Thoughts swirling around in my brain have a strange conformity to them. This only breaks apart when my stream of consciousness gets reduced to a thick-running sludge of semi-consciousness, partially alleviated and ineffectively combated with Lemsip.
In new cars, a lot of the engine management is controlled by an ECU - electronic control unit. This little computer controls the ignition, the brake systems, and sometimes can even make pretty significant changes to the way a car works. In the BMW M5, for example, the "M" button on the steering wheel unleashes another 100 horsepower by letting the on-board computer make changes to the way the engine output is generated.
Back in the days of carburetors, ignition timing belts and all that lark, there was no such thing as software failure. The most intelligent piece of electronics in an engine would be the little timing relay that would control the blinking speed of the indicators. And at least the blinker can would have a healthy 'click-click' sound. No click-click, no indicators, and you know something is wrong.
But of course, as with all computers, things sometimes go wrong. All computers crash. All software has bugs. As such, many ECU units are fitted with a 'limp home mode'. When it detects that something semi-serious is wrong, it enters the limp mode, which means that the engine won't rev beyond a pre-programmed speed, you can't accelerate very fast, or you may indeed be speed-restricted to 40 mph or similar. Bad? Well, no, not really: The alternative would be to either let you drive at regular speeds, with the danger of letting you trash your car (expensive repair, means happy repair people, but angry driver), or stopping you from going anywhere (expensive recovery and stranded on the side of the road means happy recovery company, but angry driver).
Limp home mode, then, is a fantastic invention.
And some times, I'm convinced that my brain has a limp-home mode too. (That's where the Lemsip comes in.) "Holy cow, I feel bad", I think, but somehow, my brain does work. I make it in to work. I manage to do simple tasks. I manage to string sentences together, which combine into articles, which keeps running MotorTorque for just another day, until I either crash completely (i.e have to stay home because the flu has won), or I manage to rewire my brain into normal mode, and switch back into full-speed mode.
An interesting observation about the limp mode, though, is that my brain, in its state of full winter syrup glory, actually manages to attempt short-cuts. Sometimes it will create a workflow that, whilst not being as well-polished or fool-proof, actually gets stuff done a lot faster. It is as if the auto-pilot in my brain chooses to do things its own way, and damned be the consequences.
It is when my brain is running at its slowest (or crawling at its fastest, if you will) that I make my deepest philosophical discoveries. There is a small brigade of police neurons in my brain that normally keep it thinking in the normal cycles, that turns my writing into a carefully constructed cycle of cliches and pre-packaged sentence fragments. It is quick to write, and simple to read, but actually isn't very rewarding, neither for the reader nor the writer. When I'm in slow-mode, the police-neurons are on holiday, and my thoughts get to crawl their own, feverishly free way.
It takes a writer of far higher skill than myself - or a lot fewer inhibitions - to actually break through the barrier of cliches, and start writing in an approachable, fresh, and original way. Terry Pratchett and the late Douglas Adams are two of the people who refused to let themselves be reined in by common language. Using the same words as everybody else, they broke up the structure and decided to jiggle stuff in their favour, causing laughs and a lightness about their writing that is rare.
Thom Yorke, Joseph Heller, Hunter S Thompson, e.e. cummings, Tom Wolfe, Marshall Bruce Mathers, Salman Rushdie, Ed Hammell and Jeremy Clarkson are some of the writers, journalists, poets and musicians who have done the same thing - smashing the moulds of conventional language, then re-assembling the pieces in ways that are so fresh, so desirable, that their works have to be read, listened to, or seen twice: Once to catch the story, and then another time to marvel at how they constructed the story. Or perhaps in the opposite order - depending on how good the underlaying storyline is, presumably.
These writers have one thing in common - in their forays into their various genres, each and every one of them have managed to ignore their police neurons, and take the shorter route. Or perhaps the longer route. Or the more interesting route.
In a society where your mom will always tell you to stick to the well-lit streets, to not speak to strangers, and to make sure to not take any unnecessary risks, it is no wonder that we decide to take a more chances, and ignore the police neurons altogether.
Myself, I will just have to begrudgingly admit that the only way I can comfortably do that is when I have the flu. And as someone with a rather powerful immune system, that is... oh... once every seven years. This year, I wasted the flu by being curled up in front of the sofa. But perhaps in 2012, when I'm due my next round of the influenza-strand...
first published on my website.
this is a work of fiction, but the descriptions of the limp-home mode are accurate and factual