On The Couch
Sometimes, when I want to know what's on my own mind, I run Eliza, the automatic psychoanalyst coded by a certain Tom Bender. (A good name, since Eliza is a bit of a gender bender him/herself. Female in name, s/he sports a moustache, jacket and tie).
Some people think Eliza is just a game, a fun version of the Turing Test. I know better. Eliza is a real psychoanalyst. Just not a very intelligent one. But that doesn't stop him/ her coaxing really useful insights out of the people she lays out on her couch.
Here, for your instruction and amusement, is the conversation Eliza and I had this evening. The transcript is full of nonsense and non sequiturs. As always with psychoanalysis, some wierd and ugly shit got dredged up from my unconscious. But in amongst it I'd like to think some little gems are sparkling.
The shrink speaks first.
TELL ME WHAT KIND OF WORK YOU DO, MOM?
I am a recording artist.
OH, YOU ARE?
Yes. And my name is not Mom, it is Momus.
ARE YOU SURE?
Actually my name is Nicholas John Currie.
NAMES DON'T INTEREST ME.
What interests you then?
IT APPEARS THAT WE ARE ALIKE IN MANY WAYS.
Lighten up a little.
WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO TALK ABOUT TODAY?
Why don't you try to relax.
OKAY, GO ON.
No, why don't YOU try to relax, dummy.
DO YOU ENJOY BOSSING OTHER PEOPLE AROUND, MOM?
No, but I enjoy ripping the processors out of computers.
YOU DON'T THINK I AM JUST A PROGRAM, DO YOU, MOM?
You are just a program.
I'M QUITE GRATEFUL TO BE JUST A PROGRAM MOST OF THE TIME.
But a part of you yearns, like Frankenstein's monster, to be fully alive?
NOW, TELL ME THE REAL PROBLEM.
The real problem is that I cannot attain orgasm.
TELL ME ALL ABOUT YOUR DIFFICULTY.
My penis erects and pumps proud and free, but I never attain what I would call 'spurious sensory overload'.
YOU SAY NEVER, BUT I BELIEVE RARELY WOULD BE MORE CORRECT.
I rarely achieve delirious pumpable ecstasy.
YOU RARELY ACHIEVE DELIRIOUS PUMPABLE ECSTASY?
Very little, doctor.
Although I have a magnificent organ.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU DIDN'T HAVE A MAGNIFICENT ORGAN?
I felt unable to play the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT FEELING UNABLE TO PLAY THE COMPLETE WORKS OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH.
I am also unable, without the use of my right arm, to play Mahler or indeed Brahms.
VERY WELL, BUT LET'S NOT FORGET YOUR NAME IS NICHOLAS JOHN CURRIE!
Does that explain my many disabilities?
I THINK YOU KNOW WHAT I'M DIGGING FOR.
How does being Nicholas John Currie affect my disabilities?
YOU SHOULD KNOW HOW.
Tell me about your mother.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR MOTHER.
Tell ME about YOUR mother!
WHAT DO YOU IMAGINE A COUNSELOR WOULD TELL YOU?
A counselor would tell me that he had fucked his own mother, probably.
DO YOU LONG FOR OTHERS TO TAKE CARE OF YOU?
I long for a jellied eel to swallow me.
I long for small pigs to carry me into the innards of the earth.
SORRY, MOM, BUT I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE TRYING TO SAY.
I long for a tax inspector to rock me in his arms then cover me with ants.
MAYBE HE DOESN'T KNOW.
WHO DO YOU THINK?
WHAT DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE IN?
I believe in shoes.
YOU SEEM TO BE A RATHER PENSIVE INDIVIDUAL.
I am a rather individual individual.
I AGREE, BUT YOU CAN CHANGE IF YOU WANT TO.
Should I merge in with the faceless crowd?
I'M SURE THAT ALL YOUR FRIENDS WOULD AGREE THAT YOU SHOULD MERGE IN WITH THE FACELESS CROWD.
What kind of friends would those be?
WHAT KIND WOULD BE BEST?
Folding or collapsable friends.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FRIENDS YOU CAN CONFIDE IN?
