Mindfulness

Some time before dawn this morning, I lay in bed thinking about the meaning of mindfulness.  When I say I was thinking about it, I mean that the word came to mind, and with it came a variety of meanings, each one with a trail of thoughts behind it.

The word mindfulness came to mind, because it is the term I sometimes use for what I was doing at that time.  I was observing the flow of thoughts, feelings, and impressions through my mind.

I do this fairly often, usually in the early morning, and generally, I enjoy it.

At root, mindful is a simple word that means aware.  However, as befits a word about the mind, it has been invested with many subtle meanings.  It has been argued about.  No, really.

The mind is an intimate and subjective experience.  When we talk about it, we’re going to have differences, even misunderstandings.

For me, the mind is an everflowing fountain of wonders, ideas, impressions, memories.  For much of my waking life, I discipline the mind to serve a purpose.  I organize it to solve problems, direct actions, receive information, or communicate.  During those times, I ignore, more or less, the everflowing fountain.

But in those night hours between the time I wake up and the time I rise to begin the day, I let the fountain flow, and I observe.  I enjoy it.  Sometimes the fountain gushes with such force that I’m driven to pen and paper.  That’s good, too.

Is that mindfulness?  That’s what I call it.

Reading ahead

I’ve been looking for a good novel to read.  So, each week I go through the New York Times Book Review, looking at each review.  It’s hard to find something I want to read.

Oh, sure, I find things I want to read, but they’re not novels.  They’re histories, biographies, books like that.  This week, the Times reviewed Aristotle’s Way by Edith Hall.  It’s a reconsideration of Aristle’s works as self-help works.  Of course.  So, I pulled my copy of Aristotle out of the bookshelf and thumbed through it.  Should I?

I don’t know why, but I really am determined to read some fiction.  I have a collection of fiction that I have collected over the years, and I reread various books from it from time to time.  You’re curious, aren’t you?  I’ll give you my all-time list some other time.

And maybe that’s what I’m looking for, a novel, or preferably, a series of novels, that I can add to my all-time list.

So, what fiction is the Times reviewing this week?

There’s Hark, which is called a skewering of contemporary culture.  That sounds promising.  But, then we learn that the main character is a schmuck.  Sorry, not interested.

Next we come to An Orchestra of Minorities, which is the story of a man’s epic quest to prove he is worthy of the woman he loves.  Well, yes.  Inspiring.  But, it turns out that despite his efforts, he just isn’t worthy.  Hmmm.

Paging forward, we find Adele, a novel about a classy French woman who becomes addicted to sex.  I’m wary but curious.  Several warning flags go up, but then comes the dealbreaker.  The writing is not so good.  Spare me.

There’s You Know You Want This, which is a collection of dark stories.  I’m not attracted to “dark”, but at least the investment is small.  I might read a story.

At last, there’s The Falconer, which is a story about basketball and love at an elite school.  Run away.

Wait, here’s a list of historical fiction.  Does that count?

A new year opens prospects

Adventure, Discovery, Accomplishment, maybe Friendship, maybe Romance.

The last few years have been a time of upheaval in my life.  I changed from a married family man with a life of busy community service to a solitary man living alone, often in deep thought, sometimes in restless longing.

Last year the pace and quality of change moderated.  I had been trying to move forward with some poetry projects, but I felt disconnected from them.  I was searching for a way forward.  Then, I found it.

One night I woke up in the wee hours with my mind racing.  I went to the writing table.  Instead of opening the journal, I took my pen and began writing spontaneously on the blotter.  Since that night, for months, I’ve been pouring out my heart and mind on sheet after sheet of blotter paper.

Now, everything feels new and alive.  I work urgently, enjoying the moment, but feeling the breath of time on my neck.  As I work, I’m pursuing new visions.

This year will bring new prospects.  I can’t say what they are, yet.  But, I’m making ready for them.

Fall equinox on Old Baldy…

Garner State Park, Sunday, September 23, 2018…

Rose at six, ate breakfast, read the news, took a walk by the river.

