Older Stuff from the Barn; 1998-2000 (part 4)
people hanging around who informed us that they didn’t have even the slightest interest in mind reading; anonymous people just hanging around in the neighborhood actually said or admitted this; said it in a tone of voice which might be characterized as well-informed, steady, and confident. they had no interest in mind reading, apparently, but instead chose to pursue a staggeringly wide range of other modern activities.
“...sir, I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I’ve been watching you for several minutes while I wait for my wife to finish her call and it struck me that you look like the sort of person who might enjoy spending your leisure time in a quiet activity such as mind reading or meditating- tell me, am I at all near the mark on this one? that’s a pretty unusual thing to say to a complete stranger out in public; on the contrary, sir, it’s highly usual. maybe even a bit “unacceptable.” indeed, indeed, indeed- it’s an unpredictable world that we live in. despite what “the experts” would like us to believe- take any random person and then imagine them going off into the distance; wait- you mean “disappearing off into the distance?” yes, sir- disappearing off into the nothingness; well, gee whiz- what would they do with themselves out in the nothingness? good question! I suppose I’m suggesting that a person like that might enjoy a quiet activity more along the lines of light or casual mind reading; you think they might enjoy mind reading? yes, they would probably also enjoy reading literature; what’s your definition of literature? oh, you know- stories, essays, plays, novels, articles; pretty broad definition, sir; well, people enjoy a wide range of options when it comes to this sort of activity. they gather together in small groups and sometimes discuss their ideas. some of those ideas come from reading, others arise from the murky depths of the alleged or actual “self.” these are all old-fashioned terms that can’t be bandied about in the same off-hand way that they used to be; so they have no interest in films, you’re implying here? correct. next to no interest in cinema; only mind reading? only that, sir. they spend most of their leisure time mind reading. of course, there are other people in the neighborhood who prefer quite different activities; yes, I’ve heard about some of those; some of them, for example, like to work in their vegetable patch. and yes, let’s not forget- bicycling is also a perennial favorite; but no mind reading, you’re implying? yes, as much as it pains me to say it- almost no mind reading, and in most cases, no mind reading at all- as in zero. other activities have superseded it; so you’re saying it was popular once? I can’t see that far back into history, sir. all I know is that when I wander around thru the neighborhood every evening, I see people shaking their heads sadly and overhear them telling each other that they no longer have any genuine interest in mind reading- as much as it pains them to say it, they go ahead and say it regardless; what should we do about it, sir? do about what? this mind reading problem; you see it as an problem, then? why, yes- and a pretty serious problem at that! you think they need to spend more time reading each other's minds? they need to spend at least a little time mind reading! and why is that sir? you’re asking me about the value of mind reading? no, I’m asking you about the value of simply getting up in the morning; oh come on, sir- we’re not ready to venture out into that sort of territory. let’s stick to the topic of mind reading- that’s where the people are struggling; I wouldn’t say “struggling” so much as simply not doing it- no or little interest in mind reading, you’re implying? correct- next to no interest in mind reading, and in most cases, zero interest at all; you really wander alone thru the neighborhood eavesdropping on people’s discussions? well, it’s the only way to get to the bottom of the educational crisis; sir, there’s no crisis to speak of- you’re just parroting phrases you’ve picked up from the media. I’m not as concerned as you about how people chose to spend their leisure time; you mean their recreational activities? no, stop putting words in my mouth! I wasn’t born yesterday, sir! I totally understand this resistance and aversion to mind reading you’re talking about! not that I share it myself- no, mind reading remains, even after all of these years, an enjoyable pastime- no, I’m talking about these people in your neighborhood- some of them have no reason for getting up in the morning- wow- I’m afraid that’s a problem we’re simply not equipped to tackle- if their problems run that deep we’ll probably need to refer them to some sort of professional. to help them get started mind reading? no, to give them a reason for getting up in the morning! and if they can’t, to convince to them to get up all the same! and if they can’t do that either, to find and implement some way of forcing them! to physically pry them out of bed and send them along on their way! send them off to some location? precisely! send them off to some other location! to do what? it doesn’t matter! any kind of activity! doesn’t even have to be purposeful? no! doesn’t even have to be purposeful! sir, you’re describing a pretty inefficient state of affairs. well, this is what happens when people lose their interest in mind reading! you don’t think they would benefit equally from some other activity? No! No! that’s precisely what I’ve been driving at this whole conversation! are you even listening, sir? are you paying the slightest bit of attention? of course I am, and I resent your suggestion that maybe I’m not. well, how can you ask a question like that then? you mean the one related to mind reading? no, the one related to getting up early in the morning and moving out into a vast field of random activity! people won’t appreciate that way of describing it, sir- will they murder me, then? will they burn down my house and the few meager possessions I keep stored inside of it? probably not, but they won’t accept you into the community circle. I don’t know why you keep on saying that. those ideas are questionable. the person, if there even is one, has simply lost interest in mind reading. over the years, you’re saying? gradually? or he never had an interest at all- in which case it would be our job to build it up out of nothing. that’s right, sir. it wouldn’t be easy. some might even say simply impossible. they have no real interest in mind reading. but they don’t have a fake interest either. no interest at all- don’t you see that? no interest in reading at all! waking up in the morning, staring for a while up at the ceiling, and then gradually moving out into an ever-widening field of increasingly random activities. that does seem to be the situation. people just want to share their ideas! yes, agreed, but they don’t want to do it thru the channels of reading. well, what other channels are there? talking. tv. the computer. but they read on the computer, don’t they? don’t they read email or something? no. increasingly those emails are being transferred to pre-recorded, voice-activated. there’s a sense of people present. a sense of active, careful, and appreciative listening. these are the same people who you said earlier might decide to end their own lives prematurely? well, that always remains a possibility, yes. maybe we need to give them more incentive? what do you think? maybe we need to create more incentive? look, sir, there will always be people with serious psychological problems. they may emerge out into public but chances are they will more or less keep to themselves. what makes you say that? just a hunch. well, your hunches have been wrong in the past. I don’t put a lot of stock in your hunches! people have insane ideas. they have insane machines and insane fuel sources. bottom line- they can’t be trusted. even if they spend quite a bit of their leisure time reading? that has nothing to do with it, sir. they’re probably reading poems and articles that are also insane. so the insanity just keeps growing, you’re saying. yes. it gets worse and worse over time. to the point where we might not even be able to communicate with them thru the traditional channels? that is a distinct possibility, sir- I might even say probability. not only did they not give a rat’s ass about reading, but they appeared to be experiencing or suffering from serious psychological problems. if they really want to venture out into the local community, that’s their affair- we have no intention of stopping them. the point of reading, if there is one, is to increase a person’s overall education. you can intuit this just by noting how often they refer to “primordial wilderness.” they probably did not take a single one of our suggestions to heart...but whose fault is that? ultimately? do we blame their choice of reading material? these were people with long standing psychological issues! how could they be expected to make prudent decisions in this highly sensitive area? there's a lot to choose from- have you noticed that? it’s not just a matter of pulling them off to the side, muttering a few tired platitudes about the benefits or pleasures of reading. there was a bias around here for many years in favor of physical exercise. gym memberships. weight lifting. people didn’t want to be bothered by all this talk about reading. home-building, fence-building, tailoring, wagon-building, well-digging, well-meaning, veterinary science, farming, logging, furniture building, etc. we all wanted very badly to be part of society! we were part of that little group who regularly shouted out “three cheers for society!” we wanted, along with everyone else, to wake up extremely early in the morning, while it was still dark, and prepare for long day of light or casual reading. it seems as though this is what the entire trajectory of our lives was eventually headed for...”