CastlesOfCards


"I seek not to undo my past, a genuine fool's mission,
but to better understand and more deeply appreciate it as well as my present."

By the time anyone lives to my advancing age, they live in a CastleOfCards. Construction started long before the builder could comprehend that they were building anything, let alone the philosophical, moral, ethical, and logical foundation of their later life, their later lives. Key stones laid with little appreciation of the global ramifications of their local choices, the place ultimately gives a bad name to the term 'hacked.' Even the more thoughtfully-designed pieces stand atop elements never intended to support more than an odd adolescent notion. Habits replicated across decades pulled large portions of the construction out of true. When I abandoned one or another habit in favor of one better suited to then present circumstance, walls supporting the new focus clearly never foresaw that shift. As one ages, whole wings might simply crumble into useless piles. The laird hardly abandons his castle simply because it's started crumbling out from beneath him and his court. Nobody ever starts over again, demolishing what was built in utter ignorance of future needs. Everyone lives in a hacked CastleOfCards.

It's not until older age that most will consent to a general reconsideration of the place.
The survey begins with modest intent, anticipating perhaps some minor scraping and painting, but home improvement projects never end where they're initially intended to conclude. They expand faster than any universe and just as inexorably. Plan to remove some tattered wallpaper and end up replacing a load-bearing wall. It's nobody's fault. I installed that wall fifty years before with no more expectation that to blunt one winter's particularly fierce wind, but that wall fell into supporting some subsequent addition undertaken with equally constricted anticipation. Before anyone suspected anything, I'd added a wing which I finished slightly after the original purpose for starting it permanently disappeared. I've grown accustomed to that space by then, however unnecessary or ill-suited it might have become. It stays.

My several mid-life crises were particularly terrific encouragers for further construction and enforcing ever narrowing perspective. I added rooms to offset clear mistakes without seriously considering removing any earlier error. A pair results, improvement more or less perfectly balanced with the obsolete, each somehow supporting the other. Habits contribute more than their fair share, leaving the CastleOfCards equivalent of storage rooms designed for and overflowing with equipment that suspended rituals disallow. Blowing out a knee can leave behind an entire wing of the place.

Reconsideration, even in encroaching older age, never comes easy. Nobody ever wakes up one morning aching to deconstruct any well-entrenched status quo, however moribund it's become. I'm more likely to beatify my counterweights than to seriously consider repurposing them, leaving them to collect cobwebs and inhibit serious Spring cleaning forever and ever, amen. Nor could reconsidering ever qualify as courageous work unless stretching a heart-filled definition well into foolhardy range. Some sell the old place and call the Salvation Army, discarding their overwhelming accumulations wholesale, then move into a newer and much smaller place which accurately resembles the old home in miniature within scant months of moving in. The patterns that contributed to the design of the old place will very likely govern the design of its replacement, and pre-consciously.

So I'm not fixing to hire a front-loader to clean out my cognitive space, but I am considering (note the lack of sincere commitment) reconsidering some of what must have gone into constructing this place. Not simply 'what was I thinking?' but 'what did I firmly believe held true?', in the interesting of perhaps discovering what I can now firmly believe holds true. More than half of me is myth and misconception. I hold ample room for improvement. Some self-help guru insisted that I would become the sum of my commitments, and I understand that some of my commitments remain essentially permanent ones. No-one can divorce everything they would later choose to lose. A few of those innocuous-seeming cards constrain gravity from undermining the whole castle. Move those and more than a carapace crumbles. I intend to be picky and choosy and I fully expect to choose to leave most of the cards where they presently lie. Of course I'm lying to myself. How else might one properly begin such an enterprise?

Winter seems the proper season to initiate any reconsidering, if only because this world seems particularly ill-suited to Winter. Even here, near the crest of the Continental Divide, Winter tends to hide the true charms of the place. The snow, little more than a temporary interloper. Even the cold North wind seems mostly theatrics, impermanent, wasting on its own considerable momentum. Forget about building a castle on sand. If you want true impermanence, set the foundation on snow and ice then see how nicely your castle stands come Spring. I impress myself with my ability to simply go unconscious for long periods of time, as if the primary purpose of existence simply must always have been to fail to register the bulk of it. This trick has little to do with mindlessness, and mindfulness exercises seem hardly more than the same/old flying a different flag. I'm fixing to catch myself being myself, not to train myself to become someone else but to better anticipate and appreciate this CastleOfCards which I suspect I will continue to inhabit regardless of any self-improvement regimen I might embrace. I seek not to undo my past, a genuine fool's mission, but to better understand and more deeply appreciate it as well as my present. The resulting stories might just make some difference that could make a real difference as I shuffle off into ever older age.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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