Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mind at Work

I have been making an effort to catch my mind at its work. This morning I opened up two mailings from a credit card company. One, an offer including checks which would draw against my credit line, the other a monthly bill. I was keen to perceive the exact point when my mind would know what to do with this correspondence, and the mechanisms by which it knew - when suddenly it knew, and I too was sure it knew, and I had learned nothing.

This is what always happens.

Is it boredom or inspiration that compels me to understand the workings of my mind? It is in part a defensive labor. I confess that my mind has gotten me into the kinds of trouble that a person eventually tires of and decides he will quit. One makes these decisions independent of what one's mind is capable of deciding on one's behalf, all of which sounds to me like a plot engine for Hogan's Heroes, for reasons that elude me and which I will allow to scamper away for now.

Songs run through my mind. Songs I hear in spin class or remember from other contexts. Songs I like or which amuse me for whatever reason ("wooden ships - on the wa-ter ver-y freeee."), and perhaps music is the very thing to convey the impression that the mind, even in monitoring or betraying itself, is of itself and unified in itself. Though clearly this is not the case.

Form in poetry seems to me a similar fiction as is music in one's mind. The illusion of unity. The Santa Claus we cannot afford to disbelieve, not completely, lest we disavow "ourselves." Of course, the notion of oneself is a kind of illusion, an affect. A effective, necessary pretense. How else to take the stage and speak one's part?

What I am is what I say I shall will and do, more or less, for better or worse. But I fail. I learn, dragging my mind and body through and out the other side. I sleep and dream and try again tomorrow. I cannot imagine what I am in being before I will myself to being, or except in how I represent my being. So, I open bills and letters and decide a course of action, and any attempt to understand what I am doing is bound to the tangle of reductive factors and contingencies. I know no more of myself than in seeing what I do.

All this plays to poetry writing. I do not write when I sit and watch myself to write. Only when I willingly or am capable of willingly assuming the mantle of a Self do I write. At other times, I look at my work and wonder, How did I do this? The answer of course is that my Self did it. Talk to him. Or better yet, don't. Don't talk to him any more than is necessary.