Rendered Fat Content


Alexandre Cabanel: Woman Reaching Over a Wall,
study for The Life of Saint Louis, King of France (1878)

"Reaching for the occasional impossible …"

The Muse and I differ in significant ways. I'm by far the more delicate of the two flowers. She's one tough cookie. She's more likely to dream big. Her grasp often seems to exceed her Reach. She often manages to successfully grasp something seemingly beyond her Reach. I do not know how she does this, but neither does she. She apprenticed in a world where her grasp reliably fell far short of her aspirations, where even her own bootstraps seemed to lay beyond her Reach until they just didn't anymore. She ascribes the shift as having had to do with dreaming bigger. I might insist that if you want to reliably Succeed, simply reach for things well within your grasp, while she insists that one must stretch further than that to Successfully achieve an impossible. She should know because she has had the Successes to show this sometimes works. Not every one of even The Muse's dreams falls within her grasp, though.

A class of aspiration exists which stands exclusively beyond any human's Reach or grasp, and these seem poisonous.
They might seduce us into wanting them, even though nobody could ever hope to successfully Reach or grasp them. People seem to file these aspirations under Heart's Desire, then dedicate themselves to breaking their hearts pursuing them. It might appear merely bad luck preventing realization, but these represent an ideation difficulty. Like infinities, different grades and sizes of impossibilities also exist, ranging from the merely unlikely to the genuinely delusional. The delusional ones ascribe powers beyond anyone's to our erstwhile dreamer, like when one chooses to want to make another happy, even for the very best of reasons, or when one insists upon needing a purple crayon when there isn't one in the crayon box. These sorts of aspirations can effectively prevent Success from occurring, regardless of expected grasp or Reach.

Perhaps the most poisonous aspirations fall under the Change The World label, for us mere humans seem to natively lack the leverage to successfully manage that, however much we might agree that it's needed. Instead, we're blessed or cursed to work with the world's nature without expecting actually to change it. We can sometimes shift results without fixing the context, that being impossible to Reach or grasp. We can always work with the devil when we must, but we dare not insist that he change his nature to satisfy us. Worst case, we might manage to Reach right through his influence to grasp a real difference. Focusing upon changing the world might, in the final analysis, serve as no more than a distraction, something that sure seemed necessary initially but which experience taught us wasn't. To grasp what we could never have Reached seems the most helpful insight.

Sometimes, The Muse insists, she merely needs to acquire a little influence, not to achieve any particular end, but merely to become party to some conversation. She need not be elected as anyone's representative to profoundly influence policy decisions. Instead, she prefers to invite the influential out for coffee and then fill them up with earworms which might reasonably affect their thinking. Then, without them even suspecting, she's enlisted a better-positioned pair of hands to work in her interest. Let them grasp if she can't Reach. She employs the better-positioned lever even if it's not hers—no real need to change the world if it will willingly do your bidding. Maybe Reach and grasp just come down to understanding how the world really works more than becoming smart or well-positioned enough to successfully re-engineer it. Attempting to fix this world might qualify as a sin of self-importance, anyway, far exceeding anyone's Reach or grasp.

It might prove useful to occasionally page through my aspirations to check for any absolute delusions. The ones where I'm counting on others to change might serve as the easiest to pick off, for they amount to Change The World targets. I might really want you to be happy, but does it make sense for me to decide to be miserable in my attempt to cheer you up? Well, maybe it does, but I'm better off, I suspect, if I deliberately choose then choose again to pursue that end, understanding that I might well have chosen to chase a delusion that probably contains no Success in it at all and never could. After all, you could always co-opt my initiative by simply deciding to be happy without my intervention. I do not need to win every round. I do, though, seem to need to preserve my ability to continue playing, so my Reaching and grasping might be better engaged in as if they were play and not as if engaging in the serious business In which I too often seem to engage. A diet of delusional reaches does not promise much beyond continuing practice exceeding my grasp. If I need to be successful, I can always reach for what lies well within my grasp. If I insist upon Reaching for the occasional impossible, it matters whether I could ever actually grasp it at all.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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