Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Human paradoxes 

My mind hardly feels my own any more. Almost every moment of every day, or so it feels, its contents and processes are prescribed; my mind has become a low-grade thinking tool, a computer running processes operated by mouse clicks from invisible hands elsewhere. Even in moments of down time, when those clicking fingers are still for a moment, my CPU simply lies dormant, empty, waiting only to respond to the next coded instruction.


I took a different route home the other day, past a shop I wanted to visit. The route took me along the North Circular – one of London’s busiest roads. There were huge tailbacks; easing my motorbike through the gaps between the lanes I eventually came upon the cause – five lanes of traffic condensed into one, as police guided traffic around the aftermath of an accident. Lying across two lanes lay the scattered remnants of a smashed motorcycle, surrounded by four or five police cars, blue lights flashing.

I felt nothing; no emotion at all. It seemed unlikely that the motorcyclist could have survived amidst such carnage, yet there I was, not yards from the spot, passing by on my own motorcycle with no reaction whatsoever. Perhaps I was just closing my mind to what had happened there; perhaps I just didn’t care; perhaps my mind was already too full to hold the weight of care; perhaps part of me simply accepted this as a statistical representation of the inevitable consequences of motorcycling.


On Sunday night I watched the final episode of the BBC’s new dramatisation of Jane Eyre. I first read this at school, and it had quite an effect on an impressionable teenager – my first real taste of what romantic love is. (Curiously, it didn’t seem to matter that it was written from the woman’s perspective). This dramatisation was as close to my remembrance of the original as I could imagine; I cried - tears of pure emotion - at more than one point of the book, and those tears flowed again watching the TV version, especially in that moment when Jane and Mr Rochester first openly declare the power and depth their love for each other.


How is it then, that I can be emotionless when faced with a real life tragedy, yet shed tears over fiction? We are paradoxical creatures indeed…

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