For much of my life I have wrestled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an odd affliction which may be quite amusing when portrayed by Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets” (or more recently by someone whose name I cant remember – which shows things are pretty much under control these days - in “Monk”), but is actually a cursed way to live. At it’s worst my particular symptoms were pretty weird: I’d have to spend whole nights laying awake and memorizing large chunks of books (usually dictionaries), and then attempting to discover a mathematical algorithm to account for the difference in word length – thereby enabling me to predict how many letters any new words which might be created would contain, irrespective of what that word might mean… or some other equally meaningless mental task. Yes, I know I’m probably losing you at this point, and I really do know how crazy it all sounds – but obsessions like this could literally keep me awake for days at a time, and intrude into every spare moment of the working day. And please don’t think they seemed any less crazy then: at the time I fully realized my mind had been captured by an utterly pointless and stupid task – but it felt irresistibly, exhaustingly urgent just the same. It simply had to be done, and I had been made slave to the task.
Those extremes are long in the past now, but while lurking in a back pew at church last Sunday morning, I could feel the once-familiar troll recommence his gibbering at the back of my mind. Although this time the end result was good
As it was an old church (by Sydney standards at least) the pews still have faint traces of numbers on their ends; a legacy of the days when they were rented on an annual basis by parishioners in an alarming extension of the class system – the better the pew, the more you paid and the wealthier everyone knew you were. Looking across the aisle, I could see the numbers were out of order: at some point in the past the pews must have been moved around in the course of maintenance.
“So what?”, any sane person would say. And I agree, except that for me this could have once been an unavoidable mine-field: “were they now in any mathematically discernable pattern?”, “what would the next number in the series be?”; and “could there be any meaning in the order the were now positioned?”; the old ways of thinking were not so loud as to be crippling, but just loud enough for me to laugh at my old tormentor.
By the grace of God, and with the help of more than a decade’s therapy, I could understand the situation for what it was, and keep control. But it’s amusing to know that there was once a time when I would have been compelled to re-arrange the pews if I were to continue attending the parish. I’d have had to keep my reasons for doing so secret (maybe even hide the whole process itself), since I’d have known my reasons for shifting things around was idiotic, but I’d have simply had to confront the issue. Instead I found myself wondering: if my obsession was other people’s sexuality, instead of word and number patterns, would there be much difference in the obsession’s validity?
What I’m trying to say is that I wonder if some of the people currently claiming to be focused on a “biblical” and/or “moral” issue aren’t actually just suffering from a more socially acceptable form of my own malaise? Whereas I learned from a very early age that sharing my obsessions with others normally just resulted in them dismissing me as “weird”, the obsessions of people such as +Schofield, when expressed in the manner in which they have learned to use so effectively, actually gains them a following among others similarly afflicted.
The reason I never liked any of the “Bible Code” garbage is because their linguistic/mathematical hypotheses were always so weak – but what if someone had been able to produce a more rigidly consistent theory? It’s likely I’d have embraced it wholeheartedly – just as so many of the followers of the currently popular obsessions gaze so lovingly at the loudly repeated tissue of lies.
I’m writing this in a plane thousands of feet above the Tasman Ocean, heading for Christchurch, New Zealand, where I’ll be joining my wife and her family for Christmas. On this day ten years ago I was in a psychiatric ward, having just failed in an (yet another) attempt to kill myself. Then life felt very, very alone, and all over bar the screaming. Today, in contrast, it’s very, very wonderful. But how dearly do I wish that some of the other people similarly afflicted could find their own new life of wonder and joy, instead of so loudly indulging their own obsessive disorders at other’s expense.