Then a mason came forth and said, Speak to us of Houses. And the Prophet answered and said:
Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls. For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.
Your house is your larger body.
It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream? and dreaming, leave the city for grove or hill-top? Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow. Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.
But these things are not yet to be.
In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields. And tell me, people of Orphalese, what have you in these houses? And what is it you guard with fastened doors? Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power? Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind? Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain? Tell me, have you these in your houses? Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master?
Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires. Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron. It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh. It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels. Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.
But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed. Your house shall not be an anchor but a mast. It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye. You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down. You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living. And though of magnificence and splendour, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing. For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.
The movie continues
Rewinding is not an option, nor is pausing. You can’t press stop if you want to see the ending
The colors are twisting
A technicolor experience, viewed from right there inside your own skull. Grab your barf bag and carry on
The guilt is looming
You will never escape the 80-year hallmark aisle unless you hop the shelves. But then, everyone around you has to pick up the cards. Keep walking
The pen dangles
An entire lifetime pretending to be the author. When the book closes you haven’t written a page – you’ve barely read a few words. So drop the book and start another
you wonder who’s watching all these feelings
trillions of eyes glued and scrap-booked
sometimes you wonder if you’re the cup
or the spinning water, or the tea leaves.
you want to grab suffering by its weary shoulders, by its bus transfer, by its untied boots, by its exit wound, by its cinder-block cell. you want to grab the bloodied lovers, the shattered families, the eons of regret, and to tell them they are ok. sometimes you wonder if you could ever be that creative. you heard once that a dry-erase marker can erase a permanent marker. it should be impossible. but sharpie can be undone under one little condition: you have to draw over it first. sometimes you wonder if the world is the sharpie and if you’re supposed to be the dry erase marker and then you feel bad about yourself.
sometimes you wonder who’s spinning that dust in the air
floating freckling waiting to settle
sometimes you wonder if you’re the dust
or the air, or the nap.
One way to really waste your time is reading on and on about mindfulness. And there is surely no end of long long long books books books offering a thousand lifetimes’ worth of answers about mindfulness. Complex, marketable, secular answers. Let’s set those answers and those long books on the shelf for now. When I was 18 years old, a scientist in Madison posed a question in the first half of a brief article. That question was Are questionnaire-based self-reports of mindfulness valid?
Now I’m 25 years old. Unresolved is ‘the questionnaire question’, but absolutely certain to me this morning was my own mindlessness. Here’s a small sample of the day’s distractions, brought to you from first-semester chemistry (via self report…validity to be determined):
11:15am Distracted by goal-flavored thoughts about writing a memoir of high quality, visualizing the steps associated with such a venture
11:15:30am Writing-thoughts bubbling up to account for the possibility or inevitability of memoir-thoughts
11:19am Anger-thoughts about institutional life, hot heated word-thoughts offering critiques of abusive power structures and their creations, which stemmed from thoughts about writing
11:24am What’s the best way to steal a lot of stuff from Whole Foods?
11:26am Anger-Argue thoughts about my old job, and the gross inability of my former boss to do her job (or live her live generally)
My intent for that 15-minute period was to simply write those thoughts that were most distracting for me. So when I noticed that my attention was unstable even for a moment, or that my mind’s eye had been occluded by some material other than coursework, I wrote down that material non-judgmentally and as it presented itself. It can be hugely valuable to understand and observe our consciousness without responding to or agreeing/disagreeing with it.
Do you have a wobbly attention span? Are you seeking more FOCUS? Go back to the shelf, pick up those conversations about secular mindfulness, and have some Mental Training™ today!
Cold again. Cars pass outside kicking up rain-sounds, each tire spewing and screaming that wet white noise. It really is like a shriek…or some type of awful bodily process. Slept 11 hours. Haven’t done THAT in a while. 4 or 5 hours is the norm. Made eggs, set eggs down, grabbed a pound of ground beef (left it out yesterday to thaw) and threw it outside for the crows. Was initially unsure that any would be out and about. Earlier before I was totally awake my mind jumped to the beef – the question arose as to whether I should refreeze the beef or put it outside. In my sleepy state I figured that crows & ravens stay home on such grey days. But it seemed worth a shot. Sure enough – before I could even finish slicing the package open I heard one outside. & threw meat out & it yelled. Threw the rest of the meat out & it yelled again. Came downstairs, sat in chair. Decided I should pull the curtain to make myself less visible. A few moments later I realized I needed this pen & had to reach around the curtain to grab it off the windowsill. Just then – 2 large crows, or maybe ravens, headed south directly over the west end of the Selby house. They were flying quickly, as if having been in flight for some time already, leaving me unsure if they had been immediately on or near the house. So for the time being I;ll wait. Have about an hour before I should go to class which is enough time.
