Author Archives: Jonny Sava

Session 46: And a mustache shall lead them

Sunday, January 11, 2015

In today’s column, Jonny Sava discusses why we should not mistake the parts for the (w)hole.

Slide4


Challenging nature itself – Captain Crook – Vicars and tarts – Last bird on earth – Trains across the sea – Hairy, you’re a beast – Future ex-clocks of America


Dear The Recalcitrant Meditator,

Recently, I took my son, Chas. Mercy, to the newly remodeled Burger Baron on West Grand Avenue, where he loves to repose in the fantastical playland they’ve set up out back. You know what I’m talking about—it’s the one replete with all the well-known characters of our childhood, such as Baron Burger, Viceroy McBiscuits, the Fried Guys, the Hot Doggler, Rupert the Sexy Chicken, Grumpus, and Richard Widmark, as “the Mangler.” Like so many of his peers, Chas. enjoys above all luxuriating in the pit of plastic balls. On this particular day, however, one of the kids in the ball pit beside him turned out to have a “ticklish tummy,” and before long the ball pit had been turned into what I think can only properly be referred to as a pit of despair, i.e., throw-up. As the horror unfolded, I was struck by the fact that the more the children thrashed about in order to get clear of the exploding skull of their comrade, the more they became coated in the accumulating muck. Frankly, this got me thinking: are we all just children in a chunder-coated ball pit, and when we try to resist change, are we destined to end up worse than if we were to simply let ourselves be? Relatedly, if some kid blows groceries into your beard, how difficult is that to clean up? Because I’ve got a lot of appointments this afternoon. Can meditation help?

Your friend,
M. Mercy 


Dear M. Mercy,

You have stumbled upon the number one reason why I avoid growing a beard, and instead restrain my facial travails to the growing of mustaches. If you care to know why I bother growing a mustache at all, it is simply because, like all men in heaven and earth, I look way better with a mustache than without. My face, bereft of hair, looks startled—like it is continuously being walked in on whilst pleasuring itself in a church basement. Or as though it has just been shaken awake in the middle of a nightmare. Nevertheless, for about four godless months out of the year I consent to growing a beard, as it seems only fair to my wife to allow her to find me fuckable 33% of the time.

Listen, though—if I’m being absolutely honest, I feel the beard, in practice, has one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to make the process of growing a mustache considerably less humiliating.

Anyone who’s ever donned the mantle of the mustachioed man knows full well that one does not just “grow a mustache,” as though doing so were as easy as opening a window or a can of beans. If one’s goal is to end en mustaché, the only reasonable thing one can do is first force out an entire beard and then—only once that feat has been accomplished—wipe away the superfluous parts of the beard with a knife, as mercilessly as gas tanks are dropped from an ascendant space rocket, and as smoothly as a pat of butter slips off the crown of a biscuit. I cannot imagine anything more awkward than growing a mustache from scratch. A peacock with a fully articulated train, after all, is a sight that pleases nature entire. Even machines are impressed. But when the train trails listlessly behind the bird, he might as well be dragging around a sack of unmasked, flaccid dicks.

I’m sure a percentage of the men who set out to grow a mustache, full stop stop themselves short at the beard stage, never taking that final magic step into legend. And I get it, I get the hesitation, I honestly do. The beard, after all, is a superlative buffer. It buys a man valuable time. Confronted with a bearded belfry, the observer inevitably requires several precious beats before he or she can puzzle out where everything is situated. Sometimes it is not until after the hirsute interlocutor has opened his mouth to speak that the location of the mouth is even known; a warm, pink cavern otherwise sunken deeply into a bushy shoal. In some cases the jawline and chin are never properly mapped, lost forever in the hairy abyss.

But here’s the downside, you see. The man behind a buffer rebuffs the world. He is apt to drown in rumination. When you imagine the bearded man, what image comes to life in your mind? The man who stares joylessly at the ground, well known from oil portraits perched on the walls of many taverns? Or the man who, with visible effort, manages to lift his milky, downturned eyes to the horizon? Picture the stroking hand that lazily hooks into a shock of cheek-grass like a capuchin clinging to its mother’s tit; the tobacco-stained ring which fringes furry lips, as dignified in their comportment as a catfish closing its jaws upon a hillbilly’s elbow. Picture it and know only despair, and sorrow.

Now compare these shades to the alertness of the mustachioed man: the shrewd, if occasionally bemused, contours of the mustachioed man’s gaze—a gaze that is like a knife made radiant by the whetstone. And why is this so? Simple. Unlike his bearded cousins, the mustachioed man knows he has nowhere to hide, that all the money’s on the table, so to speak. His only recourse, then, is to a display of finest grit and spunk. If you are challenged by a bear and all you have with which to defend yourself is a hatpin—albeit a hatpin made of rarest gems—then surely it is only by defying the beast with an upright spine and an iron gaze can you hope to drive your point home, and make it back in time for dinner. For Mustachioed Man, all the world is a bear, and his mustache a hatpin of priceless jewels—as a result, he has trained himself to approach that bear of a world with a roar in his eyes. But take care not to presume that this is so because he is unable to grow a beard—no, he has chosen his mustachioed circumstance for the very sake of becoming braver because of it. The man who leads with a mustache—even if it only precedes him by millimeters—might as well be waving a flag made out of entrails. Everyone is going to be looking at it. “Look at that mustachioed man!” they will cry. “How did he get so grand? Is he…is he coming this way? Madge, start the car! He’s coming right at us!”

When you know you’re going to be an object of speculation, catnip to every pair of eyes, the mind must remain always on the edge of its proverbial seat.

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Therefore, the mustachioed man’s attention is always being drawn back to his own body. He cannot afford the luxury so many of us have, to wear our bodies like a loose flour sack cinched around the waist with an extension cord; to swim lazily within the confines of our own bodies, only occasionally skimming their surfaces where light enters and leaves gather. No, the mustachioed man, always under society’s microscope, always being pointed at by children on the street, always being slipped the evil eyeball by jealous husbands, never stops thinking about his body as body—a body composed of body parts, the mustache being only the best among them—because it is constantly being handed to him as such.

In this, the mustachioed man is deeply in tune with something we all experience, but which few of us recognize, unless we are allowing ourselves to be exceedingly mindful: the knowledge that the body is not the place where we do our business, but is itself the business we are doing. And, baby, it is always business time.

