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Dodge Macknight: Rain (19th-20th century)

"The living actively practice forgetfulness …"

"And if you achieved that, how would you know?" My consulting clients always struggled with this question, for wanting seems an inherently subjective experience while describing aches for more objective specificity. A raft of difficulties always emerged whenever I asked this question, and, indeed, I never knew how to answer it, either, for it teeters on the edge of Fundamentally Undecidable. It might not matter how anyone answers. It mattered more that someone struggled to respond, for a deeper understanding can't hardly help but come from the struggle to answer. I asked the question to encourage insight more than a definitive answer, anyway. Rarely would any client produce an answer they found completely satisfying. Inducing that dissatisfaction might have always been my deeper purpose in asking, for there are few things worse than a cock-sure client who believes that they'll know change when they see it. We might all be much better off accepting inherent ambiguity than precisely knowing. Few future things benefit from precise proposals.

I knew, or at least strongly suspected, that we would not need much specification before beginning.
The urge to produce too much preliminary description was often the source of a client's stuckness, and for all the best reasons. They wanted to do this one right, so it seemed obvious they should hamstring themselves into onerous discipline. What better focus than to focus upon finely focusing? Speculation would build upon supposition before they'd described an elaborate house of cards. Houses of cards always feel like remarkable accomplishments. They might be the very most vulnerable structure of all. A mere sneeze can knock them to their knees. They seem so delicate that the project's primary purpose too easily becomes the defense of the specification, which could not help but be ninety percent speculation. Speculation is supposed to be questioned. It's a reason to change, not to defend.

This same thing happens to me whenever seasons change. I struggle to recall how I'll know when the new season comes because the equinoxes and solstices prove unreliable indexes. They might come early or late and serve more as encouragement for acceptance than any definitive proof that the change has come. Some sneaky leading indicators tend to emerge well before the bulk of the evidence does, so a neither-here-nor-there period appears. The calendar says one thing, but the thermometer says another. I inevitably spend a disorienting fortnight or more before the definitive proof appears. Rain serves as the conclusive proof of Autumn. The first freeze brings bright mornings, as ambiguous an indicator as could possibly be chosen. Leaves turn at inconsistent rates and fall even more confusingly, but when The Rains finally come, I need no more convincing.

The Center of My Universe is semi-arid, thriving on fewer than twenty-five inches of rain each year, and lately, we've been pretending to get by on even less than our usual allocation. The sun was never any stranger here, and even when the rains do come, they more often mist than fall. We can sport an over ninety percent relative humidity when it hasn't rained in months thanks to our proximity to the Pacific Ocean and an effect caused by the convergence of The Mighty Columbia and the Wily Snake Rivers, which conspire to produce what's called a Mediterranian Climate here. When the sky finally turns liquid, and the forecasts show unchanging conditions for at least a week in the future, my head's finally turned. I swear I'll remember for next year, but I will forget. The primary purpose of living seems to be forgetting. The dead remember everything in absolutely frozen detail. The living actively practice forgetfulness so that they might continually experience discovering again.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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