In Which I Answer a Riddle Written in 1865, & Kick My Workaholic Monkey-Mind in the Lady Balls
Lewis Carroll featured this famous riddle in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: How is a raven like a writing desk? He admitted later that he didn’t have an answer to the riddle, but I do: me.
Yes, arrogance be damned, I am the answer to a riddle posed 101 years before my birth, as I shall demonstrate forthwith. (One of the great joys of having your blog is the opportunity to use Monty Python-esque words like forthwith.) How? Well, to start with, both ravens and writing desks are crucial to my happiness.
(Let’s not quibble about the fact that I use a laptop, and thus my desk is technically attached to my body. By “writing desk” I mean the attention given to the act of writing. By ravens, I mean ravens, to which I also devote much attention and homage in the form of hotdogs and other meat products.)
Attention is a significant concept, because as others have observed (most recently in Lady Bird), attention is s a form of love. Or as David Lynch put it, in Catching the Big Fish, “where your attention is, that will be lively.” Point is, we’d all do well to attend to the antics of our minds, because if our thoughts are negative, hateful, or self-defeating we get … lively ugliness.
Which brings me to why I’m thinking about ravens and writing desks today.
I’ve just finished the novel I’ve been working on for seven years or so, and have begun the process of getting it out there. Reasonable folks would agree this is a cause for celebration and rest, but my Workaholic Monkey-Mind is nagging at me to get on to the next big project right this very now. And that makes me sad, but only for a minute, because this ain’t my first rodeo with the WMM.
And, having tangled with it before, I’ve learned a few tricks to muzzle the monkey.
1. Become aware that the nagging or shaming voice in your head is there.
2. Realize that voice was probably planted there by someone or something else: your parents, your culture, etc.. It is not the voice of transcendent truth (of which I’m reasonably sure, because the voices of transcendent truth aren’t nagging jerks).
3. Decide whether that opinion is of any use in this situation. If it is, then listen. If not, tell it to shut up so you can get on with your bliss.
Now, for some people, the negative programming is so strong that merely calling it out isn’t enough. In that case, therapy and/or medication may be in order. No shame in that. But the first step is simply to pay attention. Sometimes we’ve been listening to the monkey for so long, we forget that its there. We confuse it with our selves, or even with truth, and slink off to be miserable.
Yes, there are times when you need to keep the writing desk (or your equivalent) glued to your lap, attention laser focused, just to get the job done. But those times should be balanced by watching ravens and making a fool of yourself trying to speak their language (or your equivalent). An action that may not make money, advance your career, or even make sense to anybody but you, but which makes you feel ridiculously happy … just because.
As the mad genius Laurie Anderson said in Language is a Virus, “Paradise is exactly like you are right now … only much, much better.”