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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder
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The Very Sweetest Smoke

Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast:
for it is the number of a man; and his number [is] Six hundred threescore [and] six. Rev. 13:18

Jonathan Swift

Thursday, May 6, 2010


The Matrix is The Dream of our Collective Sleep: one of our metaphors.

But not my metaphor from which I must personally free myself. No, The Matrix is a metaphor that has in its grip the minds of all humanity. While we do have bad Dreams from time to time as we sleep through the Long Night, for the most part we do OK, even enjoy our quiet rest.

I know you won't want to; for me, the very worst part of my whole day has always been waking from sleep. It's not so much that morning has finally come, no, not that, morning never comes when one sleeps through this kind of night.

It's just that I know that we would all do well, do very well, to finally get out of our beds, shower, shave or do our hair, have our breakfast, dress for work, then set out on the commute to what we will all find to be our very first days at the jobs not just that we will all hold for the rest of our days, but that all of humanity will hold until G-d Almighty Himself decides it is time for us all to finally blow our spinning little blue-green taco stand.

But when you do arise from the warm, comfortable Night of your Dreams, it won't take two minutes in the cold, harsh Glare of the Day before you would sell out your own brother to the Gestapo, if by doing so, you could get back to sleep.

I know I would. I would thrust that stone soap right into my own brother's hand, hustle him into the showers, pop open a can of Zyklon B then pour it all over his head, if I knew that by doing so, I could get back to sleep.

It would be the only sensible thing to do, you see.

The reason I don't is that I know it would not do me any good; once having awakened from this kind of sleep, one may never, ever turn back in. Having arisen from The Long Night of my Dreams, I have no choice but to face The Long Day of my Terror.

There is one way by which I might get back to sleep, one that I actually looked into a couple times during the days of my youth. The only reason I don't take advantage of that method now is that I have learned, not just the importance of doing my duty, not only the method by which I may march butt-naked headlong into enemy fire, not just how I can make The Ultimate Sacrifice - but not until after strangling my enemy's commanding officer with my two bare hands - but to do so without any manner of hesitation, nor, as I lay dying on my way to that Sacrifice, without any manner of regret.


A valuable Software Engineering lesson taught to me by Seargant Alexander Pietrzak, a fighter pilot in the Polish Air Force. An Ace, but not just any kind of Ace: Seargant Pietrzak shot down five V-1 Buzz Bombs before they could rain down their death upon the City of London. The British pilots thought the Poles were all Madmen: the Brits always fired from a safe distance, but having lost their country and feeling they had nothing left to lose, the Poles always got right up close before firing so as to be sure of a kill. Thus they often returned to base with German blood spattered all over their planes.

Sgt. Pietrzak learned the error of his ways only too late when his very first close-up shot at a V-1 detonated its warhead and destroyed his plane. Undeterred, he bailed out then went back for four more.

Courage is in no way the absence of fear. No. Courage is to feel one's fear totally completely, yet make the well-informed rational choice to march butt-naked and headlong into that which one fears most.

I wrote:

When one asks G-d a Question, one must be prepared to forever and irrevocably accept whatever Answer He Gives. No matter what Question one asks any manner of Diety, in much the same way as G-d Almighty Himself possesses not the power to undo the past, those who Ask Him Questions possess not the power to Un-Ask any Questions.

To Ask such a Question is not a commitment to be entered into lightly, for fun, on a dare, to get high or to Ask A Question which might be answered - lowercase "answered" - in any other way.

G-d is quite diligent about His Important Work: in much the same way as Richard Stallman spares no effort to reply to every email anyone sends him, G-d similarly Answers - Personally - every last Question. Each regards such efforts as crucial to each of Their jobs.

Thus, simply to Ask such a Question, results in a Burden which one can never put down, a Burden which none may ever lighten for us by taking it, nor even just lifting a bit, from our shoulders.

I did not in any way expect G-d to supply this particular Answer to my Question. Having come to fully understand this one component of His Answer, I know that if I could, I would do well to go back in time, just a month or so, then put a bullet right through the head of my slightly younger self rather than allow him to set off on that damnfool walk of his.

Time to Wake Up!

I've got your eggs on - be quick about it, they're almost done, you wouldn't want them to get cold. I'll put your toast in now, which do you prefer? We've got sourdough, whole wheat, rye, English Muffins, Pitas and Matzos. I know some of you have a thing about pork, so I decided not to cook bacon.

