Someone peed on my head once, a long time ago. Oh, many years ago. At a party in Montreal. Actually, we couldn’t get into the party, for some reason. We were milling about downstairs, under the fire escape, deciding what to do. And I said, Hey, it’s raining. Only no one else was getting wet and it was just a single stream. And then at once we all understood it was a guy pissing off the fire escape four stories up.
I was angry and humiliated. Mostly humiliated. But we couldn’t get in and what was I going to do? Go through the party yelling, Who peed on my head? So we left, and I had pee on my head.
The funny thing is I remember peeing in a guy’s beer at a party in the same neighborhood, maybe the same place, right around that time.
On the way home or wherever we were going I kicked out the driver’s side mirror on a random parked car. This didn’t make me feel any better and I stalked off on my own, my friends on a different path. After a few blocks the cops picked me up.
I guess someone behind us had turned me in.
I spent most of the night in jail with pee on my head.
I was finally released into the custody of a friend. It was good of him to come get me. He was a nice guy. On the way home I threw a garbage can through a store window.
We were always doing shit like that. I’m not sure what it was. I didn’t care about things. I didn’t care about people’s cars, or their lawns. I didn’t care about stuff. I shoplifted. I was a thief and a vandal. I’m ashamed to admit it now—well, kind of. It was a long time ago, and I’m different now. Anyway, I’m not proud of it. And there are a couple of people I should apologize to, but probably won’t.
Still, my vandal past has made me fairly equanimous about vandalism. I own a bar, and it gets vandalized a lot, which makes my partners crazy. But I don’t get that angry about it. I mean, I wish they wouldn’t do it, the vandals, and I’ll happily take measures to stop them, arrest them, whatever.
But I understand the impulse to destroy, because for many years I shared it.
I wasn’t a full time hooligan. I didn’t fuck shit up every night. But I was quite capable of throwing a garbage can through a storefront, given enough boredom and booze.
Jesus…I wish I could go pay for that window now. Well, maybe just apologize, because it was probably pretty expensive.
Maybe I’d pay the deductible.
Anyway, I understand the vandal’s urge, and the shoplifter’s urge. Because property is such an insult, and has caused so much trouble, so much sorrow. But all experiments in doing away with personal property on a grand scale have been a disaster. And I don’t want anyone to throw a garbage can through my windshield. Or pee on my head!
But, in another sense, I don’t really give a fuck.
It’s just stuff. It doesn’t matter.
And that’s partly why you break things, when you’re a vandal. Because it’s just stuff, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what you care about, what you feel. It feels like something to be you, and often what that feels like is empty strength and throttled rage. So you lash out at the ridiculous inert matter that imprisons you, like your body imprisons your soul.
It feels like there’s someone inside you, doesn’t it? It feels that way to me. It always has. And this someone seems to have his HQ right behind my eyes, just above my nose, inside my skull.
Does this seem obvious to you? Like, you’re thinking, of course that’s where it is. Where else would it be?
Because I used to feel that way, like it made sense that “I” was somehow located just behind and above my eyes, inside my skull.
But when you think about it for a second, it doesn’t follow at all, unless you take yourself to be your brain.
So is that it?
Are you your brain? Or do you live inside your brain?
I don’t propose to answer these questions right now, especially as I don’t have a fucking clue what the answers are, except I lean towards No in both cases. I don’t think I’m my brain, nor do I think I live inside my brain. I do believe that everything I experience is connected to some event inside my brain, and I think that when my brain dies my memories and personality and emotional habits will die with it. This is to say that “I” will be dead, too.
But I don’t know for sure.
Because I’ve come to know that I can be aware of those mental phenomena. Not all, and not at once. But I can be aware of my memories, aware of the act of remembering. Which is odd.
When I sit, and I see a thought arise out of darkness (it seems like darkness when my eyes are closed, but it’s not complete darkness—there’s a little glow in there, like a room at night when all the lights are off) I say to myself “…thinking…” and I’m aware of both the content of the thought and the activity. Although I’m not completely sure there is any activity beyond the thought. It doesn’t actually feel like I’m doing something. It feels like I’m watching something.
And when I try to turn my attention from the thought to whomever is observing the thought, I see nothing. Nothing at all.
Do you see?
I watch the thought, but when I turn my gaze back towards “myself,” there is nothing to see. “I” am not there.
There is a thought observed, but the observer is nowhere found.
Do you see?
That’s how it is with us.
It might seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. It’s everything. This knowledge, when you grasp it, will change your life.
There is no inert matter, and no imprisoned soul. It’s all one, and quiet, and still. Deep within you—and without—everything is peaceful and still, and all is quiet.