Robert (gurdonark) wrote,
Robert
gurdonark

Minding the store

"Nothing can be simply other than mind, but there are innumerable ways and degrees in which this mind or experience can be other than that mind or experience. Language in no sense about mind is language idling, doing no useful work. After three thousand years of trying to find something simply other-than-mind to talk about why not try to talk adequately about mind in its inexhaustibly various possible forms?"--Charles Hartshorne

Today I caught a city bus from my office. The bus was going one way, but after I conferred with the driver, we decided that to get to my destination train station, I must go the other way. Later, he picked me up when his route circled back around.
Then we both agreed that we had been thinking about the dilemmae of route, and that I could have gone the right way by going the way we originally thought was wrong.

He worked out for me a new route to take from the Garland Transit Center in order to help me get way north, closer than the Parker Road train station, which is a short drive from my home. Instead of riding a train to the southwest and then to the north (Dallas' train having an "all roads lead to Rome" routing approach), I would instead take a bus to Arapaho train station,very near my final destination.
But the bus took longer, because the shortest way between two points is not always the quickest. I feel like a circuit rider in the precincts of chance sometimes.



Tonight I discussed on the phone with my close friend Gene the perils and possibilities of automobile purchase. Gene is one of those fellows who reads tihngs like Road and Track, and keeps up with the intricacies of repair records and pricing. Like me, he loves to drive about, but sees cars as transporation rather than transportive romance. Like me, one of the most fun cars he ever owned was a three cylinder experience of the grace of limited finiteness. They say the immortals grow weary at last, but I live life fascinated by things like driving an underpowered car without power steering.

I like the idea of automobiles in the abstract. During this purchase, for example, I have set forth all these criteria and groundwork for analysis. As I am buying roughly eighteen months before budget, I must work out whether to buy a transitional used car for the next two to three years, or whether to take advantage of low interest rates and spring for an earlier-than-planned new car. I like the way that the decision tree is like tinkertoys, malleable and easy and non-emotional.
I have learned, over time, not to be so emotional about things like automobiles and
houses.

But there's still that disconnect between the car of my dreams, graphed out on mental graph paper, and the hurly-burly of car acquisition. I am now a fairly decent negotiator, having settled more cases than I care to remember. But when it's one's own account, it's very hard to keep the necessary poker face. I remember once doing the whole melodramatic "I have offered you its fair market value, and I must leave if you don't accept". Unlike everyone I have ever known, the dealer did not let me get off the lot, then call me at home to accept my offer. I instead did without the car. But it was important to me that I could leave the lot without a qualm rather than pay the wrong price.

That's such an important skill--the ability to strategize and to follow one's own common sense in applying the strategy. I run into so many folks who "just can't control" situations. Somehow, they define the problem so that their choices are compulsions. As with anything, there are more exceptions than rules, and some people do have impaired impulse/decision control. But the despair of a more faux "I can't help myself" afflicts so many. Sometimes, with food, it can afflict me. Long ago, a few of my unwise choices about relationships suffered from the same failure to follow common sense. Even my wise choices lost proportion, when I knew better. I knew the truth, and it set me free, but I chose to be imprisoned.

The language of heart and mind is so deceptive. It's a duality that can impair and scald. In fact, the heart is in the mind. The heart and the mind are one thing.
But the Victorians taught us about "heads" and "hearts", and some folks extend the metaphor so that the bungee cord is nearly stretched down to the top of the rushing river.

I think that for many folks, minding one's own personal store is so difficult.
It's easy to neglect the store--to conduct a fire sale. It's easy to just do selfish or self-indulgent things, and pretend it's for the good of the "body corporate". But it's so much more adult and rewarding--and yet so much more a challenge--to do the things that actually advance one's own sense of worth and meaning.

In movies of a certain cliche'ed setting, a rich couple dines at an ineffably long dining table. They sup "together", but almost miles apart. They have to raise their voices to speak to one another. Servants have to stride the long way to bridge the gap with the broccoli. That's the popular misconception of head and heart.

But in fact, there is only one diner. Head and heart eat the same meal, with the same palate, at the same time. The table is not a long, impossibly distant setting, but as cozy and intimate as can be. The same mind that falls in love also plots the monthly budget.

Anyone who has become indelibly infatuated with anyone has known that moment of unwise sayings and ineffable forgiveness of every flaw that marks the deepest crushes. The first stages of any real relationship are like going on a cruise, the flame on the Baked Alaska flares a bit higher than in dry dock. But when we're past the sorbet course, and rather coarse voyagers are taking the toothpicks and reckoning up the casino winnings just before disembarking the ship--that's the moment. The moment when it has all been a pleasant dream, or it is all waking life.
What do you see in her eyes? Is that your future? Is it just a bloodshot, somewhat striated vein?

So the chemicals poured into one's body during infatuation affect one in ways that feel like a "heart" different from one's "head". But the "feeling" is illusory. The heart pumps blood. It's the mind that divides fractions and makes fractal prism shows of spending an afternoon staring off into space in another's arms. It's all one person, all one life.

