Ask someone about the super power they would most like to have, and apparently the top answer is: the ability to read other people’s minds. Wow – that might be the end of a few marriages! I can’t think of anything worse. I was mulling it over as I was sitting in the silence of Edinburgh’s Central Library enjoying the peace and quiet and distracting myself from writing charity funding applications. Gazing around at the fifty or so busy minds in the room I wondered at the flurry of thoughts filling the space were I able to tune into them: verbs conjugated, equations calculated, history learned, theorem proven, poetry analysed, and daydreams visualised. If I could hear all of the thoughts behind that deep silence I’d probably have shattered eardrums. Remember the film ‘What Women Want’? Mel Gibson plays a male chauvinist who, following a blow to the head, suddenly develops a super power whereby he can hear what everyone is thinking. He uses it both as a seduction technique and to steal the thinker’s creative ideas. It’s a light-hearted and amusing movie, with the message (if there is one), that reading the minds of others is, ultimately, head-poundingly maddening. Sure isn’t the content of our own minds hard enough to get to grips with without taking on what’s going on in everyone else’s?
Another chart topper on wish list of super powers is the ability to fly. Which reminds me of one of my favourite ever lines from a film: the first Superman movie (1978, is it really that long ago?) when Christopher Reeves catches Lois Lane falling out of a skyscraper and flies off with her in his arms declaring, “Easy Miss, I’ve got you”, whereby she shoots a panicked line back at him, “You’ve got me, who’s got you?” Great stuff! Others high on the list include: time-travel; teleportation; telepathy; and being able to wear a cloak of invisibility. Invisibility does appeal to me, but I think we all become a little more invisible to the world the older we get. Telepathy, now that would be a good one. I know some people – mostly couples in long standing partnerships – who, when they are in company and one is itching to leave, are able to read those tiny signs that are hidden to anyone else: a certain look, a tiny eyebrow movement, an imperceptible hand gesture. Ok, so it’s not telepathy, but it’s getting close.
Right now, my chosen superpower would be to fast-forward to March and leap-frog the January blues that have been solidifying around me for a few days and are beginning to feel like an emotional backpack made from concrete. T. says not to be wishing my life away, I know she’s right. I do all the glass-half-full things: the days are getting longer, the snowdrops are up, but the wind’s bite seems to be drawing blood in a way it didn’t in December as the snow falls outside. Pulling support from all quarters, M. texted me a ‘chin-up’ message, telling me there is little to do but grin and bear it. “Edinburgh comes with January blues, just like how you’re served chips with a club sandwich,” read the text, “they last on through February, I’m afraid.” I used to know someone in Dublin, years ago, and he wouldn’t commit to anything, or anyone, or pursue any goal if there wasn’t an identifiable ‘upside’ to it, as he put it. I always found his life philosophy selfish, and thereafter I always told myself that I could, and would, find an upside in every situation, no matter how grey. Maybe the upside to the January blues is simply getting to the other side. And maybe the most important super power we all have is to find the upside, even if it might be hidden deep in a vault.
Here in Edinburgh it’s snowing outside, and the sunlight is straining to get through, but I think today is a day for a slice of Derek Mahon’s ‘Everything Is Going To Be Alright’.
“The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.”