Sunday, 6 December 2009

Voices in my Head

No, I haven't gone crazy. We've all got them, haven't we? Those voices in our heads? And just before you start to think "I don't have voices in my head" then ask yourself, who just said that? That's right - the voice in your head did.

Yesterday morning was the same as any Shabbat Saturday. I woke up to the alarm and wished I had gone to bed earlier the night before. Can you really be bothered to get up and traipse in to London? It looks a little bit cold out, and miserable. And don't you do enough of traipsing in to London? What's the latest train you could catch? Can you spare another 5 minutes in bed, or risk a second, sedentary cup of tea? Why not just stay in bed, where it's nice and warm...

Okay, enough already. You say this every week. I know who you are and you're not going to stop me from getting to Shabbat. I got up and dressed, and made the train on time.

Once I was on the train, the voice changed from It's really not worth the effort to Smug. God, you're good. Overcoming your lazy ways and making this effort. You could have just stayed in bed for another hour. But no, you are putting yourself out and overcoming your negative behaviour. You can be proud of this....

It's the same voice that is speaking - the voice of my Opponent - but it changes from moment to moment according to the situation. It always shouts the loudest, no matter what it has to say. It doesn't matter if my soul is propelling me with the purest of intentions, the Opponent always tries to obscure any efforts I make. That's his job. Ring a company to talk about a project? Oh, they probably won't be interested in me, I'm not good enough, I can't do it. And anyway, they probably won't appreciate the quality of my work - they wouldn't know quality if it stared them in the face. Well, it's their loss. Arrange a night out with some friends? They all have such busy lives that they probably won't be free, and even if they agreed it probably wouldn't be to see me because I always end up taking over the entire evening with my own stories. And they just don't seem to appreciate my sense of humour. They'll probably make excuses, so best not to bother. It's not worth the hassle.

My new teacher gave the lecture at Shabbat, which this week was all about the energy value of thoughts and words, and awareness of the Opponent. He said that the Opponent's single greatest power is in being such an accomplished liar.

To illustrate this point, he finished with a story about a Kabbalist (now, come on, with my name-nesia, you don't expect me to remember the Kabbalists name, do you? All I remember is that it began with a B, if that helps. Or was it an R? I digress)
It was the middle of winter and the Kabbalist woke before dawn. Every morning before sunrise, he would walk down to the lake and perform the Mikveh (immersion in water) before starting prayers. It was bitter outside and the wind howled. As he lay there in bed, hesitating, he turned to find his Opponent lying in the bed beside him.
"Miss the mikveh today." his Opponent said "Look at the weather outside - it's dark and it's freezing cold. The lake will be frozen over. It's not even daylight yet - you might fall on the path. Stay in bed - it's so warm and snug in this bed. You can miss one day. I won't tell anyone."
The Kabbalist looked outside and back at his Opponent.
"I'll tell you what" he replied "I'll go and do the Mikveh, and you can stay in the bed all nice and warm. I'll be back, I promise - it will take only half an hour. So just rest here and wait for me"
He left the house and walked down to the lake and it was frozen over. Not to be deterred, he broke the ice and slipped in to the freezing water, and started his immersions - up and down, up and down... Halfway through, he noticed that the Opponent was sitting at the side of the lake.
"What are you doing here?" he asked "I thought I said you could stay in the nice, warm bed? I thought I said you were free to wait for me to return?"
"You did" replied the Opponent "But I've just come here to tell you how amazing you are, that you should come out despite this cold and perform your immersions - and with the lake being frozen over and all. You are truly an amazing Kabbalist. In fact, you are most likely the best Kabbalist that ever lived"

So I guess it happens to the best of us. Not that I am saying that I am the best, or anything.

On the train home, the voice of my Opponent was one of judgement, and I had to laugh at myself. I boarded the slow train to Cambridge, which stops at every station along the way. What is it with people and train doors? Why do they find them so hard to open? It's not rocket science, is it? The train stops, you press the very large button marked "OPEN" until the doors actually start to open, and then you step out on to the platform.

None of the passengers on the train yesterday seemed to understand this simple procedure. Some of them seemed to think that they were still riding the Underground - when the train came to a standstill they stood gormlessly waiting for the doors to open on their own. Others mistook the big squashy buttons for a touch sensitive screen - placing their finger on the rubber but not actually pressing anything. And a couple of people pressed the button lightly once so that the doors hissed and juddered but didn't open... and then did the same thing again to no effect.
And all of the time I am sitting in my seat silently screaming at them "Just push the fucking button! don't just stand there gawping, you idiot - push the fucking button! Harder that than, you twerp! Jesus! Do you want to get off at this stop or not? At this rate the train is going to leave! Hold it in! No, hold it in! Don't tickle the damn thing! You haven't got all day, you know! Oh, there you go. Now that wasn't so hard, was it? For crying out loud... some people... I ask you.... can't even open a fucking train door.... what is the world coming to....I'm surrounded by a complete bunch of muppets"

With every criticism came a counter thought. The only reason you are thinking this is because you panic that the button won't work and that you won't be able to leave the train. Take a lesson from them - they're not even worried that the doors won't open. Stop judging their level of intelligence on something so insignificant. Who are you to judge them at all?

And so what happened when we got to my stop? I was so lost in another dimension that when the train came to a standstill I was rudely interrupted from my daydream by a man's voice... "It won't open with the Close button you know..." He smiled. "You looked like you were on another planet"



  1. You sound as though you're gaining over the negatives in your head. This is a good thing.

    I love your observations, and creative people are often lost in our heads...

    Speaking of heads, any ideas where mine should be? Focus at the moment isn't my strong suit.

  2. e: Three steps forward and two steps back, I think. Us creative people sometimes need to give ourselves a break for a) being in our heads, and b) losing focus. I think that your head should be on top of your neck... the question is, where should your neck be? See - too much imagination x

  3. I lost focus on Friday night (mind you, that was largely the result of an excess of alcohol). On a more serious note, the voice in my head continued to "speak" to me even during the years of deafness.

  4. Alan: Now that is interesting! I was wondering whether the voice actually changed (to sound less like you over the years), but come to think of it, I can't say that the voice in my head actually sounds like me... Okay, so now I am getting a bit freaked out....

  5. Well, about this neck thing...I've no bloody idea...Atop the sternum is the best I can come up with...

    I watched a documentary last night called Sick Around America about the notoriously failing health care system...That is scary!!!

    I really want to leave now...

  6. I love mikveh - and baklava too.

  7. Alan: Now that is interesting! I was wondering whether the voice actually changed (to sound less like you over the years), but come to think of it, I can't say that the voice in my head actually sounds like me... Okay, so now I am getting a bit freaked out....
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