Note: This Thanksgiving Eve November 22, 2017 sticky post starts the year-long “So Last Year” project, which begins with Thanksgiving 2016, November 24, 2016.

For many months now I’ve kept to a journaling routine called #MorningPages, popularized by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. Writing longhand, avoiding pixels and screens, the routine has helped me get back to writing, an activity I love, but which got badly damaged and smashed to bits by the floods of social media.
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Dispatches from a Many-Mansioned Room

by Yule Heibel on January 18, 2019

When I sat down to meditate this morning (Friday January 18, 2019), I saw what must have been a bird of prey, large, swoop low behind the houses that front E.-Street, then fly high to perch in the tallest tree. The start of each meditation begins sitting with eyes open, and I couldn’t help but glance continuously at this bird – it might have been an owl, still hunting this late in the morning – and I hoped it would fly off, perhaps towards me, before I had to close my eyes.

It didn’t. I closed my eyes to go deeper into the meditation, and for a few minutes I let myself be distracted by thoughts of the owl, which in my mind I now conflated for some reason with a cat, Schrödinger’s, to be precise. But I also always conflate Schrödinger’s cat with Lewis Carroll’s cheshire cat and its smile. Owls don’t smile, of course (nor do cats), and at any rate, I didn’t think of smiles. I thought about whether the cat – I mean owl! (see?) – would be there when I would open my eyes again in ~20 minutes. I knew with relative certainty – or assumed – it wouldn’t be, but hoped, at 50-50, that it might be. Uncertainty extends from cats to owls. At any rate (rate of change, of acceleration, of entropy), my owl was gone when I lifted the lid off my boxed-up eyes.

During meditation, I ceased to think about the owl. I pondered my reflection question, trying to sense if there was a feeling wanting to bubble up. There wasn’t. But I did extend the question (today it was, “does your happiness depend on you achieving your goal?”) to another query on just what my goal is – for that is actually the current problem. I have no goal, nothing I can point to, if I’m brutally honest. All my “goals” I deride before I even truly start. But I did recall the feeling that arose behind the thought from the previous day’s reflection question. It was the feeling around “home,” wanting a home, but how this “home” is more than just “House Beautiful.” That it should also be an intellectual and even spiritual home, and a home for communal effort, communal work. Which rather implies a communal goal… And that’s something hard to define when you’re like me (not interested in joining – anything). My previous mental examples had been a magazine (I thought specifically about how the magazine I used to write for could have played this role, but didn’t: its owners never made a home for the writers).

So, “home” is belonging, but it’s tricky because you don’t want to belong to just anything, especially when you’re like me.

Home is something you own, but it also owns you. Bloomsbury in London. Gertrude Stein in Paris, Edith Wharton in Paris and Hyères. Or at The Mount. The “home” owns you as much as you own it, which is why you have to choose carefully. By what or whom do you want to be owned? And can you “settle” for one thing? Maybe that’s the problem.

Then, just as I confused cat and owl, I confused rooms and mansions when the phrase about rooms and houses and mansions popped up as (garbled), “the mind is a many-mansioned room.”* So, the mind is a many-mansioned room. Is that it? That I want many mansions, in my one room (the mind)? I can’t for the life of me think of the correct phrase (or the source), but it’s obviously not many mansions stuffed into one room. It’s got to be the other way around. But I’ve always been odd, as in the other way around, so it makes sense I’d want mansions in my one room, my one mind. Portals. Maybe that’s it. A home would be a place (the “one room”) with many portals to other places (“mansions”). That would be a rich life. So, what works against it?

* (It’s actually, “In my father’s house there are many mansions,” John 14:2. But I wouldn’t know that. A subsequent online search told me.)

Yesterday I saw @wrathofgnon’s retweet re. Jünger’s musings on mental and social desertification, and I commented on it with a reference to homelessness (can you be at home in a desert?). He (?) responded to me by referencing rootlessness and Simone Weil.

But on further thought, I don’t think it’s quite that. Not rootlessness, but impoverishment, which drives us to seek portals elsewhere (outside our “rooms”), restlessly. It’s this which makes us rootless. The religious might say (like Weil, who converted to Catholicism) that it’s the absence of The One (True) Portal that pushes you out the door, alienates you from your home. I don’t have that faith.

But I do think there are forces at work that encourage, facilitate, and most of all profit from this, our self-alienation. We’re ancient brains coping with very new ways of commerce and especially technology. The evolutionarily familiar savannah gives way to growing desert, but that desert is manufactured. For profit. Alternately (or maybe it’s the same thing?), it’s also far too easy to wander aimlessly from room to room.


Letter: So Last Year / So, last year…

November 22, 2018

It’s Thursday November 22, 2018, Thanksgiving in the United States, and I wish everyone who is celebrating this wonderful holiday a very happy day. Be thankful, be content. Don’t let yourself get roiled up by forces that don’t have your best interests at heart. My So Last Year project is at an end – for […]

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November 22, 2017 (Wednesday)

November 21, 2018

I need “prospect.” When I look out my window this morning, I see a misty rain so thick it obscures the horizon line and rubs out into a uniform gray the bit of ocean visible from my perch. The trash maples (actually, I realized they are oaks) make a spindly, bare-branched pattern against this gray. […]

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November 21, 2017 (Tuesday)

November 20, 2018

Yesterday, thinking I would be brave and write an introduction to be posted on Wednesday (tomorrow!), Thanksgiving Eve, for my “So Last Year” project, which I would then actually start on Thursday, I faltered. I read my entries for Thursday Thanksgiving (it was okay) as well as the next day, and of course that very […]

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November 20, 2017 (Monday)

November 19, 2018

Monday, Monday. Cloud and sky are again colluding this morning to create a spectacular light show. Water vapor chariots, as solid as gray-painted oaken ones, rimmed canyons, mountains, and a panoply of chiaroscuro in heavenly pastels, which means silver, gray, a touch of white, a hint of gold – all playing out against an empyrean […]

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November 19, 2017 (Sunday)

November 18, 2018

It’s rainy, and slightly unsettled, but I feel grounded well enough. I want to do things again, and I don’t want to feel disappointed by failing to follow through. Good old Yoda comes to mind, the old saw about there being no “try,” only “do.” Feels like an advertising slogan (…oh, wait), but it’s not […]

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November 18, 2017 (Saturday)

November 17, 2018

Too many evenings spent on the couch vegging out, not going out. Why is that? Years ago, I used to work in the evenings, but now, after getting through another hamster-wheel day, it just doesn’t feel right. Relaxing on the couch in the evenings seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do instead. Maybe it’s […]

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November 17, 2017 (Friday)

November 16, 2018

This morning’s sky, difficult to describe, featured a most dramatic sunrise. Writing that word – sunrise – just reminded me of F.’s father, R., who died suddenly earlier this month. R. and F.’s mother, M., had this “family business model” (I’m being sarcastic) which involved getting up at 3a.m. every day, Monday through Sunday, to […]

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November 16, 2017 (Thursday)

November 15, 2018

Why did I just want to write “2015” instead of 2017? I think it’s because my brain hadn’t fully caught up with my decision that today is the 16th and not the 15th. It is the 16th, but somehow I’m having trouble seeing the calendar dates leap forward as they do. Soon enough, one part […]

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November 15, 2017 (Wednesday)

November 14, 2018

A perfect sunrise; the ides of November. Another day; heading into the month’s second half. What does geological and cosmological “time” care about our seasons, our months? Short answer: it doesn’t. Longer answer might be a question: why do we need to parse time the way we do? Into years? Months? Weeks, days, …hours? What […]

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