Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ode to the wandering mind

I am trying to think my way into an exploration of what is a defect, what is an attribute, and how can we tell the difference. One of my rigidly-held beliefs is that we all learn to live adaptively. There may exist the perfect specimen of humanity, at ease in every situation, able to complete each task without misstep or delay, possessing unshakable mental clarity, a model of light-hearted spontaneity. I am not that creature.

My history, my present, even with years of attempts to correct them, are issue-riddled. There has been progress, but on first glance it may seem otherwise. I have yet to acquire the habit of order, which does not get easier with age and decreased mobility. Accomplishing things in a timely fashion, always a challenge, now feels like someone untied the mooring line and the dingy has almost reached the horizon.

In the past few days, two women I admire for their honesty, insight and mad writing skills, have mentioned parents who disparaged their minds, their thought processes. Always remembering to clean the lint out of the dryer screen is no measure of talent or intellect. A so-called wandering mind may be a sign of genius. In fact, it has not even really wandered, it just hasn't stopped for very long in the place someone else thought it should.

Nothing I've heard has convinced me that there is such a thing as normal. There is desirable, there is generally acceptable, there is trouble-free and agreeable. But within the privacy of our very separate processes, based on all the factors that make us something that is not them, who is to say we are doing it wrong. Each of us comes at life from a distinct direction...who knew there were so many compass points. What was packed into those bandanas tied to the sticks resting on our shoulders has never been seen before. Even we may not know what to call the oddly-shaped novelties as we unwrap our bundles. The ones with the least appeal, the lumpy, scary, not-so-pretty ones we toss aside, only to find, somewhere along the road, they have found and claimed us.

What I seem to have come to, in this segment of musing on a topic that, like the parts of ourselves we try to elude, will not go away, is that when what we have are thoughts that refuse to stay in their narrow channels and instead flow across the landscape, we need not become alarmed. I am developing this theory that we grow into our minds. Some may find them comfortable, an easy fit, from the beginning, but others of us have a good bit of debris to shove aside. It can be disorienting, finding all that space, room for big thoughts, the teachings of small minds no longer sucking up all the oxygen. Feather-headed, ditsy, spacey, forgetful, absent-minded, dreamy, unfocused, undisciplined, yes. Yes I am and thank you for noticing.


Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

This is my first visit to your blog via Radish King. I like your voice and your art.

Elisabeth said...

I share this notion that we grow into our own minds over time, and it's wonderful when we can finally accept our minds for what they offer instead of fighting ourselves and trying to meet someone else's ideals. Thanks, Marylinn. I always enjoy your musings.

Robert the Skeptic said...

It there is anything I may "preach" about, it is the fallibility of the human mind. We make mistakes, but more importantly we HAVE to make mistakes, it is REQUIRED.

The whole concept of "practicing" is a mistake-laden process, adaptation and correction. Name a sport, science or art where this is not true.

As I have blogged about, a goodly portion of what our brain does, does so without our being conscious of it, automatically. As a result we can mis-perceive and come to wrong conclusions. I strongly feel that this is an evolutionary process and one that has ensured our success as a species. It is not a weakness.

Laoch of Chicago said...

As I grow older life seems more filled with circles than straight lines. And within those circles are more circles, and so on ..

Anonymous said...


certainly as I get older ,I am more at ease with
my foibles,
learning to love the lumpy its..

Penal-Colony said...

What Wordsworth called 'wise passiveness' is little more than that trust, faith and self-belief to absorb without utility or cause. Surely that's how the serendipitous moments arrive. Gaston Bachelard writes about it.

I believe order and systems are mostly post hoc affairs anyway: In retrospect every meandering and distraction seems to assume a will and direction of its own, which is telling, and indicative, and as if all was pre-planned. We can't escape our quite limited trajectory.

I also believe in just doing without more, no editorializing or second-guessing your gut. We should be allowed to surprise ourselves by our creativity, don't you think?

Hannah Stephenson said...

It's official--there is no perfect specimen of humanity.

I often feel very scattered (I have a hard time getting out the door without forgetting things). I used to try to remember things more actively--now I realize that the better trick is to be in the present a little more for myself.

So it's less a question of flaws than strategies, I think...

Excellent post.

Miggy Angel said...

Just stumbled on this comment thread, Marylinn. I think I could hear the hum of its whirring dynamo of assorted great minds marshaled to the topic! Great stuff.

You know what, over time I have found myself growing further away from the need to categorise the many facets & tenets: 'good' v 'bad', 'right' v 'wrong', 'long' v 'short', etc.

There is a basis to our presence which transcends categories, & the more I create & defer to binary processes such as 'defect' or 'attribute', the further I drift from the ground where I actually reside.

If I can learn to trust this space, inhabit it, know it as home, be fed by it & sustained by it, without need to define it or categorise or grade it, dwell within it with the faith that it is enough, that I am enough, that nothing need be added nor taken away from it, from me nor my station, well, if I can do this then I find that dilemmas of the personality tend to fall away, or be subsumed, equalised, or maybe harmonised is a better word.

