Sunday, September 18, 2022

Is this what I want to be carrying in my body?

"In Japan, they say that when you can't sleep, you must be awake in someone else's dream."

Who is dreaming about me every night? Perhaps it is several people in rotation. Do they queue up to dream about me? Is it a cabal of dreamers conspiring to keep me from being rested, a kind of torture, to keep me restless? Is it true that they say this in Japan? Is it actually true, if you're dreaming, or not sleeping, in Japan? (This goes some way in explaining Haruki Murakami's novels.)

It might have something to do with the conservation of energy. Keeping the cosmos in balance.

The Wagers, by Sean Michaels, is about luck. Kind of. Luck is posited to be an actual physical substance, much like sand. Or pixie dust. Some people don't even know they have it. Others mine it and hoard it. 

After a run of luck, or coincidence, or statistics, Theo stumbles into a life outside the family grocery business. He lands a job as a processor. Luck, he learns, is all about beating the odds — in positive and negative ways. The  renegade band of weirdos across the street is determined to redistribute it.

"Processing is passive, procedural. It does not require independent thinking. At least it shouldn't! If you're thinking independently, you're doing it wrong."

[I think of all the processing I do. Events. Emotions. I think of it as active, intentional, conscious. Perhaps it's because I'm not sleeping. I should be processing my waking hours in my sleep.]

Theo definitely has some processing to do. His mother has just died. His niece won big at the track, allowing the family business to grow in different directions. He continues to flounder as a stand-up comic. And the woman he fell in love with went on retreat in the Sahara, and keeps delaying her return.

Lately I've been trying to retrain my fingers. I can still feel the habits when I lay them flat on the table: scroll, swipe. CTRL-C, CTRL-V. Open new tab. All this high-tech muscle memory, and none of it relevant to my yurt. It's useful knowledge, you'd say. Utility isn't everything, Theo. These days I ask myself questions like: Is this what I want to be carrying in my body? The itch to manipulate a web browser? To scroll and tap on a screen? I'd rather my body carried worthier impulses. What else could I carry in the places I carry smartphone swipes and copy-paste? How much more patience, self-knowledge, compassion?

So I'm retraining. You could do it too. Try. Lay your hands flat on the table, feel your fingers stretch. Palm. Knuckles. Skin. I tell my hands to forget what they aren't, and feel what they are. To feel what I am. Aches and scars, blood pulse, tremor. Fascia tautening with age. Our hands hold traces of everything we've ever touched, a thousand handshakes and caresses. Sometimes I think about my grandmother's hands. The way they felt when she clasped my hands in hers, the strength. Our bodies aren't just shapes we're wearing, clothes we put on. They're chronicles. They're wiser than we are.

[This is a good lesson and I know it to be true. I learned it while learning to sculpt clay; my fingers know things. It is good to be reminded, and to notice what they know. (I keep thinking I should go on retreat.)]

One of the charms of The Wagers is the city it roots itself in — Montreal. I swear I've shopped at Theo's store. I know those hills, and that water tower, and the cartoon logo of an elephant-turned-vacuum-cleaner. And it is magical.

We don't get to choose what we want, he thought. Only what we pursue.

Chapter 1
From Chapter 3

BOMB A Surfeit of Wondrous Things: Sean Michaels Interviewed by Tobias Carroll