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Monday, June 16, 2014


All week I've been pursuing a prompt of my own concerning inner resources. Every day this week I've set out to write with exploring inner resources in mind, but every time it seemed like I was writing an introduction. Four introductions in a row. Never made it all the way into exploring what I mean by inner resources. I most notice the value of inner resources when I see people who have none. The people with none are the people I think of as shallow, no depth, no curiosity, people that do what they're supposed to do because they're supposed to. I saw the race on tv today and a golf tournament. Commercials, moments of sophisticated mind-control. Instead of taking care of the mentally ill, a century and a half of the study of psychology has brought us to mind-control by corporate mind and government. This is why I don't watch tv but for the race. I watch the race to visit with friends on a Sunday afternoon. It's the friends I value more than the race. I came away with a frazzled head full of images of stringy cheese pizza, cars I couldn't even buy a license tag for, Testosterone Man with 4wheel drive pickup and a horse trailer needs Viagra, just like his truck that's stuck in the mud. Horses to the rescue: Viagra. Investments. It takes me back to when I left parents, said good-bye to tv too. It was some serious withdrawal. I remember images in my head all the time from tv, jingles from Fifties commercials, wondering what was going to happen next week on a sitcom, wondering what happened when I missed it. Two years on Navy bases and ships helped the withdrawal from tv. By the time I was free of Navy and started in school, I never had another tv. Tomorrow I'll still have images in my head from today's tv. The races get less interesting as the production makes the drivers into rock stars. My only interest is the race itself. Who wins doesn't matter. I just like to watch a race. I like to see a car make a good pass. I like it best when you can see them pushing with everything they've got, pedal to the metal, trying to push it through the floorboard to make the car go 3rpm faster. I can relate to driving as a sport. It's something I do almost every day.

When I think of inner resources, television comes to mind only where absence of inner resources are concerned. Taking an interest in something, anything, is the beginning. The people I know who I would say have inner resources are many. What characterizes them is they take an interest. Some pursue an interest in playing a guitar. Some pursue restoring or customizing an old car. Reading, when it's not fluff, contributes to one's inner resources. One's faith is an inner resource. Experience is an inner resource. I remember old man Tom Pruitt's emphasis on experience. He was an experiential learner who believed experience the best teacher.  He said funny things from time to time, like, "Get me a bigger hammer." The one I loved the best, "I know all about it. I got experience." Out of context it seems a haughty thing to say. Hearing it from Tom Pruitt as he meant it subjectively, he was simply saying he knew what he was saying. He was not one to boast. He meant it quite simply. His experience was a footnote to his knowledge. Tom's knowledge was considerable, too. It wouldn't seem like much to an outsider, but his knowledge was specific to the experiences of his life as a farmer working with cattle, a carpenter, a philosopher. He was no Plato, but he thought philosophically. He kept a New Testament and only read the red letter passages. He had no use for Paul or any of the rest of the Bible. Only the words of Jesus mattered to him. The rest of it was just a story. What makes him a philosopher is that he came to his own way of seeing it by his own philosophical reasonings. His philosophical mind was not educated outside the Bible, though he found enough there to keep his mind occupied. He would sit all winter long by the wood-stove spitting backer into a Maxwell House instant coffee jar he kept on the floor beside his wooden chair. Tom, though literate, was not very literate, but literacy had nothing to do with his philosophical mind.
A farmer can work all day alone because he has inner resources, something to think about that helps him make sense of things. Church and the Bible might be the extent of his input, but his philosophical mind takes it and applies it to his life in whatever ways he sees a fit. Part of the appeal of physical labor is freedom for the mind to follow its own meanderings. I don't mean to say their philosophy is right or wrong. It just is what it is. I did not know Tom's inner workings, his mind, so I can't say anything about his way of thinking except that it served him well. He sat in his room looking at the wall every day, all day, spitting in his cup or into the old fireplace with no fire in it, or onto the door of the wood-stove to see it bounce and hiss. He talked running words together and muttering with a heavy mountain accent, almost dialect. I understood him clearly from the first time we met. Later, as time went by and I came to know Tom better, I saw he had tremendous inner resources. It was among his inner resources that he lived. He sat at home like a monk. He watched tv for baseball games and the weather. Nothing else interested him. He'd rather watch the wall. He liked baseball because he had experience during recess in school where he went through the 7th grade. He did not understand football and basketball for having no experience.  It was his inner resources that occupied his mind while he stared at the wall for years. All the years I knew him, his last 14, I knew him to spend entire winters looking at the wall, rainy days and all the time he was not outside working. He needed no music, no distractions. He was dwelling in his inner resources. He was not somebody who would die on a Monday morning soon after retirement.
Every art form is an inner resource. Artists I've known have been people with inner resources. Perhaps I mean by inner resources the quality that makes time to oneself satisfying, makes golfing alone on foot a happy day; practicing a skill, walking and ruminating. People with inner resources tend to ruminate. This word's other meaning is a cow chewing its cud. Ruminating is pulling up some thoughts, a conundrum, something to mull over, a bone to gnaw on. Ruminators need time to themselves in varying degrees from one to another. I noticed in my first years in the mountain that country people were an awful lot like artists. Country people are largely people with abundant inner resources. Country people tend not to fool themselves too much. Artists, too, tend not to fool themselves too much. By fooling self I mean acting arrogant like you have status when you don't. Or even when you do. One example of millions possible. First one to come to mind. I'm thinking I've lived my life more about educating my inner resources without regard for the practical world of money and position. I've worked at low paying jobs because they did not require I give the job my mind. I worked a farm for seven years, then painted houses alone for ten years. I only painted with brushes; no sprayers, no rollers. Walls I painted by brush, outside and inside. Working by myself, I could ruminate. If I'd hired a crew, the work the crew was doing in my name would be on my mind all the time. Working alone with a brush, the more exacting the better I liked it. Trim around windows and doors was my favorite. It took close focus of attention. I thought of it a kind of mediation at the time, clearing the mind with focus on painting a straight line. It became important to me to paint windows without needing to go behind myself with a razor blade to clean the glass. Toward the end of the ten years I could do that. It takes half the time. My art spirit was gestating in those years. I've valued my own inner resources above all else, as an artist. It was not an obsession. It was priorities, what comes first. Reading has developed my own inner resources. People I have valued contributed a great deal to my inner resources. Possibly the seat of my particular set of inner resources is in my curiosity. I wonder how much of a role appreciation plays. It would include everything, a lifetime of input.   

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