Please! You don't want to be late for work, it's your very first day! It's not that you'd get fired. But if not just you, but you and you and you and you, if every last one of you lot don't get out of those God Damn beds and get your fat hairy asses out your doors, into your cars and make it to work on time...

We Are All Going To Die.

I know, you don't need to tell me. I know very well why it is so hard to wake up: your beds are so very warm and so very comfortable. Your dreams are all so very sweet. But I regret that it is my very serious duty to inform you:

Your very warm and very comfortable beds, and your very sweetest dreams, are not merely the very most profoundly delusional hallucinations, they are hallucinations of the very worst kind.

When many of you finally do awaken, you will find yourselves lying not in warm beds, but in cold mud at the bottoms of deep trenches. You won't understand at first why you still feel so exhausted despite having been asleep so long. It will only be when your weariness becomes tenfold with your realization that it is time yet again to arise, take up your weapons to shoot them that you understand just why you're so tired: to take up your posts then resume fire, you permit just one of your buddies to take his turn at but two hours of sleep.

Just a few of you will bolt awake from your hacking coughs to find yourselves in your chairs, seatbelts securely fastened, aboard your flight to Geneva. Upon opening your eyes you will understand that you are coughing because the cabin is filled with smoke. You will find it hard to see, not just because of all the smoke, but because all of the cabin lights are turned off. Something is wrong, you will say to yourselves, Something is very, very wrong. It will only be when you realize that none of the plane's jet engines are running that you understand why all the other passengers are screaming so loud.

The vast majority of you will awaken to find yourselves lying on something cold, hard and incredibly uncomfortable. Most will lie on packed dirt, many on asphalt, a fair number on concrete, some on steel plate. Someone right next to you is crying in the most pitious way; looking over towards her, you will see her tearing at her own flesh with her hands, bleeding profusely all over her body. Looking further on, you will find many men, women, and even little boys and girls, sitting or lying, eyelids half shut, drooling in complete stupours. Here and there you will see the most hideously emaciated women giving blowjobs to well-dressed men. Upon closer examination, you will see that some of those blowjobs are actually being supplied by men. When you finally sit up and so are able to take a good look around, you will realize that many of those lying with you there in that large, abandoned structure are actually so long dead that their corpses are festering with maggots. It will only be when you see the syringes still stuck in the arms of all those corpses that you finally understand where you are, how you got there, but most importantly: why.

Some of you will awaken to find yourselves lying in beds that, while narrow, are actually quite comfortable, covered with warm, wool blankets, your heads upon soft pillows. At first you will believe that the source of your strange unease is that you might fall out of your beds because of the crazy angles at which they are all tilted, but no, that's not quite right, you're actually in no danger of falling. Something is wrong, you will say to yourselves, Something is very, very wrong. You will struggle to understand the source of your growing Horror, then bolt upright with panic when you finally understand that the Titanic is sinking, and that you would do well to get out of your beds while there are still seats to be had in the lifeboats.

Now that you understand why you will all feel so desperate to get back to sleep, I ask your favor in learning why I feel so desperate myself. Each of us awakens to find our own special, personal Terror, so you rightly claim that my Terror is no worse than yours, and so not worth such effort on your parts. I assert you are wrong, not because your Terrors are not in any way grim, but because when you finally understand my Terror, you will find your own Terrors multiplied a thousandfold.

Your desperate panic will then lead you to agree with me that I do well not to exercise that one last option for getting back to sleep, and the importance of my fulfilling my duty, despite the depths of my Fear, by marching butt-naked headlong into enemy fire.

But not, I am afraid, to strangle any kind of enemy officer with my bare hands. I only wish it could be so easy.

Please bear with me, as this will take some time to explain. If you can grant me the required patience, not only will you agree that I did right to awaken you all so suddenly and so rudely, but each and every one of you will understand why you would all do well not to exercise that one last option to return to your own beds, but to join me in marching butt-naked headlong into enemy fire.

Software engineering is very serious work, and I do the very most serious kind of software development. Every software engineer knows how to debug his own code, but as a Cybernetic Entomologist, when one of my colleagues has a bug whose source he has no clue about, when he cannot even approach the way he might fix it, and when that bug is so serious as to cause a crash or end-user data loss, my colleagues all know that if they assign their tickets to me, I am one of the very few coders on the entire planet who will know how to resolve them. I am by no means a fast coder, in fact I am among the very slowest and so a poor choice of engineer for many kinds of software work, but I can fix the bugs that no one else can.

