So here's the burning question for the day, Bush: is there actually more stuff to be done each day as one gets older? Or is it just me, in my dotage, taking longer to get it done? Or is there some law of nature that says time actually goes faster in proportion to your age? I mean, this is ridiculous. Have you noticed? The days speed past and there's never enough time to get the day's jobs done. Perhaps it's just the pace of life in the twenty-first century, with our high-speed Internet access, our Blackberries, our telephones, our cars...
I sometimes wonder how it would have been to have lived in pre-modern times, when it took half a day to walk to the next village and a few hours to write a letter with your goose-feather quill. Today, let's see, there's the blog to finish, there's a man coming to collect money for the work he did for us last week, there's a half hour stop at the gym to do my circuit training, a visit to the pet store for dog food, the cleaner's, to have a new pair of pants shortened, and the grocery store for odds and ends for the pantry. Then there are pictures to hang--I've been promising my wife to get this done for weeks, the business mail to take care of, bills to pay... There's the final editing job on the book version of "The Real Bush Diaries" (I had to add the "real", Bush, because someone stole our title a couple of months ago. Very galling.) And telephone calls to return. Oh, and I did want to take a nap. This evening there's a group of artists coming by for a discussion session. And today might be the day my new computer gets delivered; it will need to be set up. Even then, I'm sure there's a lot that I've forgotten.
It's too much, no, for a single human being? Neither our heads nor our bodies were designed to take this kind of a workload. One of the contemporary catch-phrases I've come to hate, along with 24/7, is "multi-tasking." Very un-Buddhist, Bush. Speaking of which, my thanks to Fred for reminding me of the need to "get that old detachment mojo working"--see the "Comments" posted yesterday. He had been reading my piece on "Trouble" and must have sensed the anger in it. The fact of the matter is that I was angry when I wrote it, and anger certainly has its place in what we're doing here. Attachment to the anger, though, is neither healthy nor wise, so it's a good thing to be reminded now and then to let it go.
Detachment, as I understand it, is not about not caring. It's about not getting hung up on the caring. It's about keeping the mind focused on the present. It's about not fixating on what happened in the past or what might happen in the future, but simply resting the attention in the only place that really counts: the here and now.
Good for a meditator, you might say, Bush, but hard to practice for a politician like yourself. Detachment from the past is one thing. It's always possible to be fully aware of historical precedent--what worked, what didn't--without getting hung up on it. I wonder, though, about the future, because it's the politician's business, after all, to be making plans, determining directions, charting the course on behalf of those who voted him into office. The future has to be the politician's stock-in-trade.
So I guess the teaching here would have to do with learning how to make those plans in full consciousness of the fact that the consequences of any present actions might turn out to be very different from the intended ones. Your actions might, in fact, very easily prove counter-productive, useless, even dangerous in the face of ever changing realities. I suspect this is something that must resonate for you in the light of your experience in Iraq. Were you, Bush, just a little more Buddhist in approaching your job, you might be able to let go of your attachment to particular outcomes and work a little more lightly on your feet, like a martial arts expert, turning adversity to your advantage. It seems to me that the wise ruler would have the ability to step back ("detach," then) from the fray and review the result of each and every action in the light of the present moment, that is current reality, reality as modified by that action, before making his next move.
Sounds like it's time for me to check back into Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," Bush. Have you read it?