As bipedal animals, our remarkable, weight-bearing hind limbs support much of our wayfaring, freeing our forelimbs for all manner of clever manipulations for which we are duly famous.

While our legs shuffle, walk, lope, stride, run, hop, leap, jump, skip, dance and generally carry us ahead in a forward direction, our arms, hands, and fingers can hold, carry, throw, catch, pull, push, press, twist, hit, point, tweak, rub, caress, clap, and make a great many other finely-adjusted movements and gestures in accomplishing the myriad tasks we assign ourselves to do every day.

Think of the physical discipline required of ballet dancers, baseball players, musicians, mechanics, assemblers, crafters, artists, chefs, carpenters, jewelers, surgeons, and all who work with trained arms, hands, and fingers. Now think of the thousands of hours of practice, rehearsal, and refinement they put into acquiring the skills they need to create the civilized world we take so for-granted as if being born to it meant it has existed forever just as it is.

No, the world we live in today is largely made and maintained by human hands. Hands consisting of bones, joints, muscles, and tendons all directed and coordinated by human minds that intentionally will them to perform as they do. Here is the crux of our loops of engagement, the behaviors we exhibit as appropriate to the situations we get ourselves into.

This is the leading edge of our intent to get through the day and survive. Every perception, judgment, and action leads to this, our daily performance. Our engagement with life itself by which we prove ourselves worthy.

Just having that thought gives me a jab to the chest, leaving me breathless. It’s that simple? The commotions and alarms, the furor, the folly, the turmoil—all come down to this? Our painstaking engagement in doing whatever it is that we do?

Me, sitting at my computer, leaning back in my chair, staring at my winking cursor at the end of this very sentence? This is what it is all about? The point of my life? Me, sitting here, fingers poised over my keyboard, deciding what to write down whatever it is my happiness dictates?

Yes, in my case, this is precisely the point. I have shut everything else from my mind. My life experience leads to this moment of wonderful tension. What now? After eighty-two years, what do I do in this exact instant?

Picture a life made of millions of such instants. Cumulatively preparing for, adding to, and shaping this particular one. The evidence of my survival for those millions of instants tells me I must be doing something right. As a wayfarer, I have made and followed a course for myself that leads here.

The challenge I take from this instant is to decide how I am to guide my arms, hands, and fingers to type what it is I have to say. Not want to say, but have to say because my entire life is balanced just here at this point in time when I am about to change the configuration of the world with my next stroke of a key. Spiritual guidance is what it takes, in the form of a metaphorical helmsman at the inner wheel of myself.

These thoughts may give you a sense of the urgency that drives me to engage in this task I have assigned to myself by living the life I have lived. To get down on paper my thoughts about how my mind works. The only mind I have access to, which I can only take as a fair example of minds somewhat similar to those of my family and friends.

The recent deaths of my two brothers, both elder and younger, leave me as the last man standing—the last wayfarer—of the generation born to our father and mother, who, too, were survivors as proof they must have taken the right path, as their progenitors must have taken theirs, all the way back to beginning times.

You see how I have fleshed out the instant when I caught myself gazing at the cursor. One instant leads on to the next, and that to the next. Thought follows thought, action follows action, keystroke follows keystroke. The necessary order of my life appears before me, more discovered than planned.

I put myself at the leading edge of my existence, and that edge cuts decisively ahead into the unknown and unpredictable. I barely know what I am thinking and writing. What I do know is that I have to be true to the sense that emerges within me when I put myself in this place.

What I am trying to do is trust the life force that is driving me ahead right now. To listen to that force and write down what it dictates. Except it doesn’t dictate, it passes the burden to my fingers and tells them to get busy and write what they want. Which turns out to be the words you are reading as they flow from the situation my mind is facing just now.

My life force is engaging your life force one-on-one. My mind is speaking to your mind. There’s only the two of us together in this instant. Engaging in our own way. Being wholly ourselves. Separate as individuals in different black boxes, but equal one to the other as joined in common endeavor. Trying to understand what is going on in our respective minds. Caught up in that challenge. Giving our utmost to that cause.


Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

The morning of March 20th began as I had hoped. The sun rose brilliantly from low clouds out over the ocean. I was with a group of friends conducting our annual vigil on the equinox to mark the divide between the winter and spring of our souls.

20054403a-96But from that high point, I have never gotten my act together as coherently as the signs that day seemed to indicate I would. The American spring of 2012 has turned out to be far busier and more complicated than I imagined. So much to do; so little time. In late March, my son Ken and I built a new ramp for the boathouse so I could get my boat in the water and row to the island where I knew stillness awaited me so I could work on this blog. But April has come and gone without that happening.

Last evening, I and two others spoke briefly before the Bar Harbor Town Council to prepare the way for delivery of a petition asking that body to stand with communities across America in defending democracy from the corrupting influence of corporate wealth on the electoral process. I pointed out that corporate “personhood” and money as “free speech” are metaphors, and in taking them literally, the Supreme Court has based its decisions on wishful thinking or out-and-out deception. I compared the effect of the Citizens United decision to toxic emissions wafted into the air by Midwestern industries, which Maine residents inhale at every breath, poisoning the climate in which we vote.

I find myself torn between taking action against the ills abroad in the land and tending my little blog as I would a plant in my garden. Which makes the best use of my limited energy: healing the world or healing myself?

April went by like a shot. Two hearing tests, four senior college sessions on consciousness, figuring my taxes, four Occupy general assemblies, eight meetings, a watershed conference at which I gave a presentation, PetchaKutcha Night in Waterville (another presentation), several talks, and so it went. Not that it was a lot of work, but it was different kinds of work so I kept shifting gears to keep up with myself. As the month went on, I found it harder and harder to concentrate on yet another new thing. For a week now I haven’t updated my blog. Or gotten used to the refurbished iPad I plan to use on the island to post to my blog—that is, if I can get away. I am new to iPad technology, so have yet to figure out how to use a machine that comes with minimal instructions.

Which is boring because it’s largely a matter of technical details, not substance. These days, our technology changes so radically and readily, it’s hard to keep ahead of the learning curve to maintain productivity, much less increase it. The technology of pencils and paper hasn’t changed since Thoreau took up the pencil-making trade over a century-and-a-half ago. Electronic gadgets morph into new versions every few months. For myself, I think in trying to keep up, I simply sidestep into a maze of diminishing returns. 

I am torn, trying to keep up as before, but never reaching the goals I am aiming for. Take a break, I tell myself, get away from the melee so I can rely on skills I already have without having to get stuck on square one yet again, stifling even the possibility of engagement with anything that matters.

So here I sit; how about you? Are you able to keep engaged and feel you’re moving ahead? If so, how do you do it? That’s it for today. As ever, I remain, y’r friend, –Steve