Stories of self


I believe that certain things come into our lives in the moments when we most need them (people, stories, ideas, concepts) – these come by way of walking through a packed grocery store or reading an excerpt from an out-of-place book waylaid on a store counter or forgotten in the pocket of an airplane seat in front of you.

I wish I could say that I had read Will Self’s The Quantity Theory of Insanity prior to writing my doctorate dissertation, but this was not the case. In the days following my reading of this story, I went over my Dissertation again and again thinking about the collective consciousness and feeling strong admiration for a writer I was introduced to in my undergraduate work.

In the story, The Quantity Theory of Insanity, Self encapsulates the methodological psycho-social and emotional struggles that many academics feel (as evidenced by my own experiences in speaking with my peers at multiple universities across several countries and 3 continents) in pursuing as-of-yet unformed ideas – or the struggle of, in the aftermath of a novel idea, attempting to explain how one arrives at that idea or its conclusion, and then ultimately determine to what further lengths it can be taken.

People are interested in people; the phrase urbanization of thought comes to mind; when our reflections on society become more poignant and complex as we spend more time with one another; this, coupled with the notion that our physical environment influences our thoughts about relationships. For example, we can formulate complex ideas about people when we are surrounded by strangers as observers of our society for any amount of time; in contrast, walking through a forest may offer a sense of peace, and thoughts towards society may be more amenable (simply put; this gives your mind a break). But maybe our minds don’t need a break. Perhaps it’s that resting period that often obscures or diffuses a necessary angst. That place beyond the space where everything feels normal and formulated (as it should). And you can feel it, most people can; the moment your mind releases itself in the delirium of fatigue and you’re convinced that “this is it!”, the breakthrough you’ve been waiting for – but it doesn’t come.

If you are closely in tune to your body and mind (a skill pervasive in people who spend inordinate amounts of time alone); than arguably you can identify when your mind needs that hiatus. But if you are so inclined, than you are accustomed to pushing the proverbial envelope of your minds’ limits to tap into its recesses and reach… something, the thing that gnaws at your intellect that you know you want to reveal. A feeling that is also, quite simply, brought on by “uppers.” I’m sure there are some theories that define, construct, then deconstruct these notions, but I am new to these explorations and re-reading Self’s work underscores my desire for more research and creative interventions in my own work.