At first glance, any person’s body presents itself as a complete object composed of moving parts, each part riddled with apertures, into which the pricks as well as the pleasures of the world pour. Through these experiences, a personality is formed, to which the body is assigned. But this might be the wrong way of going about it. It may be that we tell ourselves bodies are complete, inalienable objects—owned by this person, owned by that person—because doing so makes it easier to find them, feed them, fuck them, or throw a punch at them, given what the situation suggests. Telling ourselves our own bodies, too, are complete, inalienable objects which we own—mine, mine, mine!—makes it easier to find ourselves, feed ourselves, fuck ourselves, and feel as though we’re being punched, when that’s what seems to be what’s happening. It also makes it easier to grow so attached to them that we are consumed with anxiety that they will change (grow old, decay, disintegrate, taking the personality we’ve assigned to them with them), and then are consumed with regret when they do. So it might be better, in the final analysis, to consider whether what we perceive to be complete body objects are simply a series of moving parts that, true to that name, are always and always have been in motion. Changing from moment to moment, there can really be no body that is unquestionably “ours” to treasure or defend; relatedly, there can be no body that is “his” or “hers” to cling to, lust after, reject, or abhor.

This is one of those notions that sounds unbelievably grim but which certainly doesn’t have to be regarded as such. If we are not overly attached to an idea about “who we are”—often represented as a personality enshrined in a body—then we grant ourselves the liberty to change, as surely as the moving parts we call a body change with each pump of the blood, each blink of the eye, each lungful of breath. When we come to terms with this unstoppable change-iness, we realize we do not have to be trapped by where we have been, or where we (or others) think we are going. On the other hand, said unstoppable change-iness requires us to choose how we want to act in each moment, based upon what that moment has presented to us, which can be incredibly intimidating. But this is precisely why those of us who practice formal meditation techniques (Vipassana, etc.) do so: to get comfortable making those moment-to-moment choices, helped along by our having gotten comfortable noticing and accepting change.

No less important, however, is informal meditation practice, i.e., a conscious attending to change throughout the day. Now, you may have noticed that for the mustachioed man, every encounter with a mirror is not only an excuse but a mandate to tune his instrument. Not only traditional mirrors, of course, but any reflective surface will do: the sun-darkened window outside a bedroom at midday; the chrome of a 1956 Cadillac Sixty Special; the silver side of a serving bowl. Of course, if you see a man crouched before the belt buckle of a bystander trimming the edges of his hairy terrace with a switchblade, it is easy to regard such a scene as vanity run amok. But it is something more. The mustachioed man has let himself grow so mustachioed precisely because it requires him to constantly perform upkeep on his grassy eminence. Let’s examine the alternative. Tending a beard is like tending a jungly garden. You could uproot an entire shrub and not even the dog would notice. The pruned beard, at its heart, is the equivalent of a junk shop, where the sale of a human-hair broom stashed behind a rusty wheelbarrow causes barely a stir, if its absence is registered at all. Tending a mustache, on the other hand, can be nothing less nerve-wracking than tending an orchid, where a small detail out of place threatens to send the whole arrangement into disarray. The mustachioed man knows that there is always an outlaw mustache hair waiting in the undergrowth to punch at the air like a raver’s fist, if not an entire legion of discontents ready at a moment’s notice to merge with the hairs of the nose in a sordid “take back the face” campaign. The mustachioed man is always upper lip-deep in a bubble bath of change, so when you see him whipping out his tiny comb, please don’t think, “What a complete asshole!” Instead, think, “Gosh, what a meditator!”

Slide3

Okay, I’m not saying this type of behavior can’t or won’t devolve into vanity. The risk is there. But it’s the same risk Buddhists have recognized since forgotten times, a risk that lingers at the party in the shadows by the punch bowl and the radio, which is why chants like this are common among them:

All beings will die,
they are of the nature to die,
and I too will also die,
of that I have no doubt.

So it is also the case that Buddhists recommend meditators contemplate their own rotting corpse, with long and deep contemplations, until one has calmed one’s proclivity to cling, and can rightly repudiate that haunting line from Full Metal Jacket, “The dead know only one thing—it is better to be alive.”

So it is that the righteous mustachioed man, as painful as it may be, must contemplate his face free of mustaches, with long and deep contemplations, until he has calmed his proclivity to cling to his pretty prize, and all the privileges that travel with it. Those who still have pictures of themselves as children might consider carrying around such a snapshot in his wallet, to be taken out and studied whenever he finds the attentions paid to his mustache have more in common with fixation than meditation. I might also recommend using PhotoShop to remove the mustache from present-day portraits of oneself, by utilizing the program’s provocative “joy murderer” effect. More extreme personalities might consider using the occasion of a very long trip abroad to shave off his mustache, particularly if journeying to a place where no one knows him nor is likely to ever see him again, and/or a place where Americans are loathed and despised anyway. This affords one the valuable opportunity to contemplate the rotting corpse of his naked upper lip, and also grants access to advanced lessons in mindfulness. For example: observe how you react to other people’s reactions to you, especially when clinging to expectations of how those reactions “should” be. Do you tense up? Do you feel a halo of heat around your temples? Do you find your finger unconsciously drifting to your upper lip as though in protest, only to remember that you have no bullets left in your chamber to fire?

To remind yourself that death comes to all people, no matter how learned, no matter how beloved, no matter how mustachioed, take a moment, and settle into contemplating great figures of mindfulness wearing mustaches of varying degrees of sumptuousness. Here—we can do it together.

Affecting an upright and alert posture, bring into your mind the gently creased, unrelentingly delighted countenance of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Now, while slowly breathing in, imagine His Holiness sprouting a lush, bird-concealing bandito mustache. And now, while slowly breathing out, imagine the mustache receding again. How did you feel on the in breath, as compared to the outward one? Did you first feel exultation, followed by a crushing sense of loss, as though everything good and sweet about the world had been extracted from it with a resin-crusted pair of pliers? Now, repeat the exercise, this time imagining the bright and serene features of Thich Nhat Hanh, upgraded on your in-breath with the appearance of a thorn-thin Clark Gable mustache—as fine as though painted on with lasers, or the ink-dipped beak of a nightingale, yet strong as sailing rope. As you extinguish the invoked mustache on the out breath, try to be at peace with the knowledge that all life is transformation. If you find yourself objecting, observe your objections, so that they do not overwhelm you when they arise again. Repeat as often as necessary, adding, as needed: Jon Kabat-Zinn with the neatly pointed Cupid’s bow mustache of a tubercular gunslinger; Joseph Goldstein with the radical “inverted Hitler” mustache Peter O’Toole wears in Becket; and Jack Kornfield with…ahhh, well, it’s already there.

