October 18, 2018

brain big

It’s Thursday morning, and I am sitting among intellectuals.  We are talking.  I’m enjoying this interaction.

I have spent most of my professional life working at colleges and universities.  This way of earning a living started a long time ago, back when I had beautiful, dark hair and none of this middle-aged spread.  My point is this—I’ve been an educator for what seems like a lifetime.  It has been a lifetime, actually.

I’ve had opportunities to do things away from academe.  And I have even taken advantage of some of these chances.  For example, I was the director of a non-profit museum for a time and I worked in the corporate world as a “Creative Content Consultant,” a euphemism is ever there was one.  Basically, I did research and writing for a large, fortune-500 company.

I disliked the museum job and hated the corporate gig.

One of the reasons I’m drawn to universities is because I have always loved learning and being among learners and the curious.  I have discovered that one of the secrets to living a happy life is cultivating curiosity.  Curiosity is the mind wanting to eat.  The body needs to be fed, so it makes sense that the intellect would similarly require nutrition on a regular basis.  Plus, asking questions is natural and healthy; it’s innate and self-preservative.  If those who once lived in caves many eons ago hadn’t been curious problem solvers, it’s likely none of us would be around today.  Human beings could have entirely disappeared had our ancient ancestors not pursued answers to all sorts of interesting questions.

I think I’d kill myself if I had to be surrounded by the braindead and incurious all day long.  If this were the case, I’m afraid I would eventually end up like them.  That’s because stupidity is one of the most contagious diseases of all.  It breaks down the carrier’s immune system and destroys its host from the inside out.  Who wants to live with such a condition?  Certainly not me.  I’d rather hang myself than deteriorate to that point.

The incurious end up dying early, and after breathing their last breath, their bodies totally decompose in a matter of minutes.  This happens because they are hollow.  Their meager remnants are easily dispersed by the slightest breeze.

October 6, 2018 (Saturday)

I’m sitting and waiting in a room filled with people.  I’ve brought my car to this place to get it serviced.  It’s Saturday morning, early.

How much of my life have I spent like this, waiting, patiently (or not) for something to happen, for something to finish or be finished?  I wish I knew the answer to this question.  It would certainly be many hours or even days if you combined all those moments of idleness into one block of time.

There has to be a good way and a bad way to wait.  Right?  There are probably waiting artists.  By that, I mean, those who have talent when it comes to waiting.  Such people would be able to sit, as I am doing, but very artfully.  Their waiting might even demonstrate style.  Right now, I’m sitting neither artfully nor stylishly.  Or even patiently.  In fact, I am perturbed.  I’m not graceful in my impatience.

I want to get better at this patience thing, so I decide to start practicing right this minute by taking a deep breath in and then, slowly, very slowly and deliberately, exhaling.

That seemed to work.  That seemed to help.  The tick of my pulse, felt in my temple, is softer than it was seconds ago.  My heart, I believe, has slowed.  I close my eyes and continue breathing deeply and deliberately.

This breathing practice is probably a step toward waiting artistry.  I feel that I am progressing.

I open my eyes.  The people around me don’t seem to notice that I am in transition.  We are in our own worlds.  We are all doing our best to pass this time.

I close my eyes again and the world disappears.  I continue my slow inhaling and exhaling.  I’m pulling the air all the way into my cells.  I feel (oddly) a kind of melting sensation.  This feeling starts in my chest and spreads.  I sense that I’m diminishing as it grows.

The clock hands move.

I hear my name called.  A man is rousing me, and I open my eyes and stand.  I step toward him.  He is smiling and telling me my car is ready.  I feel my face smiling in return.  We are mirroring each other.

That wasn’t so bad, I think, as I pay.  I feel like I’ve achieved something more than having my car fixed.  It’s a kind of improvement that might be hard to see.  I know it’s there—I believe it’s there—but will know for sure the next time I’m required to do what I’ve just done.