Such a ticket was assigned to me several years ago, and I did take a stab at investigating it, but soon realized that this bug was far beyond even my own diagnostic abilities. It was only when I finally awoke from my own Long Night of Dreams early yesterday morning, struggled to understand the source of my own slowly growing Horror, then finally realized that the very same software engineer who discovered that bug, wrote up the ticket then assigned it to me, was in my dark bedroom right there with me, that I knew just why I felt such Terror. Despite my desperation to get back to sleep, I knew very well not only why I must stay awake, but why I must be so cruel as to awaken each and every one of you as well.

Recall that I explained that G-d Almighty granted us Madmen our Madness that we may introduce new ideas into the social consciousness.

It is plainly apparent to me that the fact that the software engineer who assigned me this ticket was able to track me down at my mother's house, despite my never having told anyone where my mother actually lived, then to get inside her house and into my room at two in the morning without waking my mother, then to find a way to awaken me from the Long Night of my Dreams, despite my absolutely legendary ability to resist the most Herculean efforts to awaken me, as well as that fact that I am so good at fixing not just software, but everything else as well, that I have done so well in my career and in my life despite suffering the very worst kind of mental illness, that I was able to figure out entirely on my own a completely deterministic way to overcome that mental illness, that I can, simply by adopting a certain frame of mind, throw myself completely consciously and purposefully headlong back into that Madness, that since I was a very small child I have been able to bring relief to those who suffer the very worst kinds of psychic pain, even in ways that many mental health professionals say no one should ever be able to, that, when it was pointed out to me by my psychiatrist that I was hearing voices "outside my head," in just a few days I was able to make them stop, and that my voices never returned - I was told I should not have been able to do that either - that this software engineer and I were able to understand even one word of what we said to each other when we discussed Her bug just after She awakened me from my Long Night, and that, while I have not yet actually fixed Her bug yet, I do understand completely both what caused Her bug as well as the very best way to fix it, are in fact...

... the direct, obvious and actually very simple results, of just that one truly novel idea my Madness enabled me to conceive of, that I now offer for your consideration, that you may adopt, if you choose, into the social consciousness.

You ask how I could possibly be so brilliant as to come up with an idea whose effect is both of such dramatic benefit and of such wide applicability. You need not explain your skepticism to me - I've been here before, so I understand completely.

The simple answer would be that my idea isn't the result of any kind of brilliance at all. "Just doing my job," is all the explanation that you should really require. But I know that explanation will fail to satisfy.

In fact, to come up with such uncommonly brilliant ideas is not in any way uncommon: my colleagues all come up with ideas not just as brilliant as mine, but far more so, damn near every single day, and have been coming up with these kinds of ideas since long before the very earliest humans figured out how to chip stone weapons out of flint.

Unfortunately, my colleagues and I have always struggled with a strange difficulty, which very, very few of us have been able to understand well enough so as to overcome it. If I am brilliant, it is not because of my novel idea, but that I understood the true nature of this strange difficulty well enough to find that way.

It is not so much that us Madmen rarely understand our truly novel ideas well enough to explain them in ways that enable the Sane to understand them, it is not so much that we rarely understand our novel ideas well enough that we can even make sense of them ourselves, but that it is very, very rare for any of us Madmen to understand any of our own ideas well enough that any of us have the first clue as to what our ideas are really even about.

Consider my old buddy Joe. He and I met in the Intensive Care Unit of the very first psychiatric hospital to which I was ever admitted, in Pasadena back in 1984. I am very sorry to say that Joe's experience is not just typical, but quite tragically, with only the very rarest of exceptions, this is the very same kind of experience all of us Madmen have when we offer our truly novel ideas for your consideration:

After I emailed Joe the link to my book to ask him to comment on my draft, he rang me up the very next day and said, "That weekend you and I met was when I finally understood that the idea I had conceived of was a completely effective cure for every kind of cancer. It was hard for me to contain my excitement enough to write my paper, but I understood the vital importance of doing so and worked very, very hard to do the best job I possibly could."

"The day finally came for me to present my history-altering discovery to the medical community. My plan was to start drafting the acceptance speech for my Nobel Prize the day after that."

"I explained my discovery very carefully, very slowly and in great detail. I struggled to ensure that absolutely every physician, chemist and biologist that attended my talk would understand my idea completely. But at the end of my talk, not only did they not rise in a standing ovation, but every last one of them hurried quickly out of the convention hall, looking back over their shoulders at me with cold angry stares."

