The Zen of Cable-Wrapping

It’s amazing how simple, repetitive tasks offer a doorway into a mindset that puts us well beyond ourselves, referred to by Eastern mystics as the life-force energy, or the Way, or simply the Tao. It’s especially enlightening when the task, in this case – properly wrapping up electronic cables, eludes one’s understanding for ages and ages. I’ve been around theater and film projects since high school, and part and parcel with that, I’ve also been around loads of cables which I’ve been required to help keep neatly coiled.

This is where the trouble sets in.

No matter how many times I was told step by step (day by day) how to do it in such a manner to extend the life of the cord in question, no matter how many times it was demonstrated right in front of me, the concept refused to register as a valid and logical method inside my mind. “Over and under, over and under.” There were a couple of times I thought I figured out what that frustrating phrase meant, but after each brief moment of faux understanding, gradually I realized that I was just fooling myself so I could get some shut eye.

But not restful shut eye; the simple words haunted my dreams, turning them into nightmares. Or rather, a singular nightmare. One where there were endless tangles of cables crashing down on top of me, with unseen voices berating me for not having the cable lines run and then the tangles come alive and turn into pythons trying to strangle me so that I become a lifeless corpse they could eat in one long gulp like a dead rat. It was running me ragged.

Cables Cables Everywhere!

That is, until this past October.

I was working on a film project in the Detroit area as a camera assistant, trying to build my network contacts up enough to allow me to do this as a career. Nothing out of the ordinary for a film and video graduate trying to break into the industry by working on a low-budget project with the hopes of jamming his foot in the door of opportunity and not having it slammed shut, causing the breaking of some metaphorical toes, an allegorical trip to the emergency room, and a smattering of broken dreams thrown in for good measure. People have openly welcomed much more in the way of self-induced punishment to garner even the smallest possibility of some sort of connection which allows the continuation of their dream, even with the fear of it turning into the nightmare once again.

You can chalk it up to me being young and idealistic.

But by the end of the shoot, at least some of innocent wonder was burned away, leaving me slightly more cynical. Part of the reason was there was an enormous amount of turnover among my coworkers; it was about a month long job and I saw five of them come and go for a variety of reasons. I was sorry to see each of them go, I personally never had any issues with them; they did their jobs well, and were professional yet personable. Too bad the people with the money don’t always see the individuals but rather just the numbers. The constant influx of new people turned out to be beneficial for my cable-wrapping deficiency, causing a messiah to come forward and shepherd me towards the truth of how to manage audio and visual cables in an effective manner.

Over and under finally made sense.

And it was all thanks to a coworker whose experience and dedication managed to keep him my coworker until the shoot was completed. It was like the skies opening up in “All Summer in a Day,” and this time around I wasn’t the kid locked in the closet. Suddenly what was only myth, legend, and hearsay suddenly had the indescribable yet very vivid quality of real-life, which is leap and bounds over that seen in even the latest installment of the Half-Life franchise. I was wrapping cables like a machine designed specifically for wrapping cables in a fast, efficient, and professional manner.

And I was somehow finding peace of mind in the process.

It makes sense when you think about it, in that it makes as much sense when you analytically think about any type of Zen exercise or practice. Meaning that it doesn’t make any sense when you look at it critically, because its goal is not to make logical sense but rather help you stay in the here and now, focusing on unfocusing and grasping by means of nongrasping. The repetitive motions of cable wrangling gives your physical body something to occupy itself, and the mantra of “over and under” gives your conscious mind something to fill itself with so it won’t wonder into deep and complex pools of thought. This allows your hidden self or subconscious mind or your inner Zen master to shine through, mainly because you are not actively trying to make that happen.

It just sort of does.

And once my mind and body were able to sit back and enjoy the exhilarating thrill of wrapping cables I knew a hole in my life had been filled. Suddenly I wanted to have the director and cinematographer to put in more dolly or crazy handheld shots just so I could wrangle me some mean cables. In my rush to continue finding the inner peace, I completely threw away any chance that I had of obtaining it. I had lost my perspective and became addicted to the unadulterated joy of wrapping cable. Luckily, the director and cinematographer didn’t change the shot list to accomodate my new-found lust for a mindless repetitive task. And eventually I saw how this driving desire was against truly finding an example of the Tao in myself and the world, and I was able to practice some restraint and moderation in my cable wrangling.

And now it’s time to make another movie, and for young Cozo to venture forth and tame the BNC beast for himself. BfD wishes our own native son the best of luck. Go forth, and find the universe and yourself in the coils of life.