John Walker's Electronic House

by on Jan.07, 2004, under The Rest

I have been feeling dizzy recently. I’m not drastically ill or anything, and am not exhibiting the early signs of a wretched tumour devouring the cellular tissue of my brain. I’m just a bit tired, and sleeping crazy patterns. I’m sat in college as I write, again feeling a strange swerviness in my gait. I’m not against feeling dizzy – there’s something quite romantic about it. Romantic in the period of classical music sense, rather than the pink-gilded Valentine’s schmaltz.

I fainted yesterday. Well, by the time I’m at my computer to post this, the day before yesterday. I had no idea about this, but apparently everyone else does: getting out of a hot bath too quickly can lead to fainting. I had been in the hot bath for an hour, adding more hot water all the way, reading Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. The phone rang – land line, the mobile had already rung once during this bath – and I leapt out, dripped torrentially across my bathroom, dashed wet and horribly naked for the phone. I had the conversation, brief and arranging, and then found I was unable to put the handset back on the plastic base. I was suddenly incapable of this task. I couldn’t see it, because the right hand side of my vision was no longer with me, consumed by a swirl of the world to my left that was rudely attempting to encircle me.

I’ve felt dizzy before, and had that intrusive black cloud appear, but normally from getting up too quickly. It goes away again as soon as I stand still. But this time it didn’t go away, and instead took over. I realised all at once that this wasn’t going away, that I was fainting, and that there was nothing I could do to stop it.

And then I collapsed, landing on a pile of magazines and a chair in my study, that was sporting a sharp-edged DVD drive. During this moment of collapse, in complete darkness, I dreamt. It lasted no longer than a couple of seconds (so far as I know), but during the fall, and in the eventual landing, I was dreaming. That’s fantastic. All this nonsense that we need to have entered a deep REM sleep before dreaming can take place was proved as such. I’ve long maintained that this isn’t true, perfectly aware that I am capable of entering a dreamstate in those moments of drifting off to sleep, semi-awake. We all know this, in fact. Because we remember when we stayed over at a friend’s house, when a teenager, and we stayed up until 2am chatting, and that moment arrived when we couldn’t remember whether it had been seconds or minutes since someone last spoke. And then the other person would speak, and you’d confuse what they were saying for the dream you had started having. You were in no REM sleep. So let’s all dismiss that for the nonsense it is.

There were two very clear thoughts. The first was “this is really happening”. I remember thinking that a lot. It was an extraordinary detached moment, as I dreamt on my feet, and in a wet, naked heap, and my brain kept reminding me that it was really happening. It fought back against this, pointing out that everything was unreal. And then fought back the other way. The other thought was realising how detached we are from our bodies, when it comes down to getting out of a hot bath too quickly. As I fell, I was still partly aware, and what I was aware of was that my body was now of no use to me. My brain was still going, going in all manner of directions in fact. But my body had given up, and embraced gravity with full submission. My path from standing to lying was entirely science – the physical pull of the earth’s gravitational pull on my body’s mass, a predefined path, calculable by those with big enough calculators. Me – I had no input. My body was not me – it was useless meat. It’s more useful meat now, but just meat.

The reason for all this, what must appear remarkably self-indulged toss over such a minor and common incident (hell, this is a blog, that’s a given, surely?) – partly because I have wanted to write it all down since, and mostly because I’m fascinated by how much I thought in this time. I don’t imagine I thought any more at this point than at any other moment of the day, but I was far more aware of my process, and delighted by it.

The feeling afterwards was not comfortable, and I have no real desire to repeat the moment, if at all possible. But it was a remarkable reminder of what fantastically creative beings we are.

I have finished Slaughterhouse 5. I feel angry and useless and want to cry.

We are such fantastically creative beings, and less than sixty years ago, we murdered Jews and Gypsies and gay people and Communists and anyone else who didn’t match, and melted their bodies down and used the fat to make candles and soap. We murdered civilians in efforts to end wars. We dropped bombs on Japan and Germany to make them go away.

We are such fantastically creative beings.

There is optimism, though in my anger and uselessness and desire to cry, I am weak to its charms. But there isoptimism. This becomes a Big Robot column from now on. Probably to be written now. Jim will be satiated, about that at least.

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