Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 28: Wet Pets, Overthinking, Brain Tumor

For this creature, as I said, I paid twenty-five cents.  I had never bought an animal before.  It was very simple; I went to a store in Roanoke called "Wet Pets"; I handed the man a quarter, and he handed me a knotted plastic bag bouncing with water in which a green plant floated and the goldfish swam.  This fish, two bits' worth, has a coiled gut, a spine radiating fine bones, and a brain.  Just before I sprinkle his food flakes into his bowl, I rap three times on the bowl's edge; now he is conditioned, and swims to the surface when I rap.  And, he has a heart.

Dillard buys a goldfish.  Of course, when Annie Dillard buys a goldfish, it's not just about having a little fish on the counter.  It's about buying a living thing with coiled gut, a spine, and fine bones.  A brain and, most importantly, a heart.  She never does anything without considering its implication in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  She overthinks things, which worked out for her.  She won a Pulitzer Prize for overthinking a goldfish.

I tend to overthink things, as well, if you haven't noticed.  It's one of my many rough edges.  Of course, my overthinking has helped me produce close to three thousand blog posts.  And a book of poems.  A couple of CDs of Christmas essays and music.  It has served my creative life well.  Still does.

Overthinking doesn't always make for an easy life.  I'm constantly analyzing (some would say over-analyzing) conversations and situations.  Let me give you an example.  This morning, I am at McDonald's with my family.  At a table adjacent to us, a man in a camouflage shirt and hat is having breakfast.  I just listened to him have a conversation with one of the McDonald's workers about the non-existence of God.  "Why would I believe in somebody who gives cancer to kids?  Where's the good in that?" he said.

I wonder what kind of pain made him develop this obvious anger toward God.  What happened to him?  Maybe he lost a child or brother or sister to a terminal illness.  Perhaps he went to Iran or Afghanistan as a soldier and saw some horrible things.  Perhaps he was abused by a priest or pastor or Boy Scout troop leader.  Or maybe he's just an asshole.

That's what I do.  Overthink.  Try to understand situations at a deeper level.  I don't like feeling unmoored by confusion.  I want to know why things are the way things are.  That's who I am.  (Although, when I've owned goldfish, I've never gone so far as to attempt to train them to feed, like Dillard.)  Of course, overthinking provides opportunity to worry and fret over things that just don't materialize.  A pressure in the chest that turns out to be acid reflux.  A headache that is just a headache and not a brain tumor or aneurysm.  I do not recommend overthinking for people who tend toward hypochondria.

But Saint Marty is a writer/poet.  Overthinking comes with the job.

Just because it's so damn funny . . .

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