I know a lot of people who believe in the repetition of helpful sayings. Some of these people record these helpful sayings on bits of paper and tape them to their bathroom mirrors or to the desks in the places where they work, depending on how private the helpful sayings are, and to whom they consider the sayings will be helpful. Some of these people copy these helpful sayings down in notebooks, which they carry to coffee shops where they sit attempting to compose helpful sayings of their own, helpful sayings that other people will record and stick to their bathroom mirrors and to the desks in the places where they work, helpful sayings that others will copy down in notebooks that they will carry around.
I also know a woman who has lost her memory. Each evening the sight of the setting sun fills her with a long terror and no one can say anything to talk her out of it. But every morning is, for her, a rapture. People repeat what they say to her, and she repeats what she says as well, but none of this repetition is very helpful.
A man I know likes to say that he believes in the now, not in the past and not in the future. He says this to people in a quiet voice, as if he’s warning them not to get lost in the past or to worry about the future. He calls the past and the future, and I quote, “places that don’t exist.” I do not find him helpful.
There’s a woman who hears voices that aren’t real. She believes they are, though, and really, what’s the difference? I ask her what the voices are saying, and she says they’re saying the same things over and over, and that mostly what they’re saying is not at all helpful to her, although sometimes, more rarely, it is.
There’s a man who believes all of us are sleeping and that if only we’d wake up, everything would be perfect or, if not perfect, at least better. This man believes that one way to wake up is to fall asleep and dream, and then, while dreaming, to be aware of his dream. He has trained himself to do this through the silent repetition of several helpful sayings. He insists that he meets other people in his dreams, people who have similarly trained themselves. And so while sleeping, this man and these people wake into a better world, where no one has to say anything and still they’re understood and still they understand. He tells me he and his new friends find this helpful.