Friday, November 12, 2010

Our Vagabond Minds

Be warned, I'm calling shenanigans on this one.
ScienceDaily (Nov. 11, 2010) — People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they're doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. So says a study that used an iPhone web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects' thoughts, feelings, and actions as they went about their lives.

I'd be lost without my wandering mind. Even in school teachers would berate me for daydreaming. That was their fault, if they couldn't keep me entertained they have the problem, not me. When I was younger I could monitor and be involved a number of conservations, I was lucky to be blessed with a strong mind. Great fun at parties, which were often so boring I'd take up a contrarian stance just for fun. Deep thinking should not be taken seriously, hence my love of, "Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play."(Heraclitus).

Now that I'm older my mind does not so much wander as move at such a creeping pace as to give me pause to consider that perhaps time dilation can be reified in the consciousness of humans. Should I apologise to Mr. Penrose for past assaults on his shoddy thinking about consciousness? Shall I fall into the despair of Knut Hamsun?

In old age we no longer live our lives; we merely keep on our feet with the aid of memories.
Hamsun, On Muted Strings.
Surely such optimism argued stupidity; there must be a certain lack of gray matter in a man who could go around in permanent contentment with life, and even expect something new and good from it.
Hamsun, On Muted Strings.

What a stupid git. This, however, is a lovely statement of his:

... the wrinkles that fanned out from his eyes were like the remnants of a 1,000 good natured smiles.
Hamsun, The Wanderer.

Hamsun was a great writer, won the Nobel, probably for his brilliant novel, Hunger. This novel addressed his starvation and destitution during Scandinavian winters. Methinks we all would have been better off if he had not survived the miserable little git.

What is it with our wandering minds? Can it be as Camus surmised:
There is not one human being who, above a certain elemental level of consciousness, does not exhaust himself in trying to find formulae or attitudes which will give his existence the unity it lacks.
Camus, The Rebel, p 228
Poor Mr. Camus, for all his brilliance the above quote suggests he was still chained to Western intellectual imperatives. And that from a man who demanded metaphysical rebellion. As if we can:
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
TS Eliot, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock
Did Mr. Jung have a clue when he wrote(Memories, Dream, and Reflections):
Rationalism and doctrinairism are the diseases of our time; they pretend to have all the answers.
ibid, page 330
Overvalued reason has this in common with political absolutism: under its dominion the individual is pauperized.
ibid, page 333
 Shall I go Gandhi  or Buddha like and seek detachment? That is the way of cowards.
"It is easier to become a hermit and forsake the world than it is to be a member of society and live one's transpersonal vocation."
Multiple Minds.
Note: "transpersonal vocation" - what a load of pretentious shit

The world confronts us, it does not care about us, it knows that our time will end but it will continue. I don't care, wandering mind or not contentment is not so hard:
I have a most peaceable disposition. My desires are for a modest hut, a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, very fresh milk and butter, flowers in front of my window and a few pretty trees by my door. And should the good Lord wish to make me really happy, he will allow me the pleasure of seeing about six or seven of my enemies hanged upon those trees.
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
German poet, journalis
I love that last sentence, perhaps it reveals something about the German spirit, the refusal to ''To gild refined gold, to paint the lily... Is wasteful and ridiculous excess."(Shakespeare) And what is all this fuss about Shakespeare anyway? Are there eternal human truths that can be preserved in words which will echo through the eons? I hope not. Shakespeare is boring.

So where does my mind wander in the quiet hours of the morning? Here I sit, overlooking this picturesque valley while reading deep into the night. Where is it wandering and what is it seeking? "If you can't find it where you're standing where do expect to wander in search of it?" So asked a Zen master of long ago. I love Zen, which is why I like to make fun of it:

If you can't find it where you're standing, where to do you expect to wander in search of it?
If you can't find it where you're standing, piss off mate.
How wondrous this!
I carry fuel, I draw water.
How wondrous this!
I get drunk, I get home.

He has an aspiration towards loving kindness, with which no honoured position can compare.
He has an aspiration towards getting smashed, he would make a great prime minister.
As long as you conscious of space and time, your holiday is ill spent and Zen is far from you.
As long as you are conscious of space and time, you should stop drinking light beer or leave the party.

