I’ve heard it said about writing, “Write what you know“. Sounds simple enough but it is not. There is a hesitancy to write what one knows not because of its intimacy but because of its negligibility. This I find is particularly so during the pandemic when everything social is limited. The implication is that gravity derives primarily from interaction, such things as gatherings with others, travel and specific adventures. Ironically the absorption then descends to what is happening not who is there. Yet nothing could possibly be more mind-numbing than a travel log. What sparks my interest is by contrast those bromidic reflections upon whatever one is doing. Permit me then to illustrate by sharing with you the trite brooding which arose during my bicycle ride this morning.
To begin, the bicycle ride was a manifestation of my enduring almost narcotic alliance with the routine sally. I much prefer bicycling to walking, always have. The bike ride has the superior quality of comparatively rapid movement and accompanying transition. I did by the way avoid hills this morning because even though there was nothing but a skiff of snow (I’m guessing no more than 1cm) it covered the borders of the roadway to hide any skim of ice preserved by the freezing air of about -16°C. I could have chosen the centre of the road which was clearer but it was contaminated with granules of salt and sand which made the passage unpleasantly crunchy and dirty. So I proceeded cautiously. The air was fresh. From time to time I inhaled deeply in an effort to expunge the immoderation within. The total ride round about the local residential areas was only 4.85km yet it inspired my subsequent breakfast which as a result conveyed the quality of reward rather than mere habit.
Habit has more advantage than is usually attributed to it. For example we have lately given the green light to routine sleep pattern; namely, retirement sharply at ten o’clock in the evening, arising precisely eight hours later. This regiment not unexpectedly entails the further regularity of dining at 6:30 pm to permit adequate digestion. I know all this is hopelessly “old fogey” but the upshot is highly beneficial. First, sleep is normally guaranteed. Second, by rising early, the day is elongated with the further distinction of propriety. Third, it overcomes the misguided magnetism of “doing whatever I want whenever I want“. The unglamorous truth is that humans, like any other animal, operate best within a regiment. When in the past I have stayed up late, I have spent the next several days readjusting to a more favourable schedule.
One of my casual reflections when bicycling this morning concerned the necessity to adapt to the needs of others. I am not expounding upon devoted welfare for those suffering deprivation. It is a far more superficial examination of the sometimes grainy encounters arising between people. Oddly the imperative is to rise above the collision – and not by first having revolted or countered the disturbance but rather by polite acceptance and withdrawal. This may amount to the standard “bite my tongue” recommendation though I prefer to view it as a submission to social nicety. Notably the project is not initially at least directed to an analysis of what and why others think and act the way they do. By first removing oneself from the possible fencing between one another, you not only instantly relieve the annoyance, you also enable a more purely rational consideration of the matter. Often the simple act of withdrawal overcomes the necessity of anything further especially the dubious undertaking of psychological analysis. Assuming the other party is similarly disposed, the conclusion is predictably comfortable on both sides. It may also amount to a restraint of one’s impatience (another unfortunate corollary of the obsessive mind),
An unavoidable consequence of refinement of conduct may be the unintended straight-arm of involvement. Indeed so-called gentlemanly conduct is often associated with dignified objection and confiscation of oneself. Since I know of no close relationship which is not at times marred by socially violent behaviour (by which I mean the exchange of heated words and the like), it constitutes a regrettable result that the parties may become inexorably alienated from one another. The measure of success then becomes balancing the private emotions of both sides without imposing isolation. I can’t say that I have the perfect solution but for the time being having an awareness of the situation is helpful.
The one thing which has never blotted my being is any contrition about what I am or what I have become. I project possibly without foundation that there are those who, no matter what height or depth they may have climbed or fallen to – are never content. A corollary of my complacency is that I do not suffer the additional abuse of envy (the obverse of vanity). By the same token I am enabled to submerge myself in a greater appreciation of others, unadulterated by obstructive and normally insurmountable inclinations.
There was a cove,
a little inlet shaped like a bent bow,
a quiet place where Scylla, at midday,
sought shelter when the sea and sky were hot;
and, in midcourse, the sun scorched with full force,
reducing shadows to a narrow thread.
And Circe now contaminates this bay,
polluting it with noxious poisons; there
she scatters venom drawn from dreadful roots
and, three-times-nine times, murmurs an obscure
and tangled maze of words, a labyrinth—
the magic chant that issues from her lips.
Then Scylla comes; no sooner has she plunged
waist-deep into the water than she sees,
around her hips, the horrid barking shapes.
The Masonic answer to the identical theme is the metaphor of the compass which has the merit of a broad circumference but the limitation of scope. If indeed this prescription applies to our particular existence it follows inevitably that we are forever destined to live within that boundary. Again I view this not as limitation but as definition, one which I have characteristically interpreted to my enlargement much as one discovers an erstwhile hidden ingredient. I hasten to add that this does not contradict the ambition to reach certain heights; it just means, reach your own not another’s sense of purpose.