In his Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy says “a mans at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with.” I used to share this sentiment, but I find I’m growing further from it these days. More and more my little boy expresses traits I wasn’t equipped to perceive in myself as a kid; I look at him now and I know my own mind then. As I think on it a bit more, consider his preferences, perturbations, and general distaste of all authority, including mine, it’s as if I’m watching a reworked version of me: sometimes understated, often amplified, and utterly unable to stand still.
I spent the first part of my life thinking — or maybe hoping is the better word — that I was something special. Then I spent a good decade or so lamenting I’m not. But over time, the lamentation has shifted to celebration. As I grow up, even today, so does the world. The whole of it is bigger than I realised as a kid, and nowadays it seems to expand with every click through to new friends, ideas, world news, and gossip across the globe. I’m part of it all, in the flow you might say. I click post here and the Internet grows infinitesimally for a flick of my finger. And for as much as I not-so-secretly hope that flapping my wings stirs up a sharing storm, these words will generally just float along unnoticed in a gentle ether. It’s fine with me; I realize my mundane life is precisely the reason I’ll get to see hear and feel the world as new and special forever. Complications compromise that sense, and that sense is not for sale.
As I grow, Noodle grows, and the whole world grows for the fact of it. This means there’s a bigger world for us to grow into, and we sure enough do. Then it grows a little bit more for our having noticed, and we fill up the new space — and I start to realise I can’t stand still even when I want to pause and get acquainted with my own mind. I’m ever at odds.
Last week I wrote a note and it got me to thinking and shifting into and out of a mindset, and I ended up puzzled about where I might stand. I said this:
“It’s the place makes us write what we do, because it’s the place that makes us who we are. It’s a certain kind of writing I do in New Zealand. It takes Arizona to write Ricochet, it takes a sidetrack through my history to write Outsiders, and it takes a confessional of fear to write Salvation.
“It’s what’s in my head plus where my head is that colors what I write. It’s hard for me to write from pure memory; it’s hard to write joy on rainy days and sentiment in the sun. Writing is as seasonal as it is geographic.”
Something in there sounded right when I read it back. But then I remember — I know — geography needs neither commendation nor blame for our successes or ills. Our world is up to us. Noodle doesn’t care whether a place is fancy or even clean, as long as it’s fun. He’s living my values, a regular doppelgänger, that one, and I notice that for him there’s fun to be had everywhere and in everything. It’s not deficient memory or failure to pay attention; he hasn’t internalized and projected my generational cynicism. He doesn’t group together and filter whole swaths of his day-to-day experience; everything shapes his world — his world circumscribed by trust. He doesn’t experience my philosophical skepticism. He knows what’s real, and he knows what he likes, and he’s unmoved by self-consciousness, confidently loving whatever he chooses, come what may. I figure Shark Bear and Murray The Monster and all of his stuffed buddies live as rich and real lives as my bicycle and my notebook, and I reckon we’d suffer the same sense of loss should any exit our lives unexpectedly.
What it comes down to is this: we can peel back layers of philosophical consciousness, investigate the essences of existence, come to know our minds as best we can on our own, and stretch that knowledge to grand scientific theories or deified parables of all that can and cannot and must and must not predictably occur within universal and godlike constraints. And we seem so quick to congratulate ourselves for doing so. But in the end, it’s just us. It’s our reflections against one another that are the world, and the world’s as big and fresh and exciting and alive as we allow it to be. My world’s as good as I have ever imagined because Noodle’s in it now and forever. And that there is worth standing still to ponder every now and again.