Saturday, February 21, 2015

lifted by memory

Anyone who has stood chest-deep in the ocean knows the feeling of the soft, rolling, rounded, unfoamed, unremarkable waves that roll in and gently lift the body in their passage ... a small defiance of an otherwise defined gravity, an ahhh that is hardly worth remarking and yet has a remarkable welcoming softness.

And so it has been in the wake of my mother's death and, I guess, the obituary that appeared in the New York Times. People seem to have come out of the woodwork -- relatives, school chums, fragments of the past in the form of notes noting my mother's passage. Yesterday, it was a note from someone I went to grade school with -- grade school for Christ's sake! The day before that it was a distant half-cousin -- or some other indistinct relationship. Each remembers bits of what I may not recollect at all or, if I do, it really is a dusty book on my memory's shelves.

There is a sweetness to it all -- a melody of sorts. I learned in my upbringing to not-remember things since remembering was almost invariably painful. But remembering is not so bad. It is nice to think that my mother's obituary can be written by those who knew her only through one incident or two. I'm not up to the task, but these small notes seem capable. Somehow, I want my mother to enjoy some applause and perhaps smile. 

Other bits of 'memory' also seem to assert themselves as well. The plug-in radiator I once used to warm the zendo on bitter days has been moved inside the house and now cozies a room that otherwise might be cold in the absence of the furnace that crapped out yesterday. It's a good tool, even if it never really did much good during zazen or seated meditation... I did a lackluster job of insulating the zendo when I built it, but now the radiator can strut its stuff in a better-insulated house. Welcome back.

And this morning I received a New Yorker article from a chum about a renewed interest in psychedelics as a means of easing anxieties and opening out a narrowed mental focus, not least in the matter of sickness and death. The article tripped a memory switch that recalled reading a plump book about the wonders of psychedelics when it came to breaking through neurotic difficulties. I read it in the 1970's or early '80's and rushed off to a psychologist I was seeing. I was excited about the possibility that all the talk therapy might be cut short with the application of chemistry. Jack, a savvy ex-Jesuit, talked me down and I never did try psychedelics, though I can't remember his arguments and appreciations. He wasn't against it, as I recall ... just skeptical enough and cognizant enough of the bad trips that might result so that I kept visiting him and growing whatever muscles I could in the face of my demons of the day. Maybe he just wanted to income stream I represented, but I discount that because I loved him as an honest broker. Whatever the case, I never took "the blue pill" but now its good reputation seems to be on the rise once more.

And then, through what self-flagellation I'm not sure, I picked up "The Name of the Rose" for a re-read. Its intellectual viscosity is as lulling as a rounded, passing wave. How delicious the mind can wax.

Things come around again -- I guess that is what these small, lifting waves of memory underscore this morning.

Softly. No big deal -- hardly the action-packed, piercing observation that might backbone a decent blog.

1 comment:

  1. Psychedelics caught my attention during my college/hippie days. I was reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead and such like, a very 20th century shamanic investigation of the spiritual. What i found was a mind behind the curtain. An interesting side effect was that i found that no matter the circumstances, if i focused, i could navigate said circumstances. Can't say as it made me less neurotic or gave me super powers. But i don't regret it. I never did confidently identify my spirit animal, guessing maybe a huckleberry hound dog sort of critter.