What is the Language Using Us For? #5

This has not been a good week in terms of actually learning the lines of this poem.  I have learnt about ten lines, maybe twelve or thirteen if I allow myself to glance down occasionally at the text.

So I have learnt ten lines.

This is because I haven’t given good, solid blocks of time to memorising, which is needed if this is to matter.

It matters only in
So far as we want to be telling

Each other alive about each other

I’ve yanked it out (the poem) in supermarket shopping queues and run through the first three stanzas a couple of times, but before I can move into the more crepuscular regions of unknowing, my groceries are being scanned and my mind is elsewhere.

My mind is elsewhere is the main issue. Not that it’s elsewhere on anything particularly urgent or useful that needs thinking about. It’s just flitting around as minds do, here and there, this way and that. Mainly away from the words on the page.

So why won’t the mind stay with them? Why this ever-wayward pull to chaotically-creative thoughts, words becoming inconsequential squiggles on an inconsequential page or screen?

In the execution of a mindful task, unless that task is all consuming (arduously – the 100 metre sprint, childbirth; pleasurably – chocolate, masturbation) we come up against the nitty-gritty limits of our attention and focus.

So if anything we do is to matter to us beyond the things we’re paid or pressurised into doing{{1}}, we need, Graham seems to be saying to pay attention to how we “make…a place” for these things in our lives.


[[1]]Which is why the modern-day nirvana has become that of being financially rewarded for doing heart-satisfying work. I know of hardly anyone who is “living that dream”. Maybe it is just a dream.[[1]]

The poem will only be learnt if this afternoon when I stroll out into the Chilterns, I spend a couple of hours learning it. This screen of words will only be written if I stay on the page and write rather than flit off to where the mind wants to go (which is to all those other open tabs and possibilities on my Chrome browser window/head){{2}}.

[[2]]A time-coralling method I find relatively useful is a version of Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. The hardest part, which is of course the most mindful part, is that of standing up to give onself a break when the Pomodoro (in my case, a Salter timer) rings. Mine beeped loudly and insistently twenty minutes ago, but I’m still tapping away, body-needing-to-move being ignored. A too ardent focus is  almost as bad as aimless drifting. The Middle Way is what we’re aiming for, but how much time do we ever spend walking its even, grassy stretches, Siddhartha, tell me that.[[2]]

It’s hard work, this [insert something that matters to you] stuff – bloody hard (but meaningful, satisfying) work.

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