Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On All Things Considered

NPR: source of all desultory attempts at self-improvement. I've browsed for aluminum water bottles online, thought vaguely about reducing my cell-phone usage vis-a-vis brain tumors, and half-heartedly resolved to unglue my dashboard from the rear fender of the wannabe Amish SUV in front of me so as to reduce my gasoline consumption. Worse, I've attempted to meditate.

This last was brought on by a segment suggesting that folks who meditate a lot (hello monks) or even a little (random meditators) can adjust the happiness "set point" of their brains to the point where their baseline happiness more closely resembles that of a doped-up parakeet than that of, say, me.

Let me add by way of an introduction that I am not a meditative person. (I know you are shocked, readers.) I am not a meditative person despite the fact that the hippie school I attended through the third grade had a mandatory meditation period. I am not a meditative person despite the fact that all of my nuclear family members have become, one after another, Buddhist. And we're talking seriously Buddhist: possessed of "practice" and meditation rooms and aspirations to relinquish all desire.

Still, in the interest of chronic euphoria, I thought I'd give it a shot. I sat down. I folded my hands in my lap. I took a few deep breaths and tried to quiet my mind.

This lasted maybe 6 seconds. BITE ME, whooped my mind. OH BITE ME. Raucously, my seat of (dubious) wisdom hopped from breathing to breath support to the last performance I gave to cold hands to braziers. To the disturbance in weather that is performing; the collision of conflicting fronts of desire; hiding versus seeking.

Desire, again. In Buddhism, desire is the root of all suffering. In narrative, desire is fuel. My mind rolled over, played dead, fetched, spoke; I admired its tricks. Who needs zen when you've got story? Maybe I can't meditate because, deep down, I don't want not to want. Even when I want what I can't have, when I want what I once had or what I could have had, when I want a thing and its opposite in equal measure. Even when want strips down, stands naked, revealed for what it is: one of the many flavors of pain.

At least want shivers, makes noise.

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