Good Beaches, Palladian Villas, and Lyle Lovett: Square Dancing with The Terrible Master in Borges’ Attic

29-Lovett and Borges' Attic

I live in my own mind
Ain’t nothin but a good time
No rain just the sunshine
Out here in my own mind…


A few weeks back (see Ruminations…01.03.13), I wrote about the difference between minds and brains. This week’s topic is once again about the inside of one’s head – that glorious empyrean that somehow seems to fit so cozily inside one’s skull. Even small ones. Lyle Pearce Lovett knows what I’m talking about. So do most writers. No choice there.

But this is not just another discours mélodramatique on the tortured interior of a writer’s mind. No, like Mr. Lovett, I am quite comfortable in the vast space of my brain pan. Space, you think to yourself? Ok, I get it; maybe I am empty-headed; but this creaky attic on my shoulders feels more…well, Borgesian: infinite in length, infinite things of infinite variation, and everywhere,…mirrors.

Bet it sounds scary. Not to worry, it’s not your head. Me? I feel right at home there. Minds are like that. Private Property.

It’s true that sometimes I would prefer to be elsewhere, and not just because of the clutter. Sometimes when I lower the drop-down stair, climb up and take a stroll along those endless eaves, I worry that I’ll simply come upon myself. From behind. Now that would not be comfortable. All I can say is that if I ever do, I’m going to tap myself on the shoulder and if I, indeed, turn around. Whamo, square on the kisser. No trickery from the Terrible Master for me, no sir.

All minds share the kind of back-looping infinitude that Borges so admired. Call it a capacity for acquiring knowledge, or for relentless fly-in-the-bottle introspection, or simply for the conjuring of the quirky notions that always seem to cross one’s mind against traffic. This post in Ruminations…? Good example. Didn’t see the stop light. Sorry.

Generally, I like hanging out between my ears. Maybe it comes with age, an acquired preference for the homunculus rather than the madding crowd. I am The Unsociable, after all (see Ruminations…01.10.13). I will concede that it’s not all sunshine, all the time. The inside of my head is…well, sort of like the world itself – some good beaches, bad inner city housing projects, a few Palladian villas, and a melting permafrost. And yes, Lyle…sometimes it rains.

Undoubtedly, the rain was torrential inside David Foster Wallace’s head. Makes me feel bad. How do these things happen?…Bad chemistry, bad parents, or just bad luck? Or was he right with his “great and terrible truth” about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. Who knows. I can only hope that my mind has a more egalitarian cast – equal partner in a Cartesian Square Dance, body in a Texas Do Sa Do with the mind’s tune. In this case, Lyle Lovett’s joyful noise:

I get up in the morning
I drink a cup of coffee
I look out of the window
I try to get it started
I turn it all over
Plow it all under
I plant ’em in the springtime
Pick ’em in the summer

You a writer?…or maybe just a deep thinker?  Download this song!* Don’t worry about the seasons. As we know, it’s the planting and picking that counts. Just remain vigilant, keep the mind’s eye sharp for you know who, and be plently liberal with the SPF 50 in all that sunshine.

* Not a great video, but the ditty’s nice… Oh, so is Borges’ The Library of Babel.

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One Comment
  1. Jeremy Hawker Reply

    “I like hanging out between my ears.” Haha. Good song.

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