My 3 cords of firewood were delivered and I set about stacking it to dry. I worked a little each day, in chunks. Partly because it was a good mental exercise break, but also because the heat was pretty serious at times.
There’s been volumes written about the merits of manual labor – in case you haven’t read any of it, the TLDR is that it’s good for you.
I most often stack my wood in silence, choosing to enjoy and absorb the sounds around me and the voices in my head. On one particular occasion, I decided to listen to some music via my Air Pods. It was different.
I was stacking my wood like usual, thinking about all the other things I had to do, what was currently wrong and all the other things that had to be sorted as my playlist churned out in the Air Pods. Gary Clark Jr’s live version of ‘When My Train Pulls In’ came on. I thought how amazing it was that I was walking back and forth in the middle of my yard, in the woods – in the middle of nowhere essentially – on a nice overcast day with a slight breeze keeping the bugs down and at the same time I was being steamrolled by the music this man was making – or channelling – in another time and another place.
As the solo in the song peaked, I realized that none of that stuff I was thinking about prior really mattered. That, indeed, there was no place I could be other than where I was right at that moment, doing what I was doing, because everything had led to that moment – there was no way things could be otherwise. There was no way I could be anywhere else, doing anything else, there, or in the Universe at large. Nothing could have changed the things that were wrong, or sorted what needed sorting, or finished what needed doing. I was supposed to be right where I was. So everything was alright – and couldn’t get alrighter.
That was my satori moment with Zen master Gary Clark Jr.
“…The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open. What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped. Here it is.”
It may seem counter-intuitive to sit down and meditate during an emergency, but we are currently, all of us – globally, experiencing an emergency of a very unique nature. One where many of us will find ourselves with nothing but time to occupy. The default would certainly seem to be to spend that time freaking out. Or you could try something different. Sam Harris lays it out very well in this specifically targeted podcast Meditation in an Emergency. Perhaps, check it out with some of the free-time you now find yourself strangely enough, burdened, with.
In a recent New Yorker article Yuval Harari commented on the prospect of the possible nefarious uses of AI by governments, corporations or others to intrude on personal freedoms.
“Harari argues that, though there’s no sure prophylactic against such future intrusions, people who are alert to the workings of their minds will be better able to protect themselves. Harari recently told a Ukrainian reporter, “Freedom depends to a large extent on how much you know yourself, and you need to know yourself better than, say, the government or the corporations that try to manipulate you.” In this context, to think clearly—to snorkel in the pool, back and forth—is a form of social action.”
Makes sense to me. Not hard to do, just sit down (perhaps on a cushion) and shut up.
Indecision is a funny thing. In my case, once it sets in, it doesn’t leave me alone. Tomorrow is @winterbiketoworkday. I really want to participate, but like so many things worth doing, it’s hard. I’ve got hockey tonight so I won’t get home until midnight – in bed until 12:30. Riding to work tomorrow – really doing it right and riding the WHOLE way on the snow – means getting up and out early. Probably 4:30 or 5 or so. It will be dark then. Weather says temps will be around -15C with the windchill to the -20’s. Then there’s the trail conditions. Probably pretty soft right now (as I write this it’s only 0C) but maybe they’ll freeze and firm up overnight – but if they don’t, likely some walking will be involved.
What’s the point? Seems foolish sometimes to ponder doing these things. Subjecting one’s self to the cold and the effort for a 15k bike ride. Then I think about people who are going to ride 1000km across Alaska in far worse – and I’M hesitating to go out for 15k? I could not do it at all. I could do it part way – drive half the distance to where the trail becomes paved – and plowed – and ride from there. That almost seems more chickenshit than not going at all. I tend to be an ‘all or nothing’ kind of guy. To a fault. I have problems with moderation – with doing things ‘halfway’. Maybe I should work on that. Or maybe I shouldn’t.
Maybe I should just do it. Maybe the problem is I feel like there has to be some ‘reason’ to do it. Some justification for the lunacy it represents. I’m looking for the ‘why’. I don’t know if there is a ‘why’. Maybe I have to get out there to find it. Or maybe it doesn’t exist. So for the rest of the day I’ll be tormented by the question – go or no go – and surrounding all that is the constant buzz of do I wear this or wear that? Do I bring X? Will that be warm enough? Too much? Should I put myself into sleep deficit for a bike ride to work simply because someone somewhere declared it the day to do so? Where are my gloves anyway? Not those – the WARM ones? The answers to all of these questions don’t matter at all. I will either go or not go and that will be that.