It’s really hard to fall asleep when your body is so tired it refuses to shut down. This is how I’ve been for most of the week fighting a viral infection. It began in earnest enough that I didn’t pay too much attention to it. But knowing how I’ve been stressed out over the last several months, and how I had already been contending with my body since October, I definitely took notice of it.
The rage it which it hit me completely took me by surprise. From a simple cough that began on Monday became increasingly bothersome by Tuesday. By Wednesday night, I was so weak I couldn’t prop myself up. And by Friday, I was lying in bed almost lifeless, with barely a pulse on me. I thought to myself, “How is it even possible for me still be in a state of consciousness when I can’t even find my pulse?”
The exhaustion has been incredible to bear. I had gone to the Emergency Room mid-week, and after all the tests, they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. After some IV drips and pain medication to help alleviate my body ache, they sent me home to rest. But I wasn’t any better. The infection continued to hit me like a demolition boulder, and I tried my best to fight it.
The very last thing you expect is for your mind to begin slipping. So not only do you have to deal with the fact that your body is trying to fight the infection, but you also have to deal the fact that you might lose your sanity. Although your brain would go blank, somehow you begin to exhibit strange behaviors that you felt you needed to do so instinctually, like constantly humming a nondescript tune. I said to somebody later that I thought my brain was trying to process something. I guess I was right, because the dreams that could have easily verged on being visions came to you in your slumber. And it plays with your logic, because the images it presented was so specific to the context of a previous event in your life.
The combination of exhaustion and delirium easily sent me into an emotional tailspin. Feeling exhausted was difficult. Constantly trying to keep your mind focused and centered so that you just don’t end up being forever lost inside your own mind was an added work.
I spent most of the past week either in bed, sleeping, or watching television. Specifically watching the science fiction show Fringe. The show has easily become my favorite one on television. I had just begun to go back and watch the show from the very beginning again. It gave me a way to center my mind this past week. To keep my brain in focus and active. And it was a great way to stay inactive enough for my body to recover. I was watching so much of it—and sleeping—that I lost all conception of time.
Going back to the beginning to watch the show has been a really wonderful experience. I ended up noticing many little things that were included in the stories from the first season that foreshadowed things that came later in the show a couple of seasons later. Somehow, having watched the show at first sitting with no context of how the storyline would evolve, I now recognize things that I had passed on many things that I only now recognize because I have been following the story for four years. I read somewhere that the writers of the show had been working backward with the entire storyline. It seems they already have the ending figured out, and now they’re just writing from the very beginning, adding clues and things along the way that would point out to something else that will even happen in future stories.
I love Fringe particularly for its references to ideas in Physics. That has really grown into a favorite subject for me to think about. While I obviously understand that it’s science fiction, the show asks these fundamental questions that I have always asked about, namely the ideas of reality and destiny. Both were questions that I began to ask at some point in my life, recognizing and observing how strangely my life has turned out since I was 23. I have always seen that as a marker year in my life. There is a bit of a spiritual experience tied to it, obviously, that happened during that very last trip back to Thailand twelve years ago. But we won’t go too much into that right now.
There are moments when I watch the show that I would think about Philip K. Dick. Dick, to me, was always living in one alternate reality or another, all the while having his home base right in the bowels of Orange County. Sometimes, as I watch the show, I will joking say that certain things that happen in Fringe parallel things that happen in my life.
Being in a state of delirium, attempting to not slip out of my own sanity, fighting the infection to exhaustion, and watching the show, thinking how it’s messages are relevant to me, all of it makes me think of Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle. There was a certain point in my life when my state of my mind wasn’t so dissimilar to where I was this entire week. The only book I seem to remember being able to finish at the time was The Man in the High Castle.
The story is of an alternate reality where the United States and the Allies had lost World War II. The Nazis and the Japanese have now occupied parts of the United States. But there is a man who lives in the high castle who wrote a book called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which tells the alternate story of how the Allies had actually won the war. The protagonists in Dick’s story paid a visit to this Man in the High Castle, and the story ended by posing the question “What is reality?”
Watching Fringe, and always connecting back to The Man in the High Castle, I often amusingly ask, “Is J.J. Abrams that man in the high castle for me? Will, at some point in the future, my true destiny will be revealed through the plot points in the show?” Sometimes living with the psychosis of Orange County rightly ends up fueling your own psychosis. Somehow I believe you now realize that I can relate to Philip K. Dick just fine.
• • •
The true test of my cognitive ability this week has been Henri Lefebvre. As I was going in and out of my state of delirium, as I was navigating through the slippages of my mind, I was attempting to read Lefebvre’s essay Reflections on the Politics of Space. I had been thinking this week about a couple of things regarding space: the psychology that is created within us as we navigate through different types of spaces, and the different kinds of repressions that get created by different types of spaces—namely Cities versus Suburbia—based on the architectures and forms specific to those spaces.
The essay is easy enough to follow. And definitely short enough to read in one sitting. But in the state of mind of constantly slipping in and out of insanity, and attempting to pull myself back toward the center, this seemingly short and simple essay became a real task. I was only able to go through a couple of pages at a time, if even that. Those couple of pages were enough of a workout for my brain that I had to constantly go to my bed to rest from being tired.
• • •
Obviously as you can discern from the seeming lucidity of this post, I should be well on my way back. I had to revisit the doctor, because my infection had gone to my chest. I had started wheezing at some point this weekend. I was given a shot and a very strong course of medication, on top of the already strong course and shot of antibiotic that I was given. But being able to intelligently form lengthy thoughts after my state of mind this week is a good thing. I have moved on to thinking about Michel Foucault, blazing through the first volume of The History of Sexuality—which I had read in art school (or so the underlined pencil marks in the book seem to be reminding me)—to continue my thoughts, and picking up History of Madness—because it just seems apt.
The truth is you shouldn’t try to figure out any of my logics for any particular given moment. By the time you have it figured out, I’m probably doing some other weird connections on something else. When was the last time the people who knows me truly understand anything I say anyway? The answer is almost never.
So now to talk about weird logical connections: All of this got me thinking about The Subservient Chicken, that video and website that Burger King created years ago that went completely viral. Do you remember it? I sort of felt like that this week. That crazy chicken, quacking and flapping and dancing. (Yes, I did say quacking. I sure hope you caught that.) I kind of would like to think, though, that I was crazily dancing to Michael Jackson. Because I believe one of the things the chicken would do for you was the Moonwalk.
Or something like that.
• • •
I’m glad I’m feeling stronger. And now more than lucid. Hopefully soon I can begin to take on the things that I had put off. This was probably the first time in a very long while that I have been this sick. Normally, I would get over any sickness very quickly. That was why when I first noticed the symptoms, I made a conscious effort to be, at the very least , proactive and to keep watch on it. I had no idea it was going to hit me that quickly and that hard. It literally took me for one serious spin.
But I guess the old adage is right: It ain’t viral if you don’t do the chicken dance.
Fine. An adage from my version of the alternate timeline.