Monday, May 11, 2009

out of sorts

- says the meaning of "out of sorts" is:

Mildly unwell;
not in one's usual health or state of mind

The origin is:

"Since at least the 17th century 'sorts' has been the name of the letters used by typographers. This usage is referred to in Notes on a Century of Typography at the University Press Oxford 1693–1794 and is nicely defined in Joseph Moxon's Mechanick exercises, or the doctrine of handy-works - printing, 1683:

"The Letters... in every Box of the Case are... called Sorts in Printers and Founders Language; Thus a is a Sort, b is a Sort."

To be 'out of sorts' would clearly be unwelcome to a typesetter. That terminology could be the source of the phrase in its current meaning. The above citations are pre-dated by one from Samuel Ward, which makes no mention of the print trade. That in his The life of faith in death,1621:

"I wonder... to see one... that knowes all must worke for the best, to be at any time out of tune, or out of sorts."

~ ~ ~

Being "out of sorts" offers a chance to observe the elements of your life.

My BIL Joe talked at dinner the other night about the "thinking mind" in Buddhist terms. It's where I keep track of who's got an appointment at 9:45, then 10:30, then 11:15, etc. It's what I use to come up with options to solve a student problem, and it's the reasoning tool I use to get to logical conclusions - whether who to vote for or what dish to contribute to my mother-in-law's Mother's Day dinner.

It's also the potentially annihilating part of my brain where I overthink things. Why did so-and-so say that? What did she mean by it? It's where I get defensive, and it's what works overtime in times of stress going to bed at night. It's where I think I'm the center of the universe and interpret myself through the imagined perceptions of people around me. It's where I think laterally (and literally) and forget to close my eyes and listen.

Joe also talked about the non-thinking part of his brain, the place that is there "behind" thoughts and sorting. Maybe it's another dimension, where artists live in another kind of imagined reality, not one that denies facts but considers possibilities in non-data-like ways.

It's a place of the moment. It's organic. Where what is, is. It's where you get out of the sorted into your own space - empty, open and free.

I'm on vacation at home, and I need to give my thinking mind a rest. Maybe being out of sorts is a good thing. Seeing a tulip lying down on the job or seeing an "a" out of its Sort, lets you really see them outside the box, for their essence. Being that tulip or "a" out of the box could be good too.


The Bug said...

I've been terribly out of sorts the past week - but my state was medically inflicted (I do NOT tolerate cold medicine very well LOL). I was a bit of a concern to my husband, but I enjoyed the feeling of focusing on one small thing at a time and really experiencing it. Can't live that way or I'd get nothing done, but it was relaxing for a time.

Sally's World said...

Oh my, my mum says this all the time...usually about me!!! its actually a great saying that covers everyhting to being confused to a heart attack as far as my mum/nan is concerned!!!

Lover of Life said...

I must be out of sorts. I haven't an original thought anywhere in my head today. Time to give my thinking mind a rest, I guess.

Susan said...

Boy, there's a lot of out-of-sortness going around. I've been feeling that way myself for a few days or a week. I'm not sure, 'cause my brain's fuzzy. I feel like I'm in a cloud and my eyes seem to have that film on them that DD says is seasonal allergies. Bleh.

veri word: streme
Is that the opposite of extreme?

shicat said...

I am often out of sorts and out of step. Never caring much for most social conventions except of course to be kind and thougtful etc. I often wonder what it would be like to see the world as black and white as some people do. My world has always been shades of grey, never quite the right fit for most situations. Generally I'm fine with that. It sounds like being home on vacation is a much needed break for you.
I think it's interesting when you talked about being the center of the universe and over thinking what others say or do. These can be the things that keep me up at night as well.
Home with freedom for you head space. Isn't that what we used to call it gettin into your own head space. Sounds like you are going to enjoy your time off and the weather looks lovely. Free as a bird.

Anna said...

Hey Ruth stop thinking lol, give your mind rest. Happy vacations! Anna :)

photowannabe said...

Have you been peeking in my window?? Sometimes I can be so out of sorts. Not a pleasant state of affairs. Now, Mother's Day I wasn't that way at all. Life was good.
Thanks for the explaination of that phrase. I had no clue. Its funny that we say things all the time but don't know why we really say them.

Annie said...

The picture fits the post really well. :-D Thinking too much is my problem too. It can be exhausting. But... rather that than the opposite.

Ruth said...

That makes me sad, Bug, that I too can't focus on one thing at a time and really experience it regularly. I was thinking about it yesterday. I want to work on doing that when I'm not on vacation.