10:12 am @ home – wasn’t feeling acting class today. The corvids are gathering. All of the meat is still there which is a surprise. But it might not be for long. Another across the street – southeast, flying eastward over (but close to) the roof of the buildings. Each car is another shriek, a sort of steel pulmonary expulsion.
Birds aside, it is strikingly green. Grey/white sky yields to the immense and bright pine, verde, grassy, weedy, ivy, flowery, lively, springish, GREEEEN. What are other words for green? Only a few days ago the trees were seemingly barren, suggesting just a bit of buddery at their fingertips. But those distal bits of leaf of leaflet (whatever theyre called) after some time have erupted. In less than a week the trees have grown hairy with neon glo-stick lemon lime fringes. It’s as if that bit of spectrum between green & yellow were scribbled onto twigs. Moments ago as I was seeking another ‘green’ word a massive green garbage truck drove by. Its exterior (the upper half) was also an immensely bright shade of green, though obviously much more discernible and uniform in its coloration. Some bit of the truck was bright orange & that admittedly was offputting. Mostly it was a funny coincidence to see the greenness rolling by – i guess some of those wild wheeled wagons are worth the wily while.
Smaller birds on the roof now – it’s time to figure out exactly what they are. Finches? Sparrows? As two of the littler ones flit onward pas the window & THUD across the street. The shades are thin, sheer white whisps, & thru their ripples a man in a driveway. Also in driveway a truck, red rained on truck, red rained on truck with a bike on the back. Guy lowers back half of truck…unloads bike. My hand cant keep up – I look now and he is nowhere in sight. Neither is bike. Red rained on truck still is and the back of the thing is still down. These mini-moments have grown more compelling in the last year. Truthfully I feel sad or at least a bit silly for having never made an effort to meet any of my neighbors. This regular habit of street- and bird-watching has allowed some small view into the consistencies of their lives. The lady across the street who walks her dog in the morning – almost always walking east and then returning from that direction or perhaps from around the block (westward).
The red rained on truck guy just got back. Engine on. As it lurches out from its receptor site I see in my mind’s eye a vesicle, or vacuole, whose cargo has been successfully delivered to the new home for it, which is here, in this part of the cell. I see the purpose (at least the momentary purpose) of that truck & its driver, which is to deliver the red rained on bicycle, not unlike a vesicle or vacuole would deliver some protein or water or hormone or molecule, and I then see some protein or water or hormone or molecule being delivered, and then the purposeful repackaging of the vesicle or vacuole must take place, because its cargo has been successfully delivered to its new home, so the tail lights are going on and Im seeing this empty vesicle or vacuole take on a new momentary purpose, which is to be returned to the cell for other use. In the span of a few moments these images fly firmly and rapidly through my visual field, which is not to say I literally see them before me, but rather within me an imagination of them briefly occludes my ocular/mechanical sight. The image of a massive cell or organism has been powerful for some time now, and in the likeness between the truck and the little pictures in my neuroscience textbooks (which vaguely show zillions of little vesicles or vacuoles delivering their cargo, which is some protein or water or hormone or molecule, before being purposefully repackaged [once empty] such that it can take on a new momentary purpose, which is to return to the cell for other use). These types of analogies (if analogy is the right word) are occurring in my mind constantly. At the sensory level they can be distracting or begin to invade my–
Crow on the roof. A big baby. Well, it’s huge.
It made me swell, chest still thumping. It landed on the west end of the roof, walked over, grabbed a big bit of meat. Held it in beak.
“Then a rich man said, Speak to us of Giving.
And he answered:
You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city? And what is fear of need but need itself? Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
There are those who give little of the much which they have – and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and joy is their reward. And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding; And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving. And is there aught you would withhold? All you have shall some day be given. Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.
You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.” The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture. They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you. And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving? And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life – while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.
And you receivers – and you are all receivers – assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives. Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings; For to be overmindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity who has the freehearted earth for mother, and God for father.”