Posted by: Harold Knight | 01/14/2013

Inspired by the Brahms First Symphony (it’s not what you think—read on)

Too dark to see name

Too dark to see name

Much of the time someone who has been diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (neurologists use much more interesting names for the condition these days, none of which I can remember at the moment) thinks perhaps she’s merely crazy and has managed to pull the medical community into her bizarre mental world. Times like this, for example. It’s 5:11 AM on a Monday morning. I’ve been up for an hour. I woke up thinking about the writing I needed to do about the Brahms First Symphony—see my Facebook posting from yesterday. You might (rightly) ask what’s pathological about that? Seems like anyone who loves Brahms, who heard the First Symphony performed yesterday by the Dallas Symphony—a performance conducted by Pablo González, of whom I had never consciously heard before yesterday, played about a millisecond beat slower than any other performance I’ve ever heard, thus allowing Brahms’ music to breathe as I think Brahms ought to breathe—might wake up with the glorious C Major theme of the Fourth Movement still in her mind, wanting to write about it.

So that’s pretty normal, I suppose. But here’s why I tend to think there is some pathology present in what I do while Jerome and the cat and the entire city of Dallas (as seen from the floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides of his apartment overlooking Main Street, the Main Street Garden, and—among other things—the remodeling of the eight-story building of the North Texas University Center [formerly one of the great department stores of Dallas] across the street which is a beehive of activity when the rest of the world wakes up and across Commerce Street the other direction beyond the swimming pool of Mercantile Center where Jerome’s apartment is—the apartment complex remodeled  from the wonderful Art Deco building of the Mercantile Bank—the ten story building whose name I can’t remember and can’t see in the dark being rebuilt into another living space and across the street from that the old twenty-story (how many times would you have to count rows of windows to make sure you’ve done it right—I counted twenty times) Sheraton hotel standing vacant but in the first stages of being converted to mixed use, apartments and offices and commercial space) are still asleep. The need to write about Brahms is what woke me up. That may or may not be true. I was awake several times in the night—each time, by the way, thinking about what I should be writing at that moment but, fortunately, going back to sleep except at 2 AM when I got up and took an Ambien because I really, really, really did not want to be awake and sitting here writing at 2 AM because when that happens, I know what my world will be like at 2 PM—but didn’t get up until 4 AM. When the moment comes that my mind decides to be awake, I have no chance of going back to sleep until I’ve written whatever it is I’m supposed to write about. I wrote a long email a couple of years ago to Alice Flaherty, the Harvard neurologist who has TLE and wrote the book on the subject, The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain, and explained to her as best I could this pain-in-this-ass daily experience and asked if that fit her understanding of the “disorder,” and she wrote back a mercifully and—I thought—needlessly short answer saying simply, “That is the experience of most of my patients.”

The only problem for me with her book is that I am not creative. Most of what I write is just blather as you can tell if you are still reading. Sometimes I have an idea that I’ve cooked up reading something the day before or recently, and I can get through the idea more or less coherently, but my writing most often takes off in some direction that I would not allow my students to go in because ideas do not connect, and no one reading what I’ve written could possibly figure out how I get from one place to the next in my mind. If I were creative, I would have by this time—with all the palaver I’ve produced in my life—written the Great American Novel or something. But I have none of the writerly discipline that would take, and I’m not brilliant like Michael, my high school friend who might read this, so I really have no business foisting what I’ve written off on anyone else.

The Old Sheraton

The Old Sheraton

Since September 19, 2009 (about 1215 days) , I’ve posted here 358 times, that is, I write a 1200-word post on the average of every 3.39 days. There are times when I post every day for a month or two and then there are times (such as the last six months or so) that I can’t post at all because I don’t want anyone to read what I’ve written. If you read this drivel very often, you might think there’s nothing about myself that I wouldn’t say in public, that is, post here in the guise of an essay. But you’d be wrong. I never post anything about my being in love or—well there are lots of things I don’t talk about. But 358 (this will be 359) in three years is pretty verbose.

So now, you see, I’ve written all of this in about an hour and a half. The first thing I do when I get up is turn on the computer, then turn on the coffee pot, then pee, then pour a cup of coffee, then sit down here (“here” is either at Jerome’s dining table or my desk wherever I happen to be that morning).Once in a while that’s all much too complicated, and I simply have to sit down here and start writing before I do any of those other things.

When a student balks at writing an essay of 1200 words (what is it about 1200 words?), I tell her it should take about two hours, and she looks at me as if I were crazy. And I tell her that I do it almost every morning, and she can see proof that at Sumnonrabidus.wordpress.com where I post an average of one in three of those writings, and not one of them has ever taken longer than the time between about 4 AM and 6 AM to write. Once in a while it’s longer if I for some unknown reason decide to revise or edit, but almost always it’s exactly the way it came out the first go ‘round.

A University Center

A University Center

So here I am writing about the Brahms First Symphony because knowing that I had to write about it woke me up. It’s a little late to start—and I would have had to do some background reading to write what I needed to write, so I’ll simply quote something about it I wrote on Facebook directly after the concert yesterday:

Does one get to choose the music one hears through the white light at the moment of one’s death?

Here’s my request: The entrance of the principle C major theme in the last movement of the Brahms First Symphony!

I would prefer the Dallas Symphony performance from today conducted by Pablo González. He took the first two movements as slowly as they need to be in order to prepare the universe for the entrance of that glorious theme. Shudder!!! When my time comes I want to be lying on the floor in the middle of the horn section of the orchestra. I think I’ll go right on to glory now, as my Aunt Doris used to say.

I often include a quotation this long, but it’s hardly ever myself. Sorry.

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Responses

  1. […] about that was confirmed by Dr. Alice Flaherty, who—literally—wrote the book on hypergraphia. I emailed her [Egad! Did I write that post?] asking if it is her experience that we wake up at 4 AM because we […]

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  2. […] to write, I have to make a decision. Am I writing simply to get it out, simply to let the demon hypergraphiahave its way, or am I writing to say something logical. Most often it’s a combination of the two […]

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  3. […] everyone does—but I don’t think so) even before I felt and understood the terror of my first temporal lobe seizure that “I have not been As others were–I have not seen As others saw–I could not bring […]

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