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The wise guys (12/04/2005)
By Janet Lewis Burns

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

- T.S. Eliot

Do people read self-help books to determine if they are who they think they are? What is the big search all about? Is everyone becoming religiously despondent, or overzealous for some mysterious truth to set them free?

Henry David Thoreau was hard-nosed concerning the human race. "Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry," he wrote in his infamous "Walden."

It's high time to commingle "religion" and "spirituality." As it comes down to "good" and "evil," globally, the strength is in the numbers and through the divine. "The soul is superior to its knowledge; wiser than any of its works," Ralph Waldo Emerson muses. Another wise guy.

Then there's all this hype about sophisticated communications, instantaneous information, and e-mail connections. An overload of yak and yammer may literally be draining the human brain. Thus reports psychiatrist Glenn Wilson from King's College, London. Here's the skinny:

When participants were asked to carry out problem-solving tasks while bombarded with e-mails and phone calls, their IQs dropped an average of ten points. Apparently such interruptions aren't easily blocked out. (I thought it was just me.)

I love it when Emerson gets melodramatic. "The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other, who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood." "Gaga goo goo" might work in a pinch.

It's probably a good thing that there's no e-mail connection with these deep thinkers; there's no way they'd stoop to improper English or inferior composition. They did it the old fashioned way - midnight oil, parchment, head scratching, and a full inkwell.

Contemplation is making a comeback. Setting the scene for meditating is an entirely personal experience. One has to literally schedule an "escape" occasion.

That reminds me of John Prine lyrics. "Oh, my stars, my Linda's gone to Mars, and I wonder if she'll bring me something home." He's always kept the heart of my muse flowing with mirth. What would Ralph say?

When I feel meditative, as the sun is setting through our large west windows, I flick on a switch in our living room, and there's my "Mars," melted across the white carpet. A light appears in my curio cabinet, resurrecting my special things.

There rests my Marilyn Monroe plates, "Beautiful Dreamer" music box, the black band with piano man and Billie Holiday singer, Mother's worn leather purse and diary, and miniature suitcases, purses, baby shoes and instruments. Farther down the wall, a blinking fiber optic Bonsai tree illuminates family pictures and old books in purple, green, red and blue.

From a frosted glass lamp shade, a glow encircles one of my own favorite black and white photographs, of a concrete park bench by Lake Winona, leafy limbs silhouetted over it and, across rippling water, the distant row of trees along Huff. Hills in hazy disguise make a muted backdrop.

This ambiance carries me to a serene dimension. With favorite music of the house, a glass of wine or a mug of tea, and comfortable lounge clothes, my mind is emptied of excess baggage. A picture album or a reflective journal or poem book can enhance the moment.

I have a feeling that Emerson didn't approve of "creating the mood." He advised, "...casting aside your trappings, and dealing man to man in naked truth."

Prine, speaking for all of us off-plumb, quirky ruminators, once sand, "I Ain't Hurtin' Nobody." He's also whined, "Quit Hollerin' At Me." Hmmm.

I don't know what I'd do without all of these wise guys. 


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