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The Elusive Self — 7 Comments

  1. Don’t you think that your playing Sudoku is a way of exercising your mind? Since you’re an artist, I would think that it’s a healthy balance to the artistic pursuits you love.

  2. Hmmm. I just finished another game. And you’re so sweet to suggest this, and maybe some of my self-criticism over Sudoku is because…my mother…she dropped me….oh shit, now my head’s starting to spin…ahhhhhh! Really, I am a Very Bad Procrastinator. I PROMISE you this. So Sudoku and all those other things are really just servants of the Procrastinator. Now that would be a Great Movie. The Procrastinator. Coming Soon, to a Theater near you, we promise.

  3. well, in defense of Sudoku (which I have effectively kicked since moving to NC, and replaced with nothing of quality i’m sad to say), there is a benefit to NOT being active in your world, even if it is for 10-15 minutes. Some mental down-time where you don’t think of laundry lists or dinner recipes or scheduling a household around seven unique people.

    That is what I love about sewing – because it doesn’t require true creative output and I do shut down my brain a bit – but at the end of it, I have something physical to show for it.

    Now, that is a uncomplicated way to look at things rather than digging into motivations. I have an ‘understanding’ that, and this is difficult to say in a way that doesn’t sound completely sad, I think that I was raised to be unhappy. I have clear memories as a kid, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, that my answer was “be happy” – my father was an unhappy person and he punished his family for it. I think, truly, that I learned (my ‘life pattern’) to be comfortable only when unhappy with something.

    is that not crazy? so I find myself sometimes punishing myself when I do things I love, for not doing them more. I can’t be happy about the small achievements. And at times when every single other thing in my life is going well, I find ways to hurt myself.

    These patterns we have are so ingrained, it takes such effort to stop mid-action. to retrain ourselves. to love ourselves properly.

  4. May I put it another way — a way I find more useful in practice? I take this ethic from the fictional book Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. The book is written from the point of view of one of the temptors whose job it is to unravel a soul and capture it for Hell. The temptor writes that one way to capture a soul is to offer a fine pleasure instead of a duty — a walk in the woods instead of attending to children. This is perilous to the temptor, for in fine pleasures there is still a measure of God for the tempted to contemplate. Better then to offer a meager pleasure instead of a duty — a boring game of solitare — which provides little to the tempted soul. Best of all is to offer the tempted nothing — to have him sit in a cold room staring at an empty fireplace rather than perform his duty. Thus the tempted soul is drawn from his duty, which would have grown and strengthened him, and instead provides him in return nothing but delay.

    Thus the rule which I have extracted is this: Do either what one wants to do or what one ought to do. If I don’t want to wash dishes (which I ought) and I would rather walk in the woods (which I want), I should not instead play a quick game of solitaire as some kind of weak compromise.

    The guiding principle behind the rule is purpose. What I ought to do (dishes) has purpose. What I want to do (walk) has another purpose, perhaps not as pressing as my duty, but still strong. The weak compromise has no purpose. It only distracts me with a hazy white lie, robs me of a proper pleasure, and tells me that waiting and off-putting will make the duty easier. How preposterous! Yet we are easily fooled by the lie because we prefer to leave it untold.

    Through the rule and the principle, self-discipline — the art of denying and correcting the self — is transformed into self-purpose — which is the art of guiding and evolving the self.

    I’m sorry for putting you through such a long response. I am absolutely sure I have not described this nearly as well as it should be, but I am a little time-constrained today and cannot revise as I should.

  5. Dear A~

    Thank you for such a thoughtful response to my entry. I have been thinking about your remarks here all day, in quiet moments, and I really appreciate your insight. Your perspective on sewing–something that keeps the hands busy but the mind relatively free, while still making something–really stirred some interest in me. Before I broke my left wrist this summer I would spend my spare moments playing the piano. It’s time to pick that back up again; it might really help loosen up my wrist, which is still kinda stiff.

    But it is your own story of your life patterns learned as a child that really got me thinking about all this (& more) from a different angle. This angle goes much deeper, though, and that’s what’s held my reflective interest today…I’ve added it to my pot of musings, but it’s still cooking!

    Thanks again, and if I don’t hear from you before, have a peaceful holiday steeped in wonder.

    ~stephanie

  6. Please do not apologize for such a thoughtful and eloquent response! I thank you for it! I can remember that same book loitering amongst my parents’ books. I would like to read it, now, because it is such an interesting concept, and clearly there is some wisdom in it. Your comments are always so through, and I really appreciate them. I hope you and your family have a beautiful Christmas! Such wonders of the season–having little ones makes me relive the enchantment. I hope it’s the same for you!

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