Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Warming up

Podcast. Wondering where "second wind" comes from, and "how to channel and transfer some of that energy more efficiently onto page and screen," I climbed down from my porch and set out with the dogs this morning.

 James says, in Energies of Men, "everybody knows what it is to 'warm up' to his job. The process of warming up gets particularly striking in the phenomenon known as "second wind." Well, the pooches were through long before I got my answer, these summery mid-south days are tough on peripatetics who can't remove their coats. They warm up a lot faster than I do. So I dropped them at home and hopped on the bike.

[CORRECTION: on this morning's podcast I errantly said the first Bloomsday commemoration was fifty years ago. It was in fact sixty-one years ago in 1954, on the fiftieth anniversary of the fictional day depicted in Joyce's book.]

Whence the wind is the less engaging question for me, since the only live options I see are naturalistic. Somehow it has to come from the reservoir of intention and initiative we call will, and that we build up over time through habital bodily exertions including those of the brain/mind.

But tapping into that reservoir and refilling it at will, and making the most constructive use of those reserves: how to do that is the most practically-compelling question I can think of.

The write-walk-write three-step is, I've found, a most efficient little dance, best supplemented by reading and reflecting. Throw in some regular downtime for sleeping, dreaming, and attentive non-thinking, with whatever the subconscious can contribute, and you've got a process of thought.

Taking the question quite literally: I transfer some of my walking energy, in the form of ideas for further exploration and elaboration, by recording them. I hit the red button and make voice memos for later transcription and cogitation. It's a modern version of Thomas Hobbes's pen-&-ink walking stick.
"He walked much and contemplated, and he had in the head of his cane a pen and ink-horn, carried always a note-book in his pocket, and as soon as a thought darted, he presently entered it into his book, or otherwise he might perhaps have lost it."
Thinking of Hobbes's cane reminded me of Vita Sackville-West's butterfly:
“It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.”  
James writes that "writing is higher than walking, thinking is higher than writing, deciding higher than thinking, deciding 'no' higher than deciding 'yes'..." Higher in requiring more "inner work," he says. In my own case, these activities are not so neatly separable or rank-able. But that's not important here. What's important is the general thesis that we all have more energy in store than we habitually or reliably access, and we access more of it in the relaxed state of mind-and-body that some of us find only in regular mild to moderate physical exertion.

I already knew the answer to this one. For peak efficiency, I have to warm up and walk my path. Every day.

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