I know a woman who "has it all"--a great career, a charming personality, deep love for friends and family. But she's alone in this world, insofar as romance goes.
Now I am not one of those fellows who think that a man or woman is just an appendage portion of some larger affair involving two people. I know male and female spinsters who live wonderful lives, and the changes in morality make the entire language nearly superfluous in any event. But this particular friend does not want to be alone. She'd rather be in a conventional relationship. She's what one of my slightly older friends used to call a "catch". But she goes "uncaught". She's a looker, and quite kind. She's got no shortage of men to date. But none of them are "quite right".

I am not proposing to psychoanalyze this casual friend, because I really do not, in this sense, know her from Lilith. But let's make her into a little "post icon", if you will. Let's imagine a different woman with all her great attributes. But let's inject that her "heart" attracts her to one kind of man, whereas she will only find marital happiness if she can meet and marry another. It doesn't matter which is which, which to marry or which to (I use the euphemism) "date". Somehow in her construct, she is never attracted to the right guy, but she always is attracted to the superficial and wrong guy.

Let's concede for a moment that the pheronomic mix of romance (although pheronomes, like phlogiston, seem to me a silly construct, apt to be replaced by something subtler) gives all sorts of biological caveperson imperatives that might not otherwise exist. In some rudimentary brain, the "naughtiness" has some attractive genetic advantage. It's easier to fall for a mate who hunts rather than one who merely gathers or sows. It's just that in the absence of woolly mammoths, the hunt may sometimes involve traits which seem attractive but are actually outmoded instinct. I don't know the answer to all that. I just know that sometimes the heart attracts men and women to the "wrong person", but it's not the heart at all--it's just the same mind that knows better.

I think that the most intense positional chess game you play is the chess game with yourself. Imagine an opponent so crafty that she knows your every move before you make it. You know that she knows that you know and so forth. Soon you are either cracking the chess board over the opponent's head, as in so many middle aged chess tales, or you're settling for a 100 move draw with Death. Sometimes I think that adulthood happens when, like a cheap sparkler, one has brief flashes of amazing fizzling light, as both head and heart merge into an explosion of raw mind.

Did you ever light two incense cones of the same type of incense? Sometimes they smell like two entirely different scents. But the reality is that they are the same, more or less. It's a trick of the smoke and of the mind. So many of these distinctions are tricks of smoke, mirrors and mind.

That's the virtue, I think, of a sort of mindfulness. I do not mean that in the strictly Buddhist sense, for each strain of Buddhism I have read about from Zen to
Middle Path to Tibetan all have ideas which I merely "loot" (reverentially) to build my magpie's nest of sticks and bright ribbons. But I mean instead that ability to define in one's mind what matters to one, and to pursue it. That's the kind of common sense that can be as infatuatedly wonderful as a kiss. That's the sound you hear when the self-talk ceases.

They say there is no arriving, just an endless becoming. The trip is, in this view, entirely comprised of the travel. In this journey, I don't think you can leave the "mind" behind. I think the mind is the only real traveller. Tonight Mr. Yeats on the Poetry in Motion placard on the bus told me about the virtues of going naked rather than having others appropriate the coat of his song. But really, one has one's coat,and one's skin, and one's song and the people around one, and they all blend together, and in this way, we are all in this together.

Have you ever smoked a cigarette? I have not ever done so. But I loved the way that the tobacco in my father's pipe curled around me and into my mind, as if it were a pleasant sensation in my thoughts.

That's my wish tonight, for people trapped in places they wish to escape. For the physical traps, I wish them speed and courage, as with anyone in any race. But for the traps of the "heart", I wish for them that head and heart merge into the mind like the tobacco in my father's pipe. I could sit and think the most logical things, as the smell of soft black cherry curled around the tendrils of my analysis plant. A dash of courage, a cup of love, but also a teaspoon of of common sense, flavored to taste. It all makes one pie, and only the filling varies much from soul to soul, and usually in a good way.

Let me tell you an image that makes me worry. Imagine with me the first moment when a susceptible person makes infatuated eye contact with an abusive other. The signals are often there, but the victim's eyes respond. I am all for the "thrown to the winds" feelings of love. But I wish for the merger of head and heart, and for people who feel the wind, and wrap up sometimes to avoid its chill.

I'm so far afield of where I began. In my own life, I'll make a more modest goal.
May my "heart" during negotation follow the head I'll have full of Kelly Blue Book prices and Hemmings estimates of real car value. But also, may I smile and enjoy and not be rude even to pushy salespeople. May I learn from my Autumn Sunday in Tijuana, when I could get the best price by not caring too much about any purchase, and where I nonethless would give the vendor a bit extra to keep him or her interested. There's immense play in that last nickel, and sometimes, when it is my money, I'll leave it on the table, as a kind of awkward tip.

I'll be satisfied most of all if I remember that I am the one making the decisions and the choices, and there is no "head" and no "heart" and no "heat of the moment". There is only what I really want, and how close I come to adopting the plan with which I started. That's the store I'm minding now, and let me tell you, it's got some cool hula hoops and those huge rings through which you blow a rainbow diversity of bubbles. If I can see all the colors, and still see the nuts and bolts of the purchase, then I'll be a man just like in the Kipling poem.
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