Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Unconscious Depths

Originally posted on December 16, 2013

I was reminded of the depth of subtle programming in a gentle and amusing way, by realizing that the persistence of songs in my mind—I think they’re called “earworms”—in the week following my participation as one of over a hundred people in our Sun City Chorus singing our Christmas Concert. The songs carry on, after months of rehearsal. They weren’t so prominent weeks before the concert, but now it’s done they persist! What’s going on here?

My guardian angel, Bud, explains. (That’s what I’ve named him, and he doesn’t mind.) “Well, Adam, that’s how your unconscious works. It’s sort of like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice section in the 1940s Disney classic, Fantasia, in which Mickey Mouse finds he can’t undo the charm he’s placed on the broom to carry water. The broom overdoes it. So does your unconscious. You’ve taught it these songs and he’s singin’ ‘em.”

It was a sort of wake-up call that the unconscious is very deep and that much that we do, in song, in prayer, in work, in play, conditions the unconscious. I couldn’t stop it by will. I’ve tried, but these ear worms come back.  It’s a pleasant enough call, but it invites interpretation: What the heaven is that echoing of a song you can’t get off your mind doing? I realized that the unconscious must be respected, trained, reined in. In other ways I’ve been somewhat too permissive and casual, allowing clutter to accumulate around my computer easy chair. I tried to justify this with the rationalization that I’m really rather diversified in my interests. That’s true, but I’m also being reminded that my life is finite and do I have priorities or am I content to die having been a dabbler?

It’s not an acute problem, and if I do die, no big loss on this account. But there is a tense middle realm where I will regret having frittered. That I didn’t fritter on television is a limited excuse: I’m spread too thin and that’s on the edge of clear. So I’ll be spending the next year divesting.

Not easy, because everything attracts me. I’m like a magpie who’s fascinated with anything shiny or colorful. Maybe I can play with this, or do something with that. Some day… is getting limited. So this is a rebalancing part of my multi-faceted self. There’s such a thing as being too much in anything, and in this case, multi-faceted. For example, I confess I’m a bibliophile and I need to confront my addiction to libraries and books. That they’re cheap used books is a rationale. (My, if I bought new books… perish the thought!) So maybe others who read this will realize that we never, ever “graduate” from all neurosis.

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