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El Greco: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, between 1586 and 1588
"'Twas always thus."

I think of the initial stage of every initiative as The Assumption, and Our President's strongly rumored and much reported task force's grand plan to reopen the country amid the current pandemic proves no exception. It seems to be emerging as an absolute exemplar of this general rule. The first iteration always seems to have been pulled directly out of somebody's BIG ASSumption. To many, it already seems unworthy of ever seeing the clarifying light of any day, more a self-portrait of narcissistic delusion than serious proposal, an embarrassment to its authors' intentions. It presumes altogether too much and also discloses waaaay too much. Couldn't there be a better way?

For the first iteration, I've grown to understand that there could have been no better way, for something needs nudging off its dime if any result is ever to come to pass.
Huge undertakings never happen on mere whim, but the first draft of the so-called grand plan exhibits more whim than wisdom. They always have and they always will. Sharing this delusional document serves two higher purposes: 1) It's a Straw Man to encourage criticism and commentary, and 2) It's the primary means for building a community around an initiative. Most will not initially find very much very pleasing in the proposal, but iteratively amended by multiple critics, a rough consensus might emerge. That rough consensus might not prove much less delusional than the originating OutOfYourASSumptions proposal, but it will have morphed to the point where more people will see some of their own shit represented in it, and might thereby, as they say, get behind it.

This is how grand strategies have always emerged. Bringing the original notion into fruition will, of course, prove to be impossible. Will the originating intention be preserved? This might be the more germane question, though actual execution of the initiative will inevitably become some seemingly endless struggle to debunk originating myths and embrace discomfiting realities. The world will most certainly have her way with the grand idea, perhaps turning it into Nothing Mush, rarely preserving much of its intended-to-have-been inspiring presumptions. It will have succeeded if it accomplished one of two daunting objectives: 1) It will either have managed to inspire the targeted community to smother the initiative before it can launch, or 2) It will have incited the community to dedicate itself to the tedious, seemingly endless, improvement of it. One or the other. The perfect project is always the one quickly smothered before it can proliferate. Every other one carries obvious surface imperfections probably stemming from its deep OutOfYourASSumptions origin.

Only failure can emerge from ramming a proposal through without first gaining the consent of those who will ultimately become oppressed by it, even if that oppression comes in the form of dedication to actually achieve its ends. The effort will become an ongoing negotiation either way, and one which will require altogether more dedication than the merely conscripted or roughly directed can ever muster. Pushed to preserve its original assumptions, it will ultimately smother itself, quietly or noisily, on some particularly rough-shod reality. It will encounter so many rough shod realities that the retrospective will fail to identify precisely which one overwhelmed it.

The universe retains her remarkably delicate balance and our assertions mean little to her. She remains steadfastly unimpressed by our intentions and indifferent toward even our cleverest inventions. She knows that we pull everything OutOfOurASSumptions, even when we forget. She knows how we too easily impress ourselves with presumptive pretense, as if we knew, as if we actually could know. We never truly understand beforehand, and only sometimes learn better afterward. We remain capable, though, of sometimes mustering truly great things, but these accomplishments never, never, never result directly from the initial mess we pull OutOfOurASSumptions, but indirectly, through a rather radical cooperation. Presidents and potentates have proposed throughout time, and history records as if these inevitably arrogant assertions actually came to pass. What came to pass was cured and crafted through ten thousand unwanted challenges to become more a begrudgingly negotiated settlement than the originating piece of shit ever seemed likely to become, or realistically could have become.

The Assumption into heaven comes after the death of the originating notions, never before. What begins as almost pure assumption becomes purified through exhausting iteration. Once the founding mythos crumbles, its functional afterlife begins. Where that might leave us then remains the object of much speculation, supported by perhaps nothing more than faith. Those who propose grand initiatives are fools, either those sorts of fools volunteering to share their grand delusions and thereby debunk them by deeply offending those inconvenienced by them or the even greater fools who sincerely believe that they can command that any truly grand anything simply be done. Our President's track record so far suggests that he's the latter sort of fool, for he's shown no prior interest in doing, but only in claiming to have done, usually without anyone's assistance. History will most likely, in Lincoln's words, "little note and not long remember" his task force's proposal for reopening the country, for it will prove delusional, most likely disastrous, and signify nothing more than utter ignorance of how anyone gets anything done. 'Twas always thus.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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