Thursday, January 10, 2013


When it comes to endeavors such as writing, no one else cracks the whip, so lest one be left standing on the far side of a wasteland on the day of one's death, it behooves one to sit oneself down in front of the computer and say that life might commence only after the act of creation has taken place. That, anyway, has been my practice, and it usually works.

But with this article, when sat before the machine, Mind simply went elsewhere and, when drawn back bodily to the task at hand, deigned barely to give it a dismissive glance; said, "Poof, I'm not interested," and, arms akimbo, went away again.

"Mind," I pled, "what shall I do without you? We have responsibilities. You cannot desert me now."

And Mind glanced back and said, "If you are so fond of me, jailor, follow me awhile."

And so, with reluctance and with a sense of impending deadlines, I humored the poor emaciated tyrant.
Our first stop was an upstairs window where we contemplated the village laid out below, the chimneys spewing white pillars straight up through frigid silver air that looked dense with diamonds, taut with cold, as though it might chime if we were out in it.

But, "It's not summer," I said, "Oh woe is me, I only like summer." Mind regarded me with disdain, and I began to leave.

"Wait!" said Mind, breathing deeply and forcing our body into the mountain asana, fingers fluttering upward into a relaxed tent.

"This feels too good," I said, trying to keep my edge and breath shallowly, "and times a'wasting."

But Mind said, "I hate to get tough with you, but if you want something from me you'll have to give me something to work with. Now slow down and breath," and I obeyed.

When finally I went to sit down at the machine, Mind thrust paper and pencil into my hands, "Let's wander," it suggested. I looked at Mind oddly. It was not usually such a levitous thing.

 "Ha, Ha," I said.

"Seriously." Mind began to leave.

"Wait, wait," I said, "I have to get all this on. It's cold out there." Heavy sweater, down coat, boots, leggings, muffler, hat, gloves...

"C'mon, Josie," I said, and the old Airedale got up lethargically, then paused in the door and declined.

"Walk? You don't want to go for a walk?" I said. "You love walks!" but she declined still, and I rushed to catch up with Mind. "Dog won't go," I said, shivering, "Too damned cold."

"Her loss," said Mind absently, and I trudged in its wake, stupefied by the bright cold. "I wish I was in the Caribbean," I said bitterly. "...sand, sun from six to six, turquoise waters..."

"You see," said Mind with delight, ignoring me, "the air does chime. Everything is pillowed in white, the sun shines so brightly through the silver air, the sky is so densely blue... Ahhh, I've needed this. Now lean forward," it said, "and let your feet follow."

It didn't work, I was almost running, and a sense of balance almost overtook me, as though a silver wind were running through all my bones, connecting them. I breathed hard and my lungs seemed to expand. I began to sweat under all that wrapping. My mind shone luminously. "I'm going to get hypothermia," I cried in gasps, "my arthritis will act up. I need a cigarette," I finished.

Mind flinched. "The body''s been crying out for exercise. I can hear it perfectly well, I don't know why you ignore it so, you slave-driving..." Its voice deteriorated to a mumble. But we'd reached the apex of the little-traveled hill and Mind let me slow to a walk in order to gaze out at the town laid out below.

"Say," said I, with inspiration that came from I knew not where, "If you're over there, and I'm over here, and you speak of our body as something totally outside, then who am I?"

"Wuh..." Mind puzzled, " might be soul if you had any sense, or you might be sense if you had any soul, but since you have neither you must be id/ego, that is super and know-it-all and... lost without me."

Mind beamed with insincerity, then took a skip and a jump, and I heard a skitter behind me. Ah, the dog had come after all, I thought, but when I looked around only one little tan leaf was skittering merrily along beside me. I looked closer to see if there was not a black leaf too, to imitate the dog's colors, and then I looked accusingly at Mind. "You're playing tricks on me," I exclaimed.

"Hee, hee, hee," cackled Mind with uncharacteristic merriment; then settling down said, "Now take out your pencil and lean here against this fence and let me look around and enjoy this moment. Perhaps I'll have something to give you."

"It's too cold!" I was horrified. "I'm liable to go to sleep and freeze to death." But I obeyed, and Mind came up with a first sentence of article. I wrote it down with excitement, Mind cautioning me, "Easy, easy, don't get too excited. I can't work when you get too excited."

Another sentence. And another. And finally there was the first paragraph. "I've got it!," I said, jumping up. "I've got it, by damn I've got it," I hurried on my way. "Let's get back down to that infernal machine before I don't got it."

Gasping with exertion, Mind followed in my tracks, muttering, "Lunch, I think I need to be fed, and then, okay, we can sit down at that machine, but if it doesn't work, I warn you, you're going to have to follow me some more."

Lunch, however, was not a simple thing. Mind insisted that I smell and feel and see the salad of tofu and cucumbers I had left over from supper last night, as well as taste it; and cut some fresh bread and, "Now," said Mind. "sit down, breath deeply and chew it well. There's not anything much more important in this life than chewing well and breathing deeply."

Finally, lunch over and well-digested, we got to the machine. Mind immediately took a nap, so I played solitaire while it dozed. "All right, all right," I said when I heard it stir, "can't we get on with this?" And with a yawn, Mind began.

After spending some hours at the machine, Mind, having lost its oomph and vibrancy, again got up and wandered. My fingers slowed. "Come back here," I said impatiently. "You get back here now!"

But Mind had become insatiable. "I wish to see the snow in the woods," it said with insouciance, "Kindly clamp the skis onto our feet."

"Oh, but Time passeth, Deadline looms, and Responsibility calls," I protested weakly.

"Screw Them," snapped Mind," and I rose to get the skis, having learned, we hope, a valuable lesson -- that Mind without play is rather a dull and vicious fellow.

In the following days, or should I say weeks, Mind had me shoveling snow, hauling wood and helping out our neighbors, all strenuous activities that seemed illogical for Mind to be concerned with, but it was adamant. "You are not working just to get aerobic exercise; you are also going for the neurological benefit of cross-patterned movement and the visual, tactile, and proprioceptive stimulation that exercise affords me," Mind said.

"You read that somewhere," I accused.

"With all that cross patterning, you might even find a waist, or even a thought, down there amongst all the detritus of holiday stress and greed and Mince Meat Pie..."

"The Buddhist meditation masters know how flexible and workable the mind is... everything is a question of training and the power of habit. Devote the mind to confusion and we know only too well...that it will become a dark master of confusion, adept in its addictions, subtle and perversely supple in its slaveries. Devote it in meditation to the task of freeing itself from illusion, and we will find that with time, patience, discipline, and the right training, the mind will begin to unknot itself and know its essential bliss and clarity...
"...Our minds can be wonderful, but at the same time they can be our very worst enemy. They give us so much trouble. Sometimes I wish the mind were like a set of dentures, which we could take out and leave on our bedside table overnight. At least we would get a break from its tiring and tiresome escapades."

1 comment:

Jake said...

Thank you for another excellent taste of food for thought.

Now, if you'll excuse me, i have to go prove i'm not a robot by typing two "words" into a slot at the bottom of this comment.

Otherwise, i remain,