When is a Click a Tic?

As technology extends our voices, our thoughts, our fingers, the next generation of mental illnesses will surely cross the biological/electronic border and reside partly in cyberspace. I mention this because I’ve been having some trouble controlling the touchpad on my laptop…


Charles Hartshorne

Yes, I searched the internet for remedies, eventually contacted the manufacturer (Dell), but those paths back to computer health played out and the symptoms remain. The symptoms? The cursor jumps to a place of its choosing on the screen and either triggers whatever is supposed to happen for so-called ‘mouse-over’ or actually initiates — it clicks, though there is never an actual click, only a ghostly chuckle as I’m launched off to some destination unknown and unwanted.

I bring all this up because yesterday I announced to the world my purchase of a wonderful little book, Born to Sing: An Interpretation and World Survey of Bird Song by Charles Hartshorne. I’m interested in birdsong as part of my research for an upcoming novel, tentatively Lost Words, whose theme is human communications and related difficulties We are never able to say what we mean, but no matter, our listeners never understand what we say as we do in any case. Communication is a crapshoot. Something like that. Birdsong comes into the story. Also a parrot taught to say, “Witch! She turned me into a bird!”

I studied philosophy under Hartshorne at U Texas back in the ‘70s, and so when his name popped up in my search for birdsong resources I followed, I clicked, I bought. Charles died more than a decade ago, though he lived to be 103. He was mainly interested in Theology – developed Whitehead’s ontology of becoming into Process Theology. If change is the fundamental reality (as a line of philosophers from Heraclitus to Whitehead surmised) then God must be temporal, mutable, etc. His books not about birdsong include titles like Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes, The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God, and many such. Our paths crossed in Austin years ago but didn’t overlap much as I wasn’t interested much in theology.

Back to the topic here…immediately as I sealed the deal with Amazon to send the birdsong book my way, the cursor on my Dell leaped delighted to an icon on the screen labeled something like ‘Tell the World You Bought This Book’, and clicked there. Who knows, is this a problem of electronics, unsolved despite my diligent efforts, or is this (as I now suspect) Tourette’s Syndrome 2.0? According to my friend, Wiki, “Tourette’s is defined as part of a spectrum of tic disorders, which includes provisional, transient, and persistent (chronic) tics.” When is a click a tic I wonder?


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