We are more than we think

"What you can plan

is too small

for you to live."

- David Whyte

In her dreams she is waking, but on waking she finds the city still gleaming with the surreal. Beneath her apartment, people rush past in an endless stream of busy, locked into screens, plugged into headphones, minds planning out the next moment before the next moment.

She makes coffee to go. Dresses into the uniform of her days. Ties the black laces of her shoes. Walks the two blocks to the bus station, pressing with the crowds. Sits on the bus nursing her coffee, warm against her fingers. The bus jolts through the tarred arteries of the concrete high-rise.  Inside she is already breaking. It's not yet 8:30am. 

Illustrations by Kate Gillett

In her dreams, the buildings are collapsing. Great skyscrapers returning to the sea. A corner of the scene curls, flaps in the breeze.  Its just a projection on a screen, threatening now to peel away. Her own body is strangely membraneless, her atoms coming apart. They slide into the collapsing building, into the space between them, tumbling with oxygen and dust.  Deeper still they stream together, light and dark, building a humming river. She slips into the stream. She is everything and nothing. Flowing, living water.

But now the bus has lurched to a halt at the hospital, and there are personalities to meet and be. Good-Morning-Theresa-and-how-is-the-wedding-planning-Anna-yes-of-course-I-will-cover-your-ward-Joe. 

She goes up into the running buzz of wards and rounds, meetings and patients. Words fizz froth all around. A patient plans his 18-hour workday tomorrow, the day after his heart attack. His words are disconnected from his eyes, his skin, his scent. He is leaking fear and despair. Professionals whir in; spew forth drug schedules and lifestyle advice. They plan all the ways for this not to happen. Plan so much that it never did happen. Is not happening. 

There is only a single moment in the busy day when the earth suddenly opens:  A friendless old woman, her sixth visit to the hospital in less months. She is desperately alone, and all out of fight.  All out of plans. She does not know how to go on, and the hospital would like her to go on home. Today.

The women sit together, young with old. They do not plan the going on. They do not speak. They sit in the thick of it. Feel the pain weighing the moment. Silently they tap a thin spile into their conjoined presence and spill forth the only renewing resource: wordless, abiding love. Compassion streams around them, two women with hearts cracked open. 

It is the only thing that makes the day enough. The rest is madness.  

The present day is mostly lost. The planning of the mind pulls everyone forward into the day to come, the patient discharge targets to be met, the holiday on the horizon, the possible catastrophe awaiting tomorrow. The mind excels in planning; the future is its own autocratic dominion. A confabulated kingdom that never exists but steals from the real erupting present. Trapped forever in the fictional future, we are trapped in our minds. 

On the bus ride home, she reads in a newspaper of a woman, Marquis, walking nations alone. She walks months and months across the Nullarbor in Australia and the expanse of Siberia. She walks because after days and days something happens.  

The past and present telescope down to an all-consuming now. ‘There is no before or after. The intellect doesn’t drive you anymore. It doesn’t exist anymore. You become what nature needs you to be: this wild thing.’”

But for the young woman of our story, it is her dreams that are creaking. While the intellect sleeps, the Deep whispers to a Heart wide enough to feel the width of the universe. The cities collapse and in its void, the infinite expands. 

The instinct that comes for her has no name, no reason, no explanation. Cannot stay, cannot stay. It is by instinct that she acts. And why not? The alternative to instinct is to trust in the limits of a ruminating mind.

In hospital corridors, they said she torched her entire life in one go. Rode a wave (hope she likes where it dumps her). She fled like a refugee, shedding everything: the good marriage, the good job, the good investment home. A city collapsing. They said it was unreasonable and inexplicable. 

And it was. 
There was no explanation and no reason.

But we are more than the limits of our mind.
The mind is too small for what we are. Life happens faster than the speed of thought. By the time we have conceptualized what we are and what we’re doing, we’ve already done it, been it and are onto something new.    

Beyond the mind lies our animal self. Mineral, elemental, earth, fire, water, inseparable atoms from the earth’s crust and the seas that birth us. The mind, limited by language and pulled out of the real into the fictional, forgets everything that the body remembers. Everything that language will never explain. Everything beyond the mind’s imagination. 

The mind is not up to the task of living. 

So she abandons herself; her mind as it knows herself, the identities, the roles, the plans, the goals, all the fictional future. She lets it go, unraveling like a spool of thread. She is not what she has done, or read, achieved or possessed. 

All fixed milestones removed, she walks out in unmapped directions. Becomes the wild thing. Stretches her legs, so she can feel the skin, the muscle, the bone, moving against gravity. She hears her pulse singing through blood vessels, breath echoing in lungs. Tastes the saliva in her month. 

She wants to swim in the stream of living water and her thoughts cannot take her there.

“One of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of reacting, is because we are continually stifling out deepest impulses.”

- Henry Miller.

Quote about Marquis from Elizabeth Weil, International New York Times, Chasing an inexplicable feeling,  Sept 27-28 2014, p. 2 
And here too: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/28/magazine/the-woman-who-walked-10000-miles-no-exaggeration-in-three-years.html?_r=0


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