Rendered Fat Content


The Escape Ladder by Joan Miró, 1940
"Our sanity now seems to lie in mere reason …"

When the thoroughly modern organization wants to move forward, to spawn a fresh initiative, they call a retreat. Over the last few years, Major League Baseball has seen an unprecedented spike in home run hits after a counter-intuitive practice gained broader acceptance: hitters learned to cock their bats backwards and up instead of immediately thrusting them outward and down in that split second after the pitcher released the ball. On weekends, city dwellers fled their cities while hinterland dwellers flooded into them, intent upon a respite couple of days just getting away. Farmers left for their escape cabins in the woods. New Yorkers hopped cheap flights to Paris. Walla Wallaians headed over to Portland while Portlanders zooted over to Walla Walla. Over my lifetime, we have sought retreat as renewal.

Now, living under lock without key, we cannot so blithely retreat.
Renewal in place seems silly on the face of it, and forward progress consequently seems impossible without that requisite Retreating. I used to wonder what we were all running from, but no more. Filled with fresh experience of the boredom of place, I'd willingly go anyplace to escape its numbing face. We no longer have anyplace to escape to. I warmly recall past retreats when The Muse and I would initiate an extended toodle somewhere as the primary cure for almost any ill. That first begrudging Spring of exile in Washington, DC, we slipped out past the nefariously encumbering Beltway to escape along the Blue Ridge, a stunningly renewing retreat. We felt as though we were revisiting the past for the very first time, and returned refreshed and ready for whatever fresh insult metropolitan living might serve up.

Counties to the West of us have started threatening to open up, and I caught myself daydreaming of a long weekend's drive back toward a place from our past, when we'd just leave without packing up any of our cares or woes and just go, road miles curing us of whatever ill might have previously bedeviled us. I caught myself imagining The Muse making a last minute hotel reservation from her phone as we closed in on what we'd just then decided must have been our destination all along. I savored the idea of following my well-respected nose to discover some little hide-away supper place serving something simple from our past, rewarding us for heading backwards. An excursion with no place in mind. A mindless trip intending to refresh and reassure our workaday mindfulness. A stupidly predictable surprise.

All of these possibilities lie for now imbedded within an inaccessible past. We most likely cannot fool ourselves into sincerely believing that we might feel safe fleeing toward a freshly reopened county. Not yet. Certainly not now, before we can clearly see how or when adequate testing might emerge, so we're seemingly stuck peering forward with no realistic possibility for Retreating. I realized yesterday that there's no place on this earth safe to retreat to. Forward progress therefore seems a genuine pipe dream. My friend Bastiaan posits that people become less rational the longer they're sequestered. The first few weeks, we seemed perfectly capable of maintaining a reasonable world view. Beyond that, first individuals then whole clumps start peeling off to engage in increasingly hazardous behavior, like vacationers rushing the suddenly expansive beach just before a tsunami appears. Our peril has become the very state which once ensured our security. Our sanity now seems to lie in mere reason, and not in the ironic contradictions inherent in Retreating as the primary means for moving forward. How very unfortunate for us all.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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