three years ago, I became acquainted with someone who desired a friend who understands the life of the mind.
yes, I’m familiar with that, the life of the mind. for those of us drawn to it, it’s something life can’t be lived without. it’s as necessary and satisfying as eating good food, as living in a home where you feel good, at home, comforted. but it isn’t everything, this mind-life.
I suppose, though, that if you live in relative comfort, with a decent income, a spouse, a home of your own, cars, vacations, as so many people around me do, you can build an altar to the life of the mind and worship thereat. but for people who live as I do, on the bottom rungs of the amerikan ladder, lacking any piece of the amerikan pie and the measure of security such things bring, it is much harder to glorify intellectual pursuits in the absence of any degree of comfort and safety. at least it is for me.
but for years (easier years than the last thirty-odd, to be sure) I did worship at that altar. through grade school, high school, college, I thought the life of the mind was a holy grail. social things gave me less satisfaction than mind things, and brought with them much hurt, insecurity and disillusionment. social things so often broke pieces out of me, whereas mind things gave me new pieces to myself. new pieces every time I learned something new.
all those years I focused most on two things: animals, and my brain. not because my family or other people didn’t matter, weren’t wanted or needed, but because they brought the pain and fear with them, the moments to have my fragile sense of self-worth, my fragile sense of being valued by anyone, hacked to pieces. people-oriented things brought the moments of feeling worthless, unloved, hugely unimportant. asperger’s, as always, made these dangers worse. you are by definition an oddball when you have it, and by definition you do not fit in.
also, I believed in those years that the surest way to the improvement of the self was to expand the mind. and I was always very big on the improvement of the self. always very perplexed as to why all the people around me weren’t engaged in this pursuit as well.
then I became twenty-six. a college grad for four years, and now a mother. becoming a mother brought about changes in me, almost immediately, that don’t seem to jive with the changes other women experience when they become parents (asperger’s oddball yet again). suddenly there was a near-panic that I had concentrated too much on my brain, and not nearly enough on heart, soul, spirit. with really a wave of shock I came up short against the realization that no person, not I or anyone else, is comprised of a brain and nothing else. things that I must have understood at a different, non-conscious level (most of the time) suddenly leaped into the limelight. I was behind. I had a lot of lost time to make up for.
the life of the mind, magnetic as it is, has also been problematic. one of the problems is that I’ve spent most of my time dumbing myself down, using smaller words and smaller concepts and keeping my brain on a very tight leash when conversing with most other people. I didn’t have to get any older than twelve to see that I couldn’t walk the particular kinds of worlds I’ve lived in with my brain just following its own bent: most people would not or could not engage with me on that level. many people have considered me a show-off or know-it-all, and have felt inferior. and when most people feel inferior to another person for any reason, they either abandon or attack. I’ve been the recipient of these abandonments and attacks my whole life long.
the other problem with this life is the one I’ve already mentioned: a person is not just an intellect. however rich and rewarding the life of the mind may be, it does not, for me, satisfy the other very important facets of humanness: heart, soul, spirit. and when in my twenties I had my little epiphany regarding such things, I began a more than thirty-year quest to enrich, to feed, to meet the needs of my heart and soul. I have largely failed in these efforts, failed to find the people who mesh with me in these ways.
now, in 2013, after the psychological savagery perpetrated on me and my animals in 2008, after the same kind of savagery practiced on me by my human family since 1997, after my brother’s apparently uncaring tossing of our family home and family possessions down the chute (these things were dear, dear to me), what is left? the life of the mind. I deplore it that that’s all that remains for me during whatever number of years I might still live. I deplore, grieve, that I never found any humans who could join me at the levels of brain and heart and soul. with so much that was valued by my heart and my soul having been taken away by other people, with so much that my heart and soul need never having been granted by the randomness of living in the first place, there remains only the life of the mind.
the life of the mind is hugely compelling, but it isn’t enough. not by a long way.
all photos, graphics, poems and text coyright 2008-2013 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved.