Monday, April 30, 2007

My Philosophical OCD 2-5-07

Sorry I haven’t been very consistent in blogging. This time I’ll blame it on the fact that I’ve been completely obsessed with Plato’s Forms lately. I’m reading Plato’s works and writing stuff on Plato like a madman. And, to be honest, I find it hard to get motivated to write on anything else.

Here’s a confession. I honestly think I have a slight tendency toward OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Okay, maybe a bit more than a “tendency.” It’s not the kind of OCD that leads a person to be obsessively ritualistic about things – like having to do everything in threes, or having to count everything, etc. (See Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets for a classic illustration of typical OCD). And my OCD tendency doesn’t interfere much with my life. (So please, no one e-mail me with your “cures” for OCD. I honestly don’t want to loose mine [see below]). My OCD isn’t ritualistic. It’s philosophical.

It’s like this: I get a philosophical idea or problem in my head and for weeks or even months at a time it takes effort for me to not think about it. I think about other things, of course, but the idea or problem is almost always there. It’s like background noise in my brain. Sometimes it can start to feel like everything is an interruption to my thinking, reading and/or writing about the philosophical idea or problem. I often get kind of manic about the idea or problem during these obsession periods, going for days – and sometimes weeks – where I average only three to four hours sleep a night (I survive on ten-minute naps when this happens). I wake up at around three in the morning and the excitement about the idea, or the consternation about a philosophical problem, won’t let me go back to sleep.

Now, part of me really loves this OCD characteristic. I think it enables me to probe into ideas and problems deeper and more thoroughly, and it empowers me to get a lot of work done in regards to the idea I’m obsessing on. Most of my book writing occurs in these manic periods. But this philosophical OCD can also be rather irritating. No matter what else is going on in my life, the philosophical idea or problem tries to squeeze into my brain like an uninvited guest. It’s like there’s this uncontrollable part of my brain that tries to process everything in life through the filter of whatever philosophical idea or problem I’m thinking about. It tries to relate everything to the idea or problem.

So, as I said above, my present obsession is Plato’s concept of the Forms. (I’ll blog about what “Forms” are later… I hope). Consequently, this OCD part of my brain tries to investigate how this or that conversation illustrates the Forms; how this or that movie relates to a problem with the Forms; how this comment, or that event, or the way this person laughs is relevant to this or that particular aspect of Plato’s theory, etc. It’s like all of life gets painted in my head against the canvas of the idea or problem I’m thinking about. Or, to use a different analogy, its like I mentally superimpose all this philosophical chatter on everything else that’s going on in life.

Of course, I don’t usually let other people know that this weirdness is going on in my head, because a) there’s rarely a socially appropriate reason to; b) with the exception of my wife and close friends, people would probably think I’m totally nuts (whereas my wife and close friends already know this, so it doesn’t matter); and c) people I’m socially interacting with might get offended, since it can sound like my mind really isn’t “in the moment” with them.

Now, I say it can “sound like” I’m not really in the moment with other people, because I honestly believe that my philosophical OCD tendency doesn’t make me any less “in the moment” of a particular social interaction. In fact, I honestly believe it helps. It’s true that part of my brain is doing something that others in the social interaction aren’t doing, and this, I suppose, breaks some sort of social rule about what it means to be “in the moment.” But, on the other hand, this part of my brain that is doing something others aren’t doing makes me more, not less, attentive to what’s going on “in the moment.” It’s not that I don’t hear what a person is saying because my mind is “elsewhere.” No. My mind isn’t elsewhere. It’s here. I truly hear what others are saying. It’s just that I also hear how it relates, or doesn’t relate, to the Forms.

And now you all probably think I’m nuts.

I’m fine with that. You see, being nuts relates to Plato’s theory of the Forms by manifesting something of the deficiency of contingent being in relation to the Form of psychic wholeness…

Blessings to ya’ll