I have always heard the voices in nature; the babble of running water and the rustle of wind through trees; sounds taking on the cadences of conversation, to the point where I can picture the speakers and almost make out words. As I’ve grown older, even the constant low hum of fans and large appliances sounds like people milling around in the distance. I frequently hear far-away games of basketball, sometimes overlaid with sportscasters’ voices. Sometimes the voices of women cloak themselves under the patter of raindrops or whistle of tinnitus, only to come whispering like bashful angels or sneaky succubi as I drift toward sleep.
As I get older, some of the voices are sounding more purposeful and strident, like persistent telemarketers trying and almost convincing me to buy an unknown bill of goods.
I hear snatches of music in the walls and the halls, in basements and in shower stalls. Shadows lurk around me, outside my skin, but still stuck on me like a tattoo.
Articles and definitions on the internet say auditory hallucinations can be precursors to dementia, harbingers of madness – but I’ve been having auditory hallucinations like these since I was a child and they’ve never, to my knowledge, manifested in any certifiable psychosis.
“It is not I who am crazy, it is I who am mad,” said a certain crazed chihuahua in a spot-on Peter Lorre imitation on The Ren and Stimpy show. His next line was “Dincha hear em? Dincha see the crowds.”
Din-eye-tell-ya? Even in the poppiest of pop culture, the auditory hallucination is viewed as a natural precursor to a “psychotic breakdown.” I might be heading for schizophrenia, or dementia, or even a full blown psychotic split. While there may be evidence that my marbles have come a bit loose (Laura says I’m more scatterbrained than ever), the real answer isn’t likely as dramatic as all that.
It’s probably just a trick of the auditory canal; the way my ears work, maybe I went to too many rock concerts in my youth and shook a few things loose. Things rattle that shouldn’t. It might even be related to my sinuses. Look up paracusia. Careful not to leave out the second “a,” because parcusia seems to have a causal relationship with the apocalypse, which could lead you down the path to full blown paranoia.
Paracusia in the online medical dictionary is defined as “a hearing deficiency.” We’re still talking hallucination, but if you factor in the medical definition, they’re as likely to be the result of hearing problems rather than mental problems.
Which isn’t to say I have no mental problems. The ones that concern me most lately are the delusions of grandeur – the God complex writ (very) small.
My Bashful God Complex
I’ve always lacked self-confidence. And that lack has held me back. It’s hard to achieve much when you secretly believe you’re King Midas in reverse. But something has happened to me in the years since striking out on my own as an indie writer.
I finished the third draft of Avenging Glory and had the temerity to think, Hey, this isn’t half bad.”
I picked up some friends who not only agreed, but said, “Hey this is great!”
My revisions thereafter always started with the self-assertion. “There are people who believe this is great. I’m gonna make it even better.”
A couple of drafts later, I found myself becoming one of those people who believe that it’s great.
With people taking quantum realities seriously these days, hardly anybody laughs anymore when I suggest some tenets that I have believed since my early thirties:
1) Reality is mutable.
2) There’s no such thing as truth. (although in my version of this, there is definitely such a thing as lying).
As a historical European dictator and a recent US president independently proved: when enough people set aside critical thinking and come to believe patently untrue things, those things can become true for anyone who wants badly enough to believe.
It’s essentially the inversion of the power of positive thinking.
Positive thinking works for many business people, and works really well for some athletes. Visualize winning and sooner or later, you will win! For the person who generates the power, it can drive them forward, inspire them to do better! Steadily improving performance improves a person’s self-confidence, which boosts their performance even more! It can genuinely have a huge influence on the outcomes of things and can indeed shape reality to some degree. But it’s hardly a super-power. An injury or scandal or emotional setback could easily send that athlete’s fortunes spiraling in the opposite direction. Positive thinking only affects other people’s perceptions when your reputation grows and your display of self-confidence can influence them. Many things it obviously can’t control at all. It might help a woman get her man or the man get his woman, or a man get his man, but it absolutely won’t help any of them win a lottery.
It is, however, effective enough to allow some delusions of grandeur to come true.
The ultimate lunacy; as Nick Cave called it on “Red Hand Files” his agony aunt/fan blog, is “Absolute confidence.” Cave believes that his success is largely due to his “shameless and pathological belief” in his own awesomeness.
I remember in my 20s, believing that I would be the next Shakespeare. I never said it out loud to anyone else – for fear it would be received with the same sort of skepticism that I would greet it coming from some other 20 something. I knew it was patently ridiculous, even while I adopted and nurtured the idea. And certainly my ratio of successes to failures and the glad-cries that failed to greet every new work I managed to get published – seemed to put paid to that crazy ambition.
Except that it didn’t. Thirty years of frustration led me to start writing Avenging Glory. And during the twenty years I’ve been working on it, I have run into frequent roadblocks – lost faith in it any number of times. Even agent indifference didn't dissuade me. Well, it sorta did (I gave up after 20, when other writers approach 100 or more). But not for long. For a month here, a week there, an hour or two here and there and everywhere. But my absurd faith in it persists. Book One has made the tiniest conceivable dent in the marketplace, yet somehow I believe that Book Two will make a difference. And if it doesn’t – even if I don’t get to enjoy any acclaim in my lifetime, I don’t have a shadow of a doubt that recognition will come after I die,
And not because I believe that positive thinking can help me achieve miracles – but because this is my reality. My insanity. It’s the only truth I will accept. If my thoughts don’t to inform reality within my lifetime – I can go to my grave with the stone cold certainty that they will. If it doesn't happen, I'll never know.
Animals become extinct, probably at a rate of about one a month or even one a week during my lifetime - the numbers are so up in the air, that no one knows the 'truth.' There is a general anxiety in the world that we have crossed a line from which there is no going back. We are becoming unsuited to live in the reality that we ourselves have created. Perhaps it always was an inevitable that we would exhaust the resources. And we, as a species have made like any other natural creature – multiplying, consuming, reaching our potential. All that’s left now is embracing the inevitable entropy – finding successors that can carry our legacy. Avenging Glory is about that. The actual means of our destruction is the least important element in the book – just a random event that we played a part in exacerbating.
Avenging Glory is about discovering new potentials within ourselves and within our seemingly exhausted world. The trees become us - it’s like turning the Earth itself over to the next sentient species. And humans move from the physical world into the metaphysical one, we become gods of a sort.
And who needs physical bodies anymore? That’s just one more burden that can be shed.
All of humanity’s gods are old gods. There hasn’t been a need for new ones. We’re still the same old species, still making the same old mistakes - as well as lots of new ones. Only now, our conception of reality is on a collision course with a reality that may not even include us. It's a whole new wilderness. Defining our place in it - or extrapolating whether or not we have a place in it - is our next challenge.