptions, ones that I have accepted as truth. While thinking about these gaps in information that I have had no choice but to fill with guesses, I realized that when I am picking away at the garbage and sorting it, what I am really doing is figuring out the other half of the conversation. If the source of the infliction doesn't speak, then they force the other party to figure out what they have to say. What could be accomplished in hours through dialogue is drawn out for months, or longer, with needless guessing.

Of course, refusal of dialog generally goes hand in hand with shame and guilt. Pride and cowardice usually can be found to be driving harmful inaction. Indifference is often projected to mask the deficiencies in character.

I suppose this is the plight of the strong; they sort the waste of the weak.

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