Rendered Fat Content


Pieter van der Heyden, Engraver
[after a drawing by Hans Bol, artist]
Autumnn (1570)

"… my life's work might have only approached accomplishing anything …"

The Romans insisted that one should Hasten Slowly at the beginning, but were mute with advice for ending. I've long proposed hastening even more slowly when approaching an ending, though it's become tragically popular to hasten ever more quickly then. An old saying in the project management community explains that it's "all assholes and elbows" at the end, as everyone rushes to meet some inevitably artificial deadline, rendering it and its products more meaningless in the process. Following a lengthy effort, the end rush seems ignoble, disrespectful of the painstaking effort invested into what quickly degrades with impatience as its ending approaches.

I prefer perpetual motion though I understand that it's physically impossible to achieve.
I never want anything to end. I hold on well into what might turn into a bitter ending, for parting was never sweet sorrow for me. I explain that I came from The Never Can Say Goodbye Family, one which, when visiting, always seemed to come up with yet another topic of conversation as we would be slowly herded toward the exit. We routinely overstayed the three days after which guests and fish are said to stink, without thinking ourselves in any was an inconvenience. We exited clumsily, hesitantly, as if we could afford to wait to see what might emerge next. We were skillful at extending the present and perhaps justifiably hesitant to embrace any future, conservative beyond a fault.

As an adult, I've grown ever more skillful as stretching out my endings. I maintain an ever-growing library of books I'm still in the process of finishing. I begin another knowing full well that a hot half dozen still remain open, knowing, too, that the new one will very likely also get stuck in the queue. Let's say that throughput challenges me, but it's also something different than that. I seem to get attached to whatever I'm engaging in and cannot quite imagine leaving it behind me, so I often open a new frontier without first closing the current one. I'd really rather not leave anything behind, resulting in an ever-expanding present with an ever more distant past.

Season changes can become serious problems for me. Especially October, where, at this latitude, Summer's not yet quite convinced it's over. It, too, expands to slop over its edges, holding Autumn at bay day after day after day. Only in the morning does the depth of Summer's deception become obvious. The sun rises to find me hastening ever more slowly, almost procrastinating, savoring the final moments of the Summertime challenges. The scaffolding I erected in the Spring has been my continuing companion through an unusually rainy season and through nearly the hottest July and August on record. It seems as though I mostly spent those season avoiding completing my work, Dawdling through. Today, I might finally find good reason to deconstruct that steel tower and move on into some more seasonally appropriate chores.

Repainting's over for another year. I did not accomplish all I'd imagined I would accomplish by the end of that painting season, for I was Dawdling. Let the record show that I was not so much accomplishing as accumulating experience, and I hope and pray that will not end just because I tear down that scaffolding. Next year, come Spring, I'll try, try again but will very likely spend the time Dawdling instead of accomplishing. I'm realizing as I construct my Set List that my SetTheory features a huge presumption, one that assumes I've completed writing all those songs. I find when reanimating them that they still hold a few ragged edges, often their starts or finishes, that I dawdled then when finishing to the point where I never precisely finished. I'm thinking that I'm learning that a life's work might have only approached accomplishing anything but some serious Dawdling, and that that's alright. Who really needs endings?

I'm realizing a repeating pattern in my life. Like anyone, I set about to accomplish something. I've learned to Dawdle when beginning and seem predisposed to engaging in some truly serious Dawdling whenever an ending approaches. I see the source of my sloppy record-keeping, an explanation for why I do not maintain a master list of the songs I've written or a catalogue of completed manuscripts. The reason might be simple. I might not have completed anything but merely approached donenesses. The closing rituals have always been missing. All my work might remain an infinite work in progress, my life's work lacking only egress to qualify as completed. Should I focus my attention on constructing an exit ramp or will that effort, too, just add to my ever-expanding not quite completed queue? I suspect the Set List will carry similar properties. I almost exclusively pursue infinite ends. Why should this Set List be any different?

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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