June 30, 2017 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on June 29, 2018

This morning I’m rushing here. W. has it in mind to get an earlier train, and I want to walk with him to get some exercise before the rising heat and humidity, forecast for today, really hit us. Yesterday, while A. was in Boston, I worked in the garden. Today I’m achy. It’s just appalling how much maintenance this all takes, week after week, and how muscle-intensive a lot of it is.

It’s amazing, I’m feeling rushed, and I can’t seem to let the thoughts coalesce into anything other than lists and banalities. It’s as if there were a solid (or almost solid) barrier that has come down (sort of like a European-style train-crossing guard), come down on the road thoughts might use to travel, and so they’re stalled. It doesn’t feel like they’re backing up, but it does feel like the barrier is this dead line – dead.line – this idea that we have to leave at 7-something, and this 7-something time (deadline) coincides with the end of the thirty minutes I spend writing my morning pages. That is, I have the same amount of time, but somehow, because there is no buffer of time at the end of my thirty minutes, it feels qualitatively different.

This is interesting because sometimes you hear it said that you should apply this awareness of the deadline (death) to your life and thereby spur yourself on to greater achievement(s) or some other virtuous thing. You know you’re going to die, so get to living, now. So they say. But I suppose the difference is that we typically don’t know when we’ll die, whereas my deadline this morning is voluntarily established, set by an act of will. I have for months now been working like this, writing under a voluntary deadline – namely, three densely packed pages, typically in about 28 minutes. But always with a buffer at the end – the ability to extend the time. I almost never do, but just knowing it’s there provides a mental safety valve. I can pause and let that thought travel a little further down the road – there’s no dead line barrier blocking its path, it bumps against nothing except perhaps my own rudeness, but I’ve been teaching myself to be more courteous toward my output. The damn deadline this morning, which effectively changed nothing except to remove my buffer, has thrown me back on bad habits of bad self-talk and put-downs.

Maybe that’s the point of us – us humans – knowing we each have a dead line / deadline, but not knowing when it will fall. It allows us to develop courtesy if we try, allows us to become a little better, to teach us, as it were, how to be our own better parent, to grow some wisdom in our bones, a bit of love in our hearts perhaps. But wisdom, something strong. Wisdom and love to direct the head more agreeably. Our own “holy trinity,” our perfect union of legislative (heart?), judicial (bones?), and executive (head?) branches, in this weird journey of life.

In that sense, our not knowing the “when” is our daily buffer.

The other day (yesterday) I was reminded of the idea that the only thing you know or should keep in mind is that you will die. All the rest is commentary. All beliefs, religions, etc. All the isms, too, including veganism, e.g. I’m basically a weird pagan, I don’t believe in the continuation of the soul (as an entity constituted as it is in a living body), so I also don’t believe in this extreme notion of animal welfare that forbids killing them for food. It’s commentary. As is my next or last meal.

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