Monday, July 26, 2010


Some people worry about "what to say". Me, I never give it a moment's though these days. I write unashamedly about myself. I have often wondered what impels me to talk about myself so much, and I now wonder why the new book of essays I'm currently working on should be, once again, so personal. The simple answer is that I know nothing of what goes on in the minds of others except what they choose to tell me—which is usually the boring parts! And that this whole creative exercise is about learning what goes on in mine. I suspect it's the same for you too, no matter what your medium.

The mind is a vast and magnificent cathedral—a universe of infinite possibilities, an infinite number of which are never realized. It is capable of infinite learning, and I tend, these days, to see every experience as an opportunity to learn, every object a source of new and fascinating study if only I bother to look at it with care, and with a mind open to what it has to tell me. On the table in front of me as I write, for example, there is a coffee cup, which might lead to reflections about pleasurable taste, mental and physical stimulation, or addiction; a cell pone, the source of endless speculation about communication and technology, and the way in which one’s life can easily be consumed by this tiny, inanimate piece of machinery. Then there’s the bottle of Nature’s Miracle odor and stain remover; don’t ask…! (It’s George’s fault.)

So I find it incumbent on me, as the owner—well, let’s say the occupant—of this only mind I can really know, to use every opportunity to explore its spaces. With the minds of others, I can do this only indirectly, by inference, and without the precision I would want to achieve. If I want to understand more about what it means to be human, this is my best exploratory vehicle to send out over the inexhaustible terrain. It’s my Mars Rover Spirit. I can direct it anywhere, ask it to perform any task, and send the results back home through the stratosphere.

I know my own life. I know my environment. I know my habits, my pleasures and antipathies, my addictions. If I’m paying the right attention, I can sense when something is amiss. The signals, if I read them skillfully, will show me what directions to take and where the next potential pitfall lies. Then it becomes a matter of skillful navigation, of finding a passage past the fears and inhibitions to reach the work site and begin the work. These are tasks I’m simply unqualified to contemplate in any mind other than my own. They are unreachable, unknowable. My own is hard enough. So I start where I can, I use the tools I have at my disposal, I mine the mother lode on my own property. I’m happy in the knowledge that this one is quite enough; indeed, that it’s inexhaustible.

So, if you’ll forgive the dreadful mix of metaphors, I trust these thoughs might explain a bit why it does have to be me.

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