Rendered Fat Content


Rembrandt van Rijn: Woman Reading (1634)

"Please have mercy on the rest of us first!"

The Muse and I were invited to a dinner party of sorts. I say "of sorts" because the premise seemed suspicious since it was organized as a kind of lottery where somebody other than the host decided who would attend. That somebody was a group The Muse belongs to that also musters an annual used book sale, which has become a standing ritual on the local calendar with collection boxes prominently positioned throughout the town. The Muse sometimes disappears for an afternoon, claiming that she's going to "sort books," a good enough excuse and better than some. I anticipate these gatherings as if they were teeth cleanings. It's not that I'm anti-social. I just prefer to limit my social exposure to well south of any lottery.

We had met our host for the evening at an earlier ginned-up gathering, and I remembered her as a most unusual dinner companion.
That earlier evening, she was not the host, but nevertheless, her speech pattern repeatedly sucked most of the air out of the room. She seemed the master of the non sequitur. It didn't seem to matter; whatever was being discussed, she'd divert us, often with some out-of-the-blue observation about her experience in some utterly different context. The table might have been discussing the weather, for instance, and she would contribute a heartfelt mention of the progress of her remodeling project. It didn't take many interruptions before I could sense everyone praying for a swift ending to the gathering, anything to squelch her annoying stories.

I imagined her lonely and overly needy. Being invited to her actual home filled me with dread. I submitted to the sentence and passively followed The Muse to that front door, anyway. Her speech pattern dominated the evening from the outset. The guests who had not earlier been blessed with our host's presence found the rhythm of their stories rudely interrupted, too, for whatever the subject, our host would bust the rhythm. The background music was also just that much too loud, so those of us who abhor background music because it tends to dominate the foreground found it doubly difficult to discern what she was even saying. I quickly fell beyond caring.

Near the end of that interminable meal, our host introduced yet another orthogonal topic, her abiding interest in BibleStudy. So taken was she by the allure of her subject that I don't think she noticed that she instantly lost her audience. Didn't matter. She continued her patter, explaining in unintelligible terms what she was learning, though she punctuated much of her report with comments that she couldn't remember names and other details. She escaped for a quick moment and returned with her BibleStudy workbook and commenced to read select portions of the text, introducing additional nonsequiturs as needed.

I finally asked after the purpose of so much study. What's the objective? What does she gain? What does she even remember? She replied with the usual responses, mentioning Jesus and God and other absolutely abstract concepts for me, except it seemed clear that she believed these were real, actual physical entities with the most curious powers. I gathered, for instance, that in her reading of Genesis, Jesus was present, as was God, who in those days used to stroll through the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve until, I guess, Adam and Eve sinned. After that, God cut them out of his social circle, not that he didn't continue to love them, mind you; he just had to punish them to make his point.

The Muse heard through the scrambled story that the reason our host engaged in BibleStudy was so that she could learn what to believe. I missed that comment, but on reflection, I suspect she was absolutely right, for who could know what to believe if the objective involves interpreting allegory as if it described the one and true reality? Nobody! A conspiracy would need to be mustered where thousands of eager readers would be subscribed to study and learn together what they were supposed to believe. I mentioned that the Talmudic scholars approach their holy writings differently, for they study to determine what they think rather than to learn what they are supposed to think. They consider their consideration an infinite exercise in making meaning rather than a finite one intended to indoctrinate students.

I left that evening earlier than expected, for shortly after our host began recounting her BibleStudy lessons, the rest quickly found reason to go a little earlier than expected. The dog sitter returned our Host's dogs from their quarantine, and the house instantly filled up with over-enthusiastic puppies, a sure method for ending any dinner party. We met a couple we'd not met before and survived a supper that was alright, food-wise. However, I gained a fresh appreciation for constancy, for the simple human capability of staying on a thread until the story's finished. Focus, I left telling myself, might be more important than even the content of any story. Please refrain from leaving me in the middle of any explanation by mentioning some distant relation you failed to introduce first, and try in the future to keep your BibleStudy to yourself. There's no better way to chase anyone away than by sharing a little too much of your personal interests. Please have mercy on the rest of us first!

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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