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STOIC POETRY | Wiping glasses with an empty mind

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

It is a difficult thing to wipe my glasses while doing nothing else. My mind, my deep and inner mind, knows how to do this chore without the full attention of my consciousness; like a master sending a servant to fetch something from across the room - a task requiring little active supervision - which delegation allows the master to carry on with other business, like talking to a companion or reading a book while the servant completes their assigned work. So too, when I wipe my glasses, and my servant of muscle activity is commanded to perform this routine and mundane task, while the thing at the seat of my being watches from afar, while perhaps looking for something else to do. It's a good distraction, this ability to do more than one thing at once, and my example is a simple one, as we are all capable of far more complex simultaneous action. But is this simultaneity of action good? Is such concurrent behavior really a most effective use of our time? Or would it be better to perhaps focus more solely on just one thing, even a mundane thing, rather than on many things at once? And just what kind of distraction is this activity of multitask?

We might claim to do several things at once as an attempt at efficiency, or of necessity, as though good and timely ends are the best we can hope for. But isn't an end just that, a completion, and a finality of whatever moments we'd had to "improve the nick of time"? Why such haste, lest our aims be no more than the accumulation of another one or two tasks to better earn our bread, or some repute, or some seeming sense of worth? Ah yes, I think it's that last which is most interesting...though I'd offer that it isn't so much worth we are after, but meaning. This is because our work grants us meaning in the truest sense, though we won't likely enjoy the idea of meaning being gained through our work, though it is, as it is also gained through the development and maintenance of relationships, and through whatever we do to identify ourselves as members of this society, or that institution, or some other fellowship of our kind. We are what we make of ourselves. Our worth and worthwhileness are gained through our decided actions and associations. And so too our sense of meaning through this thing called business - or more accurately, busy-ness, for when we are busy we are engaged, and involved, and so clearly, seemingly, needed, or at the very least we are confirmed as still being alive. And thus I remove my glasses and scrub the lenses with my shirt ends, while looking up meanwhile for someone to speak to, or for something interesting to see, or at least something to do with my mind while my fingers are so engaged. And at once I am busy, and working - albeit for cheap ends - and best of all...I am distracted.

Back to that distraction bit, for this is the crux of the matter, and the root of why we do so many of the things which we do, not just for efficiency, or profit, or reputation, or for the achievement of some small and local fame, but to tell ourselves though the many voices of engagement that we are yet alive, and that death is nowhere nearby, and that living has some objective and real meaning found in our simple being, and doing, and especially this very busy doing of many things at once, which we are so good at. And when the charade of meaning is raised, and we are too busy to not think, it's then that the veil of the emptiness which pervades the universe cannot be seen, and we are so grateful to be blind, though even the acknowledgement of such gratitude is heresy to the empty sense of meaning which we have found, the meaning of simply being busy, of being distracted and far away in the moment of now, of consuming our fading time with something...anything...which will help us to hide the night.

But now, I'll remove my glasses and slowly, gently, begin to wipe. And I won't ask for something more. I won't reach for a toy of mind to fondle and toss. I won't ask my inner-voice to speak. I'll just wipe the glasses now with an empty mind. I'll stand alone as the empty beyond becomes an empty within. I'll do just And I'll live for a few moments now like I have never lived before.


My name is Kurt Bell.

You can learn more about The Good Life in my book Going Alone.

Be safe... But not too safe.

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