Speaking of Zen, which should not be done but no I'm not going to cut off a finger let alone an arm, though I wish some would cut their tongues out. Speaking of Zen, which is oxymoronic but that never stopped anyone.
Speaking of Zen, numerous studies now indicate that Zen training can be very good for our happiness. In fact they even mentioned mindfulness in the news article, which I should get back to at some point but currently I'm speaking of Zen. No I'm not, mindfulness meditation belongs to the Theravada school of Buddhism. Buddhism in general can be best described as a steaming pile of shit.

Speaking of Eastern Meditative practices then, it is clear that mindfulness meditation can confer a number of benefits to those ill at ease. To start with, they get to spend time in this groovy psychedelic setting with this so cool and collected buddhist master("master" = being able to shovel really big loads of steaming piles of shit) whose mere presence will dispel any negative vibes emanating from your soul. It is true though, persistent meditation practice enables one to increase inhibition of return and prevent unwanted distractions perturbing your peace, love and harmony.

"Peace, love and Harmony" Now where did that come from? It was in a house at Norman Park, Brisbane, approx 15 years ago now. We were tripping out on some really good acid and this young woman kept ranting about "peace, love, and harmony" until I was so fed up I told her to shut the fuck up. Silence, we love it and hate it:

People like you
Find it easy
Aching to see
Walking on air.
Hunting by the rivers through the streets every corner
Abandoned too soon
Set down with due care
Don't walk away
In silence
Don't walk away ...

"Atmosphere", Joy Division, last stanza. One of great songs of 70's.

Walking on Air Mr. Curtis? Pray tell did you, even at that tender age(circa 21 years), read Wittgenstein? Now there is a great tragedy. For Mr. Curtis committed suicide shortly after the release of this song. The song is now playing on my headphones, I use the headphones so as not to disturb others but then again I type so fast that sound is probably echoing around the place. So what is to be done John? Shall I walk away in silence. I have done it so many times in my life, it is as if walking away is what I am always doing.

With whom shall I place my trust?

A legacy so far removed,
One day will be improved.
Eternal rights we left behind,
We were the better kind.
Two the same, set free too,
I always looked to you,
I always looked to you,
I always looked to you.

We fought for good, stood side by side,
Our friendship never died.
On stranger waves, the lows and highs,
Our vision touched the sky,
Immortalists with points to prove,
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.

"Means to an End" Joy Division.

Note progression ... looked ... trust .. and the end of the song trails off as if to suggest the trust was entirely misplaced. That doesn't surprise me. I learned at too young an age that we humans enjoy lying. One of few great pieces of wisdom ever to appear on the big screen was in the movie "The Big Chill". The character played by the actor Geoff Goldblum states, "You can go for a week without sex but can you go that long without a rationalisation?"(same meaning, v. close to those words).

The despair that catches off guard, the flip from contentment to sadness, as if a switch was thrown in my nerves. Dreams never end? That is the problem. Dreams of a better days are one of the biggest causes of depression.

There's no time to lose, I heard her say
 Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
 And you will lose your mind
Aint life unkind?

Rolling Stones, Ruby Tuesday

Dreams are dangerous, the great poet Yeats was aware of this when he wrote:

We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Yeats, Easter 1916.

So be careful with dreams. If you refuse to let go of your dreams this may follow:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre 
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst 
    Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats, The Second Coming. 

How many have been murdered to fulfill the dreams of others? We continue on our way, as this poem from an old friend illustrates:

The Cost of High Living

"What's the price of a diamond ring,
including the tax,
and everything?"

Including the tax,
and all the rest,
A couple of thousand buys the best.

A couple thousand, thereabout,
and your lady's eyes;
you must put them out.

"My tender eyes?
Your price is cruel!
How could I see my dear-bought jewel?"

If you look too long with eyes so kind,
then yo might see
where this was mined.

then you might see,
deep within,
sweat and blood on a coal-black skin.

A couple thousand, and what the governments keep,
and counting your eyes,
it's pretty cheap.

if you kept your eyes
sound and whole,
the price of the ring would include your soul.

Frank Lefever, 1955

We can do better, it doesn't have to be like this. Dreams are dangerous, despair is deadly. Whoops, time for Breaking Bad, I'm outta here.


Anonymous said...

Impressively equivocal grumpiness! :)

Peter F. (57 %})

But I agree - almost as usual.

John said...

Hey Peter F. Long time no hear from. Trust you are doing well.

Adrien said...

Vagabond mind? I like it. Whether or not it makes you unhappy depends on the circumstances.

On the one hand I'm struggling at the moment to gain more control over my mind because it wanders too much. On the other hand getting an idea is impossible without 'wasting time' as it were.

As always it's the balance that's difficult.