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  • Earle Levenstein

Upside: On Is On. Downside: There Is No Off.



This might sound like a weird question, out of the blue; does your mind ever take a break?

Seriously, I mean, does your screen now and then go blank for a while, and into something like a rest mode? Peaceful, no thoughts, quiet, give you a little while to just think the good thoughts, muse on this or that, reflect, take a breather?

I'm asking you, because mine never does stop. Really. No exaggeration.

Nothing new; it's always been that way, ever since I was a kid. So, naturally, it never occurred to me that it was anything unusual or odd that maybe not everyone was hearing words, flashing on scenes, images, or fragments of this and that; zipping around with no apparent connection. That when someone was talking to me; it might be an interruption, bringing me instantly back from another place.

In retrospect—years and years of retrospection—the fact is, creatively, everything I imagine: cartoons, stories, scenes—is stimulated and emerges directly or indirectly from that hodgepodge of stuff floating around and through my head.

So I'm not complaining. For sure, it's worth the detours through some swamps, some weird stuff, an army of random scary What-ifs? looming disasters, and unpleasant outcomes.

But that's show-biz, right? Everything's not wine and roses, as they say; some bad with the good. Just wish more good than bad, but who's to do the screening?

Anyway, the life-saving part of being blessed with my around-the-clock flow of pieces of this and that, was that, importantly, beginning when I was little, I've always been on the alert, ready to roll; to launch a diversionary action, given the potentially explosive nature of what I've referred to as my family dynamic. No time to wait for the alarm to go off when the whole place was about to explode; I had to be prepared, had to feel the tension developing, perform, divert, do or say something, anything, to avoid disaster, obliteration, doom, death.

Chalk one up for positive thinking.

So, as I was saying, I always assumed that all operating systems were the same as mine; there was no reason to think otherwise. I mean, that was my assumption. I couldn't imagine life being any different for anyone; that, essentially, the powers that be built us all the same way; an equal opportunity blessing, or hiccup in the formulation process.

That each of us would view the passing parade as a part of the deal of life and ultimately, have a pretty good idea of the meaning of the scenes flying past, what it's all about, if we wanted to. No standard interpretation; each of us would surely have a different cast of characters, locations, action, atmosphere, situations, background—our own album. Mostly familiar.

Well, as I pretty well know now—about time, I'd say if I were being unkind to myself—when it comes to what goes on in our heads, we are a totally disparate bunch. Pockets of similarities, of differences, confusion, of understanding and not.

For me, all of this has emerged as the ongoing issue of my life; of the story I'm telling myself.

Its meaning? Obvious? Obscure? Bizarre? Hysterically funny?

The sheer complexity of life, of an infinite number of differences, major and trivial, of individual personalities and most significantly to me, what do we—each of us—make of it all?

The challenge for me is daily examination and interpretation of that material that flows non-stop through my head.

Either totally non-productive and equally self-indulgent navel contemplation—angels on the head of a pin—or a commendable search for significance.

I won't say meaning.

That would be pretentious.


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