• July 27, 2017

    Our intentions rarely have the force to proceed. Why is that? If they do have force, it’s because they serve our vanity.

    Intentions are just thoughts, are they not? To have effect, they need to be connected to the unconscious forces that actually motivate me.

    My doctor shocked me yesterday, telling me I should lose some weight or my health will suffer. He seemed very stern with me so I was worried when I left his office. Of course, I could not have known that he was in a bad mood after his wife had run up the credit cards. His demands seemed rational at the time. I formed a vague intention to exercise more and eat less, but not much changed until that hot new girl joined accounting.

    I see my reflection in the window, how unpleasingly rotund I have become. She will never pay any attention to me. So now I resolve to take the doctor’s orders seriously. My intentions are reinforced every time I see myself in a mirror. I have a motive, although I tell everyone “I’m just following doctor’s orders” when I grandly turn down a second piece of cake at dinner. And I believe it too.

    Since I am a member of a work group, I recognize that my infatuation and resulting motive have given me an opportunity to observe self. I observe that I am quite ridiculous. I have a self-image that is 29 years out of date. I pull in my stomach when I go to accounting. I remember how I did not like to be seen in public with my aunt who was very fat. I see that I have many little programs that revolve around my judgments of fat people…pulling back from physical contact…my aunt used to sweat a lot and I recoiled when she hugged me.

    Ok, this prejudice is something I was not conscious of before. I can work with that, first by simply noticing the physical sensations when they arise. But why am I overweight?

    I observe that I have an addiction to certain types of food at certain times. I have rationalized these addictions as habits designed to maintain blood sugar and energy levels. Perhaps, but let’s see. Over time, I observe that these presumed motives do not explain anything. It seems that at certain times of the day, I am uncomfortable if I do not have a particular sensation of fullness, even if I have eaten a good meal. Why is this? I don’t know and don’t need to know. I observe the craving for that sensation when it arises and I let it go.

    Meanwhile, the girl in accounting has been fired. My doctor is surprisingly friendly and supportive at my next check-up as he unconsciously tries to undo the effects of our last visit together. I have begun to lose a little weight.

    But more usefully, I have also begun to notice how suspect my motives are. They are a soup of unexamined impressions and unconscious desires. I dress them up as rational intentions but the motive power is almost always elsewhere, in habitualized sensations and self-images that are often completely irrational. My intentions are mostly a confusing thicket of vain ideas about myself. This realization, as it grows, has unintended consequences. I am not moved to do what I used to do; my once-avid participation in certain activities is now uninteresting and my friends don’t seem to know what to do or say around me anymore.

    Perhaps at this point I will begin to encounter intent. This is a verb, not a noun. Intending is not a word-formula holding onto some desire or benefit of personal interest to me. To tend is to care for something. One of the early meanings of tending is to move in a particular direction. Perhaps intending is to choose to face in a particular direction. To have intent is to hold and care for a point on the compass without wavering. Why? Because it is fulfilling in itself.

    Intentions are in the realm of the mind, under the influence of our vanity and our habits. Intent is in the field of the will, under the magnetic influence of something larger than me. I wish for intent.

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