Sunday, August 14, 2016

I Used To Think...

I have lived long enough at this stage (of the game) to have a retrospective view of the arcs of my thinking over the years. It is a beautiful sight, this view--a number of clean, bumpy arcs from one point of view to another, dotted here and there with the blood of my mortally wounded previous worldviews. I notice along the way that some arcs have returned to sender, so to speak; they return from whence they came after a process of careful consideration. Meanwhile, other arcs travel a more daring route, ignited by a societal "kick", moving rapidly from the source and traversing unfamiliar landscape to settle in unknown but welcoming territory.

So what's the point?

Thinking is an activity--but I suspect having been misled by the premise that it is meant to go somewhere. As an activity, thinking has many purposes, only one of which is to "arrive" at conclusions (a pedestrian function, I find). I am more interested in noticing how thinking influences my current experiences in the world, while reflecting back the very same. I am interested in how my thinking decorates my immediate environment--I will concern myself over where I am moving to once I start moving. Devoid of destination, this type of thinking allows time for lounging in wormholes and sandtraps; this type of thinking dances with the outside in a free form sort of tango where there is no lead and no follower, just rhythm. This type of thinking flirts with me for my attention in a way that shiny-eyed young men used to. This type of thinking is the only thinking that leads to me writing essays.

My thinking these days continues to poke and prod me with its restlessness, belying my age and growing indifference. I feel at times like a parent with a toddler who never ages, you feel me? And like a dad shaking his head while smirking with pride, I find myself entranced as much by my thinking's current shiny objects as I do its trail of discards.

This essay is about the discards.

1. I used to think that because I was a nice person, everyone liked me. I have since discovered that even though I may be nice at times, not everyone thinks of me in this way, and some of these people do not like me because of how they think of me. When people demonstrate their dislike of me for a reason I have not given them, I stop being nice to them, validating their assessment. I don't think I am a nice person anymore--I think I am a person who can be nice, unless I am not. The latter scenario is curiously dependent on whether or not you are nice to me.

2. I used to think that sex was love. I was wrong--not about the sex, but about the love. Sex is love, even if you never see the person's face or know their name, but it is not the type of love I used to think it was, the kind of love I used to look for many years ago. That type of love comes as a result of what happens before and after sex, not during. I wish I had known this. 

3. I used to think that God would protect me. I no longer think there are gods. I no longer think I am protected, nor do I need to be.

4. I used to think that I was not smart. I now know that I am.

5. I used to think that Madonna would never age. Seems I was right about that one. What I did not think was that the younger generations would not deserve her.

6. I used to think that the religious were to be respected. I now think they are to be pitied, and in some cases (like my brother), completely ignored.

7. I used to think that people had each other's best interests in mind. I still think that, but I also think that our culture has turned us against each other's best interests.

8. I used to think that friendships were second to love relationships. I was wrong.

9. I used to think that I could no longer be moved by music. And then I saw this:

10. I used to think that I wanted to live in Jeannie's bottle, but I now realize I really just wanted to be Jeannie. 

11. I used to think my family was right about me. Now I realize they were just scared. 

12. I used to think that wearing the latest clothing trends made me "cool". Now I realize that wearing no clothes in my 50's is cooler. 

13. I used to think that life was a test where I had to score well. Then I thought it was a game where I had to win. Now I think it is a meal where there is no scoring or winning--just taking it in bite by bite, enjoying and discovering new and old flavors, appreciating the experience even if I burn my tongue, sharing with others, digesting it slowly, nourished and temporarily satisfied until the next "hunger" arrives. 

14. I used to think that doing my own yard work was being in relationship with nature. I still do. 

15. I used to think that it would get better. Now I realize that we get better. 

16. I used to think that magic was something outside of me. I used to think that it had to do with things that could not exist--what you find in the shadows or in between rays of light. But magic is just another word for what we have not been trained to see. Magic is nature, and it is perfectly logical while also being mysterious. Magic is the area of science where we just don't know everything yet--the moment of conception, the communication between bees, why we select one person out of twenty in a room. Just because we don't know does not give us the right to outsource the answer to a god. That is reductive and lazy, and frankly disrespectful to nature. The gift of magic is that it allows us to sit in mystery without clues or a solution. I used to think that solutions were what I wanted--they offered order and comfort. I now think that the safest place to be is on the high wire: hyper sensitive to the laws of balance while averting disaster with every successfully placed step. 

Magic is the space between steps. I think this is where I am most comfortable. 

I think.


  1. I enjoyed this. I found it thoughtful and whimsical. I liked following your growth.
    May I borrow this and make my own version?

    1. You may indeed...Spo Used To Think. I like the sound of that. Throw some "proper" credit my way, natch.

  2. thinking is something the great uneducated and unwashed do NOT do (and they support the rump for president).

    the ability to think for oneself and not be led by a herd mentality (e.g., religion) is rare.

    continue to grow upward, tony! MWAH!

    1. Thanks, doll! Thinking is a double edged sword, but I'll take it compared to the alternative!

  3. I spend a lot of time thinking. I used to think that I knew I didn't know everything, but there are times when I'm surprised by my arrogance and humbled by new knowledge.

    1. Both stages you mentioned are valuable--and in my view it is not about "answers", but about the questions!

  4. A brilliant post, Tony. I've read it several times, and the more I read it the more I could identify with what you're saying - and the more I appreciated it.

    It's amazing (perhaps astonishing) how time and maturity can modify our mode of thinking. Or - more aptly - EXPAND our mode of thinking.

    1. One would HOPE that it expands, Jon, but sadly I see that in only the minority who identify as thinkers.

      Thanks for your praise--the case of beer is in the mail!

  5. Gorgeously poetic. Thank you for sharing. In addition, special shoutout to #5! It's about time to write another reassessment, and now I will! Keep on thinking!

  6. Very insightful post, Tony. I've experienced some of these same thoughts--especially 1, 2 and 7. Thought 2 actually brought about the demise of a relationship.

    The last thought on the list is the best. I'd like to believe that everyone has their own type of magic; some hide it, some don't realize they have it, and those lucky few spread the magic around, making the world a more interesting place.

    1. I like those who spread magic around and I seek them out. Without them, it would be dull world indeed.