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Now, here’s a bombshell I’ve saved for the post-script: you do not actually need a mustache to act mustachioed. At least not in the way we’ve been talking about here. Yes, the mustache may be the face’s finest centerpiece, jauntily doffing itself to the world like gay icon Mr. Peanut’s top hat, and yet like every moving part in these gloriously changeable things we call “bodies,” it is eminently replaceable. Likewise, it is not the only, or even the best way to notice change happening around you. The opportunities for that abound, and the more you pay attention to them, the more you will notice them, and others. These include the fickle shapes of clouds; the way the shifting angle of the sun alters how the stuff of the earth gets shaded and illuminated throughout the day; the way the taste of a cup of coffee is refashioned as it cools; the tremors of machinery of heating and cooling kicking in and kicking off in the walls of the buildings where you live and work; the sound of a voice receding in the distance.

Notice, and love what you notice, but do not fall in love with what you notice. You may not be able to avoid missing it when it’s gone, but do not practice clinging to the missing. In taking note of the change-iness of the world, act as though you are trimming your mustache with a colossal pair of gardening shears. If you do not bring complete awareness to every gesture, you’re likely to blaze a stripe straight through the fruitage. But when this does happen—as it no doubt will—do not despair. You are not one with your mustache, after all, it is only there to remind you that all things, and all moments, must sprout and flower and die. A mustache devastated is as clear-sighted a teacher as a mustache resplendent.

I remain, as always, obediently yours,
Jonny Sava 


(1) Except, of course, that there can be no pleasure without the mustache, only empty yanking.

(2)Except, of course, that not having a mustache is a nightmare from which one’s face can never awaken.

(3) A.K.A., the “poor man’s mustache.”

(4) In this, my marriage compares well to some of the great marriages of legend, in particular that of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. You remember the story. This is the fizzy corker in which Gawain—the Montgomery Clift of the Round Table—agrees to marry a subhuman hag, because Arthur pissed down her wizard-dad’s drainpipe or something, and this is the only way Wizard Daddy would agree to spare Arthur’s life. As a result of his act of idiotic heroic generosity, it is revealed to Gawain that Ragnelle only need appear with a face like a bowl of eggplant pulp for half of each day, and during the other half she will appear as the most comely creature Gawain has ever seen. Sidebar: how long do you think we’ll have to wait before having an Arthurian legend-style name becomes de rigueur for fedora-topped hipster children? I sincerely hope/dread that my unborn children will one day attend kindergarten alongside a Ragnelle, a Bertilak, a Sir Gromer, et al.

(5) For added effect, I recommend adding in a lot of grunting and sweating.

(6) These parts are easily recognizable as the parts that are not sandwiched neatly between the nose and tongue.

(7) Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes. Do I really deserve this mustache, as mediocre as it is, in the grand scheme of things? Left to my own devices, would I really rise to any challenge? Left alone in a cabin for fear of zombie hordes, there to live out my days, would I be able to teach myself to fashion two squirrel teeth and the elastic gut of a goose into a makeshift toenail clipper?

(8) The most tender, desirable cut.

(9) Or dressing a child for a pageant. Or trimming the fingernails of the dead. You know, all mustache metaphors may be destined to make a person feel super uncomfortable.

(10) Or, as Ajahn Brahmavamso recommends, witnessing a Buddhist funeral, which he describes thusly: “There the body of the person who has died is not sanitized by embalmers. It’s just put into a very simple coffin so that everyone can go and look at, and even touch, the person who has died. It is then burnt out in the open. The very cheap wood of the coffin quickly burns away to reveal the body. The body burns away part by part, bit by bit, and you can see the members of the body come apart from each other. You can see the skull pop and explode, and all the other parts of the body eventually just being burnt away. After many hours, all that’s left are the bones. To be able to see death in the raw is a marvelous privilege in one’s life. By sanitizing death we are preserving the illusion … that life will go on forever.”

(11) Canada.

(12) If you do not have your own mustache to work with, try practicing with a colossal pair of gardening shears on the mustache of a friend.

Except, of course, that there can be no pleasure without the mustache, only empty yanking.
Except, of course, that not having a mustache is a nightmare from which one’s face can never awaken.
A.K.A., the “poor man’s mustache.”
In this, my marriage compares well to some of the great marriages of legend, in particular that of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. You remember the story. This is the fizzy corker in which Gawain—the Montgomery Clift of the Round Table—agrees to marry a subhuman hag, because Arthur pissed down her wizard-dad’s drainpipe or something, and this is the only way Wizard Daddy would agree to spare Arthur’s life. As a result of his act of idiotic heroic generosity, it is revealed to Gawain that Ragnelle only need appear with a face like a bowl of eggplant pulp for half of each day, and during the other half she will appear as the most comely creature Gawain has ever seen. Sidebar: how long do you think we’ll have to wait before having an Arthurian legend-style name becomes de rigueur for fedora-topped hipster children? I sincerely hope/dread that my unborn children will one day attend kindergarten alongside a Ragnelle, a Bertilak, a Sir Gromer, et al.
For added effect, I recommend adding in a lot of grunting and sweating.
These parts are easily recognizable as the parts that are not sandwiched neatly between the nose and tongue.
Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes. Do I really deserve this mustache, as mediocre as it is, in the grand scheme of things? Left to my own devices, would I really rise to any challenge? Left alone in a cabin for fear of zombie hordes, there to live out my days, would I be able to teach myself to fashion two squirrel teeth and the elastic gut of a goose into a makeshift toenail clipper?
The most tender, desirable cut.
Or dressing a child for a pageant. Or trimming the fingernails of the dead. You know, all mustache metaphors may be destined to make a person feel super uncomfortable.
Or, as Ajahn Brahmavamso recommends, witnessing a Buddhist funeral, which he describes thusly: “There the body of the person who has died is not sanitized by embalmers. It’s just put into a very simple coffin so that everyone can go and look at, and even touch, the person who has died. It is then burnt out in the open. The very cheap wood of the coffin quickly burns away to reveal the body. The body burns away part by part, bit by bit, and you can see the members of the body come apart from each other. You can see the skull pop and explode, and all the other parts of the body eventually just being burnt away. After many hours, all that’s left are the bones. To be able to see death in the raw is a marvelous privilege in one’s life. By sanitizing death we are preserving the illusion … that life will go on forever.”
Canada.
If you do not have your own mustache to work with, try practicing with a colossal pair of gardening shears on the mustache of a friend.

