The Master Idler
“He abides in the Self, detached from all activities, mental or physical…true happiness belongs to such a master-idler…”
( Unknown Zen Master )
Life seems so much like an experiment in doing, in selecting, in editing our story to leave out the bad parts and leave in the good. We are daily at pains to make the most of our time here, to take our life into our hands and use it. Setting out at suns’ rise on a clear, dewey morning, we would make of our life that good, if not entirely great, thing. We turn now left, now right, in search of those elements which we’re pretty sure will make for that happiness we know is just round that slight bend we hadn’t noticed, just after that speed-bump nobody told us about.
Early we stumble, slip and fall, but we rise again, nimbly at first, and consult the Plan clutched in our hand. Or rather, a clutch of Plans. We review, revise and re-enter the running again. This time, this time, we’re pretty sure we’ve got it, finally. After all, on looking back, we figure we’ve been a good student of all this strangeness. And we’ve figured out a thing or two by now. Then we turn twelve.
Twelve was a big year for me. It’s the one year –the one entire year, that I remember really looking around at the world and the other people in it, and thinking: “I want to be like Jamie, he’s so cool” And like Paul across the street with his neat silver car, and like my neighbor who gets to go to summer camp, and like my favorite inspiration, one Peter Pan.
Peter Pan was my first major, major Wannabe. It was not so much him and his gallant life I admired; it was where he lived. I don’t mean the Disneyworld he lived in, but the TV he inhabited. More precisely, The Television which lived in my friends big apartment above a big restaurant his parents owned.
We didn’t have a TV at home, and that network world was, without a doubt, where I found a new and exciting life far from the ordinary. Every Sunday night (and any other time I could wrangle an invitation) I would sit with my friend ( after plundering the delights of the big walk-in restaurant refrigerators downstairs ) and eat up Disneys’ world!
Sometimes we had a sleepover, and by the time I left my friends in the morning and wandered home, I was sure that this other world where my parents lived must be an inferior one. They seemed to think not, but I knew.
Fast forward to twelve-and-a-half. By then I knew it all. Oh, they tried to tell me that I was just a kid with a head full of dreams! “It’s all imagination!” they’d say, “ You can’t live there”. Well I sure showed them!
For the next fifty years! Major Wannabe after Major Wannabe. I was in and out of every dream, in and out of every nightmare. The details are too boring to relate -even to me. But if you want some idea of my mythical life since then, take a close look at those around you. Or, if you want to go in for more detail, take a closer look at your own life.
Major mess, yes?
All of which brings me to my current state of play. Today I’m a Master Idler. Now, I can’t exactly tell you what that is, other than to say what it isn’t. It’s because of that old “limitation of words” thing, combined with a deep societal resistance to reality. A reality which is obvious to every child, but which we escape from as early as possible.
Now one of the qualities of being a Master Idler is a susceptibility to a kind of wonderlove, a fluid and endlessly distracting attraction to everything. It takes eons to write about it, sitting here as I am, gazing with wonder at the vast passing panorama outside the window of my newest favorite Berkeley cafe. In any event, that task seems like something for another day. Something not even to attempt until later. Right now, the sheer display of things that are going on around here, the people, kids and dogs, overwhelm and consume all thought. Ideas subside, can no longer resist, this.