I return stupidly to this act of writing, like an addict carrying out the definition of insanity. I still think that if I put together the right combination of words, I will find myself running down a rabbit hole of new insights that will transform me. I still believe in the power of writing something almost every day–that it isn’t the singular key to making me a better man, but that experiencing an entire day without writing is usually a day of indulgence in fleshly weaknesses with nothing more to show for how I spent the day.
In short, I’m at least producing something instead of nothing when I write, even if it is repetitive and not worth reading again.
For some reason, I’m bombarded sweetly by lots of memories today. I say sweetly, because the unexpected and unsolicited imagery in my head is of happy moments, rather than the unwanted and unsolicited imagery that makes me slip back into indulgence of vices. The second time I went to New York City pops up, even though it was a week in the fall. For some reason, my last volunteer day at my old company is popping up, though that wasn’t exactly the sweetest of memories. It was more of a neutral kind of memory with the propensity to secondarily trigger a negative memory.
We volunteered at the hospice where my mom died, and where the owner of Ahmis died a few months after my mom did. It was light, spring landscaping work, with most of the hard labor and hard thinking done by professionals. I was taking a whack at a tree root to clear space for a new tree being planted, and the software engineering director pulled up in his light SUV–one of those Toyotas that are made to look kind of like a Humvee. He was sprightly and full of energy–he was beaming from ear to ear because he’d won the hand and heart of a thin, blonde lady about ten years younger than him, and she was already swelling with his future son. He seemed to be almost a caricature of virility. He was friendly enough, though, and didn’t seem to be anything more than a man full bent on seeing how far his will toward a fully developed manhood would take him. In short, he didn’t bully or tease me in an underhanded sort of way, like I’m used to getting from men who have an urgent need to fully prove and express their manhood to others.
“Let me take that ax from you, sir,” he said, “you’re looking kind of tired.” He then commenced to taking wild, literally over the top swings at the root in a furious manner, leaving me to some other task. His progress on eradicating the root was about as fast as mine had been, but he was caught up in the joy of doing something physical and manly outside of the office full of nerds and neckbeards. After some extended root thrashing and digging, they wondered if the hole was deep and wide enough. “Well, darn it, I left my tape measure back at home,” said one of them. I grabbed the ax, and marked off with my hand where the edge of the hole met the ax handle, placing the end of the ax at the other side of the hole’s diameter. I then compared this to the pot that contained the tree to be buried. Some of them seemed a bit impressed, others sheepish at the simplicity of my solution, but I said little and went back to working on other areas of the grounds.
It was the first time I’d been to the hospice since my mom died, and I decided to bolt before the lunch tour. I didn’t want a bunch of people to see me get all weepy or even have a complete breakdown. I honestly didn’t know how I’d react, since you can never be sure what kinds of memories will be unearthed when prompted by visual cues that you haven’t seen since the memory actually took place.
Sometimes, I am tempted to become one of those old, sad men who has nothing better to do but start categorizing everything around him. Such is the way of middle age, when you no longer have any really good, new ideas, but your mind is still racing and aching with a need to be useful. All of the philosophy I’ve tried to read has disappointed me in not really doing what it seemed to set out to do. The categorization of modes of consciousness, or types of experiences, or states of mind, or phenomena, or thoughts, etc. You end up with a lot of very highly specialized technical jargon that the writer uses along with definition-creation that seems to be endlesss. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go back and read what certain terms meant, but then again, I doubt I was the target audience of most philosophers.
I would only want to embark upon categorizing my own thoughts if I thought that such an endeavor would actually make a difference in how I thought and what I thought.
Roughly speaking, I can place most of my thoughts into three separate categories:
– thoughts that I’m confident were completely directed by me,
– thoughts that came out of nowhere and seemed to be from a higher place of being and thought,
– and memories.
Within the memories category, there is probably the most room for improvement, and the most disorder. Memories of experiences I can’t ever forget run alongside memories that need prompting from doing a lot of directed thinking, plus muscle memory, and memories that are only yielded much later after I write something I think is original and go back and read a book or movie from my past and see how much it unconsciously influenced me. However, for the most part, I am not interested in the unconscious or subconscious as an area to be explored and categorized, as it seems like it is to fraught with disasters created by well-meaning therapists who are more inclined to shape or even create new memories in their patients’ heads. I see the unconscious area of memory as being like a book that I read once a long time ago, that now sits on my shelf. Whatever I can access and instantly remember through a glance at the title, table of contents and brief thumbing through the pages is all that is important.
Let me try to explain this further. I see the real fruit in changing, shaping and growing myself within the waking, willful consciousness where I can become a complete master of my domain. I see deeper trips into the psyche as being more like going back to a house you once lived in, and knocking on the door to ask the current resident to let you have a quick look around. You might see some things that are familiar, but you can’t be completely sure now if what you are seeing is really part of the house as it was when you lived there, or an add-on or cosmetic change that happened after you left.
I have tried for decades to drill down deep into my psyche to find answers as to why I ended up becoming the weird little monster I did starting around the age of ten, and I get lost every time in an uncertain universe of possible causes, both plausible and not. After I come out of it, I feel like I’ve made real progress and can now form a hypothesis about where things went wrong for me and why–but then, within a few days’ time, I find myself returning to old bad habits and vices with little or no memory of the hypothesis I’d constructed to be used as a guide to preventing further bad behavior from happening.
I am not rejecting the subconscious as an invalid thing–I am not saying it’s incorrect, but I am saying that it is probably, for the most part, irrelevant to building a new way of being that realizes your true potential.
The here and now is really all that I can impact, and who I am, in aspects like married status, age, and looks, is what I can use to inform who I will be in the future. My ten year old self cannot be resurrected and altered with some strange hope that it will create a ripple effect through the corridors of memory, and turn me into a completely different man–as if I’d travelled back through Time itself to alter the present.
The here and now is also a more difficult state of mind to stay in than one might think. However, I’m not interested in trying to become a great Buddhist or anything approaching that. I’m interested in looking more closely at what is surfacing here–whether it is from the subconscious or not–but I’m only interested in dealing with the memories of the subconscious that come forth without any prompting or the ones that come forth after several minutes of highly directed thought (highly directed thought that is only permitted to stay in the present–or only look to the future when future scenarios are clearly obtainable through practical, “point A to B” kinds of activities).
For example, while I was writing this, I kept having a flashback memory of one of the times we traveled to Florida and my cousins were staying there with my Grandfather–or step-Grandfather to be more precise. I can remember sitting with them in the rental mini-van and drinking cream soda as we were waiting to leave our uncle’s house–he lived in a new development deep in a piney forest with our great-grandmother.
Such a memory did not surface after any sort of directed attempt to access my remote memories or subconscious. It just started appearing. I think it probably came through some triggers fired by the weather–we are experiencing warm, muggy weather with cloudy skies that will clear up soon after showers come–a lot like many of the days in a Florida summer.
Another analogy might be this–I want to walk along the beach, and stay on the beach. If something from the depths of the ocean washes up, I’ll pick it up and examine it, but I’m not going out in the water, not even at its most shallow. I will walk along the beach, cleaning up and throwing back that which makes the beach untidy, until I am happy with what I see.