The Universe of Things

My therapist said I should try and live in the world of things. I should avoid ideas.

‘Ideas, concepts, theories,’ she said, ‘they never resolve themselves. You need stability.’

I disagreed. Ideas, concepts, theories have to resolve themselves in order to be what they are. Without some sort of resolution, they would not be ideas or concepts or theories, they would be a fog of thought, a whim, a fleeting glimpse of something.

‘Nevertheless,’ she said, ‘you need to concentrate on the world of things, not ideas. Engineers, mathematicians, surgeons, gardeners, cooks, they are often the most mentally healthy of us all because they work with their hands, have to deal with the world of the tangible, the universe of things.’

Maybe, I thought later, driving home, the road rumbling steadily under the heaviness of the car tyres, maybe there is an error in her thinking, and in the thinking of all those engineers, mathematicians, surgeons, gardeners, cooks. Things are only what they are for the time that they are those things.  Some things last only a moment, others a million years. But nothing lasts, and therefore, things are only what they are because we make them so. Humans see them that way. If humans lived trillion years, trees would be like flashes of lightning, mountains like waves on the ocean.

The steering wheel slipped through my hands. I turned into my street, reversed into a parking space, pulled up the handbrake.  My thumb found the button of the seat belt release. I tugged the key from the ignition, opened the car door and swung my legs out on to the pavement.

High up, on a telephone wire, a blackbird sang.  A van passed, and for a moment I heard its radio, glimpsed the driver, his head back, his chin jutting.  For a moment I felt the world revolve beneath me, beneath everything. She was wrong. I was certain of it. I was wasting my money.



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