Now that I know that just thinking about classified documents will declassify them, my mind is being overtaken by thoughts I dare not think for fear that thinking them makes them come true.
Just the other day I was thinking about that famous line of Henry the Second, King of England, when in 1170 he supposedly said (though, remember, it’s not clear that he said it but perhaps only thought it and said later that he had said it), “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”
He was referring to Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, his old friend and clergyman who had been excommunicating a number of bishops who supported Henry. Well, apparently, all Henry had to do was merely ponder this question, and four knights dispatched themselves on behalf of the King’s wish and, forthwith, Beckett’s skull was cracked by a blow and his brains puddled on the cathedral floor.
But don’t blame me for having been taught this terrifying piece of garbage in my high school world history class. The teacher, Mrs. Gingrich, planted it there. I’m so sorry that it just occurred to me, recently, when, you’re right, it shouldn’t have, and I shouldn’t have given it a second thought.
Nor should I have contemplated, as I also did, the seventeen-year-old Jew Herschel Grynszpan who, in January 1938, seeking to protest the Nazis, entered the Paris office of the Nazi diplomat Ernst vom Rath and shot him five times—boom, down, dead. With Grynszpan’s arrest, the publicity around his singular act lit a retributive explosion, the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, when German Jews as a whole were savagely beaten, their businesses ransacked and burnt, all because a few like Grynszpan had acted murderously against the Third Reich’s tyranny.
Now there’s a thought for which I have no earthly idea—maybe the Devil Himself put it there for some Godawful purpose—how it came into my mind, let alone to stay long enough for me to have even considered it. I’m ashamed that it just occurred to me, willy-nilly, as offhandedly as what am I going to cook for supper.
But it does bring up a conundrum we all face from time to time. That is, stuff that we just think about. For no good reason at all. How do I avoid, let alone stop, these unbidden, morbid, immoral things from easing under the locked door of my usually sane, everything’s-OK mental stability? I have no idea.
And then, something not quite as bold. Floating by my overly inactive brain there appeared, I swear, out of nowhere, the image of the young man in Tiananmen Square in 1989. We all remember the kid, in his white shirt and black pants, who stood up, waved flags against three tanks, and danced a kind of streetwise ballet of one-man resistance, cheered the world over as a ballsy demonstration of free expression that fateful June in China.
His little David vs. Goliath moment was crushed — as was the mass rally — and we have no clue what happened to that crazy heart other than the probable obvious: He was sent to a re-education camp where he was taught never to think that he himself could mount something as foolishly idiotic as trying to stop a phalanx of tanks with his body.
So why is it, in the midst of thinking, randomly, mind you, of Beckett and Grynszpan, into my claptrap of a brain there also lands the image from Tiananmen Square? If I knew, I wouldn’t think about why my mind works the way it does. It just does, of its own accord, all on this one quiet, sunny September afternoon in San Diego.
I mean now I’m terrified that just by thinking — and here, for your amusement, writing it down— I have, regrettably, put something in motion that is untenable and that, were it, whatever it is, to transpire, then, uh-oh, I may be in very big trouble (like, at least, the launching of an investigation) because if a link is established between pure thought and pure action, not only do I have to watch what I say but I better be even more careful to not think about what I’m thinking about. Or else.
Whose boat is this boat?
Well, if I’m in this boat, I think, that you may be, too.
Thomas Larson is a San Diego-based freelance writer.