Rendered Fat Content


Unknown Indonedian/ Central Javaian Sculptor:
God Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles
(9th/10th century)

" … which explains my aching shoulder."

Publishing might qualify as a form of worship. Like all forms of worship, Publishing demands extended effort, as if Chiseling something out of stone, sculpting a practice from indifferent material. The practice itself needs to be coaxed into being using tools that should properly seem distinctly unsuited for their purpose, with straight edges intended to create curving lines and blunt instruments guiding the creation of fine edges. The outcome should seem unlikely from the outset and, if anything, even less likely as the faithful progress. This very difficulty feeds the resulting faith, encourages penitence, and sanctifies the practice. If it proved easy or convenient, it would prove worthless.

I mention this effort because the Amplified Collective revisited me yesterday.
The Amplified Collective, some readers might remember, labels those efforts which seem to metaphorically sum up or amplify whatever's happening at any particular point in time. I've been Publishing, whatever that might have become, and feeling in need of some analogy, some metaphor that might encapsulate and better represent my practice to myself. I set about trimming the excess concrete around our recently-laid sidewalk, a task requiring much tedious Chiseling with a cold chisel and a sledgehammer. I realized I was producing rubble, separating unneeded concrete from our more permanent sculpture. I was engaged in yet another effort for the ages, realizing that the product of my work would long outlive my presence here. It felt exhausting!

It also seemed to perfectly encapsulate my Publishing efforts, and so my brush with yet another Amplified Collective. As I sweated over those unforgiving edges, I realized that I was experiencing another of those well-placed life lessons. The Chiseling work required great patience because few substances better demonstrate indifference than odd extrusions of over-wintered concrete. I could crack them, but never quite where I wanted. I'd pound that chisel, counting whacks up to forty, then rest a few beats. Mostly, that concrete shrugged off my presence, yielding perhaps a few grains of sand for my focused effort. The work was at least ninety percent disappointment. Futility reigned until it didn't. The tone of the chisel on its unyielding edge would finally change almost imperceptively. If I persisted, it would change again, deepening as a crack revealed beneath that edge. I could eventually wedge a piece of mess loose from the edge, holding my breath that I hadn't ruined the new sidewalk.

I collected my rubble in a small bucket, for any larger receptacle would have rendered each batch unmovable. Concrete produces incredibly heavy rubble. I'd carry each load out to what passes for our pick-up truck, our hatchback Lexus named Elizabeth, for transport to the landfill. I loaded plastic bags left over from the potting soil I'd use to fill around the curb edges to plant in grass, the whole process remarkably circular. Each foot or so of Chiseling edge produced another small load, a process that in those moments seemed quite similar to my painstaking copyediting efforts, including the heavy lifting.

The purpose of The Amplified Collective seems to be the opportunity to understand a practice from other perspectives. In the largest frame, every activity must appear remarkably similar to every other, each sharing some very common meta-pattern. I suspect that if only I could be perceptive enough, I would perceive these life lessons playing out around every activity I engage in. But then, I'm human, and I guess I'm supposed to maintain a certain studied blindness to my surroundings. The crickets whose concert I disrupted as I passed were telegraphing essential details about my passage, but I managed to miss receiving their message. I suspect that I miss something on the order of ninety-nine percent of the messages the universe telegraphs in my direction specifically for my edification. I receive rare glimpses, the rareness of which amplify their importance. I, for instance, noticed that I've been sculpting my Publishing effort, cold chisel and sledgehammer work, which explains my aching shoulder.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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