Before I walked outside this morning, I checked the temperature. It was thirty seven degrees Fahrenheit. Warm, for this cloudy December day. Here in the Northland we expect colder air at this time of year. As I went out, I noticed my mailman down the street, heading toward my house. I haven’t seen him for several months. His name is Matt. Other people have been delivering my mail since July. I’d wondered what happened to Matt. Maybe he retired, although he doesn’t appear old enough, maybe they switched his route. My dog Sophie hates him and will charge to the end of her tie out cable in an attempt to rip him limb from limb. I don’t know why she does that. He’s a nice man and always speaks to her in a pleasant voice. Dogs are funny. I waited for him at the end of my driveway. As it happens, he brought me an offer for a credit card. That was all. It went straight into the recycle bin. So much paper, time, effort, and money go into things that are just thrown away. We should be able to do better than that.
As we talked, Matt told me he had been run over by a car as he delivered mail. That’s why I hadn’t seen him. He’s been in a body cast. And yet here he was, back on the job, as happy and pleasant as ever. Some may have been scared to go back to it. Having been involved in such a horrific accident, many people would not be pleased about jumping right back in. But Matt is different. He’s a lover of life, and he knows his purpose. He took it all in stride, as they say, not letting the accident get him down.
When I was sixteen, I was involved in a serious car accident. I broke my back and received fifty-two stiches in my head. I was out of school for more than two months recuperating. It scared the hell out of me. I didn’t want to drive or even ride in a car for a long time after that. It’s interesting how things affect us. And I wonder what things in my life made me scared of cars for so long while Matt, actually being run over, simply picked up where he left off, seemingly unaffected by the accident. What goes on in those little brains of ours that make us so different? And what, if anything, can we learn from each other to help us along our way? I wonder how I have changed over the years. I’ve been involved in car accidents since then and have not been affected nearly as badly as the first time. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I realized that I survived the first one, so as long as I survive others, I’ll be alright. I don’t know.
The mind is an amazing world. We know less about our own brains than we know about the universe. We carry this thing around in our heads every day, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to carry it around. And yet we know very little about it. We can’t explain consciousness. What is it? How does it happen? We have no idea. And yet we live in it every day. We are conscious, and we can’t explain what that is. We know what it means. To be awake and aware. But what IS it? How does it arise? No idea. Science keeps working on it but without much success. Maybe it is our fate to know what’s going on outside of ourselves but not inside out own brains. We can know, but we don’t know how we know. Isn’t that strange?
Often, I am content with not knowing how things work. Do we really need to know all about consciousness in order to enjoy it? I suppose the need to know is a good idea in the realm of healthcare. The more we know about the brain, the better able we’ll be to fix it when it breaks down. But in our daily lives, do we need to know? Many people drive cars everyday without being able to explain how that car works. Does it matter? As long as the mechanic knows, do I need to know? I guess I’m inadvertently campaigning for a simpler life. The less I know, the happier I am.
I suppose if people had decided not to improve their brains, decided not to get smarter, not to ask why or how, we’d all still be living in caves. Some awfully smart people invented this computer I’m using to shoot off my mouth with, so I suppose I should be happy about that. Or should I? Does it really make me happy to write nonsense for others to read, or am I happier taking a walk through the woods? And what exactly is happiness, anyway? Can you explain it? We know what makes us happy, but what is happy? What is happiness? And why the hell do these things keep popping into my brain? Wow!