Session Notes — The “Growl”

[Excerpts from session notes of Dr. Barnaby Ebsen.]

“A growling?”

“Yeah. When it woke me up, I thought it was more of a rumble. Rumbling at night isn’t that unusual.”


“Sure. Sometimes the wind rumbles.”

“Wind doesn’t howl?”

“Yeah, sure. Sometimes. Other times it sounds more like a rumble.”

“I see. But this wasn’t the—”

“Sometimes you can hear planes rumble in the distance. Taking off, landing down on the island. But this was too late at night for that. The next door neighbour’s water heater. It rumbles. The exhaust vent, I mean. Another neighbour across the street, early riser. He’s got a diesel pickup parked out on the street. It rumbles. Loudly. But this was too early even for him. The hospital ambulance. It rumbles overhead sometimes. Any hour of the day. Or night. When it’s really quiet out, you can hear the occasional streetcar rumbling along its route a block up. Or down.”

“So there can be lots of rumbling. But this wasn’t any of that.”

“Nope. Definitely not.”

“More of a growling.”

“Yeah. More animal sound. Not mechanical or machine made.”

“Did it sound to you like an angry or fearful growl?”

“You can tell the difference?”

“Sure. An animal growls out of fear in an attempt to get you to cease whatever threatening behaviour you might be displaying. An angry growl… well, that’s an assertive signal, part of arsenal of confrontation. Something of a battle cry.”

“… okay…”

“So which was it? Do you think?”

“I don’t know, man. Honestly. It didn’t last that long. When I went to check, look out the window, there was nothing there. I don’t even know if there had been a noise, like an actual growl or if I just heard something else and imagined it sounded like a growl.”

“You said it woke you up?”

“No. I was already awake. I think. Wasn’t I? I might’ve been dozing. On and off.”

“So the growl might’ve just been some dream snippet.”


“A fearful dream or one that made you angry? Can you recall?”

“Honestly, Barnaby… I hardly ever remember my dreams. Not for very long anyway. Except for a few nights when I had Covid.”

“Right. I remember you telling me. A pet squirrel, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. He kept escaping. Wherever I took him.”

“Squirrels can growl. Did you know that?”

“If this was a growl, real or not. It most definitely wasn’t a squirrel growl.”

“Too big? Too threatening? Menacing?”

“Just… Too not a squirrel. Definitely not a squirrel. Probably nothing at all, right? I’m just always waking up disturbed, unsettled. Weird shit going on in my sleep. I mean, how couldn’t it be?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean? Look around. Read a newspaper. Listen to the radio. Isn’t everybody sparking on alternate currents of scared shitless and angry as fuck right now?”

[Note: Client XX definitely angry & yet incurious about the difference between anger & fear]

“And why do you think that is?”

“Ummm… I mean, come on. A buffet of outrageousness to choose from.”

“Pick one.”

“OK… How about the general disarray of things? The degradation? The overwhelming disregard for human life and dignity going on all around us. The basic dissolution of civil society, yeah?”

“Disarray. Degradation. Disregard. Dissolution. Dignity. That’s a lot of Ds.”

“What can I say. Alliteration makes for emphasis. OK. How about this? Because all the wrong people are making all the wrong decisions exactly at the wrong time.”


“And there doesn’t seem to be a fucking thing we are prepared to do to try and right the ship. Like we’ve accepted our fate of going over the cliff together.”

“So, that growling. Fear or anger?”

“Come on. Does it really matter at this point?”

“Fear is reactive. Anger can be proactive. Not always. But it can be.”

“Anger’s easy, Barnaby. What I really want is a little peace. No. Not that. Who gets peace these days. Equilibrium. That’s what I want. Some equilibrium. A sense of equilibrium.”

“What if I told you that’s just another word for stasis?”

“OK. So? What’s wrong with that?”

“That’s not how the world works. Stasis is, at best, a temporary state. A pause. A timeout. A brief interlude. You only observe equilibrium looking back. When you freeze the past.”

“Even if that’s true, and I’m not sure I agree that it is, right now I’d settle for the briefest of moments of equilibrium, you know? A little breather. Take a step back. Ah! There it is. I’ve missed you buddy.”

“There what is? You’ve missed what?”

[Note: Client XX takes some time to think about this question. It’s an answer I would’ve thought he’d arrived here with. Interesting.]

“… I don’t know, Barnaby. A little bit of fucking sanity? Reasonable discourse? Rational decision-making that isn’t driven solely by self-interest?”

[Note: Perhaps Client XX had been pausing just for dramatic effect. The response seemed rehearsed.]

“A little bit of normal for a change.”

“The trouble with normal—”

“Don’t, Barnaby. Or I’ll get out of this chair and kick at your darkness til it bleeds yaddie, yaddie.”

“Look. If our lives were meant to run like clockwork, perfectly balanced, on an even-keel, we’d be gravitationally locked down onto a planet that spun and orbited in a tight circle not a wobbly elliptical.”

“I’m not sure it’s the metaphysical I’m looking for right now, if that’s the word and it probably isn’t. I need something concrete, something tangible here to grab onto.”

“Study math.”


“That’s all we have that’s tangible, concrete. Sums. One plus one equals two. Everything else…”

“Everything else what?”

“Everything else is open to interpretation.”

“Why are you fucking with me? That’s a terrible answer.”

“Or maybe you’re asking terrible questions.”

“All I’m asking here, Barnaby, is why do we seem to have all the right tools in place to make everybody’s existence better, the awareness, the technology, the motherfucking resources, and yet… and still… Here we are, up to our eyes in shit, at extinction event levels. At least in the past, they could claim ignorance, willful maybe, but still… ignorance.”

“Maybe we should start with the premise that even if the world’s changed, we haven’t. We’re still in the embrace of our ignorance, willfully so perhaps. The question we have to ask then is, Why would that be?”

[Note: Client XX appears to shut down engagement at this point. Remainder of session stalls fussily to another unsatisfactory conclusion.]


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