I absolutely love talking with my mother. She is one of my closest friends and my greatest confidant. Recently we had a discussion on thought and action. She has been reading Emerson and will occasionally look up from the pages and talk with me about what she has just read. We have had multiple little thesis statements in these discussions. One such statement is that thinkers are not natural doers. They still do, but their natural inclination is to think. This was moments later backed by a quote from Emerson's "The American Scholar": "Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential... Without it, thoughts can never ripen into truth." Any thoughts are just theory without the experience that life provides. It is living that shows theory to be truth. Action is not only food for the body; it feeds thought as well.
Allow me to now clarify that in this post thoughts are not of the
"solving cancer, world hunger, and the environment"
nature. An example of what I mean would be this thought that I have
been turning over and over in my head for the last few weeks: clouds are
in-between beings, caught between smoke and snow, rising and falling.
It's the little reflections and ponderings that I mean when I use the
word "thoughts," not the grand scale intellectual entities that tower in
the brain, squashing all little thoughts with their enormous gravity.
My mother and I are both thinkers, ponderers and reflectors. A task that should take fifteen minutes will stretch to an hour when in our hands. This is unintentional. We simply become unwittingly lost in thought. My father grumbles about it in occasion, but we all know he loves us (my mother, after all, controls the flow of X-Files seasons to the house). To us, thoughts are the water of a mental creek: slow, clear, and calming. Both of us journal. Writing down thoughts and occurrences tends to clear our minds, helping us to relax and stop reviewing the day over and over. "Going back though my journals, I used to have thoughts on life and human nature," Mom sighed during our conversation, "but since I started teaching it's been 'do the laundry,' 'do the dishes,' and so on."
"Teaching and alcohol," I agreed. Since Mom started teaching, the fact that Cyril Conelly once said that teaching had killed more writers than alcohol had has turned into a household saying.
"Yes. Yes! Where do I find those thoughts when I'm cleaning a dirty toilet?!" Just to clarify, she does not clean toilets as part of her teaching job, but rather, as part of her own home's upkeep.
"In the dirty toilet." I wasn't exactly sure what I meant, when I said this, but the half idea sounded good.
"How do you mean?"
"Make the toilet the metaphor."
"Lots of thoughts are metaphors. Take the dirty toilet and shape it into a metaphor for life or teaching. For example, I've been viewing the cats' litter-box as a zen garden of sorts. Cleaning it out, little mountains and valleys form. The world is a little zen garden of chemicals and poo."
"Chemicals and poo," my mom laughed. "I'm looking forward to this blog post."
I hadn't been planning on blogging it, but as I scribbled up a rough draft, it seemed plausible and maybe even good. Of course, there were thoughts that Mom and I didn't discuss, but certainly there will always be things left unmentioned and unconsidered in any discussion. Including the following that caught my eye as I was rough drafting and it stepped off its train into the station of thoughts bustling about in my head.
Each of us is unique in the way our thought pattens behave. Our thoughts carry the faintest touch of ourselves, near invisible fingerprints. It is the individual touch thoughts receive as they pass from one human being to the next that allows them to grow and expand. Thoughts are influenced by people as much as people are influenced by thoughts.