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January 9th, 2021
The mind is a mill and the world is our grist. Perspective churns out our near constant stream of thoughts, and without a mechanism like writing, those thoughts are as though written in the water of time. Perhaps the ripple of a thought here and there echoes into memory, bouncing back eventually to recur anew, something maybe captured on a second pass: an idea, a memory, a whispered realization.
Much of life is simply watching thought. The tenor and tone of thought can be so seductive, so intoxicating that we can be blind to the real world in front of us. Even the bad thoughts, the self-deprecation, the inane and destructive ideas capture our attention like some doomed drama. The real world - whatever it might be, is relegated to a world of the mind, the churn of the mill. The advice to "get out of your own head" is just a prescription to gather more grist for the mill, something fresh for perspective to chew on and gnaw down into pulpy realization.
But even with fresh material, the mill of the mind can be an unholy alchemist, turning even the brightest of days into another grey scene of the mental world. For some mental mills it doesn’t matter how much sunshine they are fed, the configuration is set for a certain output, a certain view and product.
Life can be an infernal shift at the production line watching the same painful product rollout again and again. Each day there’s the hope that some sort of experience, some new chance encounter will become transformative fodder to change the machine - but it’s the other way around. That docile character watching thought after thought come out of the machine can leave the production line and wander about the factory, checking the mill’s mechanics, and taking some fresh grist - some new information - and decide upon an overhaul, a slow and gargantuan project of retooling. The mechanics of them mind’s mill can be tinkered with, over and over, and slowly, the output will change.
The mill of the mind can be an alchemist of a wholly different configuration. One that can compress dark days into brilliant jewels of experience, or even halt all processes on command to let the sunshine of great days radiate through unfiltered to warm the raw canvas of the moment.
One of life’s deepest challenges is to break the hypnotism of the production line - to step back from the conveyor belt of thought and see the machine for what it is and fool around with it in virtuous ways. The analogies for this shackle and break abound, even in the most obvious forms, from blockbuster movies to ancient practice. We are surrounded with opportunity for realization, but such is the common curse of the mill to transform all of this warning and instruction, these clues and virtuous lures into more banal thought that resembles little of what was fed to the machine.
There is the hope that some speck of reality, by dint of chance bounces through the machine in just the right way, escaping the gnashing teeth of the mill, landing on the conveyor belt with it’s gleam intact - something to draw the eye of the person, to inspire their ability to reach out and pick up that piece of grist with it’s gleam and wonder - what if more of this thought could look like this beauty?
To gain a new hold, it’s necessary to let go, and a break in the trance of thought does just that: it affords each of us the opportunity to grab life anew. To slough off the intoxication of anger or depression, anxiety and pain in favor of the unfiltered radiance that is always on offer.
This is the hope and a sly virtue of words. If with practice and work they can be knit together in powerful ways, they can function like new configuration files, that when fed into the mill of other minds, override the default churn, like a virtuous virus that allows us to live in the mind of another, to think as they do and watch thoughts as they occurred to someone else. The written word, far more than speech, gives us the opportunity to wear the eyes of another and new perspective. And with luck and work those words can be designed to bounce through the mill of other minds in a way that avoids the gnashing teeth and the searing baths to land on the conveyor belt with it’s opportunity intact, as an offer to look up for once, and wonder anew.
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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.