My wife and I lived a good life. We used to get up in the morning in a beautiful house, sit down to breakfast in our “enclosed patio,” watch Barbara Walters talk about sexual intercourse on the Today show. Nevertheless, I fell prey to morning terror, shook like a leaf at the breakfast table, and began to drink vodka with my grits. At the same time that I developed liberal anxiety, I also contracted conservative rage and large-bowel complaints.

But—and here is the point—the period of my decline was also a period of lying fallow and of the germination of some strange quirky ideas. Toynbee, I believe, speaks of the Return, of the man who fails and goes away, is exiled, takes counsel with himself, hits on something, sees daylight—and returns to triumph.

. . .

Was it not John Locke who said that the mark of genius is the ability to discern not this thing or that thing but rather the connection between the two?

. . .

My idea was simply that: if the encephalograph works, why not devise a gadget without wires that will measure the electrical activity of the separate centers of the brain? Hardly a radical idea. But here was the problem: given such a machine, given such readings, could the readings then be correlated with the manifold woes of the Western world, its terrors and rages and murderous impulses? And if so, could the latter be treated by treating the former?