THE SWISS CHEESE
Once a slice of Swiss cheese had a thought. Not that having thoughts was unusual for cheese in general. In fact, so common was cheesy thinking in those days that it commanded a large part of public discourse. And not simply in the homogenized, processed world of the popular press or the more pungent one of the blogosphere but also the moldy fromage so prized in civic debates, globe-trotting diplomacy, business and political ethics, military and security planning, supreme jurisprudence, medical and research integrity, academic jargon, religious disputes, and so on and so on. The slice of Swiss cheese was by no means an aberration, then, except in one respect. Its thinking had more than the usual number of holes in it. This fact didn’t make coming up with an idea in the first place any more difficult than it was for those dominating the circles already mentioned, but it did complicate efforts to hold onto that idea. In comparison with the myriad little gas bubbles that arose during the usual process by which once-fresh ideas thickened and turned to curd after a while, the Swiss cheese had to contend with gaps so large an entire train of thought might slip away into one and vanish utterly. At such times, it would have to bridge the resulting gap in its understanding or memory as best it could, often with mental stretches so great they were in themselves hard to sustain. It might seem to drift off in the middle of important meetings or personal conversations with an expression somewhere between distraction and impatience, and when it eventually returned to the matter at hand, it might do so with a rush of ideas that struck others as disconcerting at best and incoherent at worst. Where did such ideas come from, they were tempted to ask? Few did, however, as the general desire was to avoid the ticklish situation of appearing to ignore what could well be the first signs of mental decline, even madness. Best retain some measure of distance from such characters, most agreed, lest it be assumed one shared their strange new ways of thinking. As for the cheese itself, the more the ideas that had formed its intellectual contact with others fell away into this gap or that gap, the less inclined it became to attempt spanning them. They weren’t absolute voids, it discovered. And the time spent trying to find a way over or around them wasn’t really defined by the success or failure to do so. In fact, the holes couldn’t be defined in those terms whatsoever since they turned out to have few points of contact with anything the cheese had formerly relied upon to make sense of its existence. They might appear empty of meaning, but in their depths, it found, worlds rolled on one another like so many wheels of experience that could not be slowed to the pace of its prior understanding. To fall into one of these holes must be like falling into the death of everything that made you feel comfortable and secure in what you thought you knew. What lay at the bottom? Was there a bottom? Or would you fall forever, away from all that had been certain? And towards what? What new possibilities, unimagined before, might redefine the limits of thought? Even to guess at what lay in these hollows made the cheese dizzy. But perhaps that was how it should be. For why be endowed with holes in your thinking if you were afraid of what you might find there?
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans