Friday, October 8, 2010

putcher blinkeron

Since finishing the glorious novel Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, I've been stuck in that classic, but usually not this long-lasting, conundrum of what-the-hell-do-you-read-after-you've-just-finished-the-best-book-you've-read-in-years. In the past few years I have gotten in the happy habit of picking up a book about Buddhism every time this happens. Which is a lot. I've really only been reading either the best books I've ever read, or Buddhist texts. It's been good.

I've been soaking in the words of Chogyam Trungpa, and the last few days have been involved in the practice of snapping myself into the present moment, which activity, if you are a beginner like me, needs to take place about 59 times per minute. It's been working though, and the pains in my neck have disappeared, which tells me that my head has been trying real hard to hang onto my body, or the other way around. That means something, but I won't dwell on it.

Anyway, whether driving the car, trying to get Jackson to dress himself so we can get to school on time, eating ice cream, or riding my bike, I have been working with the idea of just doing that.
I have always told people, with a feeling of pride, of separateness, that while I may be a bookseller, or a father, or whatever, I am a painter, and my mind is almost always otherwise engaged, working on the next steps of the painting at home in the studio. It seemed like a good thing, a sign that I AM AN ARTIST, despite all the time that I spend doing other things.

Now I'm realizing that it is not. The fact that while I am helping someone find a book I am worrying about how I will preserve the soul scrape of green bird wings in the center of the painting while I attempt to convert the whole canvas into a whirlpool of oily black clinging hands searching for a hold as time smooths the contours neither makes me a better painter or a better person. It just makes me a person who does one thing while he thinks about another.

It's a good thing that I've been working on this, this present-ness. I am on the bike. I am on the bike. I am on the bike going downhill with a car before me and a car behind. The car before me turns into my path without signal or warning and I instantaneously slam on the brakes, front first followed by rear, and now compensation for the fishtales, one, two, three, the bumper of the car is right at my front wheel, I bear down hard on the brakes and my bike does what it will, and I leave it to spin over my head as knees slam into tar, hands shoot out to stop face from smashing and I know right away that I am ok.

I know it could have been a lot worse, and I think that being there, right there right then, might have very well been the thing that kept it from being worse. But so were the nuns who stopped to offer help, two separate cars full of them several minutes apart. Seriously, here I am engaged in the Buddhist method of existing in the now, of dealing with reality as it is just now, and it keeps me from grievous bodily injury. A moment later, multiple representatives of Christian compassion extend warm hands and offers of healing and water.

I don't really know what to think of it all, but I won't be dwelling on it.

I am just writing this sentence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You almost hate books that are so perfect that you can't pick up another book after it. Glad to know Buddhist texts are there after that happens again. I usually just bury my nose in cookbooks or books about global warming until I'm ready.

May I suggest that you next pick up bicycle maintenance books?