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Slicing and Dicing One’s Own Existence; or, An Update After One Year of Slow Traveling

Lacking a photograph depicting bafflement
— though I’m sure I must have one somewhere —
I suggest you picture in your own mind’s eye
that very thing, that look of utter confusion

Non-Image Copyright © 2013, Sean M. Madden

Last night I wrote a blog post updating my Mindful Living Guide subscribers on Mufidah’s and my having been slow traveling, now, for just over a year. MLG seemed the perfectly logical place for the post to reside, as integral to the piece was an update concerning our Spring/Summer 2013 British Isles Writing Workshop Tour.

Yet this morning I thought, hmm, it’s inherently a travel piece. And so shouldn’t it exist as well here on, that additional space on the web where I’ve decided to include, amongst other things, my own travel writing?

But I don’t want to start duplicating posts on both websites, whereby they become mirror images of the other, simultaneously undermining the raison d’être of each.

At the bottom of this dilemma is my abhorrence of slicing and dicing my own existence into categories which exist nowhere outside of our dichotomizing, conceptualizing minds. This, roughly speaking, is the subject of my recently published — though written a decade ago — book, An Essay concerning Human Enquiry. I love it when marketing opportunities so easily avail themselves, even when the idea of alluding to my book was nowhere on the horizon when I embarked upon this post.

But what I love even more than promoting my own book are those ideas which came together in the writing of Human Enquiry during the autumn of 2003, and which have given me an understanding of language and logic which continue to inform my life, as well as my work in helping others to write and to live more mindfully. That is, the ideas which then came to mind in my exploration of David Hume and Immanuel Kant and which are loosely centered on the fact that we human-being folk tend to (way) over concretize our experience through the prism (or prison) of words and logic.

I’ve always loathed the act of trying to shoehorn my life and the rest of existence into purely conceptual groupings based on fairly arbitrary language constructs that tell us very little to nothing about things as they really are.

For instance, from the time I was a financial analyst relatively straight out of university (after my first bout of European slow travel back in ’89 and ’90) right up through to the present, I’ve hated trying to explain what it is I did for a living to folk who were often, in fact, quite willfully disinterested in understanding what it is I actually did but who, despite this, seemed to enjoy broadcasting their apparent bafflement in much the same way as those who dislike math oftentimes proudly insist on their inherent inability to do it, a bit of self-application (say, in learning multiplication tables) be damned. There seemed to be an ever-persisting love of equating what I did for a living — which, as far as I was concerned, was quite nuts and bolts — with the most abstruse of mathematical formulae or metaphysical enquiry, an indecipherable phenomenon to which one could only wag one’s head in perpetual wonderment.

And being a sensitive, quiche-eating New Age man (no longer am that, I’m afraid, after slowly and painfully having come to the realization that progressivism is, in fact, a controlled pseudo-opposition meant to destroy any naturally occurring good, like the family unit, for example) — I do, however, still eat quiche — I would waffle on, heaping qualification upon qualification about how I wasn’t just a financial analyst, that I was also a person, a lover of the arts, a guitar player, a father, and any number of other things.

Likewise when I became a management consultant and entrepreneur.

Perhaps it was something about the Nineties — before we’d all become well and truly socially engineered such that we all speak business lingo as a combined first and second language, much as NPR (and every other news program) rattles off the numbers, taking it for granted that we all require daily if not hourly updates of major stock market indices in order for life to be complete.

But back then it was as if I were speaking gobbledygook rather than stating a quite self-evident, if compound, job title. You know, I consult with businesses on matters pertaining to business management … management [pause] consultant. I’d then pause again hoping that the blank stare would shift to immediate, if not profound, recognition indicating some semblance of a communique having transpired from one person to another. But quite often I’d just get the same blank stare, and I’d shrug my shoulders and try to quickly shift the subject from the tried-and-boring-as-hell topic of what it is that we, each of us, does for a living. It’s the very bottom of the conversational barrel, that which one does best to avoid, like in the decanting of a fine wine, carefully forgoing the sediment at the bottom of the bottle, or the sludge at the bottom of a cup of Turkish coffee. Not always, of course. Like much of what I’m saying herein, it’s an over-generalization. In certain circumstances, with the right person, such conversations can fire all sorts of mutually inspiring thoughts.

Anyway, this post is not, really, about everything I’ve written thus far — about the doomed human act of trying to communicate with one another by way of artificially contrived concepts, categories and such (by the way, people are every bit as mystified now that I, for shorthand purposes, tell them I teach creative writing, etc., leaving me to conclude that the human tragedy of mis-, or rather, non-communication is not a matter of right versus left brain, creative/artistic versus rational/logical type, or right versus left political persuasion — the quintessential false dichotomy if ever there was one).

No, what I really opened up this new blog post to share with you is that there’s another post residing on my other website that could just as easily reside on this one.

But rather than to simply offer a lead-in paragraph with a link to that other post on that other blog, I thought I’d offer up, free of charge, a bit of commentary on what was rolling around in my noggin as I started to, in fact, simply cut and paste that lead-in paragraph.

No worries if the end result is another horribly gone wrong attempt to share meaning. These days I’ve pretty much resolved to simply say what it is I say and write what it is I write with little in the way of expectation that it will be received by another human being in any recognizable way as when it left my mouth or pen. In other words, I’ve become in some ways a cynical old fuck (or that’s one aspect of my ultimately ineffable, uncategorizable self, seemingly but not necessarily at odds with my more mindful aspect). And numerically speaking, I might well be — perish the thought! — only halfway through my time in this world.

Am I alone here? Or can you, against all odds, relate?

I’ll not ask, if the latter, to demonstrate that you, in fact, really do relate. Just say yes, and I’ll believe you. Really. It’s sometimes enough just to have someone say, yes, I really, truly, honestly do understand — even when we know they’re lying just to please us. It’s a form of well-meaning, if misplaced, love. Sometimes that’s all we can hope for, as infuriating as it can be to those of us who want to know, truly, that you truly understand what it is we’re trying to communicate! Instead, methinks, we should just breathe, forget about our desire to be understood, and carry on as best we can, knowing our every utterance (not to mention intention) is likely to be turned inside out. Now having written that last sentence I’m faced with figuring out how best to communicate on Mindful Living Guide that I’ve just written a purported travel piece which, in fact, fits equally well within the realm of mindful living, if exasperatingly so. A vicious circle.

P.S. In case you missed the link which was the raison d’être of this very blog post — an easy thing to have done — here it is again.

Photo: Sean M. Madden Sean M. Madden is a writer-educator, photographer and slow traveler. A digital nomad, he’s also co-founder of Creative Thunder, helping creative individuals and small businesses to fire up their online presence and prowess. To get a free copy of the inspiring Creative Thunder Manifesto, click here.