Rendered Fat Content


Societa anonima cooperativa per la fabbricazione delle maioliche (Deruta, Italy):
Display Plate with a Man Striking a Heart on an Anvil (c. 1550)

" … grasped without really understanding what we're choosing …"

This work creating a Set List seems a bit different than the standard purposeful effort. Like you, I was exhorted to Start With The End In Mind, even though whatever end I might initially envision would have to be wanting, given that it was by definition not informed by the effort to determine it. That end, whatever I believed it could or should be, would just have to be different than I first imagined or it could not have been worth pursuing. So, Set Listing (if I might call my current occupation that), doesn't qualify as a standard engineering effort, either. The specs aren't nearly specific enough yet, and might never lend themselves to mechanical drawings. I sense that I am not so much pursuing, but Delving into.

Like all projects, this one began with a bright idea, a big, alluring statement of purpose, utterly vacuous at inception.
"I know! Let's put on a show!" The real purpose of most efforts, certainly at first, might always be to discover to what it really aspires. Oh, the initial vision might well seem sufficient, but it never proves to be. Its attraction will certainly prove to be its demise. It will prove insufficient to answer some critical questions. The real objective will reveal itself through a process of iterative disappointment, each iteration a kind of dedication test. If one proves unable or unwilling to answer the questions arising, if they prove too painful to resolve, then the project's fate gets sealed there, where the protagonist just couldn't bear to go. Most projects end like this, turned back from full fulfillment, usually for good and worthy reasons. We end up settling for what we can stomach, what we feel we can afford, and only rarely for what we originally imagined, whatever that was.

So what, I wonder now, might this Set List resemble? Certainly a vaguely scribbled list quickly pulled from the ether won't suffice, for I still have all the time in the world, having expended only nine percent of the time I've allotted to this effort. I have time, if I can rightfully claim to have anything, to work out details and come up with something better than I originally envisioned. The early days of every effort seem paved with visions of additive delight, that the outcome will very likely be much better than expected, that not even the sky's the limit. I suspect that our optimism works for our opposition and we gaily invite it in and feed it dinner, enticing it to engage. We should be afraid of the overhead our optimism represents for it insists upon continual expansion. More projects die from indigestion than ever succomb to starvation. We really should be more careful whatever we wish for and whomever we invite to supper.

I'm as yet uncertain of the process I'll employ to finally determine this Set List I'm pursuing. I'm as yet uncertain if what I'm engaging in amounts to a pursuit. Let's say that I'm Delving, rummaging around in an overfull pocket to see what I might dredge up. I'm digging a hole to see what might fit into it. I am not yet really using my SetTheory as a regulating jig. I'm more like fiddling around with it, seeing where it might fit and where it won't, trying to make better sense of its purpose. By the end of this quarter, I might well hold a single sheet of paper listing thirteen of my songs in a proposed performance order. I will also have resurrected and rehearsed at least twice that number of tunes. Perhaps most important, I will have regained a sense of facility with my music again, a tenaciously intangible yet much more satisfying outcome than any damned piece of paper.

The proposition's the thing, not the doing and certainly never the actual proposing. The big, bright, alluring idea has its uses, but rarely as the sole measure of goodness. I think of it as packaging holding the kernel of something too precious to be perceivable at first. Some Delving seems appropriate, some sincerely uncommitted behavior, some testing, if you will, to see what might produce the type of thrill the originating notion could not quite grasp. The future remains emergent rather than determined. It rises from an already overfull pocket, grasped without really understanding what we're choosing, the inevitable result, perhaps, of Delving.


A Delving Pilgrimage
Friday arrives to end another Delving week with little resolved. I feel comfortable with where this latest series seems to be going, however. I've grown wary of early certainty, and consider ambiguity my ally rather than my enemy. If this series only re-energizes my relationship with my music, I sense that it will have been worth the effort. I find that I can already face my guitar again, after only a week of this curious therapy. I can also say that my guitar seems to recognize me and it seems undisposed to holding grudges over my neglecting it while I worked through relocation and its attendant urges. The Muse and I spent the week in retreat, headed for the beach and back by the most unlikely possible passages, Delving into our own near future. I dare say that we seem to have the hang of this purposeless pursuing, so far satisfied with the lack of formal definition. I sat with my guitar in my lap while decoding a lighthouse's cadence and she cracked a book she'd long neglected, engaging in a Delving pilgrimage into our future by means of visiting what's past.

I began this writing week by stating my premise in *SetTheory, the most popular essay I posted this period. " I will not be just dredging up my past, but framing up my future with my once-upon-a-time wisdom."

I made the distinction between gift and difference, suggesting that nobody really wants to be different at first, with
DiffsGiftering "From truly humble beginnings come the greatest gifts if one can somehow quell the deep sense that they really should be running in a different direction, away from them."

I described the difference between a good job and real work in
RealWork. "I could satisfy myself with my work, an ability that far exceeds satisfying even the most exacting overseer."

I spoke of the contradictions inherent in playing for work in
RealPlay."They grow up to be children pretending to be wise, professionally dependent upon appreciative audiences. They are certifiably insane, or would be if anyone really cared to certify them. They write songs. They perform them."

I wrote about songwriting as crime committing in
CrimeScenes. "If creating a song commits a crime, then performing it amounts to an admission of guilt; performing a full set, evidence of criminal conspiracy afoot. I'm clearly guilty if charged."

I noted that not all practice pursues perfection in
Practice. "Can I face myself not quite knowing again and again and again? That's Practicing and, Lord knows, Practice takes Practice. It's the pursuit of premise pursuing purpose, not the pursuit of perfect."

I ended my writing week by reassuring myself in
Reassurance. "I feel as though my eyes have grown hungry again and that I am presently actively running to meet the day. Few experiences match this sense of impending discovery."

So far, a week into this series, I can report that it's delighting me. I've long believed that one key to a satisfying engagement involves developing a taste for bitter flavors, which seem inevitable and better anticipated and relished than when appearing as a repulsing surprise. SetTheory's damned challenging, but then I suspected it would be. I also suspected that I needed just such a challenge, and this effort's not disappointing that notion. I relish in insisting that I get back out on the ice and savor this difference. It's RealWork as well as RealPlay, CrimeScenes absent criminal intent, Practice, Practice, Practice with a bottomless need for Reassurance, just like it always was. Just like everything. Thank you for gracing me with your enormously reassuring presence here. I smile whenever I see you've shown up here again.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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