When the mind is too weak to tell itself lies


Actual photo of mad writer

This dispatch comes to you from the hour of the wolf. 

Not that I can’t sleep, no, the last thing I want to do is fall back to sleep.  My brilliant idea would vanish.  It came to me as I emerged from dreamland.  You know, “when the mind is too weak to tell itself lies.”

When the mind is too weak to tell itself lies.*

The Holy Grail of altered states.

Here it is, pre-dawn, black bear still foraging for garbage in the alley below my office window, while my fingers prance around the keyboard as if they’ve broken out of jail. 

The mind is too weak to tell itself lies!  Write quick, PJ!

Conventional wisdom would appear to have no traction in the crepuscular hours.  My principles aren’t up and running yet, they can’t obscure the truth.  You might say that, having not yet showered or checked my email, I’m not quite me.  

Trust me, I’m writing as fast as I can.

If this is an ode to early-morning drowsiness, we should hear from more writers.  Novelist Nicholson Baker likes to arise with the birds because he finds “the mind is newly cleansed, but it’s also befuddled.”  He discovered that he “wrote differently then.”

Joy Williams—I’ve quoted her before—she says,“A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light.”  She reminds me of artists who say they see better in the dark. 

Marcel Proust took opium to induce the desired effect.  Charles Bukowski drank.  Some writers practice “morning pages,” streams of bafflegab becoming ever more truthful.  At least that’s the idea.  You shovel hard with great faith—and doubt!—endless shovelfuls of gravel, superficial overburden, tons of it.  Somewhere down there lies the bedrock of meaning.  Maybe. 

What about monks?  Every night at three a.m. the search begins anew for…what?  Meaning? God?  Freedom?  A monk’s life is a Zen koan, a cosmic question.  Never mind an answer—beware the answer!—just show up.  Faithfully.  Doubt keeps us coming back for more. 

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk-poet-existentialist.  Here’s what he says about faith and doubt:

“Faith means doubt.  Faith is not the suppression of doubt.  It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it.”

That’s it, that’s the truth.  We have to push through.  At dawn, my mind is too weak to warn me away.

Dawn over Gibsons BCAh!  The eastern sky is lightening.  I gotta go. 

An hour from now my best interests will be hijacked by appearances and the everyday mind, and I will be buried under gravel, again.



* “When the mind is too weak to tell itself lies,” is a line from The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paulo Giordano.]

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  1. says

    Wow! Beautiful, almost hauntingly so. I checked my Inbox a minute ago, and saw your name, and thought, ‘Ah yes, PJ, will uplift me.’ And you did.
    You also grounded me, brought me back down from my tree of anxiety, back to earth, by reminding me of things. Good, strong, important things. Keep being you, PJ, and caring about the heart of the matter.
    ‘The hour of the wolf’ – can you explain that further? I haven’t heard this expression before.
    This post of yours was a big AHA for me. When I’m in the genesis stage of a book, I always do my best work in the wee hours, and now I know why! You’ve made me see it in a whole new way.
    And congratulations – you made it into my ‘Great Quotes’ file with this one. ‘Ah! The eastern sky is lightening. I gotta go. An hour from now my best interests will be hijacked by appearances and the everyday mind, and I will be buried under gravel, again.’ ~ PJ Reece Sheer poetry. You’re not doing too badly there, my friend :-)

  2. says

    Yvette… I thank you for taking the time to read my humble offerings. You ask about “the hour of the wolf.” I had thought the term was more generally familiar than it appears to be. Little comes up on a Google search. I know it as the title of an Ingmar Bergman film from the 1960s. Back then, you had to belong to a film society to see such decadence. I think a naked female body graces the screen for a few minutes. Otherwise, the story takes place in a house in the Swedish countryside as the long night passes. Very gloomy. I’d love to see it again but can’t find Bergman anywhere. The hour of the wolf is around 4 a.m. The wolf shows up at the door? It hunts at that hour? Not sure. Needs some research. Can anybody out there shed some light on this crepuscular issue?

  3. says

    Here’s some info I dredged up about the Hour of the Wolf: “…the hour between night and dawn, when most people die, when most children are born, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. The Hour of the Wolf is also the hour when all you can see is the troubles and the problems and the ways that your life should’ve gone but didn’t. All you can hear is the sound of your own heart.”

  4. Yvette Carol says

    Wow, I like this hour of the wolf. I’m keeping the description, in case I want to refer to it later. Thanks, PJ! :-)

  5. says

    I finally read this. Absolutely! I also feel this power when the transformer that is the mind is not up and running and the information comes in (and through) without dampening-down. The title is perfect. I love that, with your rich background, you put things together.

    I also came across something I collected years ago by Nietzsche: You must have chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star. I intend to Blog that one!

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