Monday, 10 June 2019

Mind voyagers

We don't all eat the same food in our household.

People sometimes ask us who cooks, but we don't cook or eat as a group. I don't eat the same food as my husband and we don't even eat at the same time or even in the same place. There's a table in our kitchen, and we sometimes eat there — often not. We have different shelves in the fridge and store cupboard, and mostly don't even know what the other has bought or is currently eating. We have different tastes. Sometimes, if one of us is very tired or busy, or if one of us has bought something extra delicious and wants to share it just for joy, then we do. Usually not.

In the same way, our minds live in different places.

Yesterday, instead of going to our own chapel community in the country at Pett, I went with my husband to a different chapel where he was the preacher appointed for that day. Later, after we'd eaten our (separate, different) midday meals, he and I sat and chatted, just to enjoy each other's company. 

He asked me if I'd seen anything of the new TV drama Back To Life, saying he'd found it fascinating — captivating and somewhat disturbing. I'd seen trailers, but it looked like a programme I'd rather avoid. He said he'd gone on to watch Killing Eve — had I seen that? No (nor wish to).

While my husband, in his spacious, rather Sherlock-Holmes-y room, on his iPad, had been absorbed in the tension of tightly-written dramas, I — on my Macbook, in my tiny cell of a room — had been watching short videos about people who live in vans and RVs, or in tiny houses and bow-top caravans, in cob houses and mud domes, about foragers and minimalists and those who embrace voluntary poverty.

Listening to him I realised that though our bodies inhabit the same geographical space, our minds do not. We swim in different seas, we wander through different territories; we haven't been in the same place at all, not whatsoever. Like people sleeping side by side in a big bed, each on their separate astral travels, wandering in different dreams.

This is an intriguing feature of the electronic age. Back in the 1970s, even if you were in a quite different room while a member of your household watched, say, The Wednesday Play on one of the three/four TV channels then available, you would overhear — you would be aware of the imaginative territory into which they had explored even if you hadn't travelled with them. And if they had been investigating new thoughts or ideas in their reading, you'd have seen the books lying about even if you'd not read them yourself.

But it's different now. Unless I tell him, my husband hasn't the faintest idea what voyages of the mind I've undertaken, what realms I've explored. Most of what we listen to comes into our heads through earbuds, there is no overlap, no possibility of a Venn diagram describing interlocking worlds of experience and imagination.

It could be the easiest thing in the world to live together as polite strangers, forgetting what any kind of intimacy might have meant. Because we don't want that to happen, we talk to one another. Sometimes the conversations are somewhat curtailed — "Have you watched Killing Eve?" "No." "Are you likely to?" "No." — but often, as today, we talk about threads and exchanges he's wandered through on Facebook, and I show him my latest blog post, and we enjoy each other's company. 

As a counter-weight, it means a lot to us to enter the physical world together — to go together to chapel on Sunday and belong to the same housegroup. Actually that's most of what we do together because his hours are primarily occupied by professional commitments and I am extremely reclusive and live like a toad under a stone. We are fond of each other, though, in our solitary ways; we both value and cherish the quiet paths threading their way around and alongside the world with its hubs and throngs and grand central stations.

Wandering off. What I do instinctively. I have to remember not to.


Suzan said...

We eat fairly different meals most of the time. Food allergies make this a necessity.

I am glad that you both realise there is a need to make time and space to be together.

God bless.

Pen Wilcock said...

We enjoy each other's company very much. Sometimes we go out for a meal together not really for the food but to create some special time. And if we ever (not so much any more) have to undertake a long journey together that's always good chatting time.

Food allergies — ah, yes! That's something you cannot ignore.

greta said...

when my husband and i get together for our evening meal (about four nights a week), we regale each other with what we've been watching and reading. him: abraham lincoln, civil war, early american history, serial killers (!) me: dementia research, end of life care, geriatrics, gardening with monty don and theology. it's a hoot and we both enjoy our disparate interests. it makes me wonder - if we were both interested in the same things, would we get bored? our differences are what keeps our minds alive.

Pen Wilcock said...

That's so interesting, Greta! Yes, this internet age has given us lands to explore, and treasures to bring back! I value it especially, because my life is otherwise so small — it brings new insights, ideas and information, makes such a difference, and yes, it enriches conversation immensely. Like having the most wonderful and immense library, with books that come to life before your eyes.

Anonymous said...

oh, the internet - what a treasure! especially for us introverts with HSP. we can control what comes in and how often we are ready for that input. it does open up whole new worlds for us recluses who would otherwise Just Stay Home.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes — most often online I see articles saying we should get offline and enter the hurly burly of "real life" (though I assume you are in fact real, as I know I am). I read these articles and I think, "Nope. You just don't understand. This IS connection. Possible the only sort on offer. Certainly an unfamiliar opportunity to engage. Finally, someone is listening."

Nearly Martha said...

Head of House and myself are quite keen on media stuff but we probably only cross over on about a quarter of it. I would never watch Killing Eve but he loves it (the writing and her performance) He loves Scandinavian Dramas - I can't cope with the violence. I love old black and white movies - he finds them too twee usually. So it is a joy when we find the common places - "Mum", West Wing "Talky" plays in the theatre, etc.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes — Wallander and The Bridge used to be two that I loved — excellent writing and acting, direction and production — but I can't face the rawness of them now. We find much of our common ground in quiz programmes ad documentaries (including real life coverage of things like the emergency services, RSPCA and customs officers). We also, all of us in our household, are loving Gentleman Jack, but we watch it separately and privately because watching sex scenes in company weirds us out, and they are somewhat integral to this series!

Julie B. said...

I think I might like living like a toad under a stone. A stone with books and cups of tea under it.

I recently started a recommended series starring Viola Davis and it's compelling, and awful. I should have stopped at awful but the compelling won out. There are scenes in it that stun me in one second's burst of adrenaline and I gasp and try to hit the forward button immediately. I do believe there are some things that I am never meant to see. Especially in mixed company. Gahh.

And I also think there's something special about face-to-face time over a meal. I take occasional walks with friends, sit and have tea with one or two, but a leisurely meal, where you partake together, and look into the other person's eyes and connect and empathize and listen, does nice things for a friendship/relationship.

You have the coolest readers/friends, Ember. I love reading everyone's thoughts. xoxo

Pen Wilcock said...

I do (have the coolest readers/friends). They are MARVELLOUS. Including you.

I really like to have actually physically met a person at least once, and best of all to have been in their home. Then there they are in my imagination fully and properly with no gaps that need filling in, in online encounters.