It plays like background music while I rise, use the bathroom, pull on shorts, walk to the kitchen, kiss my wife, pour a cup of coffee.
Today for some reason it reminds me of a calliope echoing over a fairground. I hear the thumping of its mechanical drum while I sip coffee and my wife and I chat.
“Loose Ends” is my title for this particular agenda. (It’s a title I’ve used before.) Nothing dramatic on it. Mow the lawn. Sweep the driveway. Clear brush from the side yard and bundle it for pickup. Clean my desk. Clean my office. Make a library run. Write this blog post.
The drumbeat continues when I sit down in my desk chair to meditate. For ten minutes I watch the pinball of my attention bounce off each of the agenda items (thump, thump) in turn.
Then something happens.
It’s something that happens occasionally during zazen. How to describe it?
It’s like a part of my mind suddenly detaches itself, takes a giant step back, hears what I’m thinking, and laughs.
It laughs now because it’s heard me fantasizing about There.
You know, There. That place where the agenda is completed. Where all chores are done, all loose ends tied off. Where you’re finally done doing stuff. Where you can relax. Totally, guiltlessly relax.
You know. There.
And the stepped-back part of me chuckles and mutters, You know better than that.
And phrases I’ve read about this mythical There float into my mind.
We must make our fictions conscious.
Ideas we have, and don’t know we have, have us.
When we remember we are all mad, all the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
And suddenly every muscle in my body goes slack.
Because I’m remembering what I already know:
There’s no There there.
And if so, there’s nothing to strain after.
Just this dreamlike pursuit of There we laughably call consciousness.
No There there.
There’s only here.
And for one brief blessed moment, here’s where I am too.
* * *
We must make our fictions…. ~ James Hollis, Creating a life: Finding your individual path
Ideas we have, and don’t know we have…. ~ James Hillman, Kinds of power: A guide to its intelligent uses
When we remember we are all mad…. ~ Mark Twain, Notebook