Mind and Body:
From René Descartes to William James

Writing Descartes:
I Am, and I Can Think, Therefore ...

Story Evolution
Lucy Darlington

triggered by Writing Descartes ...
30 September 2004


Body/Mind, Unconscious/Conscious, Treeness/Thinking
A Five Minute Story

by Lucy Darlington

Feeling the hot cup of coffee warming her hands, sitting on a bench at the old main line rail station, smelling the dark pungent oil wafting off the wooden ties that secure the iron rails, Scout finds herself sighing. "Life requires padding," she muses. Unlike her Quaker ancestors and her Irish catholic forefathers, she believes that sweets and treats and sunny days are necessary to soften the harder edges of getting up each morning when, despite our most earnest efforts, the struggles of yesterday still lie on our doorstep like an incontinent dog that refuses to die and make room for the fearless puppy of our dreams.

This is what crosses her mind as she waits for the train that is going to take her into town for another day of clients. The next thought she has is to wonder why so many of her analogies refer to some bodily activity that includes orifices. As these thoughts mingle with the anticipation of the clients she will be seeing today she lets her eyes focus on the other passengers on the platform.

She smiles at the girl across the tracks, field hockey stick in hand, headed in the direction of her old high school. She notices the way the youngish woman in front of her can't help but reach out and touch her man every few seconds. Though he shows no sign of receiving the affection even if he wanted to reciprocate in kind, it would be difficult since both his hands are full with coffee, newspaper, and umbrella. She checks out the grey haired man with the leather soled, tassel toed, brightly polished Italian shoes, looking intently down the tracks, seeming to will the crotchety old maiden train to be on time this day. She can feel her annoyance growing as she watches him in his solitary activity.

She knows she has been seeing this same man, different hairline, different last name, but same arrogance, her whole life, and today she can feel her blood getting into a roil. When she was 14, on this same train line only a few stops west, when the hem of her red-plaid uniform skirt, field hockey and Timmie Fullam were foremost on her mind, she would find herself making room for these august older men who treated the world as if it were their kingdom and she was just part of the litter on the landscape.

Uh-oh, she thinks, here I go, as she watches her storytelling mind begin to fan the spark of annoyance into a flame. Fuck, not today. I am not making up stories about men today, older men in particular, and god damn-it I am not letting myself react to whatever is getting triggered by my neural-associations.

This is how she thinks these days, neural-associations. Another trick she has found to prevent her self from walking the familiar fateful plank that leads her to falling head first into the swamp of yesterday. "It is not happening today" she says to herself again noticing, with rising panic, that her left shoulder has already begun to knot, like a vise, causing her to wince at the pain as it squeezes the nerve in her neck. No, no, no. Breathe. Breathe. Focus on the breath. Remember, thoughts are not real, they are just stories to which I have given meaning, back in the day when I believed in meaning.

She watches as the ever-active filing system in her brain begins to serve up some of the associations she has to the word meaning. Like daydreams for instance. She used to believe that they had much more meaning than the reality she could see in front of her. They were the firewall she used to protect herself from the red hot poker of reality called home. These thoughts co-mingle with the emotional flame that has been activated by her limbic system in response to the Man thing and the familiar smells of fall, so long associated with new beginnings, hope, excitement, loss. Like three plumes of smoke braiding themselves together, her thoughts, the meaning she gives them and her emotional/physical responses threaten to become a rope from which she could hang herself if she doesn't put a stop to this lickity split.

She acknowledges to herself that she doesn't participate in the sport of daydreaming anymore, partly because she has created a life in which she has more than her share of fulfillment, partly because the list of unmet dreams is already long enough, and to go there risks the noose that could choke the breath out of this life that she, for better or worse, has created. Girl, she admonishes herself, get your sweet ass self back here. Yoo hoo, this is Now time. Hear? Don't you go scaring yourself to death by going down that tired old path, you know the one I'm talking about. Today you are doing just fine. You have work you love. You have good loyal friends. You have healthy grown children that are realizing their dreams. You have physical and mental health, which make all sorts of things possible. You are doing okay my lady.

The familiar sound of the rails humming their vibrational song breaks into her reverie, cutting her thoughts off in mid-stream. Suddenly, body overrides mind, as her heartbeat rises and the physiologic response, more ancient then humankind itself, to the sight and sound of a large, loud object barreling towards her creates a tightening of the leg and shoulder muscles, a focusing of the eyes. In a finger snap the beast of biology has transported her from a state of musing into a state of action.

Settling into the rough vinyl orange seat of the train, having survived being consumed from the inside and the outside, the woman smiles. As always, when she is in a conscious mode of living, she is amused and bemused by the drama possible to every living moment. With all of that having happened in five brief minutes, she wonders, what will the rest of this day be like.


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