Chaings

Chaings
Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640): Prometheus Bound (Gefesselter Prometheus), between 1611 and 1612
"Fine metal working skills preferred because we're fixing to make Chaings again."

Prometheus (meaning "Forethought") gained a reputation as a clever trickster. He gave mankind fire and metal working, actions for which Zeus punished him by tethering him where an eagle would painfully eat his freshly regenerated liver each day, a particularly painful fate. I think of him as the prototypical change agent, for change agents tout their abilities to foresee, a boast common among flimflamming tricksters. They employ a curiously inflaming, seemingly iron-clad rhetoric (fire) which seems irreproachable, even inevitable. This speech inspires and incites a sort of satisfying insanity in others. They tend to develop self-regenerating livers, or at least seem to, as they quite often feel the need to lubricate their efforts with liberal amounts of liver-destroying beverages. The eagle, which might represent truth or fact or at least encroaching reality, cannot quell his hunger regardless of how many Promethean livers he consumes. This dance seems infinite.

Each election cycle some fresh Prometheuses appear.
We love to hear them speak, for their words move us with stories of change we really cannot help but believe in. We feel more empowered when we hear them, just as if these, unlike all those past promises, must inevitably be kept, "if only." We see before us a master not of the present but of a long aspired-for future, a present that hasn't yet happened, but one within which these objectives suddenly seem well within our collective grasp, if only we will work together to elect this powerful representative. This sort of change rarely works, though hope that it might seems more regenerative than Prometheus' freaking liver.

The present seems chained to the past and also to any future. We never successfully engineer any break from who we actually are and always have been, though we do on occasion experience shifts, virtually always of the un-engineered variety. These differences stand atop the unlikely shoulders of our pasts, never once pulling off anything resembling a predicted result. Spin kicks in to at least try to resolve the more obvious divergences, and since histories tend to be written by those with the greatest vested interest in spinning the results, we manage to convince ourselves, with the continued assistance of liver-destroying beverages, that we engineered, with our fire and masterful metal work, real change when we evolved or stumbled into it instead.

Our public stories marinate in such myth until we always seek change agents worthy of it, if not entirely worthy of us and our aspirations. We might seek to fix our aspirations first and thereby more fully qualify the more patient evolutionists among us, who might through some radical acceptance offer more viable, more realistic alternative foresight, but we'd rather not more fully acknowledge the way things are. How comforting to keep our eyes focused upon an alluring future rather than upon our potentially unsettling present. All change seems to rest, as Virginia Satir cautioned, on the full albeit temporary acceptance of the way things are. Temporary acceptance of the present seems as though it will prove unbearable, or certainly less bearable than any alluring future might seem. Forethought's desperately demanded. Fiery rhetoric required. Fine metal working skills preferred because we're fixing to make Chaings again.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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