of mice and trains

MK is taking to heart my repeated mantra of “and in the house, watched by a mouse” and bringing in little mice friends again. I made an effort last night to put her and the mouse back out of the house but she would just run back in. So, I gave up and just sat there, slightly defeated and watching her. She stood very still for a long time, mouse in mouth, trying to decide where to put him down. She stood so still for so long with the mouse in her mouth that the mouse started to clean itself, scratched its ears and in general, looked a little bored. Unfortunately, the mouse is a mouthy mouse and I had to put up with the mouse scolding MK all day yesterday whenever she started messing with him.

The mice, by the way, always come to live in a small thing that I built last summer through a gap I cannot reach to close. This mouse hotel is located a mere two feet from her food and water so they come out – snack – and go back to the hotel. They pass out the remainder of their natural lives, slightly overweight and in air conditioning.

This is turning out to be an odd week, one that is holding parallel conversations about the nature of commitment. And, of the nature of boredom. I have always had the pleasure of never being bored, until recently. As my life and blood sugar continues to even out, I have noticed that by the evening I am done with wanting to work and at a loss of what to do with myself. I have spent years working obsessively and spastically and then crashing because of the RH. As that comes under control, I am becoming more organized. I get things done sooner. There are no flights of panic, madness or manic joys and obsessions and by 7pm, I would like to do something else thankyouverymuch.

Several people I know who are retired have run into the same block. There is a noticeable difference between what we choose to do because it distracts us and keeps us busy and doing something because it has meaning to you. All of this is in a pattern of ‘trying.’ Some fall into a kind of camouflaged busyness that has no meaning (and yet the appearance of it – obsessional interests that are completely reliant on external stimulus or, a concentrated effort to remove all meaning through a perverted understanding of the tenants of meditation and mindfulness). In either case, what is meaningful to the person is never explored.

I wonder if it is because to have things of personal meaning is a scary thing in this day and age. It goes against everything our cultures (on a global scale) have come to value. When something has personal meaning, it is removed from the pattern of evidence-proof-product that colors everything else about our lives. Things with personal meaning are private things. They neither prove nor disprove our thoughts and beliefs. They don’t provide us with evidence for others to see that we are a certain type of people. And they can’t be trotted out and gain even status value because what has personal meaning to one, may have none for another.

It is…part of the missing key in having a meaningful life. It is the essence of privacy. Not that we have things that we do not wish to share, but that we have things that are more important to our well-being than the need or desire to share or explain them. External acceptance or approval is not only not needed, it is not even considered.

I started to wonder yesterday, as I was accosted by a young boy in a toy store who had tired out his grandma and sent the clerk fleeing, if maybe…we have gotten something fundamentally wrong in our understanding of the importance and nature of play. The boy announced to me that he had put Kenny, Tommy and James all together and walked me over to a shelf where he had indeed placed the packages with Kenny the Train, Tommy the caboose and James the Engine (with coal car) on the same shelf. He told me “Everyone keeps touching my James and his eyebrows are all rubbed off.” I checked and sure enough, there were little faces painted on the front of all the train cars.

We know that the ability to play, to do things that are not tied to work and responsibilities is important for our health and well-being. Yet, I think we may have lost sight of the fact that when children play – it is because it has personal meaning to them. When adults play, it is about distraction and losing oneself in something. For the child, they are finding themselves within the worlds they have created that are filled with things of personal importance. They have no need to explain what is going on to an outsider (although will answer questions but with limited patience). Also, they tend to play with others who “get” these worlds and share the ability to see the same meaning in them. Most of our adult activities are something that anyone can do. If someone wants to join you, you can teach them. And we get disappointed when something that we value does not have the same effect on someone else. A child is rarely, if ever, disappointed if you do not find spending the day exploring the dramas of James and Tommy the train fascinating, they just dismiss you and are immersed in the world again.

We have come to believe that the purpose of play is to lack meaning except on a very core and physical basis. The more we can lose our sense of self, the better the play – that is the message. But what if that is wrong? What if the most beneficial forms of play are those in which we find and affirm ourselves as separate and unique from all else? And the process of practice of being able to lose the self and to recognize unity, that is an acquired skill. That is disciplined habit and work, not play.

Timmy the plane was in a separate package, complete with a runway. The boy asked why Timmy couldn’t be with the others and the best I could think to tell him was that I thought that was supposed to be Timmy’s house. He didn’t seem to have a problem with that explanation.

c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.

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About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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