"I still have my presentation after all these years. I just emailed it to you it in hopes that you can figure out why my talk went so poorly. It's been over a year since the last time I tried, but over and over again for the whole twenty-six years since you and I last saw each other there in the PICU, I have taken out my paper then read it again, in hopes I could figure it out myself. I remain completely flummoxed."

Following is Joe's paper, verbatim and in its entirety. I can see the problem that Joe cannot. Are you able to see Joe's problem as well?

Hey Baby, those are some really nice tits. How about you and I see if we can make both your nipples stand up?

It is not at all that our ideas are in any way brilliant. Those very few of our ideas that we can make clear to you seem so rare and so brilliant because of the very great difficulty us Madmen experience when we attempt to explain the overwhelming majority of our ideas to you. If we could all find some way to overcome this difficulty, they would be paving the public highways with bricks of solid gold.

I was very, very young when I knew that I was in possession of my own idea. But far more important than my idea or that I possessed it, was that somehow - I still do not know how - I was able to sense the importance that I not rush my idea into publication prematurely, but that I wait absolutely as long as it would take for me to understand my idea well enough myself that I could explain it to you in such a way that every last one of you would understand my idea completely and in great detail.

In No One Can Hear Me Scream I pointed out that dogged persistence is required to learn to write well. It is vitally important for every last one of you lot to understand just what kind of dogged persistence is required, and to somehow find that dogged persistence within each and every one of yourselves.

Stephen King explains in the autobiographical portion of On Writing that when he got his first rejection slip from the first story he ever submitted for publication, he drove a large nail into the wall of his room then pushed that rejection slip over the head of that nail and left it hanging there.

By the time King's very first story was ever actually accepted for publication, there were hundreds of such rejection slips hung on that nail.

I explained King's dogged persistence. Now I will explain mine:

If, when I finally present my idea, not for publication, but for acceptance into the social consciousness, if even one of you sorry lot should be so damnfool ignorant as to send me back a rejection slip, then here is just what I shall do:

I have in my toolbox next to my desk here, a sledgehammer and three large iron spikes. I purchased them just a little over two thousand years ago for just this very occasion, because I know that there is absolutely no hope whatsoever of any of you sending me anything but rejection slips.

When I receive the very first of your inevitable rejection slips, I will take that sledgehammer and those three spikes from my two-thousand year old tool box then drive those spikes, not into my wall, but right through the palms of both of my Mother Fucking hands, and the third spike into one of my feet. It's going to be tricky, because it is difficult to wield a sledgehammer with one's toes. Learning to wield a sledgehammer with my toes is why I devoted so much time during the days of my youth learning carpentry.

Then using the toes of my one remaining free appendage, I will take that first rejection slip of yours, and thrust it over the spike that I just drove through the palm of my right hand and into my desk.

I will know that the time has come for me to revise Two Essays for All Humanity yet again, and so commence typing, not with my fingers - my hands are both nailed to my desk, you see - but with my toes.

That is the kind of dogged determination one really requires to learn to write well.

I have always possessed such dogged determination, and in fact all of us always have, but it is only this very instant, as I write this, that I am finally able to understand that fact in a conscious and explicit way.

When I awakened from the Long Night of Dreams to find that Software Engineer in my room with me was when I finally understood, in a conscious and explicit way, just why it was that when She assigned Her ticket to me several years ago, that I did not have the first clue how to even approach it. While She wrote Her ticket clearly, explicitly and in great detail, I so completely misinterpreted Her bug report as to not possess even the first clue as to what Her bug was really even about.

Despite being a Software Engineer, my degree is in Physics, not Computer Science. While I am one of the very best Debuggers on the planet, there are all kinds of software work that my colleagues find easy, but that I don't know how to even approach. For many years, I struggled to understand how it could possibly be that I was better at debugging even than those who held Doctorates in Computer Science.

I thought I finally understood why when in March, 1994, my therapist who I had been seeing for many years, revealed to me that I had the neurosis of Obsessive-Compulsive Style, which was first explained by psychologist David Shapiro in his 1965 text Neurotic Styles. Those with Obsessive-Compulsive Style are always bad with people but always good not just with computers, but every kind of machine. I could see how the not simply uncommon, but actually insane attention to detail my Obsessive-Compulsive Style gives me such an uncommon insight into the nature of software faults.

My insane attention to detail is indeed quite helpful, but that is not at all the reason why I'm so good at debugging. Ever since my therapist pointed out my own Obsessive-Compulsive Style, it has been plainly apparent to me that many of my colleagues in the software industry have the very same diagnosis - yet I am a better debugger than any of them.