Session 45: The Ephemeral Artery (or, Auditioning for the End of Civilization)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

In today’s column, Jonny Sava cautions a reader against clinging too tightly to “the habit of mindfulness” by relating a holiday tale, and goes on to suggest that two breaths are better than one.

Slide1


 Between the devil and the deep blue seizure – When slights are slow – I’ve grown accustomed to your taste – Gibletting – Rage of the age – I feel petty – Lullaby of birdland.


 Dear The Recalcitrant Meditator,

In the recent run-up to Thanksgiving, that day of days when stress seems to feed on the flesh of the living like a succubus, I started meditating extra hard, double-time, occasionally blacking out from the strain. Despite such ardent preparations, however, when the Big Show finally arrived, I found that the littlest thing would set me off. When the crust of my pie became blackened by the exertions of an over-enthusiastic oven, I became so overwhelmed with grief and rage that I inverted the ruined pie upon the counter, forced it by the gobful into my Nalgene Grip ‘n’ Gulp, declared it my “pumpkin energy drink” before God and everyone, then took off running into the night improperly pantsed. When the authorities finally found me several hours later by the old sawmill, making a hat out of a discarded porno mag I had found in a hole in a tree, the best I could do was fake a fugue state and hope no one would press charges (no one did!). Any advice for negotiating the holidays? Can meditation help?

Your Friend,
M. Mercy


Dear M. Mercy,

Reading your letter, I can’t help but be reminded of an interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn I spied in the May 2013 issue of the French weekly L’Express, in which he states, “I try to cultivate a dynamic balance in my life, which consists of passing from one imbalance to the next.”

This comment is wedged crisply into the very last moments of the article, almost as an afterthought, but it stuck out at me. First of all, here we have one of the most mindful guys in the western world admitting his life consists of a series of imbalanced states. This not only serves to give the rest of us regular, bush-league meditators hope, but it underscores the first thing that any mindfulness teacher will teach a student, and also the first thing any student of mindfulness is liable to forget: that if you start mediating in earnest and yet you still find yourself occasionally (or perhaps even more than occasionally)feeling lonely, or anxious, or bored, or frustrated, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Challenging states are the bedrock of existence, as impossible to avoid as the weather. It is the ability to step gingerly through these challenging states—as one might step across a chain of rocks dotting a crater of hot lava in an adventure film—that is the thing to aspire to. And, once you get good at that, to be able to climb, hand over hand like on monkey bars, over these challenging states. And, once you get good at that, to be able to creep alertly over them as on a tightrope. And, once you get good at that, to be able to buzz past them as on a zip-line.

In service of this, it might be helpful to define the state of being “balanced” not as the state of having forevermore vanquished or voided “imbalance,” but rather as the skill that allows states of imbalance to not get the better of you. The ability, that is, to negotiate the migration from one state of inevitable disequilibrium to the next, without feeling like your skull is going to crack open and snakes are going to crawl out from the rubble.

Doing that is hard enough. It requires a lot of practice, a lot of attention, probably a lot of meditation. But there’s something even harder to accomplish, in my opinion. And that is avoiding grasping at mindfulness itself, once you’ve begun to develop it.

Let’s say you’ve reached the point where you’re no long just flailing and gasping from one crisis to the next. Good. You’ve been taking your meditation pills daily for a while now, and consequently, you feel serene and assured even in the midst of chaos—you remain placid while those around you have to watch their stuffing come out of their seams every time Wegman’s runs out of their favorite brand of butter. The challenge you face now is not getting trapped into believing serenity and assuredness in the midst of chaos are abiding traits you’ve locked down, and now you’re free to just kick back and await nibbana while the sad-assed, anxious world toddles by, chewing its cheeks and peeing on itself.

The serenity and assuredness which you’re rightfully proud of having achieved is a result of carefully observing that clinging to expectations of how things “ought to be,” inevitably results in the experience of suffering. And when you loosen the habit of clinging to expectation, you simply suffer far less. It’s not that you’ve done away with chaos, rather, you’ve recognized it’s always going to be a little bit chaotic, and just as importantly, it isn’t going to be all-the-way chaotic all the time.

But there are challenges within challenges in mindfulness—and so, fittingly, once you’ve recognized why not clinging is a vital trait, it becomes equally vital to not cling to that feeling of achievement. That’s right—as easily as one can cling to mindless habits, one can cling to mindful habits, too.

In the big, hard world, this might be referred to as “getting soft.” But it’s really nothing more than a hiccup in the art of observation. It’s one thing to train yourself to observe when feelings of anger and disappointment have snuck up behind you and, before you know it, tied themselves into thrumming knots in your body; it’s a different business altogether to train yourself to observe when you’ve become suffused by feelings of pleasure and confidence, and to counsel caution in leaning too deeply into them. Staying attentive in this way, however, is not about banishing pleasurable feelings, but rather about not becoming so hypnotized by them that when their opposites eventually emerge—as they eventually will—you are not taken so much by surprise that you are knocked entirely off your feet.

But, you know, I keep saying “you” when I really mean “me,” because I can only imagine how you are. I can describe exactly how I am, at least to a point. And any effort to do so takes us back just a few short weeks to the last major American holiday on the calendar, Thanksgiving.

Despite my best efforts, I got creamed by steadily escalating states of disequilibrium during the recent Thanksgiving antics. Don’t get me wrong, it started out well enough. I mean, it always starts out well enough. Let me paint you a picture.

We begin in media res.

Slide2

I am in the kitchen, having pulled the turkey tight over my hand like a rubber glove. I don’t mean that I had my fist up its stuffing-hole,—I think you would agree that would be better characterized as “wearing the turkey like a baseball glove,” or a giant foam finger. No, what I’m saying is that after several moments of meticulous effort I had succeeded in dislodging the turkey’s skin from its flesh, and had subsequently shoehorned my entire hand between those lean, but startlingly elastic, layers. I had made it to second base.

