Rendered Fat Content


Lucas van Leyden:
The Expulsion from Paradise (1510)

" … continue collecting experiences."

I believe in the existence of a set of StandardDilemmas whose primary nature has always been that they utterly negate human agency. No matter what even the most well-meaning human might muster in the face of any of these, that human will remain utterly powerless against it. One might exhibit wisdom when encountering one of them to cede to the superior force, to go without much kicking or screaming, for they represent incarnate fate. If there's nothing to be done, then nothing might serve as the proper response. Yet people rarely exhibit such rationality when facing inevitables. We're raised on fables and typically so damned full of ourselves that we cannot quite believe in our occasional powerlessness. We rarely acquiesce, thinking it a form of cowardice, so we make a fuss and produce much of the drama surrounding us. If the arrested person would just go without a fuss as the arresting officer thoughtfully asked, the unfortunate experience might pass without raising a ripple in the pond. We often insist upon making needless tidal waves instead.

It's not that we don't usually know when we've encountered one of The StandardDilemmas.
I thought about listing them, then decided against it. They are innumerable and might well be different for different ones of us. Not everyone's Achilles' heel is located in their heel. Some suffer from Achilles' tongue while others from Achilles' brain. There never was any ruling that insisted anyone's weakest spot must be like any others. This fact adds to the richness of the plot. Add to that the fact that, as humans, we're prone to have forgotten our specific weaknesses and often mistake them for our strengths. This misconception alone has kept the parody industry humming throughout human history. The self-acknowledged geniuses might not rule the world, but they certainly keep it entertained.

I usually recognize a StandardDilemma once I'm already engaged in it again. Deciding where to eat when tired and hungry almost always prefaces a parody of familiar dimensions. It's guaranteed that we will end up in another truly regrettable place consuming something that would have qualified as a parody of supper had it been on someone else's plate. We have tragedy for supper instead, and there was nothing any one of us could have ever done to prevent that outcome. My carbonara, misrepresented on the menu as "Carbonara," came instead as a plate of penne pasta smothered in Alfredo sauce infused with bacon and nearly hidden beneath a pile of roughly shredded Parmesan-like substance. I was sure it was not Parmesan because using the genuine would have been unthinkably out of character in that regrettable restaurant. (We'd already sent back the anchovies, served on the side, as texturally challenged and reminiscent of cat food.) I mustered the start of a grin and set about attempting to bare this ordeal which I knew I would encounter just as soon as I realized that I was engaging in a StandardDilemma, where I try to decide where to have dinner when tired and hungry. The presence of grandkids only further sealed the fate.

Twelve Step Programs offer decent advice for how to deal with The StandardDilemmas, for they prescribe embracing powerlessness. Rather than fuss and fight, they suggest following the light, keeping eyes on the horizon, and finding a friend. Fate's chosen without asking your opinion again. You might just as well get over that betrayal and begin again. In some way, every StandardDilemma serves as another new beginning, a falling from which one might pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. Sure, each encounter feels like an ending, sometimes even a tragic one, but the resurrection comes after the fall. Take your medicine and start over. This experience was in no way anybody's fault. You bumped into the edge of human influence and fell over, an utterly ordinary and pedestrian experience. Now that you're reminded you're human, continue collecting experiences.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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