[The full title of this story is "Keynote Speech: Fourth Annual Symposium on Information Toxicity, Inaugural Section on Reverie Syndrome". —MJW]
I blame my wife for Kieran.
I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m sure I’d find my own excuses if it’d been my womb he’d grown in, and God only knows the Internet has said some uncharacteristically accurate things about my own role in the whole nightmare. I’m not saying you should blame her. But I do.
I’ve done this enough, I should be better at it. Here we go: Thank you, Dr. Desai, for your gracious introduction. And for such a distinguished physician-scientist to say such things about a humble carpenter, well, the heart just swells.
I am here behind this lectern because I famously sued several flagships of the insurance industry to medicalize reverie syndrome, an act of ham-fisted legal terrorism that Dr. Desai has elegantly edited to suggest that I was trying to set something right in the world. This, naturally, is arrant bullshit. Dr. Desai seeks to elevate both our fortunes by representing that we are in some alliance to improve your lives, him through medicine and me through stumbling around drunk on stage and telling you horrible things about my son. But I am impoverished by this ordeal, and I wish only to get paid—a disposition, incidentally, not entirely alien to Dr. Desai, who makes a fuck of a lot more from insurance payouts at his glittery new practice than he ever did running his cute little patient studies at the National Institutes of Mental Health.
So perhaps you now have some idea where I stand.
I see from my program that my talk is titled “Reverie Syndrome from the Parent’s Perspective.” Are there any parents of dreamers in the audience? You and you and—hi, Lila, how are you—and you and you and—
Oh, Jesus, there are a lot of you.
I wasn’t expecting so many.
[several seconds’ pause]
Well. I didn’t prepare any remarks for today because I was too busy reading to my son, which is my excuse for not doing pretty much anything I don’t feel like doing, these days. Now, as the parents present may know, Kieran hates it when I read to him. Which is crazy, am I right, physician-scientists? How is it that I can’t catch a break from my junkie son even when I hold the very needle? Well, here’s the problem: I don’t go fast enough. I stumble over words, and I waste both of his ears on just one voice. One story. But here’s the beautiful part: At this stage of the disease, he can’t actually stop me. They have these machines, you know—of any part of your body, your tactile resolution is highest on your fingertips, and so he has these machines that scratch words on his fingertips, ten of them, one each. Dreamer’s Braille. That’s called vibrotactile streaming. So Kieran can’t move his hands to stop me taking out his earbuds because it garbles the words coming in on his fingers. He doesn’t even scream at me when I start in, because then he can’t hear what’s coming in his ears. Better a fix from Dad than no fix at all, you know?
Did that ever happen with real drugs, when kids took real drugs? Has anyone ever cradled their kid and injected methadone into his arm as an act of mercy, and gotten nothing but a hiss of hate back because it wasn’t the real thing? I should know these stories, I suppose. I should seek them out. But I don’t have time for that. This is a full-time job, physician-scientists. They buy the ticket, you take the ride. That is the kernel of the “parent’s perspective.” You can go now if you want.
Can I get a glass of water?
Buy the ticket, take the ride. God, there’s a book I hate. Do your kids like stories about drugs as much as mine does? Does it interest you that stories about drugs are themselves the best drugs? Because I derive zero utility from that fact. But the guy who discovered it at p less than point oh five got fast-tracked tenure at Ohio State, honorary degrees from five Ivies plus Swarthmore and Caltech, and trusteeships on the boards of at least five drug companies, each of which carries an annual salary in the low-to-middle five figures for about ten hours a year—