I found this to be an unexpectedly mysterious moment. Obviously there is skin, on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is flesh—this is clear to any meat-eater. Despite what is clearly demonstrated on my own body, though, I had never given much thought to the fact that these two substances are indelibly linked, and the skin of an uncooked turkey has no intention of separating from the flesh for which it is the wrapper without first putting up a terrific fight. And yet fighting it will get you nowhere. You may be tempted to rough up the turkey. This is normal. Most people who get into the business of roasting a whole turkey do so with the idea that the turkey is the enemy. It would be one thing if you had actually known the turkey during its lifetime, if you had cut it down in the prime of its life for the express purpose of avenging an ancient ill. But if you’re anything like me and went to Whole Foods three days before Thanksgiving, trotted over to the special turkey trough they wheel out this time of year and just grabbed a turkey-sized bundle off the top, it makes little sense to launch into your preparations with an overtly hostile attitude.

In past times I have favored what I consider to be the passive-aggressive method of turkey preparation, a.k.a. brining. This technique allows one to enjoy the satisfaction of ritualistically drowning the turkey, but at a voyeur’s safe remove. One is spared having to do anything more intimate than casually nudging the turkey into the drink, and then stepping away while nature does its work. I left the brining behind, however, after a poorly conceived turkey bath in an earlier year malfunctioned and caused my refrigerator to gush raw turkey juice on Thanksgiving morning like the river of blood that ricochets past the elevator doors in The Shining. This year I decided to try an alternate method, which involved sneakily concealing the flavor between flesh and skin, which is really the last place anyone expects to look for it.

As I implied earlier, though, you can’t just jam it in there. If you read the recipe I read, you will see it says this: “Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and breast meat to loosen skin.” It sounds simple enough. Then again, I assumed there would be an obvious entry point—perhaps a pull-tab I could use to begin tugging the skin away from the flesh? But no—no such thing exists. The closest material experience I can compare this process to is when you’re at the grocery store and you tear a plastic bag off the spool and then you have to figure out which side is supposed to open because neither side seems like it wants to, despite the use of modernist-type illustrated arrows that pretend to offer instruction, and so you resort to licking your first finger and your thumb and massaging both ends vigorously until either a) one of the ends wiggles apart and turns what was a second ago a flat sheet of plastic into a perfectly serviceable plastic bag, like magic, or b) you are wrestled to the ground by grocery store authorities.

As it turns out, a turkey is much less different from a plastic bag ripped off a spool at the grocery store than one might imagine.

Eschewing the part where I lick my fingers, obviously (?), I began to give the turkey what I can only describe as a “deep tissue massage.” After a few moments of observing how the skin and the flesh reacted to my touch, I was able to begin mapping exactly how the skin was attached to the flesh, and furthermore, how the skin might be rendered askew from the flesh, and furthermore, how the edges of the loose neck meat might be readily exploited for access. Before long my hand was creeping discreetly from neck to cavity, just beneath the surface of the skin. The first flush of success colored my ashen cheeks.

Make no mistake, however—crawling from one end of that awful channel to the other did not happen in a flash, like ripping off a Band-Aid. It was edgy, painstaking work. Traveling even an inch beneath the skin involved several minutes of careful prodding with my completely immersed fingers, as in a prison tunnel, so as to ultimately leave the skin detached from the breast, but otherwise intact and untorn. Given the amount of time this took, I found myself discovering things I did not expect to discover. More to the point, I found myself discovering things I did not want to discover. For example, I began to fixate on the hard nubs punctuating the turkey’s neck skin, not to mention the neck itself, a stalk interrupted; intimate details frequently occluded in the sorts of food preparation even the most avid home cooks undertake. The pores where feathers had obviously been plucked were an equally grotesque reminder that not so long ago this creature had been off living its life, knowing little of how the ax would prove its final reward.

Don’t panic! I am not preparing to launch into some sort of moralizing screed. The final scene in this little domestic drama, excluded here because it’s banal as hell, involves me eating this turkey’s generous output by the fistful, having roasted it brown and slathered it in its own drippings. At this stage, however, what I’m concerned with imparting is how switched on I’d become to the ways in which this beast was a fellow traveler between worlds; not only between the realms of the living and the expired, but between the inner world and the outer world, where every individual, turkey or person, wades. I could clearly imagine how lived experience had caused this turkey’s body to vibrate like a tuning fork. And this skin, which I found myself involved in up to my elbows, how resilient it was! Even when tugging on it with a touch of gusto, it stretched, but did not break. Holy shit, is my body the same? Is this what it would be like if someone were to put their hand underneath my skin? In that moment, I found myself awash with gratitude for my own resilient skin. I was moreover in awe of how the edge of a piece of paper can so easily, almost sweetly, slice that skin, even as the heft of a hammer can only bruise it. The dumb wonder of it all! Yes, this turkey had gotten under my skin, all right, as much as I had gotten under his.

I was beginning to feel kinship.

Slide3

For those awaiting the feast, I can imagine this was the point in the day when I started to become really annoying. Because this is the point when I started clapping myself on the back and congratulating myself on just how mindful I had become. After all, it was not as though I was treating this turkey like a piece of meat, but rather a true participant in the celebration for whose participation I was visibly grateful. My heart was as pliant as a soft-boiled egg. Before long, however, my efforts at massaging dips of herbed butter across the turkey’s planes and crannies no doubt began to seem less culinary in nature and more recreational. I was scrubbing it the way one might give a baby a bath. I got close enough to it to whisper in its ear, which maybe I would have done if only its head had not been somewhere else entirely. Family members began to gently suggest that I might be spending too much time with the turkey.

“Always in there with the turkey!” they cried, perplexed, even a little bit disturbed. “What is he doing, anyway? Not with real people does he spend so much time! How much butter can one turkey take? His fingers must be like disgusting prunes by now!”

The eggnog is removed to a safe haven where it can do me no harm.

But moments pass as moments do, the oven is pre-heated, the turkey goes in, and only occasionally does its fragrant chariot get eased back out of the deep, just far enough for the guest of honor to have its own juices sucked up and squirted back over it.

Awash in the hot, hot heat of mindfulness, I rest easy, knowing I am invincible.

And then the unraveling begins.

Slide4

It’s no one thing that does it, of course—anyone who’s ever undertaken to cook a multi-course meal knows there’s no one disaster that causes one’s best laid plans to begin spinning horrifically into the abyss. Rather, it’s the accumulation of small events—death by a thousand mis-mashed potatoes—which tumble together until it feels like the walls are closing in.

