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Jean Fouquet: The Conquest of Jericho. Illumination, dated c. 1470-1475
"Until there's juice, it's just no use. One good excuse's enough."

I titled the third chapter of my best-selling The Blind Men and the Elephant (Berrett-Koehler 2003) The Wall, but apparently half a lifetime studying and teaching about The Wall didn't predispose me to recognize its presence when I encountered it again. In my book, I explained that every undertaking encounters The Wall at some point, and The Wall seems to swipe motivation for engaging. A physical barrier isn't usually the source of this difficulty, so it can prove tricky to diagnose and resolve the blockage. I suggested in the text that purpose might be flagging and in need of some renewal to produce a juicier sense of anticipation. For me, a new opportunity most often manifests as an almost (or even actually) overwhelming string of impending obligations, and that, if I chase after the result, I'm suddenly conscripted to fulfill every damned one of them. I see a stream of exhausting efforts rather than my heart's desire manifesting before me. Most adventures look more like chores than opportunities once the initial Utopian conceiving's dissipated, and sometimes, reimagining purpose can cause that emotional barrier to crumble.

As with most information, knowing about The Wall doesn't inoculate anyone against encountering it and also contributes little to helping anyone recognize when they're in the presence of it.
For me, The Wall induces an initially reassuring laziness. Finally, I find myself sleeping in and even napping. I figure I must have needed and maybe even earned a few long winter naps, and I never notice at first when my napping seems to sap my interest rather than renewing it. The Muse cuddled up to me yesterday and asked if I'd received her email and I immediately knew which email she was referring to. I replied with a quiet but curt, "Yes," code for, "I don't want to discuss this." We didn't. I'd expected her to ask for the last week, for I had known that I had not followed up to contact contractors we'll need to affect our HeadingHomeward move, but I just couldn't. I felt as if I was trying to mount a spinning merry-go-round which would not slow down enough for me to leap. Each morning, I'd say, "Today!" to myself, but by evening, I'd whisper, "Tomorrow, maybe." I'd been Walled. Once I deduced my situation, I first wondered where I might find a legion of trumpeters capable of blowing down that wall. No trumpeters ever respond to that kind of call. I'd be on my own again.

Walled produces a deep sensation of isolation. Considerable denial, anger, and bargaining commences which further obscures The Wall's presence. Self esteem takes a hit since I always still know somewhere that I at least used to be capable of performing much better than this. The apparent procrastination says nothing about the battle raging inside. I might be ready to just call this whole thing off. The present status quo, however formerly untenable, seems like the clearly superior alternative when The Wall overshadows anticipation. When I finally catch myself self-helpless again, I might only then accept that I'm actually Walled in.

Of course mere diagnosis cures nothing. I have long held that given any objective, I can more quickly produce a list of one hundred and one perfectly acceptable reasons justifying not pursuing it then I can discover a single overwhelmingly good reason to begin. On my better days, I can usually go to two hundred and two good reasons, any one of which might convince me to just ditch. But these lists, however edifying they might seem, cannot quite resolve this blockage. I usually only need one great reason to proceed, regardless of the volume of evidence arguing against, so the trick for me when feeling Walled usually turns out to be completely imaginary. No physical reward can payoff yet, since I'm in that moment exclusively dealing in future possibilities. I've projected my objections, none of which are due and payable yet, so I realize that I might project my purpose, too. I won't need a hundred and one good reasons to reengage in my pursuit, but only one.

When I stumble upon that one good enough excuse for pursuing, I'll know it's found me in an instant, for it will make a sound like an arrow finding its mark. It will go Thunk! Then the energy drains back in again. Then the vision clears. Then that impenetrable wall crumbles before me. Until I could see The Wall, it had me more than cornered. Walls seem stealthy, capable of deceiving even this acknowledged expert in the subject. The resulting absence of energy rarely fuels sparking insight. The gauges register nothing. I usually figure I'm just damned, and not for any lack of any perfectly justifiable reasons. I accept my fate. Then, always late in the game, a glimmer of promise overtakes me. It might spark genuine insight and then the old engine's firing again. An old Buddhist adage insists, "Until it's fun, it's better left undone." Until there's juice, it's just no use. One good excuse's enough.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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