Thursday, August 20, 2015

I write as a form of meditation.  The way to understanding something is through clearing the mind of thought.

What, for instance, do I have to say about wine?  Well, let me think about it.

And then somewhere after going through a mysterious process an answer arrives.  It might seem strange, but you go with it.  A deeper way to think about something satisfies, lets you connect one thing to another.

Maybe things line up poetically.  That's not bad.

My predilection toward this manner of thought comes out of my education as an English major at Amherst College.  More specifically, as a student of Professor Benjamin DeMott.  Together in his section of English 11 we'd bring a particular moment of literature into its full meaning, bringing the moment to life.  Why this word choice?  Why this image?  I always found it took time, a process of rumination, sleeping on it, a close rereading, memorization.  Then, even if the particular epiphany never fully arrived, sitting in class as he went through what he had in mind, I saw how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  And this was cool.

Restaurant Week...  The regulars arrive, look at the tight expression on your face...  "Oh, it's Restaurant Week, I forgot."  Yeah.  You plow through a couple shifts.   You want to go back in on a day off, to work again, but you're tired.   Good for the restaurant, good for making a living.  The first stage, of unwinding, in my case, sitting back in one of the pod chairs, after the last have left, the bar clean, restocked, the paperwork done, after cutting into my plate of beef medallions with wine samples, a can of Sierra Nevada in hand, The Pogues CD I burned playing on the juke box stereo system...  It is after the difficult shift of live jazz, that I find I've been published, and that's really great.  There it is, my little article on my phone's little screen.

(Being published might come across as a strange feeling, the moment complicated, like what Kerouac might have felt when the book review in the sunday New York Times came out, proclaiming him "avatar of the Beat Generation."  Had he revealed too much, along the way in all his writings?  But how else could he have otherwise achieved his craft?  Kerouac is not Kerouac without little brother Gerard, stories from Lowell, growing up.)

The deeper mind puts things together in its own way, the result of a lot of observation and reflection.  It makes connections that span the world and the nature of creatures and all living things and how all of us living experience reality, the reality of time, movement, sustenance, particular experiences that fit into larger pictures, the sense of individual self, and of that sense of the individual self breaking down, being emblematic of the life of a planet with all its rocks, its waters, its woods, its light, its herds and flocks and solitary beasts and great collections of them like all the tiniest building blocks within us.

If you are good at the meditations such as happen quite naturally to us to assuage the thinking mind, there's a good chance that like Shane MacGowan, or Dostoyevsky, in my tastes, you end up being a good wordsmith, good at understanding what we call the human condition.  I mean, you can't claim it, nor promise that whatever you might write won't be complete crap more often than not specifically (though the attempt might represent an underlying search that spans life), but you can let it happen, and maybe sometimes it does happen, for which you are very lucky.

Fortunately, there are lots of things to meditate over, lots of things that prompt endless thought.  For which often enough there are no satisfactory answers for beyond acceptance.  Like the old story of the Zen monk, who would respond to people's impressions of what might be construed as good or bad, 'is that so?'  For then, you are allowing the mind to meditate, clearing away differing voices.

In the end, a spiritual peace we all might share?  An understanding of a deeper commonality even as we all struggle the survival of the fittest in order to feed, cloth and shelter ourselves in the communities and company we've chosen... who knows.  The whale finds her krill, the vines grow in places they long have (even if only for the briefest blink of the existence of the human species, since the Romans made their outposts), and people tend and make wine out of the wet fruit that grows, and drink it with dinner and conversation.

And things of the mind can come out sounding pretty silly sometimes.  But, one hopes that things written come out of the meditations, out of the mind when cleared of clutter.   Recorded in any little piece written is the process, of starting at the surface, which is murky, and going down to a clearer place that can stand as thought, comforting, good, basic, acceptable.  A place of poetry.

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