There are neurotics such and you and me and the guy in the back seat of the bus who keeps blowing his nose. And then there are the Great Neurotics. From all walks of life they come, these Great Neurotics, from history and fiction and the entertainment arts they emerge, marching together, out of step, absorbed in their own thoughts, and in the way the breeze plays through their hair.
Here is today’s entry in this dubious gallery:
“I hope to put my rooms in order. Disorder I have found one great cause of Idleness.” Johnson wrote such notes to himself all his life, but it never seemed to do much good. His rooms remained frightfully messy and he continually fretted over being idle. Dr. Johnson was a textbook case of neurotic tics and habits. He compulsively tapped fence posts with his walking stick as he passed them (and he broke into a nervous sweat if he missed one), he habitually counted his steps from place to place, he grimaced and stretched as he spoke, and he blew out his breath like a whale following a lengthy remark. Johnson was never at ease in this world (he once went so far as to hide in a tree to avoid a visitor). One way he coped was to turn to the comparatively straightforward world of mathematics; in times of particular stress he might be found patiently figuring out how many times around the world all the gold in England could be wound if it were pounded down into strips 1/50″ thin.