Posted by: Harold Knight | 09/24/2009

TLE, Bipolar, or Me?

In my email inbox are 77 articles I’ve sent myself from online databases of SMU libraries (Academic OneFile, for example). Unread. Subjects from the Palestinian resistance to Astrobiology to Epilepsy to mysticism.   

"Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed."

"Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed."

On my desktop in a folder named “Universe Stuff” (about the beginning of the universe) are 27 articles, inside a folder “For my Reading.” A folder “Fall 2009” (stuff useful for class this semester) has a folder inside it named “Providence” with 35 articles. And a folder “Needs Sorting” [sic] with 26 articles.

217 articles ready to read (100% not read—at least, not read completely). Oh-so-interesting to me or helpful-in-class. I started putting them into folders when my niece told me I HAVE TO organize my computer—and she’s seen only my laptop). Other folders on my desktop have articles-to-read.  Many (most) scholars (which I do not claim to be) have piles of unread articles lying around.

Articles I have actually read are in folders that make sense to me: The Holy Land Foundation Trial, Spasmodics (not what you think!), Depression, etc.

I have three years’ hard copies of The Journal of Palestine Studies, ten years’ worth of Review and Expositor (a fine Baptist academic journal), and one year of The Missouri Review.

On the table beside the pipe organ in my living room are five books (from a Cormac McCarthy’s novel to Armstrong’s The Great Transformation) I’ve bought recently to read on the plane during various trips. If I look through in my suitcases, I will find more–the last two I know I bought aren’t there. If I organize the papers on that table, I’ll find more books. When [sic] I  organize my “work room”. . . .

I used to read a lot. When I was a kid. Now I can’t sit still.

To prepare my qualifying exams for my unfinished PhD (in 2000), I read thirty novels a member of my committee assigned (and did not ask a single question about any of them). I’m not sure I’ve completely read a book since then (except Alice Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease). That’s an exaggeration, but except for the occasional novel, I can’t think of any I’ve read since 2003 when my partner died. No, it’s not grief. Depression, maybe, but not grief. It started long before 2003.

After eighth grade, when Mrs. Siever assigned me novels to read and write reports on, in addition to or in place of assignments in her English class, I think so she could have some peace—novels such as The Cloister and the Hearth, Northwest Passage, Oliver Twist, hefty novels to keep me busy for a long time so she could get on with teaching—I stopped reading books through. I don’t think I ever read a book all the way through for any class in college or graduate school (except at UTD where I had no choice).

I can’t read. Focus? Concentrate?

My plan for getting through any of those 217 articles: paste it into a Word document, screwing up the format (most are PDF files) so to get them into a format to read, I have to reformat them line by line to get the margins right. Don’t tell me  I don’t have to go to that trouble because I can do it with a “click.” Going through them line by line and working with my hands while I read is the only way I will ever read them.

Reading is impossible. I’m not sure if it’s impossible physically or mentally. Why can I write all of this stuff and not read?

I’m doing 4 research projects. 1) Proving that Matthew Levitt, Bruce Hoffman, and Jerrold Post, and their ilk, are frauds and our foreign policy and our attitudes about such things as “terrorism” and “the Islamist threat” are the product of little minds playing war games to get our government to do what they want (read my other blog). 2) Writing the definitive book on Epilepsy in Literature, with Dostoyevsky as my main evidence. 3) Showing once for all why “creationism” is, by the stated belief of the “creationists” that the Bible is inerrant, an enormous oxymoron rooted in idolatry.

4) My favorite project is to read all of Thomas Jefferson’s letters and find every mention of religion and write the definitive book on what he personally meant by “nature’s God.”

These are the intellectual goals of a person who cannot concentrate long enough to read a book and who has hundreds of articles stored to read as background (thank God for electronic copies; imagine the mess if I had to have paper copies of all of them lying around).

Certain people tell me I should not say, “I am a mess,” or “I am a failure,” or “I am crazy.” These are people whose lives are organized in a way that I cannot even imagine. They are people who read books through (and some of them write about the things they read and get articles published).  Among these people are my doctors. Give me a break! Anyone who’s succeeded at medical school CANNOT POSSIBLY understand the way my brain doesn’t work!

Here are the questions that arise from all of this (to which organized people have, I am sure, instant answers and suggestions for change).
1) Why?
2) Am I disorganized, unwilling to stop procrastinating, rebellious at the idea of developing strategies for coping with all of this disorder (pun intended)?
3) This is my brain? This is my brain on __________?
4) Are a series of diagnoses beginning with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,  then (mild) obssessive-compulsive disorder, then Bipolar II disorder, and finally old fashioned Bipolar disorder excuses for me to be lazy and disorganized and to procrastinate.
5) Does Oprah know exactly what’s wrong, so her cute faggot friend can do a “makeover” and organize my life and make it just dandy?
6) Am I making all of this up. Do I live this way because I am a naughty child at 64 or an anti-social oddity who can’t abide the thought of being “normal?”
7) All/none of the above.

Would my inability to breathe disappear if I fixed all of this, or is my doctor going to tell me something is wrong this afternoon?

The imponderable. I know I need to be “pro-active” about my life (or some such). But all of this overwhelms me. I can’t do it. Once again, don’t read anything more into this (or take some “hidden meaning” from my funny picture). This is only the question, TLE, Bipolar, or Me?



  1. Tonight I Can Write . . .by Pablo Neruda

    Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
    Write, for example, ‘The night is shattered,

    and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’
    The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

    Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
    I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

    Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
    I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

    She loved me, and sometimes I loved her too.
    How could one not have loved her great still eyes?

    Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
    To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

    to hear the immense night, still more immense without her,
    And the verse falls to the snow like dew to the pasture.

    What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
    That night is shattered and she is not with me.

    This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
    My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

    My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
    My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

    The same night whitening the same trees.
    We, of that time, are no longer the same.

    I no longer love her, that is certain, but how I loved her.
    My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

    Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
    Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes,

    I no longer love her, that is certain, but maybe I love her.
    Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

    Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
    my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

    Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer,
    and these the last verses that I write for her.

    Puedo Escribir Los Versos . . . SOOOO much better in Spanish which you don’t have to be fluent in to read it’s so simple…

    Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
    Escribir, por ejemplo : ‘La noche está estrellada,

    y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos’.
    El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.

    Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
    Yo la quise, y a veces ella también me quiso.

    En las noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos.
    La besé tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.

    Ella me quiso, a veces yo también la quería.
    Cómo no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.

    Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
    Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.

    Oir la noche immensa, más inmensa sin ella.
    Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocío.

    Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
    La noche está estrellada y ella no está conmigo.

    Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.
    Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

    Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.
    Mi corazón la busca, y ella no está conmigo.

    La misma noche que hace blanquear los mismos arboles.
    Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.

    Ya no la quiero, es cierto pero cuánto la quise.
    Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.

    De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
    Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.

    Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
    Es tan corto al amor, y es tan largo el olvido.

    Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos,
    mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

    Aunque ésta sea el último dolor que ella me causa,
    y éstos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.


  2. Pablo Neruda.
    One of God’s messengers.



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