I have the shelter rented for the night, but I’m not going to stay.  I’ll pack up and leave after supper.  It’s worth paying for the extra night to have all day to enjoy the park.

I left Austin after work Friday, top down.  Stopped at Fredericksburg Brewing about sundown.  Turned south and drove through the misty dark with lightning highlighting the clouds on the horizon ahead.  My top was still down, but the mist just flowed over the cockpit.

At the shelter late, I unloaded the car, piling everything on the table.  I drank a beer and went to bed.  After a while I wakened to the racket of a huge thunderstorm.  I turned on my lamp and was startled to see standing water beneath my cot!  I waded to the table and sat on it, watching the water rise.

Finally, the storm passed over.  The water stopped rising and started falling.

I went outside to look around.  The shelter next door was vacant.  I walked over.  It was dry inside.  I moved in.

In my cot again, I heard a short violent struggle outside.  Fierce growling, then a few soft sobs, then silence.  Who was the predator, and who was the prey, I wondered.

Saturday morning I woke late, made coffee, breakfast.  I walked around the campground.  Some turkeys were pecking in the grass.

I hiked up Old Baldy.  That ascent makes the Hill of Life on Barton Creek look flat.  At the top, I turned through 240 degrees of the compass, surveying the panorama.

I felt myself reaching out across the earth to other peaks where I have stood.  That feeling of exalted vision began rising in me.  But there was also a profound sadness.  What have I done?  What is my direction from here?

To think that this chapter began on a peak in the Davis Mountains….

[Note, 4/29/19:  Just after this journal entry I began a long poetry manuscript to answer those last two questions.  The title is, Why do I long for a woman?  I will finish it soon.]

Age of migrations

All around the world, populations are in motion, pushed out of their native lands by drought, famine, flood, oppression, terror, and war.

Generous people and noble leaders of the West have opened their borders to the migrations.

The wealthy peoples of the world, more and more, look at the ragged, hungry, and frightened masses as a threat to their happy homelands.

Demagogues have seduced resentful westerners with the lie that they can halt the migrations if they are allowed the power to enact policies sufficiently hostile and inhumane.

This is an ignorant and empty boast.  These migrations are epochal.

Dislocated populations are best kept as close to home as possible.

What is the answer?

The answer is to create safe havens for dislocated people in their own regions.  The havens must be not merely accepting of the migrants, but attractive and supportive.  The West must fund them.

The Helsinki Syndrome

Throughout the day, like many people, I checked on the news from Helsinki, where Donald Trump was meeting with Vladimir Putin.  Like many people, I was worried.  I was not prepared for what I saw.

On display for the whole world, the United States President was subservient to the tyrant of Russia.  He berated his own country.  He praised the tyrant.

He was led by Putin like a performing dog.  When questioned, he spoke his answers for Putin’s approval, and when he couldn’t answer the questions, he watched admiringly as Putin answered for him.

It was eerie.  It was like a hostage video, when the hostage has come to love the captor.  The Stockholm Syndrome?  Older than that.  The Manchurian President?  Older than that.

Call it 1984.  Call it the Helsinki Syndrome.  Trump loves Big Brother.

 

Launch of the public journal

At last I’m starting a web log (blog).  I’ve thought about it for a long time.  But, I always resisted, for a couple of reasons.  I resisted because, having spent so long in print media, I wanted a site that looked like a page, preferably a newspaper or magazine page.  But also, I resisted because I didn’t want to commit to the kind of work I think it will take to maintain a blog.

I’m still not sure I’m up for the work.  I don’t know how often one should post to a blog, but more than once a month comes to mind.  And the really big commitment, I suspect, is dealing with comments from the public.  Monitoring and responding to comments could take a lot of time.  We’ll see.

What I’m drawn to now is the simplicity.  Just write something and post it.  And since I have been keeping a private journal for over 40 years now, I thought I’d call this the public journal.  Excerpts from the private journal will appear here, among other things.

Thanks for reading the obligatory ‘apology’ or maybe ‘argument’ for this blog.  I’ll try to be more interesting in the future.