Rendered Fat Content


Vincent van Gogh: The Drinkers (1890)

“Our future seems secure together.”

Writing sometimes seems more like a haunting, for I am usually dredging up memories of past experiences to serve as grist for my work. I also sometimes exhume as yet unexperienced futures, and these can also prove to be problems. I imagine a few of my futures to be warm and inviting but more likely to harbor threats, many inhabited by BoogeyMens. The Boogeys remain from childhood stories rather than from lived experience. Their prior lives entirely consisted of stories, some of the types usually shared around a campfire on shadowy summer nights with a forest crowding in too tightly. Those stories promised an impending visit, scheduled for sometime between then and dawn. Later, some disturbance on the side of the tent will seem to announce doom's arrival, sparking some real drama inside. However, we almost always discovered the next morning some completely benign explanation for what we'd presumed had been our grisly demise. We'd somehow survived.

I've also somehow survived so far, though I often glimpse futures I would not willingly wish upon anyone, let alone myself.
I remain supremely capable of scaring myself, though, my BoogeyMens sometimes prominent presences. Shadows turn into serious threats. The cats can thump around like thieves in the night. Whatever's next can easily seem terrifying, overwhelmingly so. If I slow down, though, I might notice where my BoogeyMens stand. They're always in the future rather than closer to hand. They remain impending, or at least have remained impending so far. Those futures I sometimes imagine breathing down my neck might remain imagined and never actually threatening. Even my recent shivering in the throes of Covid mostly left me anticipating, for even in those moments, I seemed fine and would have felt perfect had it not been for the dread I sensed stalking me then. The dread was an anticipatory, projected experience. I was not nearly as bad off as I'd imagined.

Of course, I can declare that now that I've conquered that infection. I had spent more than three years avoiding that scenario only to learn it was worth avoiding. If anything, through those years of isolating and masking, I'd been underestimating the threat those particular BoogeyMens offered. That BoogeyMens' visit proved considerably worse than expected, but how could I have accurately anticipated how it would have felt to feel sicker than I'd ever felt? That projection would have been impossible. Nobody ever gets to imagine anything even remotely like any worst-case scenario. We might well live in anticipatory dread, but we will have been underestimating the experience, however graphic our imaginings.

I saw this week a short video of the mother of all BoogeyMens, a preview of what astrophysicists might well insist would be our likely demise a few billion years into the future.
The video shows a Gas Giant consuming a planet. The planet merged with the gas giant's molten core to become indistinguishable from the rest of the material already sucked into there—a small singularity containing the entirety of the contents of that sun's former neighborhood. Scientists believe we face a similar fate, that our sun, too, probably faces a gaseous giant future, expanding in size and reach until it fatally attracts every planet within its present solar system's orbit. This story with it. Our Villa overlooking the present center of this universe, too. Everything we presently hold dear will very likely become as one in the gaseous belly of our future sun.

Tell me, please, what more proximate BoogetMens pose any more significant threat? I suppose I could likely survive any of those future-dwelling entities since I seem stuck here in the present. I imagine an asymptotic future, one where it remains pretty much the same until it doesn't, and where once it doesn't, nothing matters anymore, for it will have been subsumed into something larger and even more inclusive. Until then, whatever I attempt seems preternaturally significant, truly important. Any dread standing between me and any future certainly exists within an infinitely bigger shadow. The future appears massive, much larger than the total of any and all pasts. It holds potential that might ultimately coexist on the most fundamental molecular level. This story. Your attention. Our collective anticipation. Our differences. Our so-called similarities. Fear not. Dread not. Our future seems secure together.

I Know Where This Is Headed
A week spent overwhelmed simply attempting to regain physical well-being seemed well-timed as if I'd been needing an absence. I fed my guilty conscience since I neglected my regularly scheduled business while the illness spread and receded. The Muse and I made a pot of chicken noodle soup and another of lentils, and what meals we accepted came exclusively from those. They offered the easiest clean-up and the most convenient double-boiler preparation. Leftovers could return to the fridge in the same container we'd heated them in. The usual chores of daily living were reduced to the absolute bare minimum. One meal a day seemed more than strictly necessary. I slept more than I remember sleeping in this lifetime. I became ill the usual way, through denial via insignificant increment. I healed by the same regimen. I surprised myself one morning when I woke up feeling refreshed rather than exhausted, reassured rather than run over. I woke up and returned to business, confident I know where this is headed.

Weekly Writing Summary
I began my writing week by naming the common intrusion into things like writing weeks,
JustWhen. This choice proved prescient as I did not spend the bulk of the subsequent writing week writing but cowering instead with a case of Covid. "My careers, like everybody's, have been liberally spotted by JustWhen experiences. The missed meeting that was supposed to result in that big contract. The chance encounters that couldn't quite get followed up on—the opportunities passing close by but not quite close enough. I, too, have felt beset."
William Michael Harnett: Just Dessert (1891)
"Life most often proceeds by other means than planned."

I continued my writing week five mornings later, having almost fully recovered from my memorable bout with Covid. I celebrated by writing
ReBeginningAgain. "We become stale in practice, and regardless of what the efficiency experts insist, we become less productive when we solely stick to reductive repetition. We need disruption of the kind viral infections provide, just enough to gently knock us off our self-importance and throw us into some form of recovery. A routine recovered becomes more robust than one never disrupted, for we become too unthinking and mindless unless occasionally thrown off our balance."
Attributed to
Henry Fuseli: Perseus Starting from the Cave of the Gorgons (c. 1816)
"I should never again, ever be mistaken for anybody's spring chicken."

I ended my writing week with a minor crisis, not of conscience but of confidence in
FirstDrafting. "One may successfully deceive one's self or smother beneath the sense that the result will not have been worth the effort. But, in the absolute absence of knowing, one must just keep going."
William Hogarth: The Sleeping Congregation (1728)
" … one must just keep going."

Each writing week reveals a similar pattern. Each represents the same evolution on only slightly different terms. Each starts with an unknown, sometimes an explicit one, though it's often implicit. This week, it came as a JustWhen anticipation, a particular touch of dread. Then the line went dead for four long days, unrecoverable days which did not produce stories, though I'd insisted that I might create some description of them once I'd recovered. I will not make good on that fevered promise, for I lost contact with those experiences once Covid departed. I could have only accurately represented my experience there from within that space, and that space rendered me incapable of describing anything. How similar that realization seems to every one of my midweek musings. I, of course, re-entered the fray with only a couple of days remaining to redeem myself this writing week, first by ReBeginningAgain and then to end with FirstDrafting, where I might have blinked or utterly forgotten the purpose or the promise of this series. Thank you for following along and especially for the Get Well wishes!

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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