Day 7 of the Year Long Blog
[This is Part IV of a series of articles I’ve affectionately entitled, The Tick Tock series, a series about my overthinking, spinning brain. If you’d like to start at the beginning–which is probably helpful–click HERE If you want to listen to me read this article, click below]
I hear my clock ticking.
But it IS the actual clock on the wall in my office, not my head. It’s kind of weird.
Not that the clock is ticking, but that my head is not.
I don’t plan out every step I take when I make breakfast anymore. I still have brain-spin, but it doesn’t always turn into dog shit n crackers these days. Mostly the blender is on a very, low ‘mix’ setting, not liquify. And that’s good.
No, it’s fuckin’ awesome.
How did I manage to stop the tick tock, tick tock?
That’s quite the story, and I’ll see if I can remember exactly how it happened.
First off, writing and publishing Be a Hobbit was part of that process. By putting so many thoughts to paper and sending them out into the world, the brain had less to cogitate upon, I reckon.
Then, there was my work last summer with the West Side Farmers Market. I totally threw myself into that job, and I loved every minute of it. It was like throwing a party every Saturday morning for the entire neighborhood. Okay, not everyone showed up for the party, but it was open for them to do just that. And those who did show up, tended to stay for a bit. I really felt like I had found a place in my new Shire, and that had a calming effect on my mind, I think.
The Dao of Steve: Slow Down Dog Shit!
But probably the most important reason why the blender slowed down, has to do with the influence of two people, who sent me off in similar directions over the year, last year.
The first came from my best friend, James Coplin, who turned me on to the Dao de Ching, the ancient Chinese secret. Well, it’s not really a secret, per se, since most people have heard of it, but in the sense that most people don’t understand it, or have real misconceptions about what it means. This is due in large part to the fact that the translations that most people have read are complete shit, but more importantly, people in the Western World have no clue how to interpret Chinese texts. We have no cultural background in which to do so, so we interpret them from our own cultural preconceptions.
James—who is a scholar of Chinese history—turned me onto the best translation of The Dao, the one by Roger Ames. The commentary alone was worth the read, and many times, more complicated than the text itself. But I read it at least three times over during the course of 2015. I would read one small chapter every morning, and contemplate it. To say that it changed my world would be an understatement.
Lower WATTage Philosophy
On the same wavelength, the second major reason for my mental transformation and the end of the tick tocking and dog shit n crackers, was due to a suggestion from one of my farmers market vendors: Ben Gockel. Ben is a young man, well, younger than I am, who makes and sells fermented products like Sauerkraut and Kimchi. He struck me as a very balanced and calm kind of dude, right from the start. He always seems to have a smile for everyone, and was a great addition to the market last year. He and I had lots of very Daoistic discussions in between transactions and mini donuts from the Icy Cup—our host vendor.
But it was on Facebook, one day, that Ben introduced me to probably the most influential writer, philosopher, or philosophic entertainer—as he liked to call himself—that has had a major impact on my life: the late, great, Alan Watts.
Alan Watts died in 1974, but I’m pretty sure that his reach and influence is greater today than it ever was during his lifetime, thanks to YouTube. It was via one of his lectures posted to YouTube by his son (there must be a hundred hours of the stuff) and reposted by Ben Gockel on his Facebook page, that I came to find his teachings. And I was blown, the fuck, away.
In short, Alan Watts was a philosopher of Eastern ideas in a Western world. He wasn’t the first to bring the teachings of Daoism, Buddhism and Zen to the West, but what he did do, was to return them to their context and then use them as a lens by which to re-interpret Western philosophy, religion, history, and science, including the industrial revolution, quantum physics, Christianity, Consumerism, Capitalism, and a bunch of other ‘isms. And the man was fuckin’ brilliant.
Of all his teachings on the nature of reality–and of the Self and its place in reality–what I gained most from it is that time is essentially an illusion, a human construct, designed—much like a ruler is designed to measure distance—to measure the movement of objects in space.
Time itself doesn’t actually exist. There is only one time: Now, the Present. The Past and the Future are illusion. The Present is like a ship sailing through the ocean. The past is the wake of the ship, flowing out behind. The wake does not drive the ship; it is the result of the ship moving through the water. The Past only shows where we’ve been, not where we’re going. It doesn’t control the Present; WE are the captains of the ship. We can turn the fuckin’ wheel, anytime we want.
The Future doesn’t even exist, except as a concept, a possibility. The ship of the Present is not being pulled forward by the Future towards some predetermined destination. The Future is only a projection of our minds, minds that are not focused on the Present. I.e., tick tocking, monkey brainspin bullshit.
It was this realization, thanks to the Dao, thanks to Allan Watts’ Western interpretation, that slowly, ever so slowly, turned down the tick and the tock in my Waring Blender, brain. But it was learning how to actually meditate without sitting in the lotus position like a human pretzel, that taught me how to run the blender in reverse on those occasions when the blender still cranks up to liquify.