Saturday, April 2, 2011

collecting myself

At 36,000 feet, there was a pistol-like sound as a piece of the fuselage ripped open on a flight out of Phoenix yesterday. The plane carried 118 passengers and was en route to Yuma, according to the Associated Press. The pilot made an emergency landing. No one was hurt. But everyone was scared.

"I fly a lot. This is the first time I ever had something like this happen," said Reese, a 37-year-old single mother of three who is vice president for a clinical research organization. "I just want to get home and hold my kids."

And the experience forged instant bonds:

"It was unreal. Everybody was like they were high school chums," Ziegler said, describing a scene in which passengers comforted and hugged each other after the plane was on the ground.
 Disasters make things obvious -- simple and obvious: The vulnerability, the loss of control, the relief at being safe after a disaster, the willingness to be close to those who had once been seen at a distance. In such situations plain old humanity, plain old human-ness shows its hand. And maybe there is a certain virtuous satisfaction in pointing out the nakedness that disaster can reveal. "See how nice (or sometimes nasty) people can be when circumstances demand. Why do we carry around all that camouflage in the first place? Tch. Tch. Tch."

This morning, as I floated up from a restless sleep and debated how badly I needed to go to the bathroom -- maybe I could squeeze in a few more minutes in supine splendor -- I realized that I was doing what I do every morning after sleep. I was collecting myself, gathering up whatever it was that would shape the day to come, segueing from a world of dreams in which fragments and story-line tendrils floated an interwove without apparent author. In dreams, I was not at all collected. But on waking, some long-standing habit said, "Let me collect myself."

Waking up in the morning does not deliver the same shock that a shredded fuselage panel might, but the resulting activity seems to be the same -- to collect myself, to return to a place that feels less vulnerable and unfocused ... to reassert the "me" of me. 

This morning, I wondered why? And I liked the phrase, "collect myself." "Collect" means to bring one thing and another together to create a wholeness for a given situation. But could anyone possibly collect enough stuff, create enough "me" to be perfectly at ease? Sure, there are more or less satisfactory collections, more or less capable and socially-adept collections, but is all this collection necessary? And moreover, even if it is necessary, who does the collecting -- whose responsibility is it ... and what would happen if I didn't create this "cool, calm and collected" entity. Among other things, imagine the energy I could save.

Morning comes. I float out of the seemingly uncollected universe of sleep, and I collect myself. Bit by bit, I reconstitute that which has been vulnerable and naked and ... resting. Like a man packing his suitcase, I gather the socks and shirts and toothbrush and razor and prepare to board a flight whose fuselage may or may not remain intact. But is there a need to pack when the suitcase is already packed? Why not roll over and get a little more sleep?

But then, of course, we all have to get up and pee.


  1. Every morning the brain's default mode network wakes the self up and maintains the transient states of mind we experience as a permanent self over and over moment by moment. What I want to know is "who" is it that is aware of this process. My guess is that our sense of self is bound to stories, which is why language centers are considered as part of the default mode network. If, on the other hand, being aware w/o words in the mix is the root function of the DMN, then awareness of self as a body is actually the root function, but then allowing for the fact that gears of a watch are not a complete description of time what is alive at the circuit level in the state of mind called non-dual awareness......

    Likewise, if conditions rule in the unawakenned state, e.g. the universe is deterministic, then what is meant by freedom, e.g. free will, the big philosophical debate. What if we are all aware to some extent and to the extent we are aware less subject to conditions, e.g. partially free, then awakening is just becoming less subject to conditions, e.g. free such that the world is gradually (or suddenly, as in punctuated equalibrium) less deterministic. If so, the philosophical debate is really just a good example of the fallacy of the excluded middle or in otherwords, as the Buddha teaches, it's not a dichotomy but a continuum from fully dualistic to fully non-dual.

    Should be able to see this process at work using functional magnetic imaging--must get around to doing these experiments.

  2. Sharing, eh?

    Boy! You people wordy so early in the day!!

    Most days, the day begins with "Oh shit.... I really have to pee!" At that time there is no wanting to know "who is it that has to pee?" The very question sounds like idiocy especially at that time of the day.

    I also do not think about "collecting" myself. Rather it's more like "How long will it take me to wake up?" But I am grateful I haven't fallen to pieces.... yet.