Nowadays I just IS, & that's okay! For crying out loud let me stay out the god-damned way.

The many categories I see more as differing notes on the one same piano. (& every tune has its odd bum note! which again is okay too.)

As for a wandering mind, the wandering mind is the child of curiosity, & yes this wandering curiosity has caused me great consternation, & led me to navigate my vessel towards the fall-away point, & also stick my hand in more fires than a saner soul would have required to identify the cauldron's heat, but I am more accepting now of the mind's ebbs, & let the psyche wash up what it will.

(Here comes Davy Jones' Locker!)

Hope all out there are well, & god bless all the wandering minds

(we paint pictures bawl odes build castles from clay dance bare foot beneath bald moon swim thru verse & sculpt our flesh in ecstatic calligraphies)

Lotsa Luv



Miggy Angel said...

p.s. did you ever notice the similarity between wandering & wondering? the wandering mind is always wondering when the wonder will wander off. . .

I wander

I wonder

I wander



Oh roam I must!

Nite nite from Blighty


Antares Cryptos said...

I'm used to wandering minds wandering down hallways mumbling equations and thoughts.

I've always viewed normal as average, prescribed by the majority of society.

I've often heard that with time comes an acceptance of this is who I am and how I do things.

Everyone is weird to someone. Isn't that what individuality is all about?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jaye - Thank you, for visiting, for commenting. I have seen you often at R.K. and am happy to see you here.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Elisabeth - Thank really is more a growing into the acceptance of our minds, isn't it? In general, it is about growing into an acceptance of who, how and what we are, learning to celebrate all the corners into which we have, for too long, been afraid to look.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - I take all you've presented as good news, running contrary to what seem to be popularly-held beliefs. Labels limit us, whether applied by others or ourselves. There is great freedom in an expectation of "mistakes;" it allows us to become. Your thoughts and facts are always welcome here.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - Circles or S-curves, a fluid state which we had presumed to be solid. Any or all of which, I think, allows us to disregard what were presented to us a rules. Once we learn to bend, so many things become possible.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - Foibles, some exceedingly lumpy-seeming bits...I used to be concerned about how dissimilar I was from those who appeared so smooth, unmatched in body and mind. Perhaps my genetic composition is part crustacean. We are an enduring subphylum. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Penal-Colony - Thank you for introducing me to Gaston Bachelard, from whom I borrow these words:

"Reverie is not a mind vacuum. It is rather the gift of an hour which knows the plenitude of the soul."

I can hardly think of a greater source of joy than surprising ourselves by our creativity. Though our trajectory may be limited, perhaps it is not quite as limited as we've been led to believe. Order and control would be impossible if we acted as though we were limitless, would they not?

Thank you for widening the question, for expanding my frames of reference.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Hannah - Thank you. Strategies, I seem to have little success with them or plans, but being more present for my true self...which could, I suppose, BE a strategy or plan. To whose tune will we dance. We have so much to unlearn.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Miggy - I'm so glad the noisy hum over here caught your attention. How very well and affirmingly you have spoken for all of us halfway through the door of accepting us as us, our products, thoughts and responses as enough. We do impede our natural flow, the source of our doing that which we do uniquely, when we question or judge.

There is no need to embellish what you've written here (my mind often hands me the word manifesto). Your blessing of all our wandering minds is taken very much to heart. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Miggy - Inseparable twins. Let us roam together. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares Cryptos - Everyone IS weird to someone - or many someones, the trick being not to be unacceptably weird to ourselves. And normal/average brings me back to the matter of control, the attempt to make desirable a state that is contrary to the soul's inclinations. Those wandering minds in the hallways, are they not the ones who continue to take us beyond what we once thought was impossible? :D

RachelVB said...

What I'm finding strange and feeling more and more lately is the ownership of such feeling - the defects. How even if I've blamed someone else for them, they are still inherently mine. And no matter how they got there, I still have to find a way to cohabit with them. It's my responsibility - to myself, to the health of myself. I keep looking for an ultimate center. I feel I know it now - I venture off, at times very far off, but I know what it feels like to come back, to come home and that's comforting knowing I always come back.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rachel - There is considerable - and wise - encouragement in the comments here to talk us out of the notion of defects altogether. But until we are able/ready to write them off as misinterpretations, our peace of mind is aided by befriending them. As all things, as I see them, this is a process, with steps forward and steps back. The greatest patience we need to learn is with ourselves. xo

KleinsteMotte said...

Wandering is the best way to manage my centre of self when I am in a frustrating spot.
Many good thoughts found here today :)

Marylinn Kelly said...

KleinsteMotte - I has been an excellent exchange, hasn't it? And for any and all of who wander, always or sometimes, so much encouragement simply to be with it.