13 January 2008
Mind Maps and Life Paths
Somewhere in the last few weeks I heard a song whose lyric included "World gone mad..." The music and the vocalist's style got under my skin as much as the lyric. The world feels and looks mad to me and there is a comfort having my impressions affirmed by someone else--especially another musical artist.
It was a kind of "chicken or egg" conundrum, trying to figure out how the recent holiday madness fit with the general world madness. Was the world madness more difficult for me because holiday madness was at fever pitch? Was the fever pitch an attempt by the masses to deal with the surrounding world madness?
For weeks now, my thinking has been muddled, cluttered, disordered on nearly every front: socially, politically, artistically, spiritually... I've been waiting for a tiny shimmering ort of clarity to emerge from the mess, something I could snatch up and use as a launch point for blogging. The burst of energy and clarity that led to "Improvisation of Presence" was a short-lived aberration. The clouds returned shortly after clicking the "Publish Post" button.
I believe the surrounding world madness is largely responsible for my cluttered mind. Or more accurately put, I've searched my trick bag and found no light there strong enough to dispel the fog and cloud.
In November I was given a copy of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." The book comes to mind now as I anticipate the voices of sympathy responding to my narrative here. In the novel, a father and son make their way across a devastated, post-apocalyptic America. They have somehow survived a horror that has decimated the population; now and then they encounter other survivors, mostly people who have sacrificed their goodness in the name of survival.
Father and son walk on through the physical nightmare. What else can be done? They don't cry or complain or despair. They just keep going. I have a similar feeling lately--I keep going. Not full of fear or anger or complaint. Just pressing on. Through fog.
Suicide crosses my mind from time to time. But that's par for my life course--it's been an item for contemplation at least since the age of 9. I checked myself into a hospital around Thanksgiving of 1993 because my "suicidal ideation" was so intense; but these days it's no cause for alarm when I hear Suicide, snarling angrily and throwing itself against the walls in the next room. I open the door carefully and enter barefoot, approaching slowly, speaking softly in soothing tones. I've learned how to win sufficient trust to hold It in my lap, stroke it's little head--being careful to avoid it's teeth.
K____ turned me on to the Mindjet Mind Manager software a few months back and I downloaded a trial version of the software. Beyond my predictable delight with having a new toy, using it to attempt to gain a partial appreciation of the contour and scope of my fogginess proved informative. I built three personal mind maps: one each for Brazil, the "why" and "how" of living on the Gulf Coast and the dream of establishing a leadership school in South Mississippi (I haven't talked about that here yet....). If you're trying to figure something out, I highly recommend following the link to the download and giving the application a try.
Besides my explorations with Mindjet, one other light has gone on that is worth a note here:
Since I began to listening to Joni's latest CD, "Shine" (see previous post "If I Had A Heart I'd Cry"), I've been listening again to her old albums and watching Joni Mitchell documentaries. I can't get enough of her.
Most recently, I watched "Painting with Words and Music", an intimate concert she gave in 1998. It's Joni at the age I am now singing and talking and dancing before an audience that includes some good friends.
Admittedly, I projected my personal issues all over this film but here's one thing I got: with all the ways Joni's thinking and mine are similar, there's a difference of particular relevance to my current fog.
Some of the clutter in my head is the accumulation of detritus from decades of exposure to ancient wisdom teachings and new-age hype and psycho-babble and the like. I mean no disrespect to Pema or Deepak or Buddha or Jesus or any of them; I'm just having an insight.
I suspect Joni's been exposed to the same stuff but while I took it deeply to heart and mind and made integrating it into my life a mission, Joni placed it on a shelf along with everything else she's experienced.
The example I've offered friends is that when I encounter an "asshole" personality, I reference teachings that suggest that what we don't like in other people is a reflection of some part of ourselves still in need of attention. Joni, on the other hand, writes a song about the "asshole" and moves on. Most of the time, I never get around to making art from the experience of encounter; I'm too busy studying my navel and searching for clues on how to "fix" my life.
Interestingly, as I thought about all this, I remembered--again--the encouragement offered by nearly every teacher to not take their word for anything they say. Over and over they advise the seeker to live and see what wisdom emerges from their own life experience. Maybe one's life experience supports the idea that a "difficult" Other is an external manifestation of a personal aspect. But maybe not. Maybe an asshole is simply an asshole.
Discussing it with another friend produced more food for thought: if we are all a part of one Story, couldn't it be that the "asshole" role is covered and I play some other role -- if only for that chapter?
So, 13 days into 2008 I'm considering not making a New Year's resolution but commencing a focused experiment. What wisdom is MY life bringing me? What truths are being proven in my experience? To borrow a ministerial friend's sermon title, where does "the path at my feet" lead?
posted at 1:57 PM