The mind is the Sixth Sense

December 16, 2005

That is what I first took away from my Mother’s funeral, condensed, that became my understanding. I couldn’t deny that my thoughts had made me feel: unbearably, overwhelmingly, wholly beyond my control. As simplistic as it may seem I’m used to thinking of a whole class of feelings as being the reaction to a sensory experience, but what struck me, almost struck me dumb for weeks, precisely because my sensory perception was so heightened, was how much of it was composed in my mind.

That is her rocking chair – bought for her to relax in by my father, that had creaked on long after he had died. This is her kitchen where I cooked her Spaghetti with garlic and oil – that is the jigsaw puzzle that she will never finish, illuminated by the standard lamp which seems to have always been standing somewhere in the corner of whichever living room we have laughed and fought and talked in. None of these things – the smell of her bedroom, the creak of her chair, the crisp matte feel of her ironed linen dishclothes, none of it could mean anything without my thoughts. I could not believe that my heart was unaccompanied as I walked through the home that was no longer hers.

Ah yes, the heart: the repository of all our feelings, where they go to congregate and combine. My heart had broken at her funeral and it had felt like balm: it had felt like a gift from her and soothed me in a way and to a depth I was not prepared for – I had thought my heart was full of bile, and I was wrong. The heart though is also an idea, a suggestion to the mind through the flesh, “keep these feelings safe”. I’m quite sure that even if I had no language – no words at all – no picture of the two chambers meeting at a point, that I would wimper when my heart was bruised and clutch my chest, hug myself for comfort. Still it is, without question, an idea. Richly embroidered in song and verse and every form of culture, made to speak platitudes sometimes of course, to justify foul deeds. Identified as the source of passions, wholly bereft of any sense or thought: dangerous to the cool clarity of the rational self.

But I think not only that – and not, in the world we live in, most importantly that. I think most importantly we must see the Heart as the root of experience and see that it is connected as inseperably as the roots of any tree to the branches of the mind. To say that the mind is the sixth sense is not to decry the senses, it is to dethrone the mind. Those were my thoughts at the time, but they lay fallow for many years, scary ideas that surely breached some barrier?

You’re going to a funeral.

December 5, 2005

So: a formal, ritual event: you are not, for clarities sake, keening by the bedside.

You get to the door and are handed a book, and an order of service. You go inside and sit down on hard wooden benches. The book smells like every other hymn book you have ever held, the building is cool and shaded, the sounds of the world subdued by thick stone walls, people are hushed. All of this is how it has always been, only the circumstances are changed.

You read the order of service, look at the numbers on the hymn board, the preacher finishes speaking and you turn the pages to find the right hymn, find it: but also find, as the music starts, that you cannot speak. So stricken are you that no words will come.

Where does this feeling lie? In the body or in the mind?

Further. If you have conceived your grief to yourself, as being most simply revealed by the knowledge (both in your mind and in your flesh) that you will never hold your mother again – never hear her voice at the end of a phone – never see her wave goodbye: how can you categorise this experience? How can you categorise the consciously conceived pre-figuring of a future sensual and emotional deficit?


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