Ruth said...

Sally, it's true, it means slightly different things for me too. This week, I just feel stressed in my head, can't shake it.

Ruth said...

L o L, do any of us have original thoughts?

Butler and Bagman said...

Ah yes, the racing brain. After alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex, it is one of my last and most difficult addictions to break -- thinking.

Ruth said...

Susie, sometimes I think it's atmospheric - especially when many people experience the same thing.

Oh, do you get allergies now?

"Streme" sounds nice - smooth and easy.

Ruth said...

Cathy, that's an interesting way to think about 'out of sorts' - being out of step with social conventions. I usually feel happy if I am that.

It is nice to be free as a bird this week, yet I can't shake this malaise. Just trying to accept it.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Anna, it's a treat to be off when it's beautiful outdoors.

Ruth said...

Sue, I think what's hard about this for me is that I am rarely out of sorts. I don't like it, and I'm trying to accept it.

Ruth said...

Well you make a very good point, Annie!

Ruth said...

B&B - Mark, that and hypochondria?

Barry said...

I should probably give my thinking mind a rest too.

Although my wife would claim my thinking mind has been at rest for far too long.

freefalling said...

I just posted at Freefalling.
I used the phrase, "it is, what it is".
Then I popped over here.
Of course, it goes without saying - somehow we have crossed paths again.
You're freakin' me out, Ruth!

Carin said...

Lovely tulips along the path. So colourful. Great picture.

Bob Johnson said...

Such a perfect image for your post, I live "out of sorts too much I thinks" though...good place to be sometimes.

shoreacres said...

According to the Scientists, the role of rest in creativity is considerable.

There's a fascinating article by Jonah Lehrer in the July 28, 2008 issue of The New Yorker called "The Eureka Hunt". (You can find it online) To put it in unbearably basic terms, when we focus with our "thinking" brain, it cuts the connection with our "non-thinking" or creative brain. Rest, the absence of focus, allows the two parts to begin working together again, and voila! Creativity emerges.

According to Lehrer and the experimenters, it's the reason we can go to bed with an unsolved problem and wake up with the solution. The rest, the lack of focus, gets things connecting again. I like to refer to it as my brain "working the night shift".

You see the point here for writers.
Ironically, when things aren't flowing, when we get that dreaded writers' block, we try harder, and focus more sharply. In fact, that only makes the problem worse because it tears right from left brain. According to Lehrer,the moment of creative insight is dependent solely on both parts of the brain working together. It isn't that scientific discovery is left brain and artistic vision right brain, but that every "eureka" of every sort depends on the conjunction of right and left.

More rest, more feet up on the porch railing, more watching the chickens, more dawdling and dreaming ... the perfect prescription for renewed creativity!

Ruth said...

Oh Barry - I think even if you tried, it would just keep working on what's happening to you. But I do hope some kind of meditative practice is helping you relax and heal.

Ruth said...

Letty, we have our own worm hole through the planet. Hi there.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Carin. Welcome.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Bob. Mostly till now I haven't thought of it as good, but I suppose whatever makes me stop and really look isn't bad.

Ruth said...

Linda, I hadn't seen that article, but I have read in spiritual practice books that empty space is essential for creativity. I hadn't heard about the combination of left brain-right brain being the key - it makes perfect sense. We are whole beings. Funny isn't it, how we break it down to left and right - we split up the whole. Our problem - and our wonder - is that we are thinking beings. I really believe that we would have solved far more problems if we had allowed our whole brains, whole selves to create solutions, naturally. Not that it wouldn't be hard work, but that reason would be in balance with intuition.

rauf said...

i think i have never been 'in order' all my life Ruth, i have always been out of sorts. The degree of being out of sorts is not constant. i behave well when i am less out of sorts. Right now i am very very out of sorts

rauf said...

out of order is the more applicable to me Ruth.
what should be the opposite of out of sorts ?
in order, out of order,
out of sorts and in sorts or no sorts ? sortless ?

Ruth said...

If I follow logic and reasoning, rauf, then I must conclude that you are misbehaving extremely right now. But I think it is too hot to behave in any way, rightly or wrongly. I wonder if crime is down in the heat?

It's strange isn't it? How some days we go on as if our routines are in charge - and other days we slow down and pay attention and wonder why we do things the way we do?

You are a free thinker, rauf. Nobody can sort you. Just when I think I can predict how you might respond to something, you surprise me. I can't think of an example right now. See? I can't sort you even in my memory.