Changed or painted?

A new outlook, but is it not the same person looking out?

I have previously mentioned how I felt different here in Riverview than I did in the previous house.  But then I have only been here for a few days.  It is hard to say which of the changes are permanent, and which come from being uprooted and taken out of the “everyday” state of mind.

It is possible to paint over a rotten wall or a rusted car and hide the bad stuff somewhat for a time.  But this does not really change anything.  The rot and the rust keep doing their work. So I will not just automatically rejoice when I seem to have a fit of spirituality here.  It could be just from being around a man of prayer and good deeds for two days.  It could be just from a glimpse of how much money and time I have wasted on hobbies that now mean nothing or nearly nothing to me.  I could be just from being reminded that everything in this world is temporary, that the things we took for given are certain to change and leave us, or we them.

Is there anything I can do to wake up now that I am half awake?  Is there any way to secure my gain before it slips through my fingers again?  For it is obvious that if we take anything with us when we leave, it is not of this realm.  And eternity is hard to deny when you have seen it so many times.   It could certainly be an illusion, but so could the world.

I am not so much thinking “how can I know” but rather “how can I act on what I know”.  How can I avoid being fooled again and again the same way I was in the past.  I spent a small fortune (by my personal standards at  least) on CDs, another small fortune on computer games, another small fortune on clothes, another on comics and light fantasy /science fiction novels.  I still have remnants of all these things with me, even after having pruned them over and over. Like karma, they follow me around, remind me of my past stupidity, and force the question: Is there perhaps a current stupidity of the same size but invisible because I still live in it?

Another possibility is of course that my seeming change of mind is somewhat real. Perhaps it is because I am currently on my second reading of The Philosophy of Progress – after all, according to the product description on, “By repeatedly reading this book you will experience this extraordinary feeling that your soul is making great progress.”  As I said last time I quoted this, there may be a difference between making great progress and feeling that one is making great progress. (Although feeling that you should have made much more progress is probably a fairly reliable sign of actual progress.)

I picked up the small leaflet by Elias Aslaksen the other night, in Norwegian “MÃ¥ten Ã¥ ta det pÃ¥”  (the way to take it), where he explains the path to happiness in a few pages, lucidly and intensely.  Nothing other people do or say can decide my happiness or unhappiness, only the way I react to those things, and the way I conduct my own life. I may feel bad for them if they do something wrong, but there is no reason why this should make me do something wrong too.  After all, what I do is my responsibility.

This small tract made an enormous impact on me when I was about 15, and my life changed direction completely and never quite went back.  Actually I continued to act as if other people could move my mouth and my hands, because I forgot myself over and over. I still find the compass needle of my mind swinging like crazy because of other people, but there is a slowly growing space inside where I have the chance to correct myself before I derail.  Perhaps if I had read that leaflet over and over when I was 15, my soul would have continued to make progress until today?  Well, I guess in some ways it has, but wow.  It is very much like the movements of a badly drunk man.  I guess you could call it “staggering progress”… It is truly humbling (or should I say humiliating) to have wandered for 35 years and come back and see how much I truly had, if I had been able to see it.  But of course these 35 years may have been the only way to show me that, and even now I wonder if I can hold on to it.

Whatever can help me increase that space, that bubble of expanded Now between impulse and action, I want more of it.  As long as I still have time to play The Sims, right?  Right?

The umbrella effect

It does not look like an umbrella, but I can explain…

As I start writing this in the evening, it is -2.5C outside the neighbor’s house.  I know this because the neighbor has a thermometer that broadcasts its measurement.  And I know this again because I have a thermometer in two parts, probably the same model, which does the same.  The part that was meant to be outside, I placed in the bedroom instead.  Much to my surprise, the temperature in my bedroom stubbornly stayed well below the freezing point, except it did not feel that way and when I went and looked at the thermometer it showed plus grades.  (Each part has its own LCD display, just in case you want to look at it directly.)  So I changed the channel and continued to get the freezing temperature on the old channel.  Evidently my base station picked up a signal from outside that overrode the signal that had passed through a few walls, so it is probably my nearest neighbor.  Even so, it is a couple good stone throws away, so it was a bit of a surprise.

Anyway!  It may be -2.5C now, but it was -12C in the morning.  And who can my neighbor thank for that shift?  Today in my lunch break I went and bought yet another space heater.  Because as Wikipedia correctly points out, air-to-air heat pumps are less effective than plain space heaters when you have freezing temperatures outside.  This is because it takes a lot of energy to extract the little heat from the freezing air, but also because you frequently need to stop and defrost the outside unit so it doesn’t get covered in ice.  (Even cold air holds some water that is deposited as ice when it is cooled even further.)  The frequent periods of defrosting outside were felt inside as rapidly dropping temperature, especially at my feet.  Even with thick socks, it became quite unpleasant to sit in the home office.  And it was chilly enough that even my fingers grew cold. Not to mention having to wear an outer jacket inside.

Now that I have the space heaters, temperatures are up almost to the freezing point outside and I don’t actually need it.  But that is the umbrella effect for you. If you don’t bring an umbrella, it rains. If you bring an umbrella, the sun comes out.  Obviously it is better to have an umbrella and sun, even if you look stupid.  The real problem is that you forget your umbrella in town.  But that is unlikely to happen with the space heater.