All morning, looking for something I can’t quite put my finger on, my attention has fragmented, shattered, fallen in a million diamond shards that spark and vanish. I have not been able to hold on to a single thing, at least nothing worth being held onto.
Louis Dupré said that the crisis of modern life was spiritual; we have lost the ability to think deeply, quietly, and for a long time. He said this in 1976, which makes me wonder what he says now, when every attempt at productive thought ends with the thinker wondering what’s happening on Facebook or whether she answered yesterday’s urgent email. Maybe that’s why he moved to Belgium. As I typed that last sentence, and I am not joking, I thought the following things:
- Should I Google the tax date and find out if I’m in trouble for not mailing them yesterday?
- I have got to call the Dean and explain about the current tutoring staff crisis before someone else does.
- Did we get the hose hooked up so I can put my new plants in pots when I get home?
- Those AmLit tests are not going to grade themselves.
- Can I get a legal excerpt from Annie Dillard to put on Blackboard?
That’s one sentence, one part of a day in my noisy brain. It’s like an airport in there, or an auction house.
Here is the last, and perhaps only thing I am going to say out loud and in public about Cameron Fitzwater, the high school senior whose death has left us all in varying states of fragmented: I need to think about this.
No stupid platitudes. No idiot comments about the cosmic significance of anything. Some events are like grains of sand in an oyster – we have to find ways to coat them with something, anything, to make them hurt less. I don’t have a problem with how other people choose to do this, provided they don’t spout any of it at me. On the Monday before he died, we had one of those conversations so typical of Cameron – smart, funny, and pretty superficial, really. It never occurred to me it would be the last one. Isn’t that kind of true of every conversation? Not to think about how that question can change a person is to waste what’s left of Cameron in the world, and even to think of it that way skates perilously close to stupid-platitude-land.
But my brain goes skittering off into the grocery store, the tests, the biography of Sandra Freaking Cisneros, like any of that matters. I cannot concentrate.
I cannot even take a walk in the woods because my damn hip ensures that, whatever I start out thinking, I end up thinking, “Wow, this hurts.”
Obviously, I need help. Here’s a real question, and that’s what blog comments are for, so comment away: How do you make time and (mental) space for wrestling with big questions and painful realities? Where do you go? What do you do? How do you put your noisy brain on hold to focus on the one true thing you need? Before I resort to a baseball bat, I’d like to know what my options are.