I wonder about the state of mind of some of my friends in retreat. How quiet are their minds? In the quiet space, what has surfaced? I remember that a couple of months after I got married I was finally able to meditate. I said to myself, "Wow. I have a lot of free space in my head now. I can finally sit quietly and focus on what I'm doing." Something about the marriage grounded my mind. I think that a three year retreat would be like a marriage in that way. A lot of space would open up in the mind. I think that there is a sleeping brilliance in every person that emerges from times of quiet. Some people, of course, are born brilliant. Others of us have to work hard to wake it up.
In respects to the brilliance of the mind, I think about Abraham Lincoln. I'm reading about his presidency and his cabinet ministers. I have also read some of the transcripts of the Lincoln/Douglas debates that were held in NYC before Lincoln was president. These guys did not read prompt cards. They would speak for something like an hour then their opponent was given an hour and then the first person was given a half hour rebuttle. They not only presented a coherent train of thought but then would comment on what their opponent had said. They would also have the audience on the edge of it's seat. It's an amazing thing to read. I don't think that many people could do that today. The whole debate was transcribed live by people trained in short hand which is in itself a feat few could accomplish today, I think.
My point is this: the people of the 1800's grew up and lived in an environment that was, in many places, more quiet then we can imagine today. No phones, recorded music, advertisements, gas engines, or long travel. There were steam trains in some places. I like to put my mind in that sort of world. I think that the average mind of a person from that time was sharper then ours, mine for sure. The amount they could memorize and recite (if educated) is incredable. I think a long retreat would create that sort of space in a persons mind.
In that retreat space, if a person flooded their mind with thoughts of love and compassion, the result would be, well, I don't know how to say it.