A small bridge • 6 May 2008

The workshop this weekend was sweet. For someone who is often drained by social interaction, it was surprising to see how inspiring and energizing this community can be to me. I sat around the edges, an active wallflower. I don’t often step back in this way—being in a group is all or nothing and usually involves getting sensitive to each individual's needs. But the relationships in this group are mutually supportive at a deep level, even as we transition into predominantly spoken interactions.

Sunday, I stayed afterwards and talked to my teacher—who I won’t see for a while—and then slipped away before someone buttonholed me in to the group dinner. Drove down the ramp and stopped short as a light, determined and quick walker darted into the sidewalk space I was about to cross. Who else dresses in all black and moves with such Newyorkish purpose on a spring evening in Santa Monica?

It was my PhD adviser. Same age as my other teacher and twice the body weight if just as light on her feet, she bounded around to the driver’s window and said she’d been thinking of me all afternoon, because re-reading a book she knows I love. I wanted to hug her, but I kept my hands on the wheel while we talked.

What a beautiful transition, one teacher still upstairs and the other there on the ground, and my path down the ramp linking the two. One a hippie ex-engineer who dropped out and found a spiritual path, one avid and brilliant Marxist feminist who just by staying with her work accidentally became a major player. Both big names despite themselves, anti-self-promoters who laugh at the organizations in which their work is embedded even as they believe so deeply in the value of giving themselves as they can. They are both (unlike me) coffee lovers and easily could have met on this street some other day this spring, bumped in to each other in line and laughed together at some little thing in the world around them. I never realized it, but their dispositions and aspects are so similar, and nothing like mine. But otherwise I'm their only link.

I am back in her hands, for now.

Here’s a passage from a really disturbing talk by Bell Labs physicist R. Hamming. People who identify with their work and become one-dimensional research bots drive me to blogging in the margins, obviously. I have very different notions about how to enjoy and cultivate my energies and mind, and how many dimensions of myself it’s possible to maximize at a time. But this tribute to the shadow-benefits of one-pointedness did give me pause…

Well, we know very little about the subconscious; but one thing you are pretty well aware of is that your dreams also come out of your subconscious. And you’re aware your dreams are, to a fair extent, a reworking of the experiences of the day.

If you are deeply immersed and committed to a topic, day after day after day, your subconscious has nothing to do but work on your problem. And so you wake up one morning, or on some afternoon, and there’s the answer. For those who don’t get committed to their current problem, the subconscious goofs off on other things and doesn’t produce the big result. So the way to manage yourself is that when you have a real important problem you don’t let anything else get the center of your attention – you keep your thoughts on the problem. Keep your subconscious starved so it has to work on your problem, so you can sleep peacefully and get the answer in the morning, free.