Occupy your mind

Thoughts after getting sacked from a temporary job at the Leicester, UK, HSBC call centre

Couldn’t hack it, got the sack. Monday morning won’t be back. Need to go to work – nowhere to go. (And oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go…)

It upset me. It was a crap job, so I don’t mind losing it, but getting fired was a bitter blow to my fragile male ego. Getting fired from a crap job!

(The reasons they gave didn’t ring true. I suspect age discrimination, illegal in the UK. So, yes, I’m doing something about it.)

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I thought: better find something to occupy my mind – and I did. The strangeness of the phrase, ‘Occupy your mind’, got me thinking.

Zombie Jacko promotes Occupy | Graffito and photo: Ezra Li Eismont

The Occupy movement uses it as a clever slogan: Occupy your mind – think responsibly. But in everyday usage it’s not an instruction to occupy your own mind; you already do, obviously. It’s short for ‘Find something to…’

That’s a strange shortening, suggesting mental indolence addressed with military zeal. Stop that daydreaming! Wake up and (find something to) occupy your mind!

Why do you need to find something to occupy your mind? What’s wrong with your mind being occupied only by you?

Perhaps what’s wrong – apart from the tendency of the mind to brood disproportionately on the painful details of recent setbacks – is the risk that you’ll turn into the animal in you. The advice to keep your mind occupied or even preoccupied and to find a suitable occupation is meant to save you from your lower self.

Spookily anticipating the Occupy movement slogan, 16th-century Roman Catholic utopian philosopher Thomas Moore said, ‘Occupy your minds with good thoughts or the enemy will fill them with bad ones’. By ‘the enemy’, Moore meant, of course, the Devil who, as any fule kno, makes work for idle hands – and minds.

In our enlightened post-Darwin times we can take a less Moore-ish and more diplomatic approach to ‘the enemy’. We’ve got a lot of bad and baddish animal stuff going on – down there. Monsters from the id, if you like.

If you can face that stuff and give it a non-judgemental nod of acknowledgement from time to time, the bad stuff will behave itself, and you can live above it. (And – which is more – you’ll be an adult, my child.)

In which case, of course, we no longer need a mental occupant to distract us from our animal urges. They’ll be under humane control. More or less.

But we like being distracted; and now we’ve got a habit: media addiction. Let’s watch a movie…

I mean, we still need distraction from the things we have to cope with day-to-day using part of our minds:

  • Find shelter, pay for it, keep it clean
  • Get food, pay for it, prepare it, cook it
  • Ablute, wash, groom, exercise
  • Choose clothes, buy them
  • Choose clothes, wear them
  • Wash clothes, dry and fold them
  • Iron and put away
  • Have children: have no life
  • Go to work, get sacked…

For Om’s sake – give us a break.

We need mental distraction, entertainment, stimulation, a funny cat, anything. Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood, Netflix, YouTube, er, Tumblr, whatever, we need it. We deserve it. Bring it on. It can occupy our minds rent-free.

The field of mind occupancy studies got a boost recently when the research centre for neuromapping at the University of Salamanca in Spain announced the publication of a paper, Neuromapping patterns of mind occupancy by Carles Escera and Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa.

The paper includes in an appendix the following illustrative poem by Cadenza Prize winner Hugo Brucciani.

occupancy and occupation
by hugo brucciani

occupancy of the mind by
a lodger who is welcomed by
the mind’s landlord
rent-free. it could be
reading a book
watching a movie

takes most of you
out of yourself
to a resting place

enough of you
is left behind in the mind
as a pilot to enjoy it
judge it, control it
end it, if necessary

after the end
when the occupant’s gone
you come
back to yourself

the process of rejoining
can be delayed as
the pilot reflects on
echoes of
a different world

meanwhile the landlord
above it all in the attic
watches on
the bastard

‘occupant’ sounds ok
find place to live
pay rent – harmless but
‘occupation’ sounds
heavy, man

find an occupation
right, I think there’s one
in Palestine is there?
Syria? Sudan?
what am I supposed to
do about it?

oh, you mean a job
right. yes, you’re right

find a good job
thats. right. so
it’s a good job I’ve got
genes for work ethic
and obediance, then

so my mind’s meant
for an occupation
designed by the
landlord’s architect
the bastard

we can fight back
join the underground
resist the occupation
evict the occupying forces
take vacant posession

we know what we feel
we can live above
our work ethic and
the other
bad memories in
the basement

we don’t need no
we could live well on
a state income
paid by
social credit
owed to
us all

because yes
the world owes us

we can work when
we want

good riddance to
the occupation of
our minds

the landlord and
his architect can
suck it up, live and learn

the occasional
occupant’s ok though
there’s a good movie on
at nine *

* This is possibly a reference to the increasingly archaic practice of watching scheduled TV broadcasts.

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