Tuesday, November 16, 2010

goddamned attention!

What a pain in the ass -- just like Zen practice!

Yesterday, around 8:30, a young woman rigged me up with a portable heart monitor as part of the latest heart shenanigans. A small box is strapped on the torso with several suction-cup leads snaking out to points on the chest and rib cage. It's a 24-hour deal, after which I turn the box back in to the office and someone 'reads' how the heart is doing or has done.

The kicker part is that I have had to keep a log of what I do during various time frames of the day. The young woman said to do a general log-keeping ... not every single moment of the 24 hours. But it is hard not to focus in smaller and smaller increments and get irritated. So, for example, I get up in the morning and note that. But getting up involves walking to the bathroom, taking a leak, then walking downstairs, then taking meds, then doing some mild exercise, then sitting at the computer and writing ... and some of the writing can stir things up, so do I note the topics under consideration ... whether I am bored or excited?

Start somewhere and suddenly it's like one of those fancy lab microscopes with lenses that bring you in closer and closer and closer and you're never entirely sure what's close enough. No one, I'm convinced, wants to pay attention to their lives and they certainly don't want to waste time focusing on every nanosecond, every flake of dandruff, every word ... like the word "word." To pay attention is to call into question the assumptions made when you're just plain doing, just plain enjoying yourself, just plain being sad: Breathing and body and shelter and errands to run ... all that stuff is assumed in the pursuit of whatever pursuit comes along. And something within rebels like a childish tantrum: I don't want to pay attention; I want to do what I want to do without being called to account or somehow limiting the scene of being alive.

Yesterday, on the radio, there was a report about a new autobiography by Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain, the wry and sometimes acid American writer. It took him years to find his voice, to find an appropriate way to write an autobiography. And one of his problems -- a problem he had to overcome -- was the notion of time. At first he thought he had to write things consecutively ... first one thing, then another, then another ... day by consecutive day, year by consecutive year. But it flummoxed him, constrained his voice, shackled his honesty. Finally he settled on this: Start anywhere and let the rest flow. Anywhere in your life is your life -- perfectly connected and unconstrained and unlimited.

But without trying to limit things, how could you find out how foolish trying to limit or separate things is? So, as I understood it, Twain started with the slick and socially-acceptable sounds of chronology and ran into a brick wall: It didn't ring true because it wasn't true ... it was limited.

And perhaps that's what meditation or logging activities shows... pointing towards the whole story but not yet content with being the whole story. If you're not willing to do something that irritates the piss out of your deepest honesty (limitlessness), how likely is it that you can settle down to what doesn't irritate you at all?

Well, a little noodling. I can say that I will be relieved to turn in the heart monitor and its dratted log. I just hope the interpreter of the data won't call my bluff with all of my caring entries.

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