Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I chose one of the longer licks and I've been using it often for several
days. Now the words have sort of gone dead on me. They've become just meaningless sounds.
A: It happens to all of us. The mind gets bored very fast with repeated words. Best
solution: Get busy and memorize a half dozen new licks--or more, and then mix up their
use. You'll find the old mind wakes up and is right there paying attention again.
Also keep in mind the possibility of thinking up new ways to say a given lick. Slow, very
slow, very very slow, then back to slow again, and so on. Or vary the rhythm. Do a few
repetitions with one syllable per beat. Then try an accented syllable followed by an
unaccented syllable (DA-da-DA-da). Or do it in waltz-time (DA-da-da, DA-da-da).
Q: Most of the quotations you list I like. None of them appeal to many any more
than the others. How do I go about selecting some to memorize?
A: One way is by length. Choose a few short ones, a few medium-long ones, and a couple of
really long ones.
Let's say then you've memorized 10 altogether. You use those ten for several weeks. Pretty
soon you'll find they're quite firmly implanted in your mind and you can "play"
them like a musician at a keyboard.
Q: Supposing I've got a bunch of licks in my head, how you decide which one to use?
A: After you've been using licks a while, a situation will arise where you suddenly need a
lick. Not infrequently, something rather unexpected happens. Your mind will automatically
choose one of the licks. You won't even have to think about making a choice.
It doesn't happen every time, but often enough to be noticeable.
Is there a connection between the situation and the chosen lick? Maybe, maybe not. See
what you think.
Otherwise, I just use whichever one I happen to think of.
Q: I've been using licks and lenses for several months, and I've noticed I'm
getting bored. What should I do? Memorize more?
A: Sure, you can memorize more. You can also give your mind a break. Just stop doing them
for a while. I've taken breaks as long as a couple of months. Then when I go back and
start again, I feel refreshed and happy to be doing them once more.
Q: You're awfully vague about the results to be gained from using licks 'n' lenses.
Why should a person undertake something like this when you promise so little?
A: If the licks and lenses don't speak to you, I think you shouldn't start using them.
Probably it'd be a waste of your time. But I guarantee, a time will come in your life--a
time of great stress, or great distress--when the words will speak to you. That's a good
time to start.
As for results, let me say it this way: One way to look at what this practice does is, it
helps you get out of the way of yourself.
What I mean is, this life you have--which I call a rut, or a swimming pool--is certainly
part of you. But there's another, older, deeper part of you that this life has probably
more or less shut you off from. The licks help you get back in contact with that part of
What happens then varies from person to person, from situation to situation. Broadly
speaking, you'll experience an empowerment--maybe I should say, a re-empowerment--of
yourself. It may take the form of new creativity, a reviving of a flagging love, new
interest in old sports or hobbies, and so on.
Deep, Deep Ruts
Q: What a bunch of crap. I've been on Death Row for 16 years. They let me out once
a day for an hour. What a laugh. "Out" means a stroll in the yard, 20 paces by
30 paces of asphalt behind 15-foot walls. I can see the sky, you spoiled s.o.b. The only
time I see green is on TV. What do you say to that?
Q: My life is like a bad science-fiction movie, where a head is removed and given
life-support so it keeps on thinking and talking. We have a word for everything. The word
for me is "quadriplegic." Now what?
Q: I have a lot of friends. One is named "Electroshock." That's an old friend
from several years back. Another newer friend is named "Prozac." I have no doubt
that this little patch of heaven on earth that we call civilization is even now busy
creating still more friends for me to meet before long. But my oldest, dearest friend is a
huge black sucking thing with tendrils that reach through and around my other friends.
It's called "Depression." I laughed out loud when I read the puny stuff you want
me to throw at that friend. Why bother?
Q: Three years ago my child was murdered. Six months later my sister's only child died of
leukemia. My husband is killing himself working 12 hours a day. Life is a joke in very bad
taste. Your words, so presumptuous, so dangerously empty, offend me deeply. Why don't you
just shut up?
A: The old question we still can't answer: "Is my pain greater than yours, or is
yours greater than mine?" I would not even begin to suggest that my pain approaches
the level of pain in which these people live.
I only know this: As long as we continue to breathe, we do have a choice about what we pay
attention to. The pain can be so great that it is very, very difficult to pay attention to
anything else. But you do have that choice. Only a patch of blue sky? Only these weak
words? Isn't it worth trying to put the two together?
Easy Does It
Q: Saltlick really turned me on. I memorized all 36 of the licks from the
short list and I've been saying them all the time, every day. And you know what? It's
making me crazy, man! What am I doing wrong?
A: You're forgetting to live. The licks are not a substitute or a replacement for life.
They're a crutch, a pillow, a ladder out of the swimming pool. You've got a life to get on
with. Ease off on the licks, all right?
Douglas Milburn welcomes questions about Saltlick:
to the author.
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