For example. I started off cleaning as I went, as I was taught to do, scrubbing each measuring cup, pan, and wooden spoon as soon as it was dirtied, in order to ensure that when the roasted vegetables announced their need to be agitated in their carriage, I was not left scrambling for an ovenproof spatula carelessly encrusted in pie gore. This heedfulness, however, does not last for long. Cleaning each utensil as it gets used gradually deteriorated into cleaning every other utensil as it gets used, and then every third utensil, until all of a sudden I look down and realize I’m stirring the gravy with a candy cane and bouncing flour into it with a shoehorn. Before I have time to think, the precarious goo has clamped together like a dog’s jaws closing on a hank of yarn.

What about my plan to have all the side-dishes marching along in an orderly and dignified fashion, you might ask? Well, that disappeared straight down the shitter. Despite my best efforts to keep everything on a schedule, the rolls and the casseroles and the pies and the sauces have all ended up either underdone or overdone or not done at all, some dishes destined to be accidentally left on top of the washing machine, only to be found days later, in a kind of feral state, like the sole survivor of a massacre, hiding in the closet and covered in rat bites.

Looking around, observing the faces of those I was meant to be feeding, I felt a growing sense of panic, fearing the veneer of propriety that keeps society clicking its heels and whistling a tune might break down at any moment. I was reminded of the familiar scene on view at airport terminals when a flight gets cancelled—when whatever social contract that allows people to engage in small talk with their neighbors or help elderly fellow-travelers with their bags or offer peanuts to kittens in kitten-carriers is instantly terminated, and suddenly the once equable mob breaks apart into frantic, sneering, human-sized gobs climbing over their own faces in a bid to have the first shot at haranguing the poor asshole manning the counter.

“Where’s your mindfulness now?” the turkey guffaws from Hell, where it reveals itself as a dread and red-skinned harbinger of chaos.

“I gave you the best moments of my morning!” I cry back. But it is no use.

Let’s recap.

It’s easy to be mindful when it’s easy to be mindful, but what happens when being mindful becomes really fucking difficult? Potentially: disaster. One way to avoid disaster, however, is to not get caught up in drifting haphazardly from balance (“This turkey really gets me!”) to imbalance (“This dinner can’t take much more abuse, Captain! She’s coming apart in our hands!”), instead endeavoring to stay in a state of constant alertness. Not a state of constant tension, mind, but rather a state of perpetually gentle observance. It is through a practice like meditation that we gradually develop this mindset as a default mode, so it doesn’t always have to be switched on manually, but hums along watchfully in the background.

Nevertheless, even the most mindful among us can run into problems if we take our mindful “default mode” for granted. Being mindful, ironically enough, can become a habit all its own, and as such, can unexpectedly morph into something we cling to, leading to frustration and disappointment when it is compromised.

It’s tempting to treat the notion of becoming and remaining perfectly, unequivocally mindful as a goal. If we could achieve such a state, wouldn’t we find ourselves forever cradled in a soft, sweet state of relaxed awareness? Doesn’t that sound good? It’s tempting, too, to judge our own mindful selves as separate from those who seem to know nothing whatsoever of mindfulness, and who must therefore conceive of themselves as beset on all sides and at all times by terrible excitations. If you are a human reading these words, however—and not some robot clerk three hundred years from now scanning the digital landfill of human experience for items worthy of permanent deletion—you probably exist on the spectrum somewhere between the two. The trick, I think, is to identify the click.

Slide5

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof—I’m talking about the movie now, though I presume the play relates something similar—Brick (played by handsome proto-hipster moppet Paul Newman) talks about “the click in my head that makes me feel peaceful.”

“It’s like a switch, clickin’ off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on, and all of a sudden there’s peace.”

This causes his father, Big Daddy—played by the extraordinary Burl Ives, a sort of folk-singing Colonel Sanders minus the trunks full of Nazi memorabilia stuffed away in the basement—“Boy, you’re a real alcoholic!”

This, of course, is because the click Brick is referring to encompasses those arresting tingles that come on after drinking, sometimes after only a few sips of drink. Having enjoyed a glass or two in my time, I can attest that the moment in which the world goes a few degrees askance is not very different from the moment in which one mindfully disengages from one’s habitual reactions in order to observe one’s own thoughts and actions from a mindful vantage, even if it can be argued that the latter effect is more wholesomely achieved. All of our short, long, miserable, mindful lives might be thought of as a series of clicks into awareness before we are once again sucked into states of compromised awareness. The trick, then, is to make sure the clicks keep coming.

One way to be pro-active in this regard is to meditate, to keep meditating, to meditate more—of course. But perhaps a more practical method, especially when walking into a situation that is just bound to be drenched in stress, is to find a mindfulness buddy. We all need a mindfulness buddy. It could be a partner, a friend, anyone who knows you well enough to know when your clicks have started getting overturned by twitches. Someone, in other words, who can look you in the eye and say, “It’s time to breathe now, asshole. Let’s breathe together.”

With two, you’re twice as likely to keep clicking.

But don’t worry about me, I’ll have another chance to show off my mindfulness at Christmas. And that hot little ham better get ready for some serious goddamn butterlove.

I remain, as always, obediently yours,
Jonny Sava


(1) I imagine you are wonderful!

(2) That’s what “second base” is, right? I won’t lie, as a teen-aged person I was as shit-poor at making out as I was at playing baseball. First base, in my mind, consisted of calling up a girl (on a telephone, even! Attached to a cord! That disappeared into a wall!), convincing her she did know who I was and that I wasn’t going to murder her in the woods; second base consisted of open-mouthed kissing, with or without tongues. Sometimes the tongues were involved, but it was impossible to predict the extent of their involvement in advance. Sometimes it was just two gaping spaces, attached to one another like an incorrectly assembled human centipede. There were only two bases, by the way. The game I was playing involved running back and forth between those bases, and there were definitely no fans.

(3) I mean, not literally, mind you. If you have only skin on one hand and only flesh on the other, you are a monster.

(4) Not merely some sort of unassuming chemise which the turkey demurely sheds at the slightest provocation.

(5) Stanley Kubrick’s beloved holiday classic, The Shining.

(6) As one might hide a handgun inside a hollowed-out Bible.

(7) Is that so much to ask, God?

(8) The “pointer,” or “masterfinger.”

(9) And as with any deep-tissue massage, soft music and candles were brought in, knees and elbows were fully deployed, and, finally, there came the application of special herbed butters.

(10) It felt like what happens when Astronaut Dave enters the monolith at the end of 2001, but with turkeys.

(11) In what I can only imagine is a nightmarish pile of turkey heads that collects along the edge of any given slaughterhouse in late November, which farmers hardened to the realities of life probably refer to by a fun nickname, like “meat pennies,” or “gypsy apples.”

