Thursday, March 23, 2017
This was inspired by the spectacular play at this year's Australian Open when four tennis legends competed in the finals. Venus and Serena Williams played each other in the women's. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer went five sets in the men's and when Roger said even if he'd lost he'd have won, I got teary. He and Serena won but it felt like we all did. One of the best weekends of tennis ever and all of the finalists were in their thirties. It is now part of the complete grand slam to be seen on the post "Tennis Drawings"
In the many times I’ve returned to Ocean City since the summer of 1969 when I worked there as a desk clerk, I never had the urge to revisit the hotel and reflect on back then. As much as the idea of working at the beach might be romanticized, it was an unhappy time in my life when I felt cut loose from everything that made me feel secure. On this visit the doors of memory were flung open by the fact that from my chair in a restaurant across the street I found myself facing the attic window where I lived that summer. Looking at it over a period of time let the memories build and deepen, images of the other girls that worked there and lived in the same attic dormitory. We would sit by the fan in that window because everywhere else in the attic was stifling. The hotel was not air-conditioned then and the attic was the worst. Thinking about the music we played and roaming on the boardwalk late at night shifted my inclinations toward the sensations of then and the next morning I decided I’d walk over and peek in the lobby.
A woman was standing on the broad porch where the rocking chairs were once lined up. Not wanting to worry her when I approached I called out to ask if it was open. She shook her head no but I kept walking up the stairs saying. “I worked here in 1969. Do you mind if I peek in and see what it looks like now?”
She shrugged and backed off, a woman with very dark skin and very purple hair, she wasn’t sure what to make of me. Enjoying my role as old timer with stories from before she was born, I looked in the front window and immediately saw what I went on to tell her, a moment in history I hadn’t thought about in years.
“I saw the first man step on the moon right there.” And pointed to the front corner of the lobby. “I stood right behind that counter and watched it on the only television in the whole hotel. People from all over the boardwalk had crowded in with the hotel guests to see it. And when it happened everybody cheered. It was a moment everybody felt together in a national achievement. My heart pumps faster now when I go there in my mind, see the grainy back and white picture, me standing on a chair so I could see over the crowd. Because going to the places in life’s picture reignites the experience with the feelings. I must have been smiling the smile of there and then because the woman was smiling and nodding with me.
I felt really good when I headed back to my hotel, so many things I hadn’t thought about in years, how the events from history weave into the personal tapestry and the richness of detail that could be tapped at each location. With time’s distance, my loneliness that summer was an abstraction I no longer felt, eclipsed by the shared moment just so recently reinforced.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Recently, somewhat by accident, I discovered that when I moved the discussion table to a different part of the room the two discussions stayed more separate in my memory than when it was always in the same place. With the table in the same place all the time, different discussions overlapped and got muddled in my mind. Putting the table somewhere else, the different visual qualities again made it easy to separate from the other discussions.
Location is important to retrieving memories. We go back to where something happened in our minds’ eye and re-view it. When we remember an event, we run the mental film. See it again. The angle may be different since it is edited by the things that matter to us at the moment. It could be an entirely different version of the event from someone else that was there. Remembering Sunday night card games when I was a child, the image includes my grandfather, his warm smile and laugh, and there in the picture of my life, he remains. Though in the linear view of time he is gone now because we’re on a different place on the line, in a spatial view of time, nothing that comes into the picture ever leaves that part of the picture. We might be adding to the picture somewhere else but the composition always exists as a whole.
Linear time is a useful idea mistakenly imprinted as reality. Conditioning can be comfort and breaking free threatens it. Looking at time as the accumulation of collective experience is reminiscent of the ancient idea of the akashic field where everything that happens leaves an impression and is there to be retrieved by sensitive attunement. This connects to the modern biological theory of Rupert Sheldrake suggesting that rather than memory being in our heads, it’s really in a field of human activity, entwined in the larger picture. We build our personal circuitry by our life experience. Perhaps it becomes the tuning mechanism to remember the imagery of our lives pulled from the intricate weave of signals in the field. As an image, it’s not so different from the internet which accumulates everything. Familiarity with that model may release us from the grip of a mechanistic model that separates everything into replaceable units. Quantum physics pointed David Bohm’s thinking in the direction of a more unified consciousness. He compared individual human consciousness to a single camera on a larger scene, everyone with their own angles which contribute to the comprehensive consciousness. We move our camera over the unfolding scene that becomes our particular line of time. Our body is the camera with which we experience reality and funnel the larger consciousness.
The imagery of memory is spatial, interconnected. After thousands of years of reducing reality to the line of history’s symbols, signs and labels and their illusion of separateness, shifting to perceptual understanding, the sense of the space that includes us and the relations within it, opens a way of thinking that joins and includes. It could unite us in shared responsibility for our co-future.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
A tree can be a wonderful image for growth of knowledge, the spreading branches suggesting the neural network that grows in our brains over time. Its limitation is its separateness. Though its branches may intermingle with others, it’s individual treeness is unchanged. A different idea is suggested by ripples from a pebble. They hit a rock and start another ripple and the interactions between create more complex patterns.
This reminded me of a line in the I Ching.
“Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalizing force. It becomes so only through stimulating interchange with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. In this way learning becomes many sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.”
When people surround themselves with the like-minded they close themselves off from the richness possible in the interaction of ideas. Many times, when bouncing off the ideas of others I’ve had ideas I never had before. The interaction of different ways of seeing creates the opportunity for them to combine in different ways, for our big picture models to grow and evolve. Whereas the right/wrong model uses mental power to defend a particular view, a model that pools ideas adds ripples to the pattern.
Primary to skill in happiness is the skill of steering attention. The body/ego/identity through which consciousness experiences, is packed with conditioned patterns of reaction, some are basic to physical survival and some are result of psychological strategies that protected the sense of control over actions. Old patterns can capture the energy and conscious attention and pull us into the rest of the pattern if we don’t pause. Recognizing the conditioned patterns is what gives the choice. In awareness, we can extend that moment and choose.
The reason to have an energizing project of any kind is because it offers a compelling alternative to the thought and behavior patterns that chain the unaware. Elyn Sachs in her Ted Talk said the best defense against mental illness is a challenging project. It could simply be to study something. As I know from a computer game typing tutor, there are all kinds of games that combine learning with pleasure. And learning itself is pleasure. We get endorphins from it. Challenge also stimulates the pleasure center. Take up drawing, learn an instrument, study a language. Building knowledge increases self-regard based on real achievement. There is so much that can be learned that deepens understanding over the whole of life. The secret to having self-respect is in the satisfaction of building your power. Skill and knowledge reside inside, are not external and not so easily lost.
Wherever your attention gravitates, follow it, look deeper. Everything gets more interesting as more is learned. Find others that share the interest and enjoy the benefit of different angles on it.
When attention is directed outward, it builds new patterns, correlating them with the old, interweaving other perspectives and enriching the application of new knowledge.