Hair follicles on the back of my neck rise up and spread down my arms to my fingers. The pistons of frustration rotate the air around me and get sucked up into my nostrils as I take a sharp breath in. More than anything else I want to yell. 'I AM STUPID. SHIT STUPID!' I also wanted to throw an object, really anything. But I was in Haddon Archeology library, and the only object in reach was my laptop, so I restrained myself on both accounts. I was so frustrated with myself, overtaken by it. The moment when momentum has control over an object and physical laws are bringing it toward impact, I felt myself flung towards the ground.
I had mixed up the date and we had missed a concert of the BBC Proms in London, which we had both been looking forward to for some time, not to mention the now sunk cost. But it doesn't matter what it is, when I am hard on myself every fluctuation or blip adds momentum to the critical 'story'. Like a train, the ego thrives on this momentum when allowed to be perceived as central to things that go right - or go wrong - in the happenings around us. As if we have some special ability or responsibility to ensure everything goes right, so when it doesn't we are WRONG. This is BLACK, that is WHITE. Steam was billowing out the rusted ole train and the horn was pulled down; I wanted to me to scream and pound my fists. What I didn't realise is the train I felt so a part of was fuelled by my attachment to it. Simply, giving attention to frustration makes it grow. I was shovelling coal into the fire, then surprised when I built up speed. This cycle is strong as a ocean current, and just as dangerous.
The critical mind is the academic mind is the logical mind is the successful mind. Or at least that's how I remember learning it, and to an extent that has been true for the industrial era. But unbounded, the critical mind becomes a very human- and ego-centered mind, taking personal blame at any given chance. It seems in Cambridge we all feel this weight more, like a family of catholic mothers brooding in the guilt of our work whenever we can. It's a good lesson and in retrospect I feel silly about getting so upset, but in the moment it felt tactile and present. It was startling. We all fuck up, and that's okay, as long as we know it. Put that shovel down, buddy.