(12) Basting is one of those essential turkey-making rites that it’s really better not too think too hard about. If you do, you will come to the realization that basting is roughly equivalent to, say, if you were at the doctor supplying a urine sample, and once you exited the bathroom and handed the plastic jar to the nurse, he or she were to unscrew the lid, and throw the pee into your face. And then eat you.

(13) Come to think of it, that might have been a monkey.

(14) You found them, pal!

I imagine you are wonderful!
That’s what “second base” is, right? I won’t lie, as a teen-aged person I was as shit-poor at making out as I was at playing baseball. First base, in my mind, consisted of calling up a girl (on a telephone, even! Attached to a cord! That disappeared into a wall!), convincing her she did know who I was and that I wasn’t going to murder her in the woods; second base consisted of open-mouthed kissing, with or without tongues. Sometimes the tongues were involved, but it was impossible to predict the extent of their involvement in advance. Sometimes it was just two gaping spaces, attached to one another like an incorrectly assembled human centipede. There were only two bases, by the way. The game I was playing involved running back and forth between those bases, and there were definitely no fans.
I mean, not literally, mind you. If you have only skin on one hand and only flesh on the other, you are a monster.
Not merely some sort of unassuming chemise which the turkey demurely sheds at the slightest provocation.
Stanley Kubrick’s beloved holiday classic, The Shining.
As one might hide a handgun inside a hollowed-out Bible.
Is that so much to ask, God?
The “pointer,” or “masterfinger.”
And as with any deep-tissue massage, soft music and candles were brought in, knees and elbows were fully deployed, and, finally, there came the application of special herbed butters.
It felt like what happens when Astronaut Dave enters the monolith at the end of 2001, but with turkeys.
In what I can only imagine is a nightmarish pile of turkey heads that collects along the edge of any given slaughterhouse in late November, which farmers hardened to the realities of life probably refer to by a fun nickname, like “meat pennies,” or “gypsy apples.”
Basting is one of those essential turkey-making rites that it’s really better not too think too hard about. If you do, you will come to the realization that basting is roughly equivalent to, say, if you were at the doctor supplying a urine sample, and once you exited the bathroom and handed the plastic jar to the nurse, he or she were to unscrew the lid, and throw the pee into your face. And then eat you.
Come to think of it, that might have been a monkey.
You found them, pal!

Coming Home

Saturday, December 6, 2014

In today’s column, Jonny Sava considers the potent dangers of arriving in a physical location without first taking the time to arrive in the present moment.

Framing it: From dis- to re- and back again

Listen, I think I really “got” my tattoo for the first time yesterday. I’ve written about this sexy MF elsewhere, but in case you need to be reminded, here is what it looks like:

Coming_Home_b

For those of you who don’t recognize the design, it’s based on an ensō by Thich Nhat Hanh, who I think we would be well within our rights to call the “bad boy of the ensō,” on account of his provocative insistence on inserting calligraphy into the centers of his circles. When I’ve described this tattoo to people in the past, I’ve typically taken the tack of calling it a celebration of this hypothesis: that in every moment, with every breath, we return—or at least are given the opportunity to return—“home,” to our center. This is certainly plausible from a mindfulness standpoint, but until yesterday, I had not grasped how fraught it can be to attempt to literally arrive home before figuratively making an effort to do so.

See, on account of work demands I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Princeton and Boston much more than usual this season. Usually when I head to the main office I’m away for roughly a week, during which time my wife descends into what I contend is a flagrantly feral state. Let me be clear: this assessment is accurate only in my mind. What actually happens is that my wife begins to behave like a normal human person, in the absence of my addling influence upon her. And here is what I imagine normal people do: they make a mess—adding to the pile of wigs in the corner; overturning a box of goffering irons in search of screws; stacking seaweed salad-encrusted dishes in the sink for future scouring exercises—and then at some point after that, they rectify the mess. In other words, things become disarrayed, and then in time, they become re-arrayed.

This is something I have struggled my entire life to accept. For me, the amount of time that elapses between “dis-” and “re-” is in direct proportion to how much I feel like I’m eating a box of bees. When dining alone and therefore not in a position to skeez anyone out with my creeptastic behavior, for example, I have developed a technique that involves cleaning the dishes I’m eating off of between bites of what I’m eating off of them. It looks strange, like that gonzo M.C. Escher lithograph of hands drawing each other, but it gets me back to a state of neutrality—or, more properly put, the illusion of a state of neutrality—as quickly as possible. One day I shall teach these techniques to the world, and then I shall vanish in a puff of soot and sulphur.

Coming_Home_a

Clearly this sort of behavior is bound to make me feel and behave like a hysterical, pilled-up housewife from the dark days of non-robot-powered vacuum cleaning. And there’s no doubt that it does. It keeps me chasing a false image of “home”—as a state of predestined, predictable order—and consequently leaves me in a perpetual state of mental homelessness.

You’ll often hear Jon Kabat-Zinn railing against such strains of skewed and skewering logic: when I finally get to go on vacation, then I can relax; when I finish this last bit of work, then I’ll be “done.” The reality is that one is never finished, not really, at least not until the Big Finish, but that’s a different topic. And yet, when commuting between Boston and Princeton, having spent six hours on train after train, having drug my trunks across the student-choked sidewalks buttressing both ends of the trip, when I finally tumble through my door, I am still liable to declare to myself, sometimes out loud, “I have arrived! I am home!”

The victory is fleeting, of course, as so-called victories always are. Because then the unease creeps in. The knowledge that other humans (in this case, my wife) have been living their lives, peaceably enough, but outside the realm of my control, all the time that I’ve been gone. Observe: the couch has moved a quarter-inch across the floor. The spatulas have made their way into the ladle slots. A bag of pumpkin gore is sitting on the front porch covered in flies. My gut response to such cyclonic chaos is to immediately begin sweeping, scouring, scrubbing, razing, hosing down, hosing up, unfurling, furling; in short, unfucking up what I perceive to be superfucked.

We might name this a failure of perception.

My mistake is obvious. Any child can see it. I anticipated returning to a fabricated idea of “home,” one resembling some perfected state, some neutered normal, and so when my expectations failed to be fulfilled, my brain immediately started freaking out and doing its damnedest to iron out the inconsistencies it found, which were legion, because what it was anticipating was a fantasy.

