A simple life was all I wanted, I wrote in that book about a college kid and his wants, a simple cabin in the woods by a lake with Buddha statues… something like that. The book traces him through the usual typical mentally-created minefield we all live in, thinking of the world as a place where we must act straightforwardly upon our desires. "Go and do, for you have the talent."
And yet, as we might learn in our wisdom, it doesn't quite work like that, not so perfectly anyway. And here, as symbol, the kid has his aims, and even an object of his affection, though he doesn't know what to do about it, beyond express, guardedly, his affections. In the real world, yes, things are complicated and not very straightforward. We might be told some slogan of advice, 'go seize the day, be forward, be aggressive,' of course a whole range of things. But even if you think you are miserable for not achieving some staked out goal, as we all know, the world is full of miserable people, people who've taken just such advice to heart as 'go seize the day, etc.' and acted.
Oddly, what resulted in the long writing of such a piece as the college kid trying to figure it out, acting, reacting, acting the whole mix of human ways, wise and stupid, drunk and sober, smart and dumb, sensitive and insensitive, courageous and cowardly, left and right, day and night, thoughtful, impetuous, slow, fast, was this author's appreciation of the time carved out for writing. The writer too, as his main character, wanted, still wants, a simple life. He wanted some time to reflect, to reflect over his sins, his actions, his failure to achieve what he might have wanted, or thought he might have wanted, as far as a mate, a career, an academic life, a home life, wrapped up in such a story. Perhaps this was selfish and self-indulgent.
What the writer wanted was a way to think about things, a way to handle his thoughts, a way to relax, a way to step back and maybe slowly improve, after the big mess, his own circumstances, maybe even by helping other people, indirectly, see how they might handle their own thoughts. This was important, and this was the kind of literature that intrigued him.
Perhaps by instinct, or through long trial and error, through ignorance and then also exploration and learning and reading books, a kind of solution presented itself, one that seemed time honored and wise and useful even to such circumstances as written about should they happen again, and even retroactively to some extent. This after a lot of poking around, and even staring answers in the face, as happens in any seeker's life. Meditation.
Yes, good old Buddhist meditation, the achievement of distance, insulation, protection, circumspection from all those little voices inside the head like those of the spoiled brat demanding an ice cream cone 'now.' Maybe that's what I was doing all those years when I went down to Starbuck's trying to talk as little as I could, trying to avoid newspaper and headlines and information jumping out at me, to quietly write a few thoughts down in my old legal pads with no clear notion as to what I was even doing anyway, but like the fisherman seeing what might come by.
Perhaps I was trying to squeeze too much out of that little stream of thoughts and wonderings. It's rewarding to record trains of thoughts, surprising ideas, dreams, mental events, interpretations of poetic moments, but this is only mediation for beginners.
A time ago I might have even found it a little strange, if not creepy, to want that simple life, or to take so happily to meditation, finally a release, a perspective from all the voices inside the head. For I've found that needs are pretty simple, that a simple life has a contentment to it, that one needs simple functional clothing and outfitting and good wholesome food. Basic, not costing a lot. Why drive yourself mad with all the things you should be doing on a Saturday night. Getting over a cold, well, that might be enough. Doing some good yoga, maybe a walk to the store, before returning to read the last parts of The Snow Leopard.
I found, in meditation, a freedom from mind, and I found that essential.