Friday, May 11, 2012

Mind trip

Endless Conversation


I was trotting down the steep side of Carbonate Mountain the other day with a jumble of thoughts in my head, trying to put them all into place, when I miss-stepped and nearly fell.

It would have been safer and more enjoyable to have engaged my mind with my next footfall, or the spring flowers budding nearby. Instead I was trying to figure something out and it seemed that the solution was almost at hand when I tripped, and all the thoughts went scurrying back into their holes.

The poet Robert Frost once said that if a poem came to him on the weekend, say when he was golfing, he would tell it to go away and come back on Monday when he was at work at his desk. How bold of him to not court the muse, while others sit at her feet in anguish hour after hour, waiting for a murmur.

When it comes time to write I would gladly trade a hundred thoughts for one decent idea. So why is it that the best ideas only seem to come together when we are away from our desks or notebooks?

Neuroscientists report that the brain works best when the body is walking at a speed of about 1.5 miles per hour, and somehow we know this. But misappropriating brain resources while on a steep hike can lead to broken bones.

Of course, our brains are performing all kinds of quotidian functions all day long without us knowing about it, gathering information from billboards, news bites, smiles and grimaces, or the weather. I sometimes wonder how much I am subject to outside influences, and how much I need be.

When a gate was moved last year from one end of our courtyard to the other, it took my feet weeks to figure out that they had to take the rest of me in a new and different direction each morning in order to get me out of the yard. I repeatedly kept setting out in the direction of the old gate. I can only imagine what similar kinds of ruts my mind gets itself in, creating invisible habits of thinking year after year. There should be a switch in our heads we can trip each spring, that would show us the world as fresh and new.

In the YMCA yesterday, something was different. I could feel it. There was a vast inexplicable open feeling upstairs in the workout area. It took a moment for one end of my brain to tell another end that someone had removed the banners that had obstructed the view from one end of the room to the other. It took another moment to realize that part of my mind is aware of subtle changes like these to the landscape, before "I" am made aware of what those changes are.

So who is this "I" anyway? The one who knows where my feet should go, the one that strings words together, or someone I haven't even met yet? Sometimes it seems as though I am in charge of the feelings, thoughts and actions in my life. At other times it is like I am just along for the ride.

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