Lab Assignment

This string of warm days continues. I could live in November forever if it were so constant as this. I don’t have to worry about my forest bird friends: whether they have enough to eat, a place to stay warm when I’m indoors in the evening surrounded with books, food, fire, and nest of dreams. When I put out seed for them in the mornings, however, I can see that they have been thinking about me, hoping for me, waiting for me, a chirp of gratitude beating from their deepest parts. Maybe they are trying to teach to me, messengers from a source I often overlook or forget.

Some days when I read back in this journal I wonder who is doing the talking. Surely it’s not me. The words don’t sound like mine. The ideas that roll out aren’t the ones I entertain all day. It often appears to be some other character that I have perhaps unintentionally invented. Either that, or there are many angles to me that I cannot easily describe, such that what comes out in words is such a skewed version. Maybe I stand too close to the subject, like a painter laying down brush strokes with a broad brush, when the composition is calling for finer, more careful, technique.

If I could stand outside myself and see myself, for example, the way my bird friends view me, the portrait might be more balanced. They could describe things about me I would never see on my own, that would never occur to me as having any value. The details that I fret over in living, they might be able to put into better perspective. Still, though I have a lot of misunderstanding about myself, the effort in trying to portray my inner and outer world is of some value to me, as it sharpens and intensifies my attention, heightens my awareness of the life about me. If someone else would lend me their consciousness for a life time, lay it on a table as if it were a lab specimen in a science class, and allow me to pick and probe at it, and dissect little cross sections of it for further analysis, I’m sure I could come up with a better description of what it means to think and feel and be a human being, than this rather lop-sided, subjective account that stumbles out of me.

The only life I can study, to learn what it means to be a human being, is this one that has been given to me on temporary loan. Keeping a journal allows me to remove myself from the flow of action–the march of society and history in which I must also move–and ask this one human being what it is like to be alive, or any other question that I cannot ask of others. The answers to my questions may come from an intuitive force rather than an experiential one. When answers don’t come to me, I know it’s because I’ve forgotten my root understanding of who I am, or perhaps I’ve never understood at all. I have successfully compartmentalized several aspects of the inner me so that there are ten of me, rather than one. I look outward and make observations, then turn inward to find the voice that clamors to write the description, only the next day to find that another voice would have said things differently.

It’s forgivable, even healthy, to not have constancy of mind. The inner dialog, the perceptive, interpretive abilities I have been given, have become petrified, when I hear only one voice. Then I have stopped looking. The specimen on the lab table has nothing remaining for study.

I should be anticipating the changes within me and not be alarmed by them. Others are experiencing the same and no person has the ultimate correct interpretation. We’re all in the same whirling vortex of wind, but can see only a little of it. My atoms spin all the time. Old are replaced with new, while all I can do is acknowledge the phenomenon, and try to make some sensible note of it, even if I can’t accurately portray or explain the why of it.

The only self I’ve been given to live with and permitted to study or write about, stands on the sidelines of greater living processes in the universe that are even more incomprehensible. The windows I open from which to look out allow me such a limited view. I can try turning on lights, peering through binoculars or telescopes, and still not see much. I haven’t been given enough visual power to see very far, but I suspect that if I could see far I wouldn’t be able to assign much meaning to the tiny points of light. The little science project inside of me that I’ve been given for study, my lab assignment, will probably give me a better perspective on universal operations, but even that may be the result of my own delusions.

I study the words that are mine and the words of others to see if we share a common understanding. That helps me to know whether I am living in an abyss and all is lost and fruitless, or whether there is a shared outlook, and, perhaps, destiny.

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