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EVERYTHING'S INTENTIONAL


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There is no such thing as screw-ups.

Case in point. My excellent friend Deej comes over to help me beautify the garden. He immediately dives in, crouching down on his knees and weed whacking with his bare hands. Before I can say yay or nay, he proceeds to remove a huge clump of daisy greens from the oblong patch of Earth adjacent to the driveway. The area instantly looks bare. Like the back of Woody Allen's head. Smoothing out the soil and shaking his head Deej mutters to himself "I fucked it up!" over and over again. We try everything. Planting succulents in the daisy's place. Covering it with rocks. But still the area looks barren. And every time you water it the water trickles down onto the sidewalk in the absence of roots to hold it in place. It's getting dark so we go back inside. The next day I return to the spot with a clear perspective and remove all the other daisies, leaving only rose bushes and the succulents that DJ planted, and depositing 10 bags of mulch. It takes all day, but the yard looks ten times better than it did before DJs "mistake." The screw-up he berated himself over was actually a necessary step in where we needed to go. His rash act had given us a glimpse of how the garden needed to be. Peering, as it were, pointing a dirty-nailed finger into what needed to be done. My hat's off to the good man. Lovin' you, Deej.

Have you ever done something which at first you thought was in error only later to realize that it was essential to your success? How about putting your foot in your mouth and saying something which at first seems foolish only to turn out to be true? A Freudian slip, also called a parapraxis, is a mistake in speech that reveals subconscious feelings and shows what the speaker is truly thinking. There are many popular examples of Freudian slips. Once Senator Ted Kennedy cupped his hands in the air and told his audience that "Our national interest ought to be to encourage the breast" when in fact what he meant to say was not breast but "the best and brightest." Far from mistakes, Freudian slips give insight into the deeper workings of the mind, i.e. the unconscious.

The unconscious sees everything and acts from pure awareness of totality. It is the conscious mind that labels things black or white, good or bad, the conscious mind that classifies, judges, celebrates or condemns. Dropping glasses, falling and breaking a leg, rear ending a car. I've done all of this. Not intentionally, at least not consciously so. Because the conscious mind avoids repercussions and ramifications. It seeks peace and self-preservation. The unconscious is alive when the sleepwalker gets out of bed, dresses himself, walks the dog and refreshes his thirst with a cool glass of milk. The conscious mind remembers none of this, and would have much preferred lemonade! 

To some extent we sleepwalk through life, because we are aware of merely a minute fraction of all the sights and sounds in our surroundings, and even fewer of the impressions these have in ourselves, the thoughts environmental stimuli give rise to and the feelings they engender. We can only focus on one thing at a time, even when we are trying to do two, like watch Sunday Night Football while writing these words. When we attempt to do more than one thing at once, we do neither well. So off goes the tube. 

But the unconscious mind, the witness, perceives everything, and desiring nothing, yet ensuring the good of the whole over the preservation of the individual, it does things that the conscious mind views as wrong as they may inconvenience the individual or put her at risk, or even things that the individual dreads or avoids or condemns. And yet the results are always for the best. 

Of course we can't put this truth to a perfect test. We haven't yet the benefit of a time machine to take us into an alternate version of the past in which the glass doesn't slip from our hypothetical hands. And in life we are conditioned from an early age to get things right, which is to say do as we are told. We are raised and disciplined and taught to mark the one "best" answer. And so we pass or we fail. We are told not to be a dumb-ass. We regret our mistakes, especially when condemned or corrected by others. If only we could see how life might have panned out had not our mistakes and first impulses been corrected. But we do! Look back at your biggest mistakes in life and see what came out of them. You'll find things always work out in the end.

Every first draft is shabby, said one writing professor. Yet the philosopher Voltaire wrote the classic Candide in three days. Essentially a first draft, the short picaresque novel has stood the test of time, entertaining millions around the world, and me just the other day. RL Stevenson wrote Jekyll and Hyde in twice as many sittings, which amounts to 10,000 words a day. It's spawned at least a half a dozen movies. I on the other hand write 2,000 words each morning and call myself prolific. I'd better get up to speed! But the author was on speed when he wrote his famous book, in the form of cocaine. I've tried the stuff. It makes me much too paranoid. And besides, I have other things to attend to, like cleaning up my dog Max's pee. Because every day without fail he urinates just to the left of the wee-wee pad, narrowly missing the mark. By mistake, you say? Naw, just to spite me!

In our dreams we get it write the first time - that's a Freudian slip, since I meant to write "right," but our dreams are so like compositions I suppose both words are right, I mean write. In our dreams we fashion an entire universe in the blink of an eye and put ourselves at the center of the action. If the dream were a book, then the dreamcatcher himself, Stephen King, who in his memoir, On Writing, dispenses advice on the time required to pen a 100,000-word epic, would say each dream requires 6 months to create. And yet we spin several in the span of a few hours of nightly shut-eye! We're all prolific authors in our own right or write.

So I've made it a habit of watching things unfold, whether asleep or awake. I often do not think these essays are going anywhere - like right now - and then voila they somehow wrap themselves up, nice and neat. I wake up each morning with little more than a rough outline of how the day is to proceed and by sundown I've astounded myself at what I've managed to do or not do. Because often rest is best. That's living freestyle. At parties I listen to myself talk, watch myself interact, and rather than edit my actions I'll just let them happen, just let life be lived. And everything works out just fine. Would that I could have been raised this way! Instead I learned to second guess myself. As a youngin, I practically majored in self-doubt. It wasn't until medical school that I learned that the first answer, even if it is a guess, is usually the right one.

Expand your awareness. Understand why it is that you do and say what you do and don't do. You will be amazed at how right you are. Earlier in this piece I wrote the word oblong to describe the shape of my garden - without even knowing that oblong meant rectangular, which is what I wanted to say. I didn't consciously know it, but my unconscious mind had heard the word before and registered the meaning. Ya see? Everything happens for a reason.



So since we have all the answers, let's address the question about the broken glass. What would have happened had it not slipped from your hand? Perhaps had you not been cleaning up the mess you would have burned yourself at the stove. But that would be the unconscious mind intending for you to get burned - so that while visiting the drugstore for a bandage you'd meet the love of your life. See, not so accidental after all. King himself confesses to writing books without even having an outline. Just throwing himself into the first page and seeing where events lead. One of his book is called Everything's Eventual. I say Everything's Intentional - even though you don't know it. The trick is to find out why.

When you know the truth, you'll see that each moment is perfect, whether it is perceived as such or not. In the grand scheme all is how it should be. As Leibniz proclaimed and Voltaire satirized centuries ago in his Candide, we live in the best of all possible worlds and everything is just right. I'll be sure to remind myself of this the next time I scrub that soiled rug.

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