I’m giving an exam on Friday, so I’ve offered the students extended office hours today and Thursday, so that they can stop by and get any questions answered. Many hours of office hours. Hours in which I cannot leave. So I’m noodling about on the internet a bit, because of course none of my students have come by, and I run across this little article about Oprah Winfrey, and her new project, a show about Belief. “Oh god,” I thought, “please let a student come by to ask me lots of questions. Even to offer lots of excuses. Anything to prevent me from reading any of this.” But no students came by.
There is no god.
Free of any responsibility or obligation, my eyeballs involuntarily swiveled to the open page, and my brain slurped down the anecdote Winfrey offered. I couldn’t help myself. I read everything. I can’t not read something. I’m like a rat, who eats but has no emesis reflex, so the toxin just enters and simmers there, in my head, making my consciousness regret ever waking.
One day I was at my farm in Indiana. It was a rainy day and I was thinking, “Gee, I sure would like some tomato soup.” Soon after, the caretaker who lived across the street came in with a pot of tomato soup. I asked her: “What made you do that?” She said: “Well, honey, I had these tomatoes. So I thought maybe you’d like some tomato soup.” So I was like, Wow, if you can get tomato soup like that, what else is possible? What else can I manifest? So I started trying it with other things. I have seen it happen over and over and over again. You control a lot by your thoughts.
“I have just consumed poison,” my brain howled, “and I cannot vomit it out.” It writhed in my skull, chasing its tail and slavering frothy drool, desperate to end the agony eating away inside it. How can she believe this? How can someone so deluded be worth umpty-billion dollars?
My brain squirmed over this for a while. I could feel my neurons melting, dripping and pooling in a little puddle of sad lipids at the base of my cranium.
And then I had a thought.
I would like some tomato soup, I thought.
I had a banana for breakfast (wait, did I? I think I forgot to have breakfast) and skipped lunch and it’s late in the afternoon and I’m trapped here in my office and boy am I hungry and a nice bowl of hot tomato soup sure would taste great right now, with lots of little oyster crackers and maybe a glass of milk on the side.
Gee, that sure would be nice.
And then I thought, no, even better, I would like some French onion soup. I would chop up a big onion — no, two, I would share — and caramelize it and simmer it in a big pot with some spices, and then I would serve it with some cheese and a baguette and a nice wine, and it would be delicious. I need this. I deserve this. OK, the tomato soup would be fine, too. See, I’m a reasonable man. I’ve given the universe alternatives. My demands are so simple and inexpensive and easy, and I allow a whole hierarchy of choices that would all make me equally happy.
Right now, my brain wants nothing but soup. It can think of nothing but soup. I am a focused node of desire, and I want nothing but soup.
UNIVERSE, WHERE IS MY SOUP? I WANT MY SOUP NOW.
I WANT OPRAH WINFREY TO SHOW UP AT MY OFFICE WITH MY SOUP. And umpty-billion dollars.
You don’t have to bring the cash to my office, Oprah. You can just mail me the check, sometime in the next week or two.
See, I’m reasonable.
WHERE THE FUCK IS MY SOUP?
Now my office hours are over. I can go home.
Maybe I should make some soup.