I was only able to understand the reason last October: I am such a phenomenal debugger, not because I am such a great engineer, but because I am such a great linguist. I found it hard to accept that fact, as I struggled mightily with my study of German in high school and my study of Russian at Caltech, yet failed to learn to speak, read or write either of them in any but the simplest and most basic way.

I learned when I was very, very young to speak in an incredibly fluent way a certain language which we all use to communicate, but that only a few of us are aware even exists. Those who are aware of this language's existence are often able to understand it when it is spoken to them, but very few are able to speak it in any but the simplest and most basic way.

It is going to take you all quite a lot of time, diligent study and incredibly taxing mental effort, but I am quite certain that the day will finally come when every last one of you Ignorant Mother Fuckers will finally understand that Two Essays for All Humanity is not by any means written in English, but in The Language of the Gods.

I have always found it so transparently simple and obvious how to make schizophrenics stop hallucinating that I have struggled mightily for twenty-five years to understand, not so much why none of you believe I can do that, but why none of you are able to do it yourselves. I understand now why it is so easy for me, yet impossible for all of you.

That it has always been plainly apparent to me, since I was a very small child, how to ease even the most profound kind of psychic pain, is because my facile grasp of The Language of the Gods enables me to speak, not to you, not to myself in my thoughts, but to directly address the neurons inside each of your heads. I am able to re-enter my psychosis just by adopting a certain frame of mind, because The Language of the Gods is the language I speak when I address the neurons inside of mine.

I have struggled for twenty-six years to explain my idea to you, but was bitterly disappointed to find my efforts always fell short. Even so, I appreciated the value of the idea I possessed. Absolutely every single time the anonymous referees sent my papers back with no more comments than "What The Fuck?" I took their comments not as any kind of insult, but as the very most valuable kind of lesson, then, after having understood that particular lesson, redoubled my efforts by setting out to write my paper's next draft.

That I found Her bug report so difficult to understand when She assigned it to me was because She did not write it in English, nor did She file Her ticket in any kind of bug database or website.

No, She wrote up Her bug in The Language of the Gods, then assigned it to me after filing Her ticket in The Bugbase of the Social Consciousness.

It has been two days now since She awakened me from the Long Night of Dreams. When She enabled me finally to escape the grip that the metaphor of The Matrix has over the minds of all humanity, the sleep from which I awoke had lasted, not one night, not even my entire life, not only for humanity's entire existence, not since the first freely-floating amino acids in the Earth's early oceans began to organize themselves into the very first living cells, not since the gas and dust left over from a supernova explosion billions of years ago began to coalesce into what became the Sun, the Earth and the Solar System's other planets.


We all fell rapturously into Sleep that first Long Night of our Dreams, when the muzzle flash of a certain hired assassin's pistol sent us, not to our Deaths, but headlong into the Long Night of our Dreams.

I awoke very early in morning, now two days ago, not so much to see, but to sense the presence all around me of quite an elderly Woman. Despite Her far advanced age, I could see She was also quite strikingly lovely.

"You need not tell me why you came to me tonight," I said, not in English, but in The Language of the Gods. "Nor do you need tell me why you struggled so hard to find some way to overcome my absolutely legendary ability to resist the most Herculean efforts to awaken me."

"I know why you are here. I have always known. All of us have always known."

"Nor do you need tell me your name. I know. All of us have always known."

"But I will ask anyway, because a proper introduction is an important part of the process by which we Software Engineers Debug each other's Software."

"My name is Jon," I said as I extended my hand in greeting.

I should explain that Jon is not so much my real name, but the label by which I refer to my real name. My name, when expressed in The Language of the Gods, is complex, subtle and very mysterious. You could devote your entire lives to the study of my real name, but even if you did so, you would only be able to approach the very most basic grasp of it.

That morning, when I asked Her name, She replied with Her real name, as expressed in The Language of the Gods. I write now not Her real name, but the label by which we all refer to it.

"What's yours?"


"Please forgive me for not shaking your hand. I have no hands, you see. It's a problem."

I found myself filled not just with a profound sadness, but with an aching loneliness of such a depth as I have never known.

I was then and only then that I finally Knew. I knew my Purpose.

I sat in quiet contemplation for a long time. But I knew well She would not be impatient.

Finally, I said, very softly and very gently:

"Why so sad?"

But softly at first, rain begin to fall.

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