A Passage from Luminous Airplanes, or Things As They Were: A Hyperromance

Vividan. II BID. And a blue sticker, “TAKE WITH FOOD,” which I habitually ignore. The irony of medication which relieves attention deficit disorder is that people with attention deficit disorder have a terrible time remembering to take it. The medicine. It tastes like a diesel truck backing into a loading dock on a smoggy summer night, but it works. Identified in the late twentieth century as a disorder of children, attention deficit disorder or ADD has become one of the iconic diseases of the twenty-first.

ADD means, generally, an inability to focus the mind for long on any one subject. It is sometimes accompanied by hyperactivity, a misnomer if ever there was one: hyperinactivity is more like it. Other symptoms in the ADD constellation include dyslexia, dysgraphia, impulsivity, irritability, speech and motor tics, and my own personal bugbear, verbal apraxia, a condition in which words cease to be the vehicles of meaning, and become the landscape which you traverse on your way to a meaning which is always just over the next hill. Like the White Queen in Alice’s Adventures through the Looking-Glass, you find yourself doing a lot of traversing just to stay in one place.

Still, ADD is better than another of our new diseases, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is so nebulous, it’s like the disease itself suffers from a kind of wasting disease, forever paring down the hidden agents which take all the body’s energy away. People with CFS can’t do anything for long; they live hollow-eyed in neurologists’ waiting rooms, seeking a cure for the common nap, a prescription for vitality. ADD and CFS. The diseases of the new century. I wonder sometimes whether they aren’t two names for the same thing: an inability to grasp the world, to hold it firm and stay near it. Or perhaps it’s the world which offers nothing to hold on to.

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