A few days ago, I was at a presentation of two documentaries about two of the most influential persons in Portuguese Surrealist, Mário Cesariny and Cruzeiro Seixas. As part of the promotion of said documentaries, a letter written by the first to the second was passed along. In it, the writer, Cesariny, apologized for not immediately writing back and for only writing a few lines, when his immediate impulse was to write a lengthy response, a response which never got written because at the time it wasn’t convenient and when he got to it, all the words and ideas he had imagined just wouldn’t flow into the paper. It was as if the letter he intended to mail back had already been written in his head and as such, everything he wanted to say was already said. So, naturally, when the time came to write back, well, there just wasn’t anything else to write about.
At the time, a friend of mine noted how she had the same tendency. To work out things in her head when prompted to it and afterwards, just go on with her life, as if that stuff had actually happened. Something, I must say, that I’ve also done time and time again and which this post (which should have been written a week ago, when this actually happened) is just one of the latest examples.
It is interesting to note how, as soon as we work out a problem out in our minds, we assume that that particular problem is solved and dealt with. It isn’t, of course, as it never got materialized in a real action, but at the same time, people never have been bombarded with so much stuff or had to dealt with so many tasks as we have today. While an easy answer would just atribute this to procrastination, I got to wonder how is this behavior related to the overload of information that we get to experience today and the necessity to keep our minds free from the worries of the day-to-day, as between work, social activities and personal interests, we never had so much on our minds as we presently have. I don’t know about you, but I there are times when there’s so much on my mind, that my brain feels more like a matryoshka than a proper brain, with “proper me” drowned in all kinds of stuff that need to be addressed in one way or another.
No wonder that in this day and age we hear so much about things like meditation and mindfulness. That so many courses out there offer strategies to reduce the amount of noise and offer to provide a way to deal with the overuse we constantly submit our minds. Where is the time to properly address our needs and our interests? Things just need to be done as fast as possible, in order to free our minds as quickly as we can, because the next solicitation is just right around the corner. And in all of this, things just get lost, as it’s prone to happen.
While meditation and related practices can and do help, its results show up gradually and with a continued practice of weeks, months, years. However, is there anything we can do on the spot to minimize all this mental work and actually engage in the real work that get things done?
Five cards fell on the table. The Hanged Man. The Magician. The Empress. The Hermit and The Star. In the central line, the passage from The Hanged Man to the Magician is an interesting one. In the first card, we can see someone hanging down from a wooden box. There’s a look of concern in his face, as if he’s trying to get away from where he is. When we go to the second image, it’s easy to see the wooden box of the Hanged Man as the central leg of the table, separating the upper and the lower boards of the table. Below the table there is a dog sleeping and a monkey right next to it. Three persons gather around the table, placing stuff on it. It’s easy to see this table as a symbol of the brain, the upper part corresponding to the conscious mind, while the animals below correspond to the unconscious mind. Our hanged man, thus, seems entrapped between all the things that he consciously has to deal with, while his desires take a rest. It might not be a long rest, as the monkey is poking the dog, risking awaking it and adding more confusion to an already messy structure. But, alas…
To this picture comes the Empress, high and mighty, with her scepter raised. Whether she comes to join the party or to put some order on the whole affair is unclear. But in any case the messiness that is the modern mind seems well portrayed in the cards. This central line is surrounded by two of the three wise men that populate this deck: the Hermit and the Star. The first card tells us what to do; the second, what not to do. The Hermit is seen leaving the city to go on his path. He is facing straight ahead, carrying a lamp and his cane. There is a sense of determination, of wanting to tread the path he choose. And this means leaving everything else in the world behind, to just focus on the task at hand. On the other side, the star, in which a wise man is seated at a table, working. There seems to be something on the table, but his look is upwards, towards the star. He looks distracted from the task at hand, as if the presence of that star was enough to shift the focus of his attention. The advice thus seems simple enough: focus on what you have before you, don’t let your attention shift to other things, no matter how interesting they might seem. Goodbye multi-tasking, goodbye distractions. Only what’s before us at each moment matters. It’s nothing new, but in this day and age of minimal attention spans, probably more than what people got used to. Even so, there’s nothing new under the sun. Things take time to accomplish, to get done. What the cards are suggesting is exactly that: that we devote the amount of time necessary to each thing with the minimum of distractions. While this might seem like a slower path than the trying to put out a few fires at the same time, in the end, it’s one less thing to worry about. One less thing to occupy our minds. Or, like that saying goes, out of sight, out of heart. And even, out of mind.