Posted by: Harold Knight | 11/13/2009

A (Friday the 13TH) Bout of Hypergraphia (again):George W. Bush, Λαοκόων, Κασσάνδρα, Aristotle, Bipolar Disorder, TLE, El Greco, David and Jonathan, and reality


Dave and Jon (Frederick Leighton - 19th century)

Yesterday I had an encounter with George W. Bush. Well, not an encounter—I saw neither the man nor much of his entourage. But his day-to-day activities interfaced with mine (love that jargon!).

What ego, you will say immediately. That I should think my activities are as important as those of the ex-President of the United States. Ha! I’m not going to say how it happened, because that would be telling too much in this public space about my day-to-day activities. As if that had ever before been a concern of mine.

The encounter presented me with food-for-thought: this guy in Greek mythology named Laocoön (Λαοκόων) was a priest and prophet in Troy. He tried to warn the Trojans about the Trojan Horse. That pissed off the gods, and they sent serpents from the sea to kill him and his sons off before the Greeks got into the city. So I was headed into my office, and a campus police officer stopped me and asked to see my ID and my driver’s license and said it was OK for me to go into the building because I was “on the list.” 

That’s what made me think about old Laocoön—and, on the periphery, Cassandra, (Κασσάνδρα, “she who entangles men”) daughter of the king and queen of Troy. Old Laocoön was killed by snakes. Cassandra had had her ears licked clean by snakes, which gave her the power to hear the future. Of course, Apollo, whose love for her was unrequited, fixed her: she could hear and tell the future, but no one would ever believe her, so she went crazy. These two, Cassandra and Laocoön tried to warn the Trojans that the Horse would destroy the city, but no one would listen to them. 

Don’t ask me why the officer at the door made me think of Laocoön. But that’s what happened. And Cassandra (Κασσάνδρα). I have to put my regular disclaimer here: I’m not comparing myself to either one of them; I’m not saying that anything I’m thinking about applies to me; I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else, especially W.. This is simply free association and the place to which my TLE mind guides my hypergraphic mind this morning. 

So I’m thinking about Greek mythology, which I do more than is healthy, most likely, and I wonder about this one officer sitting at a door checking people off “the list” and letting them in under the assumption that, because they are on “the list,” they are not up to no good. I had the word “psychopath” rattling around in my head. 

600px-LaoconteaA couple of days before, I read part of an article that came up in a search of an academic database that I was doing for something completely unrelated, but I read it because the title intrigued me: “Deconstructing the Psychopath: a Critical Discursive Analysis.” I get a charge out of any title with “deconstruct” in it because I’ve never been quite sure what the word means—even after PhD seminars in “deconstructing” various things. 

The article had the following statement in it:
Split between those searching for organic causes to explain behavior and those who openly reject any and all causes of psychopathy, except those that are freely chosen, descriptions of psychopaths remain burdened by an inability (1) to explain psychopathy using the history and tools of psychoanalysis; (2) to distinguish psychopathy from other behavioral disorders and syndromes, such as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), bipolar disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), and schizophrenia, to name a few; and (3) by a legacy of catch-all descriptions of moral insanity dating from the nineteenth century…” (aa). 

Whoa! “…distinguish psychopathy from other behavioral disorders and syndromes, such as. . . bipolar disorder, temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE)…” BPD and TLE are “behavioral disorders?” I know they make people (me) do, feel, and write about weird things, but “behavioral disorders?” I beg to differ. And so, I think, does Aristotle (might as well bring in all the Greeks we can). He says, “Hence the soul must be a substance in the sense of the form of a natural body having life potentially within it. But substance is actuality, and thus soul is the actuality of a body as above characterized” (bb). My soul is the actuality of my body which has the quirks of TLE and BPD. And Federman et al say that those things are “behavioral disorders and syndromes.” 

And the keeper of the gate at my office let me in without as so much as a by your leave (except showing my IDs).

But here’s the fun part. All of this worked itself around in my mind to the story of David and Jonathan from the Hebrew scripture. I have no idea how it happened. There was a connection at some point. In fact, all of this may have begun with David and Jonathan. I know I’ve got a commentary on I Samuel sitting on my bookshelf, and I remember yesterday looking up the story (without finding much more than the Sunday School version I learned half-century ago—they were bosom buddies and best friends and all that). Somehow I got from there to the article by Federman et al, and from there to George W., and from there to Troy, and from there to Aristotle, and from there to El Greco! 

You see, I did a quick Google search for David and Jonathan, and what emerged is another of those ridiculous Bible interpretation arguments between those who are certain the Bible proves the sinfulness of homosexuality, and those who think the Bible proves the sacredness of homosexuality. I’m not the least bit interested in that nonsense. Here are two URLs for anyone who wants to waste their time (cc). 

But I was interested enough in Dave and Jon to do a Google Image search to El+Greco+Laoko%C3%B6n+1610see what art they had inspired. Not very much. But I did a search for them with El Greco to see what The Greek might have done with them. And, lo and behold, I came across El Greco’s painting of Κασσάνδρα –the rest, as you might say, is history. 

Is my writing narcissistic regurgitation? Are the strange little vagaries of my mind interesting to anyone but me? I haven’t a clue. But as I read the above, I am intrigued by some of the list of “characteristics” of those with TLE redacted from the work of Norman Geschwind:  “circumstantiality (excessive verbal output), hypergraphia. . . .and intensified mental life (deepened cognitive and emotional responses), hyper-religiosity and/or hyper-morality or moral ideas . . .”  Self-diagnosis is, of course, dangerous, absurd, and mostly just stupid. But the wanderings in my mind from George W. to Λαοκόων and Κασσάνδρα, to psychopathy, to Dave and Jon, to El Greco and back to Λαοκόων, Κασσάνδρα and back to George W. are entertaining to me. If the wanderings are not interesting to anyone else, then why are you still reading? And if what they really amount to is undisciplined thinking, then why don’t all undisciplined thinkers write this kind of stuff. And why am I taking all this carbamazepine and Lamotrigine (which may cause a rash that can kill a person)?  Are my doctors quacks?  

(aa) Federman, Cary, Dave Holmes, and Jean Daniel Jacob. “Deconstructing the Psychopath: a Critical Discursive Analysis.” Cultural Critique 72 (Spring 2009): 36-65.
(bb) Aristotle. On the Soul (350 B.C.E.) Translated by J. A. Smith

Jerry Prevo

Jerry (pervert) Prevo


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