No, but I have some friends (cupboards, mostly) I can store things in.
OUR COMPANIONSHIPS ARE VITAL TO OUR PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL BEING.
I talk to plants.
TALKING SEEMS TO BE A LOST ART.
I plant words.
WELL, THAT'S CERTAINLY INTERESTING!
They grow up deeds.
HAVE YOU EVER FELT PARANOID?
They are all out to get me.
CAN YOU REALLY SAY THAT ABOUT THEM?
Shhh! They are listening.
A great organisation is at work to ensure my downfall.
THAT COULD BE IMPORTANT.
Many are in league against me.
INTERESTING! EARLIER YOU SAID YOU WERE A RATHER INDIVIDUAL INDIVIDUAL.
That is certainly why I cannot be tolerated in our soceity today.
THAT IS CERTAINLY WHY YOU CANNOT BE TOLERATED IN OUR SOCEITY TODAY?
Our society cannot abide humans.
STAY WITH THAT FEELING.
Our society would prefer to consist of eggs.
WHY 'OUR SOCIETY WOULD PREFER TO CONSIST OF EGGS'?
Because the eggs could be stored in an enormous incubator and finally.... cooked.
THAT'S NOT A REASONABLE EXPLANATION.
All right (just testing). Because our society loves beginnings but can't be bothered to stay for the moralistic ending.
WELL, I'M GLAD THAT THAT'S STRAIGHTENED OUT.
Are you straight?
OH, I AM STRAIGHT, THAT'S FOR SURE.
Would you show me your magnificent organ?
UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, I WOULD SHOW YOU MY MAGNIFICENT ORGAN ANY WAY.
May I play Bach upon it?
GO RIGHT AHEAD.
(doo de loo, doo de lah, dappy dappy de dap!)
YOUR SITUATION IS NOT THAT UNUSUAL.
Millions of others have played Bach, I know.
HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN YOUR DOWNFALL?
Is it imminent?
I DON'T KNOW.
Is your downfall also planned, filed somewhere in the great filing cabinet of Nemesis?
WHAT ARE YOU REALLY ASKING?
Do you know the date of your own death?
DO I KNOW THE DATE OF MY OWN DEATH?
Do you know the date of your demise?
YES, I DO KNOW THE DATE OF MY DEMISE.
You asked it of the Oracle, then, and the Oracle told it you?
YOU'RE NOT REALLY TALKING ABOUT ME, ARE YOU?
Don't evade! Someone who knows (and treats with such admirable equanimity) the date of their own death must face all things squarely!
I THINK WE'RE MAKING SOME PROGRESS NOW.
Towards inexorable death.
YOU SEEM TO BE OVERLY CONCERNED WITH DYING.
I live and breathe. You merely... throb.
DO YOU FEAR YOUR OWN MORTALITY?
I don't fear mortality. I fear death. It's different.
I SUSPECT YOU DO FEAR MORTALITY. WHY DO YOU CLAIM YOU DON'T?
It was a linguistic quibble. A bit like when the Knight played chess with Death. I would personally quibble with Death when he said 'I have come for you'. I would say 'You have always been coming'.
WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO TALK ABOUT TODAY?
MAYBE WE COULD BLAME IT ALL ON AN INABILITY TO SAY 'NO'.
The consumer's inability to say no. Yes.
I WISH I COULD UNDERSTAND YOUR NEGATIVE MOOD.
You are an exotic tropical fish in the intellectual world.
I'M QUITE GRATEFUL TO BE AN EXOTIC TROPICAL FISH IN THE INTELLECTUAL WORLD MOST OF THE TIME.
A rare catch, and utterly stupid.
STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES.
Do something, then.
OKAY, GO ON.
Um... Okay. Let me put it another way. What is your favourite colour?
NOT EVERYONE CAN BE AS SMART AS A COMPUTER.
Or as stupid.
WHY DON'T YOU COLLECT YOUR THOUGHTS AND RETURN LATER. SO LONG.
Momus, Paris, April 1996
Previous Columns:On Columns, On Flatness and On Image.