by Albert Adato
With apologies to Henri Bergson
[Damn, caught up in thought again. Ok, here we go. That's good...move it to the reticular formation] which he often experiences as the main site of tension. His head jerks as a large node of tension implodes. [Wow, that's a good one. Easy now, easy to the next node.] These here aren't so much his thoughts as they are his awarenesses, of what's occurring, inner moves included. Or, this is about as close to the pre-reflective stream of consciousness, of experiences -- what Bergson calls duree -- as awareness gets, short of being a 'real thought' rather-than-that-awareness.
Carol's remark, ["The way you talk about your thoughts..."] comes up -- his first 'real thought' in a while -- and that conversation with her takes hold. There was a moment, a nano-moment perhaps, but a real moment when Danny could have head off these recollections before they seized his mind.
"I just know I can do it," he pleaded in that conversation with Carol yesterday. "I just know," trying to overcome her look of...skepticism?
But it's not so much that she doubts what he can do as, "The way you talk about your thoughts, Danny -- 'They besiege and overrun my mind' -- like they're the enemy. Your own thoughts!"
"It's not the thoughts themselves," he replied, looking at her squarely. "It's that I lose myself to them."
The conversation runs amok until [Damn...]. As he frees himself from it, Carol's ["Your own thoughts!"] almost pulls him back into that current; but [easy, easy, that's it] and so on. He's pleased with himself for making the hard choice, the right one, of course. A big node implodes, another soon after, and so on for a fairly good while.
It was a good streak, ending with ["Most of it is just crap, Carol. A waste of time and energy."]. Actually, another thought had just preceded this one, in (and of) the twilight zone between the awareness and its complete loss to ["Most of it..."].
Danny detects it and elects to trace it back to where the streak was broken, though he knows in doing so he'll be caught up in thought. He detects that twilight zone -- he's sure of that -- but he still can't identify the thought that occurred. He can sense it and it almost comes into clear view, but then stalls, like a photograph in a tray of solution that won't quite develop.
[Ok, let it go,] knowing that if he keeps trying to apprehend that elusive thought he'll only block it. He let's go, and seconds later [Damn, almost had it.]. And so on...when finally it pops into focus: he had reflected on how well he was doing -- that was it -- which led to ["Most of it..."].
Was that all that occurred in that twilight zone? Danny is still sure the thought of how well he was doing occurred then, but he's beginning to doubt that was all. And now virtually enthralled with the question of what else, he resumes the search.
It's aborted by Carol's call from downstairs. "Danny, are you ready? It's getting late."
"Ok," he shouts back. He makes a mental note of the search, hoping to recover and pursue it at a another time.
Once in the car and on the their way she asks, "Were you meditating?"
"That's what they say it is." Danny is critical of the gloss, but will submit to it sometimes for the sake of expediency. "Though when you called me I was doing something else," he adds offhandedly.
"I was looking for a thought I had."
"I may be sorry I asked, but what thought?"
"If I knew the thought I wouldn't have been looking for it." Danny awaits her next question. It's beginning to drizzle, faintly, and visibility is still good.
Carol takes a few seconds to formulate the right one: "Then what makes you think there was that thought in the first place?" She's pleased with having asked the right question.
So is Danny that she did. "Well, I was on a roll and after I realized it was over, I wanted to find just where it was broken. What I found was the thought of how well I was doing...which led to more crap. But then it seemed to me that wasn't quite the first thought that ended the streak. I think there was something else that had just preceded it. And that's what I was looking for."
He catches her looking at him a little funny. "What!?"
"Meshugge, meshugge, meshugge," she sings in the melody of that old klezmer song, "Romania.". Carol isn't Jewish but she likes using the few Yiddish words she knows -- at least with Danny who is Jewish.
"What, you think I'm hopelessly involuted or something?"
"Not really. Hey, it's your thing. I respect that; I do. I guess it's just that I don't know anyone who does what you do."
"Don't you ever wonder how you got to think about something and try to trace it back to what touched it off?"
"Yes, but is that really the same thing? Your thing is about how you got from one state of mind to another."
Danny thinks about that. The drizzle soon becomes a light rain and he complies with her request to apply the wipers. "Yeah, you're right. It's not just the thought I want to find. I wanna know how...I lost to thought my state of pure awareness...and the moves I can make...only in that state."
"Pure awareness? Lost to thought?"
"Yeah, you know, a completely uncluttered mind? You'd like one of those, wouldn't you?"
"I got news for you -- I don't think of my mind as being cluttered, thought and all."
He's about to question her: Don't you ever experience becoming lost in thought? But she'll only say something like: Well, maybe sometimes, but...
Danny wants to come up with a better way of getting Carol to see what he does so clearly. Ah, a nice, neat analogy: a film editor (ego), the running film (duree), freezing it (thought). Nah. Too neat. He thinks, hard, in tune to the pitch of the sloshing tires as though it's a sort of musical accompaniment. Nothing...only disquieting questions: could it be that she apperceives no opposition between pure awareness and thought, that to be in one state is for the other to yield to it? Could her mind be so structurally different than his? It's hard for Danny to believe that. After all, he recalls, it was rather astute of her to see that in trying to track down a thought his aim was to know how he had got from one state to another. How can she know of such states, of how different they are from each other, without any primordial experience of them? He's truly bewildered.
Now the rain the comes down hard, a sudden cataract when it seemed to be waning back to a drizzle, drubbing their ten year old corolla and giving pause to their train of thought. They're reminded, implicitly, of being well protected as he switches the wipers to high speed barely clearing the pane.
Carol breaks a long silence, despite the din, as if realizing that her voice could coexist with it. "Maybe you overrate consciousness."
He thinks he knows what she means, but isn't sure. "I'm not sure what you mean."
"Well, it's like you think consciousness is all there is. About the mind and everything psychological. Like you can't accept Freud's idea of the unconscious, for example." She's a psychotherapist, by the way.
"Because I haven't seen enough hard evidence supporting that idea...not because I overrate consciousness...or think it's all there is." But there's an interesting question in what she says for him to contemplate. He teaches and writes philosophy, by the way.
They arrive at her mother's house. The rain has subsided. "I should be only a few minutes," Carol says as she gets out of the car. "I'll leave you to your thoughts...pardon me, your pure awareness." She is grateful for the fact that he can be left to himself.
He turns off the engine, listens to the rain's soft patter on the car, then shuts his eyes and disengages from thought [the patter, cars sloshing by, a distant siren, the street light's opalescent residue, the imploding nodes, the thought that this could be it, the revolution, catching the thought and releasing its grip] and so on, of which he knows no end but which always does sooner or later.
["Maybe you overrate consciousness"]. Danny recalls, in his teens about, [when he'd go to bed at night and sleepily believe he could fall asleep without losing consciousness. "No Carol, it's not that I 'overrate' it. It's simply what I want!] which he never actually said. And so on until [Damn...easy now, easy, that's it, good].
Carol returns with her mother. The revolution, once again, will have to be postponed.
About the author:
Albert Adato started writing fiction about 7 or 8 years ago. This will be his second published story. A fairly new literary magazine, Citizen Culture, recently accepted one of his stories. He also has some stuff published in sociology, in various academic journals, though these papers are outside the mainstream of such discourse. While he used to teach and write sociology, he's now a social worker with the Jewish Child Care Association.