Rendered Fat Content


Jean-Honoré Fragonard: The Swing [French: L'Escarpolette],
original title The Happy Accidents of the Swing
[French: Les Hasards heureux de l'escarpolette]. (c. 1767)

"I hope that I never successfully catch up to anything but continuing pursuit."

Few experiences seem so damning as a decent blessing. Give me a dream Coming True and a raft of childhood training kicks in, lessons cautioning about hatching chickens, gift horses, and turning worms. The subtext of all of them seemed to focus on the inevitable fickleness of fate. Good luck prefaces bad. Success breeds failure. Lucky streaks end. Eventually, we're all damned. My parents were no pessimists, but they'd lived through The Great Depression, experiencing how wishing doesn't always make things so and just how cruel life can sometimes feel. They'd counsel us kids to never prop our hopes up too high. I guess they were lovingly trying to prevent us from injuring ourselves when (not if!) we fell. The lesson I took away told me to stay low to the ground, not precisely crawling everywhere on my belly, but by all means, staying off high horses. It probably didn't help that when I was five, a neighbor invited me to ride her enormous horse, which I promptly fell off of. We ultimately teach ourselves life's lessons, often by misconstruction.

I should not feel at all surprised if I instinctively duck when I experience good luck.
I secretly hope nobody will notice and I sense that I should keep the blessed event secret. I muster no victory parade, no celebratory cotillion. I sense that if I ever had a million dollars, somebody would set about trying to separate me from it, perhaps violently. I aspire to be a genuine nobody lest I tempt the crueler fates. I'm hoping now that it might not be too late to change this tune and revel in my current good fortune, for The Muse and I seem to be experiencing an authentic dream ComingTrue. Whatever should we do in response? Were it not for This Damned Pandemic, we'd invite the world over to sit beneath our beatific apricot tree so recently recovered from a killing virus or to sit around our freshly organized living room, just talking, continuing a conversation genuinely worth having while sipping fine wine. Our instincts tell us to share this blessing but conditions inhibit us from accomplishing this as we'd prefer.

One of the better ways to blunt any blessing involves a curious kind of judging. Since nothing's perfect, a gap always exists between any good and what it might have been if perfect. An old New Yorker cartoon depicts a man and God walking across the top of a bank of clouds, with the man asking, "Is it always cloudy here?" As if he'd found heaven disappointing. We innocently ask after the best solutions though we should know that best absolutely does not exist. Are we trying to disappoint ourselves by seeking the best of everything? We seem to struggle with settling for "simply" good enough, as if we needed to over-inflate our expectations to somehow motivate even modest actions. I do not want to go seeking the best place for dinner, and it often seems that some stumbled-upon joint turns out to be plenty perfect, even if Trip Advisor never rated it anything special. For me, The Best is something different from what anybody tells me it is.

My back aches this morning from stooping and crawling, cleaning out a weedy patch in the yard. I carried a half dozen muck buckets out to the green waste receptacle and covered myself with dust in the process. By five going on six, I'd successfully exhausted myself again. I sat myself down and smiled with deep satisfaction. The yard, my yard, was coming along just fine. Its future looks even brighter. Mine, too. I cannot cross the yard without spotting an errant weed, one I'd missed on my last pass, and I don't see any absence of perfection in this. I see an extension of a purpose for walking across this blessed yard again, smiling. I hope that I never successfully catch up to anything but continuing pursuit. Should I meet the best on the road, I'll just keep on going, understanding that the best, even if it existed, never was really worth knowing. Plenty and enough carry more than enough satisfaction for me. Perfect ain't perfection, for that's first found surrounded by weeds. Stooping to correct the problem, a truly fortunate one might find their calling and come to recognize how stooping serves as the perfection they were innocently seeking. My future promises even more weeding. Happily ever after, indeed!

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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