Cap'n's Log

An exercise in attention. In answer to the question: what's on your mind right now?

Rules: Record what you are thinking about every hour on the hour. No cheating: it really has to be what you are thinking about on the hour, not what you were thinking over the course of the hour. 150 words or fewer per entry (or thereabouts).

6 a.m. What a vivid dream! That's going to haunt me all day. I wish I could write a poem about it.

7 a.m. I wish my right hip weren't so stiff. Breathe. Has it been 2 minutes yet?

8 a.m. 'Then it is with present happiness that you are drunk. Well. Long, long may it last.' 'Ha, ha, ha! That is exactly what Parker said. "Long may it last," says he; but envious, like, you know --the grey old toad.'*

9 a.m. Is it silly to want a cover for my prayer book? Should I try to make one myself? I don't know if I like any of the ones I've seen on-line.

10:00 a.m. It's funny how there are so many books about piety and prayer that manage to say nothing very engaging or startling about either. Are we really so mechanical in our approach to devotion these days?

11:00 a.m. The serendipity of things: Badger told me about this book just a few days ago, and now a colleague of mine is asking whether I've read anything recently on spiritual practice and neuroscience which I hadn't much until just this past week. Explain that, o ye devotees of fMRI!

12:00 noon I really should try to do the Midday Prayer (Terce/Sext/None) before I eat, but I'm always so hungry by lunchtime, I can't concentrate. Which is more important: keeping the schedule or attending to the words?

1:00 p.m. Why is it that iTunes seems to need to update so often? How much really changes with each new version? All I wanted to do was listen to the meditation timer to see if it would help with this attention exercise.

2:00 p.m. Students and former students are intruding into my life. Must be something in the air today. That, or my defenses are down because I finished the draft of chapter one yesterday.

3:00 p.m. Antiphons and reponsories actually matter. More to the point, they make sense. Praying the psalms is not just like reading, even if I do not chant the texts. This is a valuable lesson.

4:00 p.m. Which seems more holy: a freshly painted or sculpted image of God and his Mother or an 800-year-old chipped and faded icon? Why should there be a difference? Is art holy in its material existence or only in the act of its making?**

5:00 p.m. Tart cherry juice tastes tarter if you mix it with fizzy water. My ears hurt from the cold during the bicycle ride home. It's the day before Spring starts? You could have fooled me! Oh, look, there's a cat rubbing against my laptop screen. I want a cookie.

6:00 p.m. I don't know what to advise. He is in pain and I want to help him out of it. But there are people involved whom I do not know very well, egos and personalities at odds beyond the stress over money. Feeling trapped by the weight of decisions made and not made, futures impossible to predict.

7 p.m. I'm not really up for this [fencing] tonight. I'm not feeling very energetic. Robinson Crusoe is taking a very long time to start learning how to pray.

8 p.m. It's good to have friends who will tease you about what you're writing down. I wish my foot hurt more tonight; I seem to fence better when I'm handicapped than when I'm well.

9 p.m. He's just toying with me, trying out different actions. As soon as he wants, he can catch up to me. I hate this sport so much; I'm only ever any good at it when a) I'm convinced I'll never win, and b) I'm not really trying to get the hits.

10 p.m. This sport is so beautiful it hurts. The way it feels to make the parry exactly right, the click of the blades, the elegance of an attack in time. It is not violence, but poetry. Or it is a poetry of violence, perfectly balanced, exquisite and rare.

11 p.m. My foot hurts; my hair is sweaty. The cat is purring next to me. I feel sad and tired and heartbroken. I could pray to God to deliver me, but if I expect the prayer to work, then it is nearly a guarantee that it won't; just like in fencing, when I think I can do it, I lose. Because prayers aren't magic spells. I wish I could find a magic spell that would make me fence as well as I know I can when I don't think I can.

12 midnight I wonder what it feels like to be as limber as a cat. Or as furry.

*Patrick O'Brian, Post Captain (1972), p. 200.
**Thoughts on looking through Jaroslav Folda's Crusader Art in the Holy Land, from the Third Crusade to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), quite possibly the BIGGEST book I have ever read that was not a dictionary or encyclopedia.

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