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Calming the Beast in the Cabin

I'm weakening. I hate camping underneath a thunderstorm. But the mud will dry up tomorrow.

There must be readers who are sick of my praise for wet snow and cold mud in May in the American Southwest. They are probably thinking, "Put up or shut up. Move to Puget Sound if you think wetness is so great."

My sermons are an echo of the ones from William James, presented in the page-tab at the top of your screen, Summiting: Ideals and Suffering. In trying to benefit from suffering, the key word is 'non-routine.' Over the long run, suffering loses its charm. In order to be stimulated, you must somehow idealize it, and that is hard to do to something routine. The weather the Southwest is having right now is definitely non-routine.

I'm not just opining and theorizing. My bouts with cabin fever have done me some good, and hopefully for the long term.

I was forced to do things that are easy to neglect: a book that was supposed to be re-read, but somehow wasn't; cleaning and organizing; off-line organizing on the computer; doing push-ups on the muddy trailer floor; cooking time-consuming foods such as rice and beans; crawling under the sleeping bag and napping at odd times, not because I was tired, but because I craved warmth.

It isn't good enough to just grit the teeth and try to force yourself to do these things. It is better to exercise the imagination on them, and visualize them as being valuable. At the very least I had to give them the benefit of the doubt, and judge them less harshly than usual. I had to be content with these half dozen activities instead of a dozen more activities which I should be able to pursue and which should be more exciting.

At first I saw only tangible things and activities. Over time a general principle appeared behind the scenes. Patience. I was developing patience.

Just as a child's imagination tends toward personification, I imagined Impatience as an unruly beast who I was trapped with. It seemed a huge wet dog, young and puppyish, and erratic. This even made it destructive in such a small trailer: scratching at my air mattress, getting excited and peeing on the floor, shaking off all over the bed. 

The beast wasn't malevolent by intent. In fact its flaws were rather common to its breed and age. Neverthless it was necessary for It to calm down.

So it is with the virtue of patience. Impatience always seemed to be a common and petty vice, before, and thus boring and easy to underestimate and neglect.  

But what profound consequences Impatience has in the long term. We are forever scratching an itch, driving to stores, spending money. So much of the money and time of our lives is spent fleeing boredom. We only needed to conquer Impatience. This issue is triply important to early retirees.

The great advantage of cabin fever is that we can no longer shrug off Impatience.  We are faced with a crisis, and the villain becomes apparent.

This may be an example of what Malcolm Muggeridge was writing about in A Third Testament. In his chapter on Dostoevsky, he writes:
Dostoevsky found himself in solitary confinement in the Peter and Paul Fortress where so many revolutionaries – Bakunin, for instance – were at one time or another incarcerated. For Dostoevsky it was the true beginning of his inner life, and of the illumination out of which his great works were to come. 

Prisons, let it be said, have fostered far more art and mystical insight than any Arts Council, Ministry of Culture or other such effort in the way of governmental encouragement. In the Peter and Paul Fortress he was willy-nilly introduced to the theme of punishment, which he was suffering, and crime, to which a long, elaborate examination sought to relate it. The punishment was tangible, the crime more elusive...


Wayne (Wirs) said…
It's often been said that artists need their solitude to inspire their Muse, and you allude to that in your Muggeridge quote. Some artists paint, some write blog posts and tweak their custom built cargo trailer.

The smart have their books. The wise have their scars. :)
Steve said…
You posted today about what I was feeling last night as a retiree, but in a house. Boredom and impatience. That rush of thinking about selling everything and leaving, with 3 dogs, in some sort of small trailer not bought yet, was in a full speed ahead mode. Although my spending has decreased a lot this past year, store visits for "toys" is nonexistent, that "itch" you speak of is still there deep inside me. Yet, 3 dogs, a small trailer and only 2 hands ... makes me hesitant.
Steve, Being retired in a stick-and-bricks can make life seem like a stagnant pond, can't it? Maybe you want your life to be a river, with noticeable current, and with rapids and waterfalls and floods, some of the time at least.
I DON'T disagree about "artists need their solitude to inspire their Muse." But the word 'solitude' does not inspire me if it stands for 'Quietism.' Some of us need tempestuousness and crisis to 'awaken us from our dogmatic slumbers.'
Steve, if you want some advice (awful word) on how to get going at low cost, feel free to email me. The trick is to stop over-planning and procrastinating. Tolerate some trailer and tow vehicle that are far from perfect, but affordable.

Instead of seeing them as a crappy and uncomfortable situation, visualize it as noble and glorious suffering. Then improve it one step at a time, as funds permit. Each little improvement will make you euphoric.
Bob Giddings said…
I must have been through Datil several times while crisscrossing NM over the years, but I don't remember anything about it. I notice Google Maps shows a "Frolicking Deer Lavender Farm", but the street view only shows the usual juniper and sage. Maybe this promise of sweetness on the desert air is like those "Industrial Park" signs small towns sometimes put on waste land along the road here and in Mexico, to encourage foolish investment.

But if the lavender farm is really there, you might be in for an olfactory treat when the rain stops. If it ever does. Here in Texas it has been raining for a week, and next week looks like more of the same. But I remember vividly driving past lavender farms in the evening north and west of Port Townshend, WA. The lovely high scent was hallucinatory.
A lavender farm does sound attractive. It would be a rare and non-routine pleasure, too. Too much of the routine pleasure of the traveler is visual, rather than olfactory.

Can't remember Datil NM? Surely you haven't forgotten that it is on the edge of the mighty Plains of San Agustin. Grand!
John V said…
Solitude is for us non-artists. Artists need to be stimulated. It's their drug of choice. I like the Hemingway perspective: Write while you're drunk. Edit when you're sober. :-)
John V said…
Is Datil home of the amazing datil pepper? It makes an impressive hot sauce.
John V, how about putting it this way: writing is aimed at pleasing yourself; editing tries to look at things from the readers' perspective.