I have the day off since it is a national holiday here in Japan. I had breakfast and read a few depressing articles on VDare and then started thinking about going grocery shopping. The supermarket is a half-hour walk from my apartment and lugging shopping bags back to my apartment requires a certain amount of energy so I thought I would re-charge my batteries by lying down for 15-minutes before setting off.
I lay there and my head felt almost empty. I wasn’t thinking about the articles I had just read, nor about what I needed to buy at the supermarket. The only thing that entered my consciousness were noises from outside: the sound of cars going by on a nearby road, interspersed by the occasional cawing of a crow.
My mind felt light, like a new computer before all the detritus of years of use has accumulated and clogs its workings; or like a boat scrubbed clean of all the seaweed and barnacles that drag it back. I wasn’t exactly trying not to think about things. It was just that my mind wasn’t doing much.
Sometimes I think about Sam Harris’s idea that we don’t have selves. When I ponder this my mind fills up with thought and the very act of thinking makes my sense of self appear. Thinking about whether you have a self is a bit like quickly opening the fridge door in an attempt to see if the light really is off when the door is closed.
Yet lying there this morning and listening to the sounds from outside rather than chasing down thoughts as I usually do left me with the sense of having a ‘self lite’. Less thinking seemed to have lightened my sense of myself.
Unfortunately these nice feelings never survive the moment when I have to get up and do stuff, as I now have to go shopping. And at other times lying listening to crows and traffic sends me to sleep, and sleep brings more cluttered thought in the form of cluttered dreams. It seems that, just like my computer, when my mind does too little the screen goes blank and I go into ‘sleep’ mode. It is hard to stay in that pleasant limbo-land between having a busy mind and falling asleep.