“Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you. Unfold your own book.” (Rumi)
George first visited me ten years ago. Sitting – or slumping – at my desk, I was pondering how European integration shaped the Irish national system of innovation. It was a real pleasure at the time… I loved manipulating concepts, turning ideas over, stretching them and let them bounce back.
But although I spent endless hours researching this topic, I happily let it go after the viva. Not by lack of interest, more to preserve my mental health. I get so depressed when I see how little we learned from the past. Why do we keep making the same mistakes? What about the ones pulling the strings of the world economy, do they have no conscience at all?
But let’s go back to George. Let’s go back to 2002, to my computer and to Douglass North’s article “Where have we been and where are we going?” “In the historical success stories of institutional adaptation, the belief system of the players filtered the information from current experiences and interpreted it in ways that induced choices that led to the modification, alteration, or adoption of institutions that resolved existing problems or led to improvements in competitive performance.”
Douglass North is one of my favourite institutional economists because he takes the human factor into account. And I find his articles reassuring.
But today, I feel a slight discomfort. Maybe it’s my posture. I really have to pay more attention unless I wish to become hunchbacked. I sit up.
The discomfort persists. It may be stress-related too. After all, writing a thesis is trying. Especially since I get so absorbed. I eat, breathe, smell and dream the Irish economy.
An electrical shock runs down my spine and into my legs. It startles me but I recognise it. I know I shouldn’t move my head or I will feel the sharp pain down my back again.
Last year, as I was lying in hospital after the lumbar puncture, tired and worried, the neurologist had joyfully told his students about it and they had all gathered around my bed to witness the famous Lhermitte syndrome in vivo.
This time, I not only feel the electrical current but also a pressure around my ribcage. I’m caught in a vice. I hold my arm folded across my abdomen to ease the discomfort. But the muscles between my ribs tighten. It’s hard to breathe in. My mind splits then and starts a dialogue.
– “Is it a heart attack? There’s nobody in the house. Maybe I should ring someone.”
– “Don’t be ridiculous. Your heart is fine, slightly broken but ok. You’ll be fine.”
– “Seriously, It’s getting really sore now.”
-“Why don’t you lie down and relax. Have a break. You’ll get back to it later.”
I lie down and try to relax.
– “It doesn’t help. It’s getting even worse. ”
– “Getting angry won’t help neither…”
– “What do you want me to do? Start singing “Its raining men hallelujah”!?
– “Why not…”
– “Maybe it’s worth trying, except I cannot sing. Plus, the embrace around my waist is tightening.”
– “Embrace? Hum… I would prefer another type of embrace…”
My mind reunites.
-“ Good idea. Let’s imagine a good-looking man… George Clooney is the first to come to my mind. After all, why not? He will do. He only has to stand behind me, his big hands around my waist, and to hug me, hold me tight. I can feel his warmth, his smell… his embrace.”
Eventually the pain subsided. Whether George’s embrace made a difference or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that it made it easier to cope with the pain and anguish. George seldom comes back but I have other visitors like Albert or Benito, the most faithful one. I also have a list of names awaiting their symptoms. Not in a hurry though…
You may think me weird, if not insane, but I prefer to have visitors rather than unpronounceable syndromes. For health too, the human factor should be at the heart of our concerns. I am also convinced that we can all write our own future, every day. Learning from our past experience, using all the tools we have, we can shape our future or at least make the best out of it.