[originally posted Nov. 27, 2015]
Well, I’ve been meaning to write this — or try to — for a couple days now. Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so that’s a fine excuse.
And now my sister is playing music really loudly at my kitchen table as I sit here pondering on whatever it was that I even wanted to write about anyway. Maybe I should just let that thought float away — you know, if it really was something I cared deeply about, it’d find a place to hang out in my brain for a while, right?
But that happens far, far too often for me to be comfortable with it. Not the music part — that part I like. The part about my thoughts floating away.
If you’re like me, you value yourself based on the thought material you can come up with. For that, there’s a two-fold judging process: quality and speed. It’s one thing to come up with a wonderfully beautiful thought that solves Hawking’s theory of everything. But if it takes too long or, even worse, comes just at the wrong time, it’s meaningless.
Now think — you’re at the bar. It’s a regular night and your friends look like they need a few drinks so you saunter over to the bar, ready to be that guy. You’re in your own little world, minding your own business. Til OH SHIT — the girl you always see after your MWF 1:25 walking to the Thomas building. Man she’s quite a beauty. Long, silky, brown hair and a slender appearance and man does she look good ah yes she does. In the month that you’ve become aware of this being’s existence, you’ve thought of approximately 287 lines you’d hypothetically use if you were to approach this woman.
It’s here and now that they choose to attack at once. All 287. They’re all floating around. And some are good. Some are bad. Most are bad. Most are really bad. But some are funny bad. Should you use one of those? Self-deprecation is a wonderful ice-breaker. Shows you don’t take yourself too seriously. But then she won’t think you’re enterprising. I knew I should’ve worn that button-down tonight. That’d be the perfect paradox.
You know, if you had 287 picks into this lottery of language, you’d pick the perfect opener. But you have one pick. And here it goes, “hi.” Woah there killer. Take it easy. How’d you come up with that one?
Quality and speed. One is pretty damn useless without the other.
On that night, we’re a rousing failure. Recite the old “every failure is one step closer to a success” and “there is no such thing as failure…just another lesson to learn from”. But the mind, the center of existence, just wasn’t firing. And then what are we?
What did Descartes say? “I think…therefore I am.” Well shit. My thoughts were horribly scattered and inconsistent tonight. What does that say about me? Plug those inputs into the algorithm that explains life and the magic 8-ball reads “you are horribly scattered and inconsistent tonight.” Hm.
So I guess that’s that. I am — well, we are — the products of our thoughts.
Now let’s head back to the original story. My thoughts ran away. They were damn good ones too. I remember being excited about them. I love being excited. Now if I can just remember those thoughts, I know I can be excited again. What were those thoughts? I slowly hunch and the eyes roll back into my head, searching this vast, deep universe inside the walls of my skull. After a few Nancy Drew moments, flashlight in metaphorical hand, I resemble something like our friend, the thinker.
So now I’m at a cross-roads: do I throw on my jet-pack and search ever deeper for them? Or (and soo much scarier) do I let them go? Allow them to exist elsewhere and maybe make someone else happy far away?
The latter option implies that I move on with nothing but the hair on my head, this plaid J-Crew shirt, and the cool Casio watch I just ordered on Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime is cool. Jeff Bezos is a beast. How’s his rocket-ship company doing? Probably better than the WaPo. Does anyone call it that? Shit, back to the story.
So now I’m all alone. No thoughts. The excitement those thoughts promised is now lost temporarily. Do I trust this thought machine to produce new content to keep me content? Otherwise, I can just go home.
I feel exhausted just thinking about chasing. So I say fuck it. Drop the pre-conceived notion of me. It was really easy to identify with the old thoughts. And boy was it easier to carry them around, like “oh yeah. X excites me. I know that about me. I know it for a fact. It’s a fact and I can say that about myself. Yup, I know some truths, some permanent truths about myself. Yep.”
But now, here I am letting go of that beautifully simple rendition. And I’m at the dinner table listening to “country” music. And I exhale. And my thoughts roll away like the tide……..