I waste time because I’m careless and don’t always pay attention to where I put my car keys and wallet. But a messy house is nothing compared to the lost time and mistakes caused by not keeping my mind in order.
This has become a particular challenge as we had to clear out my mother’s condo after her passing this summer. People would frequently reference the Marie Kondo book about the Magic Japanese Art of Decluttering. Invariably this triggered my mulish nature and led me to reflect on all the things I like about clutter. Now I have in mind a series of essays on the Joys of Clutter. But I don’t have time to write them.
Business writing has to take precedence; there are bills to pay from all the fun I’ve been having promoting The Violet Crow. And I’ll be spending my free time writing the sequel, called The Louse—with the hope you’ll be able to read “Bruno II” next year.
In a roundabout way, this ties back in to the problem of mental clutter. When I explain to people where Bruno’s character came from, I point to my first job. I came to NYC in the fall of 1977 with my fancy BA and useless MA. After much searching and frustration, I finally got hired as an “assistant”—read “admin”–to a non-fiction editor at E.P. Dutton. Bill Whitehead specialized in books about parapsychology, paranormal phenomena, exotic mysticism, spirituality, and of course, pop culture.
I called his authors “para people,” and they included:
- Jacques Vallée, one of the world’s most prominent ufologists; he was the model for character played by Truffaut in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
- Itzhak Bentov, whom I associate with the idea that dull razor blades become sharp when you put them under a pyramid. This is probably inaccurate as Ben was actually a pendulumguy, and his book may not even mention pyramids.
- Jack Schwarz was the chakra guy on Bill’s list, and, if I remember correctly (yes, I do; see below), his book Voluntary Controls had black-and-white photographs of Schwarz inserting knitting needles into his arms, distending the flesh—and he didn’t even feel pain!
- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later of Rolls-Royce collecting fame on his ashram in Oregon, held the tantric chair in Dutton’s para pantheon. My much more successful predecessor, Rebecca Martin, used to refer to Rajneesh as “Mr. Subways.”
- Baba Ram Dass. At the pinnacle of the spiritual hierarchy was the famous acid-guzzling author of Be Here Now fame. As soon as he signed his Dutton publishing contract, Ram Dass got trashed by The New York Times Magazine for activities unbecoming a guru. The interviewer made a big deal of his ride—apparently some kind of tricked-out, sexy-time van—and, worst of all, the fact he was listening to Fleetwood Mac Rumoursat high volume.
I think you can guess where I’m going with this. We’ve been bombarded with ideas and fads like these for decades now. It’s not just information overload; it’s an infiltration of the culture. Yoga, chakras, and kaballah are mainstream now. UFOs? Why not? What’s the harm?
Well, it’s mental clutter. If you absorb it unconsciously and don’t examine it carefully—it can act like a sleeper cell or a dormant virus that suddenly becomes active and causes all sorts of mischief.
Stay tuned for more about the dark side of intuition next week.