Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Attention, please.

People often make the point that they feel like a child and everyone else is a grown up. I feel like that all the time. In actuality, I am immature in so many ways, primarily those relating to responsibility, sense of humour and relationships. It is in the basics of life - brushing my teeth, planning meals, washing up without getting bored or letting my thoughts wander - that I feel this the most. Has everyone else been honing their skills while I've been smoking weed and watching movies? Did I miss the opportunity for quotidian proficiency while getting better at Fifa 06?
My mind escapes my control.

Csikszentmihalyi writes that the trick is controlling attention, that, if I remember correctly, consciousness itself is a point of attention and to master where our attention goes and what it does when it gets there is to become a master of consciousness. It sounds brilliant. It's so hard, when caught in the obviousness of determinism to actually believe that there is any power within to direct attention. I need to randomly believe, to have faith that there can be change, that I can enact my will upon myself, shape myself. I want to believe something that I do not. Is there a word for that or at least a popular concept I can cling to? It makes no sense to understand human beings, or at least the conscious part of them, as stories - cosmic justice, equilibrium, happy endings are the stuff of fairy tales. And yet, we glimpse magic here and there. The forces just beyond our comprehension are beguiling and become the repositories of our grandest narratives. Love! Oh, love, you are the saviour of mankind, the last words on our lips, the absolute, the meaning of life. Though we all pay lip service to the Enlightenment giants on whose shoulders we lazily recline, few can cram the wonder and enormity of love into a little box marked "an evolutionary construct useful for familial bonding and reproductive instincts". Few would want to take the soaring grandeur of their personal musical ecstasies and dissect them with science into anything more mechanical. So how to grab on to wonder while still clutching treasured reason with both hands?

Surrender. Let go. No-one taught you how to use your omnivorous teeth to eat meat by tearing with canines, cleaving with incisors and to chew and grind tough legumes with your molars. You were just hungry, so you ate. Let the mind go quiet, do not seek to put your wits about every thing that comes to your attention. Instinct will guide if you can make a meditation of these things. Guide yourself as well as you can, then check your progress once in a while. For god's sake, enjoy the journey for that is all there is. Do not seek too quickly to find joy or you will be relentlessly tripped by realisations of how fleeting it is. Ride out bad weather because it is a near certainty that summer will come.

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