Monday, June 2, 2014
The Brain is Wider Than the Sky
I am still having unsettling dreams. In these dreams, I become characters, some of them I have consciously created beforehand, others were spur of the moment, a persona-du-jour of my subconscious. One night, I was a construction worker at a site and the ceiling fell on me. I was the man and then I was not the man; I was an observer from above watching the doctors frenetically working to repair the mangled body. I can pinpoint the moment before the ceiling fell; it was like a scene in a movie. Will I feel it? I ask someone off camera. Will I feel it when it crushes my spine? No, you will not feel it, the obscured director says. The ceiling falls. The body is pulled from the rubble. The doctors rush to the scene. Why do I need to become the man with the mangled body? What is it that I want to know?
I use my imagination to go there, to the unthinkable. I plunge the knife into a lover's heart. I plunge the knife into my own heart. It is a thought, lightning fast. But I am only imagining what I have heard on the news or saw on the television. It is a scene from somewhere else and has nothing the do with me; I have no desire to kill anyone or anything.
Boredom has been the impetus to all of my makeshift horrors, and I am speaking here more of an ennui. I believe these disturbing and perplexing thoughts are jolts to my consciousness, to wake myself up. So sitting on the beach one Sunday, I think of these mind states, of boredom, of imagination, and I think of Dickinson's poem, The Brain is Wider Than the Sky:
The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—
I am not my mind. I am the "you" beside, as Dickinson says. And the brain is wide and deep and it contains storms and sunny days and currents and trenches and self-illuminating fish that troll the depths. And the mind is a god itself, deciding this and that, creating this, destroying that, loving, hating, like a mini Zeus or a compact Athena. But is the mind The God? Like it or not, it is our god, and temperamental at best.
Buddhists speak of this temperamental inner god and recognizing it for what it is: a drama queen. There is a place inside all of us where equanimity lies. And this equanimity has more to do with life and death, than anything else we've known.