I have not infrequently stated a desire to shed my body and set my brain loose on the world (or, well, floating in a vat) with only a high-speed Internet connection for diversion and companionship. The only thing to hold me back so far is the effect this transformation would have on my ongoing relationship with Matt Damon, but I realized this morning you may consider me effectively a “pre-op.” Somehow when I wasn’t looking, my habit upon awakening has been to reach instantly for iPhone so I might check my emails, friends’ Facebook updates, stocks, weather, and occasionally GPS location. (You might be interested to know that iPhone still thinks that I live in the middle of Interstate 83, but no one said this system was perfect.) I’ll then respond as necessary, do a survey of the blogs and sites I follow, and perhaps rev up my mind with a few games of Scrabble before reaching for my Kindle and reading a chapter or two of something or another.
This is all before I even think of getting vertical, and I find it immensely satisfying, but there must be factions within me that resist this wired state. I have been exercising again regularly (up to 40 or 50 pullups daily plus other physical atrocities), attempting to meditate, and strongly considering attending acupuncture school in the fall. I also yesterday, while walking Goblin in the warm weather and sun, had the strongest compulsion to work in the garden that I have ever experienced.
I’m not sure where on the spectrum falls the psychic helmet I purchased a few weeks ago, especially since I’ve only used it once due to its arrival with insufficient Velcro.
I realize this requires some backstory, though given all of these elements, I’m not quite certain where to begin. Adding to the confusion is that Microsoft Word puts a green squiggly line under “back story” but a red squiggly line under “backstory,” which both my editorial instinct and the green squiggly line assume is correct. Well, Backstory then:
A couple of months ago, Rob and I saw an episode of “Paranormal State” in which the funny-looking protagonist who thinks everyone is possessed by demons strapped his head into an odd contraption to try to pick up on whatever supernatural forces (read: demons) were molesting a little girl’s sleep. This was referred to as a psychic helmet, and naturally upon seeing televised evidence of its function I immediately began researching how to get one of my own because if anyone should be picking up on demons it should be me. As it turns out, the psychic helmet has nothing to do with the supernatural or even telepathy but is a form of transcranial magnetic stimulation, which can affect moods and perceptions depending where on the scull the magnets are fastened. The one and only time I used it, I tried for spiritual wonders, but all I got was a strong sensation, five hours later, that I had taken too much Percocet, which was not among the list of either effects or side effects listed. I chalk this up to improper placement of the magnetic stimulators due to the previously established lack of enough Velcro to get everything where it needed to be and keep it in place. I’m not going to draw you a diagram, so just trust me on this.
Last week, upon being summoned on a trip to Target with a mission to buy baby clothes, I decided to check that retail nation-state for a roll of freelance Velcro that I could press into service. But since I asked an employee in the baby clothes department where that material could be located, he first assumed that I had some sort of baby clothes-oriented need of it.
“No,” I said, “I just need some extra Velcro, no babies attached. Ha ha.”
“Oh, then that would be over here.” He led me toward the aisle that contained sewing materials. “What do you need it for?”
“For my psychic helmet.”
He furrowed his brow, and I thought I might have to launch into some version of the Backstory, but instead, all he said was, “Well, all we have are these little strips. You might need a roll of it. They have that at Michael’s across the parking lot.”
“Um, huh?” Backstory on my tongue, this was all I could get out.
“Michael’s? It’s a CRAFT STORE?” The Target employee and Velcro expert clearly felt I was weirder for not knowing what Michael’s was than for my possession of a psychic helmet. It was then I realized that if I can fail to shock a baby clothes employee at Target that I must not be even vaguely interesting to anyone in the world. But I mean that in a good way. All of those years I worried over my appearance or my sexuality or whatever there was to worry about people’s reactions to—all of it was a complete and ridiculous waste of time. Nobody really cares anyone else is ugly or gay or possesses astounding psychic powers in helmet form. At most, these traits might cause a momentary befuddlement as they skitter across the worldview of another person—How can ANYONE not know what Michael’s is?—but a normal, mature person with half a brain will just blink and go back to sorting footy pajamas. And who cares what abnormal, immature people think besides the Washington and Hollywood press corps?
I realize I’m diverging from my main topic of brains in vats, technology, Velcro, and psychic helmets here, but I think they’re all connected. People used to use technology for two primary reasons: for convenience and to distance themselves from unpleasant truths. Picture the transition from pooping under a tree to pooping in a chamber pot to pooping in indoor plumbing, or from butchering your own chickens daily to buying them boneless and skinless in the grocery store. But modern technology now has the ability, via information sharing, to illuminate as many truths as it hides. I find myself bouncing around that pyramid of convenience, distance, and revelation. I think that is the essence of my morning ritual and the counter-rituals I’ve established to keep it in balance. Again, I’m not sure where the psychic helmet fits in, as a perfectly functioning psychic helmet of my dreams would transcend all of those points, rendering them meaningless.
But then again, maybe that’s exactly where it fits in.