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PURCHASE THE DIGITAL COLLECTION (2013)
Sax Rohmer (b. Arthur Henry Ward)
B. 2.15.1883 Birmingham, England / D. 6.1.1959 London
Mental blocks, looked at closely, are amazing things. So easy to mistake for something like a rock or blackout cloth or a square of cardboard, once you’re even aware of having one; every time, your first glimpse is of something inert and quite uncomplicated by pain. An innocent forgetfulness, at worst a childish shirking of a chore: that’s all it resembles. So, whatever. You’ll do the thing after lunch. And then after lunch it never even occurs to you to do it, although you do nothing but nothing instead. The mental block beats you.
Just like Fu Manchu, whose most effective disguise was an old foreigner’s vagueness. Courting the impatience of hardy go-getters he’d fumble at conversational latches, learning much more than he told.
Determined to defeat the mental block, you make a list. The next day you forget to read it. You cause a note to flash on your computer screen and the first time it does you delete it. Day after day slips away to decline with the thing still undone. By now it has company: you’ve also stopped doing the things you remembered to.
Just like Fu Manchu, whose criminal interests were filed at the Yard under Legion. Corrupting the morals of hymning do-gooders he threw in for free, knowing the profits he’d take on the back end.
Back home dirty dishes overflow the dishpan and all your spoons are in the sink. You decide to wash the dishes and to look more closely at your mental block while you do.
Just like Fu Manchu, whose deeper meditations might span weeks of utter stillness, confounding assassins and coroners alike.
What is it blocking? A small thing, a dull task, an annoying bore which just happens to spring an ambivalence you’ve been avoiding—because it, too, is a bore and stupid—about having to work at all. Of course you have to work; so it’s simple, yes. But there’s a harder block you hadn’t seen before because the simpler one was working and it blocked the view.
Just like Fu Manchu, whose blatant misdeeds were merely a smokescreen. Concealed inside crime waves, his course towards planetary domination would be indiscernible to a civil society too busy waving its arms.
Guilt. Shame. Fear. The harder block gives you one of those feelings that tend to make you burst out with a few words to yourself on the train, at your desk—say, “Let me go.” At which you pretend that you just started singing; you mouth some nonsense words or tap your tongue and blow a few bars of air rhythm. Even to approach such feelings causes immediate public embarrassment. The harder block is toxic with threats of exposure: break it and you’ll spill. It’s blackmailing you.
Just like Fu Manchu, whose tongue-less spies were bred to feed upon the signs of human sin and error. Combing their innumerable coded reports for the names of future victims, he’d make notes on an abacus—an internet of one.
Holidays seem to intervene, in fact they twist the focus so an even closer view emerges of the mental block when next you meet it. Once there was one of those things you thought was a personal choice which made it okay because you were being a grown-up and choosing to put it behind you. Years and years in the shadows later it’s still there, just like new.
Just like Fu Manchu, whose indestructibility made being a mastermind easy and fun. Consulting forbidden authorities, the insidious doctor could always whip up some resurrection as a fall-back plan.
Consolation Site: Enter the Page
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