Alternately, the random linkage of ideas that defines much of the human thought process. A catalyst for things like Everything.

A literary exercise used to find ideas for essays, stories and poems. My English teacher this year used it liberally with us. Here’s an example:

There’s 5 million in the world, more, within me. The pain pounding in my head explodes as the people scream for help. They want the missing piece to life. They’ve never seen it; where is it, what is it? So tired, so late. The pencil runs across my page tracing meaningless lines and the pain pounds in my head.

What will I do if he goes? All alone, missing him. I’m so afraid of the cold, of dark, of hunger, of being alone. It makes my body hurt inside out, like a cat, scratching. Made of glass I’m inside looking out and I see him, I see them all, see through them and scream.

My blood would save the world—if it could it would spill down blue ice into the ocean. I can see the gulls fly—scratch the itch of laughter in your mind, thoughts slide so smooth, like fingers across water. Slick skin. Kissing someone, slow and warm, cuddle hugs. Laughter that pierces my ears like a harpy’s scream and my eyes are blind because the world is tilting on a non-existent edge.

Random thoughts fly by me, thrown by the wind, and I stare at them, tears flying from my eyes. The eyes so blue. Beautiful angel’s eyes, I see them in my mind, but never, really. Elusive souls brush past my outstretched gaze. Please hold my hand. I’m afraid of the cars because I already feel the pain of bone and flesh crushing against blacktop, spilling blood. I can see the bullet before it kills and how the blade slices skin so easily, blood dripping down like a scarlet rainfall—so pretty, so delicious. Like whipped cream and strawberries on cheesecake between a kiss and a hug. A Sammy-squeeze given to Sandra when she feels bad, so bad. Brandon should be beaten, he’s so dense. How can he not go out with her after all these years? Why do Brandon and Ryan always fight? Why do I get Ryan but not get him? Why do people confuse being alive with living? They’re nowhere near the same.

How confusing is life, my mind goes blank and I become aware of my surroundings. The pain in my knee, it hurts so bad, but not really at all. It’s so late, I’m so tired and full of meaningless contradictions that are impossibly easy for me to make.

It upset me so much when I was told—I felt the blood rush from and to my face. It was like being pulled out of hot water and dunked in ice. Ice is so pretty, so good melting to water in your mouth, sliding down your parched throat.

My hair is red and holds the fire of light and the sun. The light burns my eyes, I turn to the dark. Why am I attracted to what frightens me? Why do I care? ...Why do I try…? I can see the devil’s eyes in the dark and feel my heart pounding. The rush of fear.

Elation at a downfall, I will never understand people. I like discovering things, observing. There’s always someone new to puzzle out. I’m working on a hundred thousand right now…so tired. Weary and worn out by thinking. Need sleep, need to dream and cry.

Free association is a disease of the psyche.

One afternoon, after a protracted lunch with friends, we walk about, the purpose of which is lost to my memory. High spirits abound, I see a tree and think of a funny saturday morning cartoon I saw a decade earlier when I was ten. I chuckle at the memory, and thinking of my childhood I remember an afternoon when I was twelve and out on a walk on a sunny morning, which further puts me back into middle school, where I'm reading a book from my past.

"Hmmm," my friends ask, out of a habit born of not being around free associators all their lives. Our minds constantly twist, like strands of DNA. And on that note I just remembered the K-alpha X-Ray wavelength produced by a copper target in an X-Ray diffractometer (two actually 1.5414 Angstroms and 1.5449 Angstroms IIRC, they merge generally and are averaged at 1.5428 Angstroms). They don't know that I may be compelled to explain to them, reminisce at them and deluge them in a wave of nostalgia. Even after knowing me for years they still wonder at what's going on in my head and I still explain at them.

"Oh I was thinking about {insert favorite childhood SMC here}," I reply, "especially that one episode where the protagonist {falls out of, runs into, interacts in some other humorous manner} with a tree." I don't explain that it took me on a romp through my childhood memories.

"Oh," they say, invariably. If I'm lucky its, "Oh I remember that show," and very rarely, "Ha, I remember that, silly protagonist."

"It reminds me of that episode of {Futurama/Sealab 2021/other popular cartoon for people in college}, where {Fry/Captain Murphy/other protagonist} is attacked by the {Omicronians/Bebop Cola Machine/amorous lobsters or something equally nonsensical for the modern college student}."

"Oh yeah, remember that one episode where..." they go on to describe something familar to themselves, their minds focusing on memories that are shared by our collective consciousness. My mind however has moved on to some other piece of internet zeitgeist. Heh, Absolutely Fabulous. Hmm, oh yes, Free association. Umm... oh yeah Black Adder, Rowan Atkinson, mechanical engineering, bridges, Iain M. Banks. Lapsed Pacifist. I said, I've got a big stick. Over the Gravity Well and far away...

My reverie is broken by my friends' chuckling, I chuckle along with them. 'Gravitas... Gravitas... No, Don't Help Me, I'll Get It In A Moment...' And then I remember my High School yearbook picture, under which my only message was "Zero Gravitas." And then of course, I remember showing up for my Orchestra picture in the wrong shirt and looking incredibly out of place. I feel the embarassment of that day nearly 5 years ago come back. Finally I give myself a mental kick, to stop my mentally kicking myself. I focus on the conversation. Politics. Dubya's gone and done something incredibly stupid again, no surprise there. Administrative Corruption, known about it since about 2002. Old hat stuff, worse than McKinley certainly, but old hat never the less. Which reminds me of Teddy Roosevelt. Then the street next to the street my mother lives on and the July 4th parade every year. The stars that were painted on the road nearly 8 years ago for that parade. The walk from my house to school that I took every morning for nearly 3 years. Candy sales for Orchestra, carrying the box back and forth. That damn picture. The physics picture, I wonder when that is. Has Diane sent an email? What should I wear? Maybe I should design a submission for the Physics T-Shirt this year. What would that look like...

Have I lost you? Perhaps I should explain...

Free association is a disease of the psyche.

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