What this process cheats me of is the feeling of being settled, because reality is always going to be one step behind the things the brain can conceive of and hope for. Being convinced of the opposite can be a useful delusion when you’re working out how to shoot monkeys into space; less useful, however, when you start expecting your house to have miraculously cleaned itself while you were out gassing up the yacht. Feeling settled must always involve a certain amount of “settling” for what you’ve got. On the other hand, that feeling of having “settled” only needs to last as long as it takes to transfer the energy that had been devoted to the task of wanting to the task of observing. From a place of energized observation, it becomes possible to see how a few layers might be shaved off the desiring mind and repurposed towards shoring up the appreciating mind—the mind that is settled, and never feels as though it is settling for anything.

So there’s another way of going about arriving, one the better angels of my nature would endorse: treating home not as a 1:1 scale model of my desires and expectations—a map, that is, both directing me towards those things and also drawn up from them—a place, that is, where my beautiful ducks are all in a row, quietly waiting to be fed and then de-headed—but rather as a state in which one resides as best one can, embodied in the present moment.

Coming_Home_c

This is a superior method for a few reasons. Firstly, your body—as it was yesterday, as it will be tomorrow, as it is in the moment you are reading these words—is the first and last home you’ll ever have, changeable as it may be. It’s a good home. Quit trying to buy up or opt out of the program, buddy. You’ve already paid off the mortgage—cultivate what you’ve acquired, for Christ’s sake. Secondly, when you’re feeling comfy and cozy in your body, the body that is both in and of the present moment, you’re inevitably less inclined to go casting around for how much things are shit. Quite the opposite! You open yourself up to seeing how things actually make a lot of sense. Consider: the couch having been moved a quarter-inch actually makes sense, because, hey, weren’t you forever running into it and spilling your drink? Think how much drunker you could be right now if you had all those wasted droplets back. And it’s not like some psychopath just marched up to your front porch and deposited a bag of pumpkin innards there in a chilling prelude to murdering you in your sleep. No, these were the wages of your wife having carved a pumpkin for you to enjoy on Halloween, and moreover, a pumpkin that looks exactly like you. And this was no easy feat—you have a mustache, after all. A lot of fine motor skills went into this work!

The insertion of the spatulas into the ladle drawer, however, was just ridiculous. That was real amateur hour shit. But feeling centered as you are—right? You’re feeling centered now, right?—this ceases to cause the hot iron of anxiety to swell up in your skull.

Doing it: Return already arrived

Don’t do as Jonny does. Do as Jonny says: center yourself in your body, as it is in this moment, before arriving— before arriving somewhere you’ve never been before; before arriving home after being away; before arriving at a response to a question that has been posed to you. Return “home” before ever walking through the door. Be eternally returning, refreshing your mindset to what’s happening right now as you reach into each new experience.

Start by observing any sense of anticipation you have built up—your investment in expecting—and how that has made itself manifest in your body. Make your expectations squishy. Imagine them as a nest of dried pasta strands, dropped into boiling water, which you are carefully teasing apart with a pair of wooden forks, or your superhuman, heat-resistant fingers. Unknotted, the strands of expectation soften, billow, become flexible, with a lot of space between them. Let your expectations, then, become just another part of the experience unfolding before you.


(1) Does it seem odd to admit to having required a solid six months before grasping the deeper meaning of something that I’d willingly had hammered into my body? I can countenance that view. But let’s be honest, there’s plenty of stuff about my body that I still don’t understand, and I’ve been hauling this thing around with me for over 35 years. I think six months is pretty goddamn good, if you ask me.

(2) Yes, this is the sort of thing that passes for provocation in the mindfulness community. Don’t hate. It’s not like we’ve got hot rods and smokes with the filters broken off that we can resort to for getting our kicks.

(3) Often while struggling to roll up the sleeve of my shirt to reveal it to them, which, because I am usually wearing long sleeved shirts, consistently threatens to end in injury, specifically, my whacking myself repeatedly in the face with my elbow as I try to get the sleeve to tolerate just one more fold.

(4) I thought this sentence would flow better if I could make believe “ferality” was a word, but this proved difficult. The best support for such a claim came from a website entitled “Hermit’s Thatch,” and that’s obviously a street term for a duck’s anus.

(5) Admittedly, it would probably be more appropriate—from a mindfulness standpoint, I mean—to describe everything as being constantly in a state of “array,” with no “dis-” or “re-” about it.

(6) I consider such behavior to be the baseline for decorum in all undertakings: arranging your efforts, that is, so that preparations, execution, and cleanup all wrap up at the same moment. Keeping that tight of a lid on things is the only way, for example, that the physical act of love can be prevented from resembling a cake-eating competition.

(7) For example, your brain may be conceiving of and hoping for a sentence without dangling prepositions in it. But that isn’t what you’ve got, is it?

(8) And also these words!

(9) Although probably also in anticipation of murdering you in your sleep. TBD.

Does it seem odd to admit to having required a solid six months before grasping the deeper meaning of something that I’d willingly had hammered into my body? I can countenance that view. But let’s be honest, there’s plenty of stuff about my body that I still don’t understand, and I’ve been hauling this thing around with me for over 35 years. I think six months is pretty goddamn good, if you ask me.
Yes, this is the sort of thing that passes for provocation in the mindfulness community. Don’t hate. It’s not like we’ve got hot rods and smokes with the filters broken off that we can resort to for getting our kicks.
Often while struggling to roll up the sleeve of my shirt to reveal it to them, which, because I am usually wearing long sleeved shirts, consistently threatens to end in injury, specifically, my whacking myself repeatedly in the face with my elbow as I try to get the sleeve to tolerate just one more fold.
I thought this sentence would flow better if I could make believe “ferality” was a word, but this proved difficult. The best support for such a claim came from a website entitled “Hermit’s Thatch,” and that’s obviously a street term for a duck’s anus.
Admittedly, it would probably be more appropriate—from a mindfulness standpoint, I mean—to describe everything as being constantly in a state of “array,” with no “dis-” or “re-” about it.
I consider such behavior to be the baseline for decorum in all undertakings: arranging your efforts, that is, so that preparations, execution, and cleanup all wrap up at the same moment. Keeping that tight of a lid on things is the only way, for example, that the physical act of love can be prevented from resembling a cake-eating competition.
For example, your brain may be conceiving of and hoping for a sentence without dangling prepositions in it. But that isn’t what you’ve got, is it?
And also these words!
Although probably also in anticipation of murdering you in your sleep. TBD.