Rendered Fat Content


Roy Lichtenstein: Reverie (from the portfolio 'Eleven Pop Artists, vol. II') (1965)
" … nearer the center of MY universe where gravity just works right …"

I suspect that even a moderately skilled artist could create a near perfect portrait of me by merely portraying all I won't do, the image created out of essentially negative space. In my inhibited early youth, I maintained a long list of won'ts, and I didn't even consider myself to be that picky of an eater. Later, I set about relaxing my code and for a time became somewhat of a permissive libertine, agreeing to engage in some things apparently just to learn why I shouldn't. I learned better. Now, I've settled into what I consider to be a balanced existence, comfortable in my convictions buttressed behind strong defensive walls, My Won'ts serve as my castle, complete with parapets and banners. Mark Twain posited that the primary difference between a human and a jackass is that there are some things a jackass just won't do; they're stubborn. I think of myself as living toward the jackass end of the species spectrum, stubborn after a fashion, for I scrupulously maintain my Won'ts as both moral and ethical imperatives.

Moral imperatives include all those things others told me that I should not want.
They begin life as Thou Shalts. If I buy into one of these, I transform it from a shouldn't into a won't. Ethical imperatives are a little different, for they seem more self-imposed, I Will agreements. Both moral and ethical imperatives might begin life as positive affirmations but they tend to age into comfortable negativity, presented most prominently as Won'ts. A fundamentalist, for instance, won't dance, though not dancing hardly qualifies as an affirmative action. Beneath it lies a positive stance supporting some sincere belief, I suspect, and not just defended empty space. That won't represents an underlying positive conviction. My Won'ts seem like that, too. I'll decline the offer of a Coke® not simply because I find it morally and ethically repugnant, though I do, but because I remember what Coke® did to that tooth in that fifth grade science experiment and also because I can't metabolize caffeine. That Won't exists to keep me safe and healthy, not really to be prudish or haughty, however I might appear.

I'm surprised that I don't rattle as I walk, for I have Won'ts hanging off me as if I was wearing a tinker's pack. Some of them conflict. When traveling, I'm sometimes confronted with a devil's bargain where I'm given the free choice between yuck and even yuckier, with both choices off my chart of strictly permissibles. If I'm hungry enough, I might well choose one anyway, then spend the rest of the day regretting my choice while reinforcing why I'd adopted that Won't in the first place. Engaging in a won't seems sinful. Won'ts often seem self-reinforcing, for choosing to go ahead and do that anyway tends to lead to memorable regret. It might be that eventually I'll just seize up, unable to find anything I'm willing to swallow anymore. Or, I might freeze the other way, so surrounded by behaviors I find deep down offensive that I will no longer be able to roam around this world. My Won'ts have been growing steadily since I first started sincerely focusing upon self-improvement. I'm even officially a picky eater now.

For instance, I only take the frozen fast food aisle as a shortcut. I never feel moved to peruse the freezers' contents, for what started as a practical don't has grown into a potentially prejudiced won't. I catch myself harshly judging those who do not subscribe to my avoidances, looking down my nose and through my glasses like a disappointed wise man. I do think myself wiser for my Won'ts, each a testament to an often painful learning experience. I pity those who've yet to come to know, though I know that convictions aren't communicable. Considerable energy goes into trying to convince me to adopt some fresh dalliance, to confront my prejudices and just try. These rarely penetrate my defenses, for they largely come across as offenses to my sense of personal decency, largely defined by my Won'ts. My Won'ts require little reinforcement, for they are not in any way disciplines, but givens. I am not tempted to violate them. They've become bedrock baselines which, as I stated above, could probably define me if properly rendered.

I've never made a list of them, but I suspect that if I did, they'd fill a small law library with picky little details. They operate as a sort of sixth sense, though, and need no serious study. I've grown to just know and rarely even notice them except when one's threatened with a violation. The HeadingHomeward urge might represent a desire to get back to a place where my Won'ts and my environment better mesh. Many cues here within this megalopolis spark my inner gag reflex and I suspect that back home, I'll feel more properly insulated against these. If there are no freeways, all my freeway Won'ts won't ever feel threatened. I anticipate a less threatening array of choices awaiting me there, nearer the center of MY universe where gravity just works right without having to squint or continually compromise.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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