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Man Ray: Dust Breeding (1920, printed ca. 1967)
" … we're eminently Divisible and we know it!"

Joel Our Carpenter and I were hanging crown moulding when he noticed that his brad nailer was running low on brads. He remarked that he'd left a refill package on a window sill somewhere and wondered if I'd happened upon it. I hadn't. I directed him to the parts table, a now hopelessly overloaded card table I set up out of the way back in the early days of our Great Refurbish, back before it had become a great anything. That card table groans beneath its burden now. It holds every odd otherwise unclassifiable anything that needed a landing place. Paint rollers wrapped in plastic hang from its strut supports, and attempt to trip anyone passing. It's now located on the mainline between the above the front porch deck and the rest of the upstairs, a primary migration route for long crown moulding boards and baseboards headed for remounting. It's an eye of the needle passage and I suppose that every job site needs one of those, a common ground generally abused, reviled and revered in more or less equal measure. A place where we might come together, if only there was room, given the clutter.

Joel could not find his brad magazine on the impenetrable table, so I volunteered to go find him that ammo.
I first tried to raise Kurt Our Painter, who was at that moment out buying mud for floating a master bedroom wall. As usual, he'd left his phone behind so I couldn't connect. I drove to where he'd been to learn that they didn't have the size and length Joel had requested. I visited two more nearby hardware stores to find they didn't have them either, which meant that I'd have to drive clear across town, a seven minute trip, to The Home Despot. They had brads galore, but not in the size I'd understood Joel to request, so I called him to see what else he might accept and learned that I'd imprinted the wrong size. I'd even written it down correctly, but didn't refer to my written notes when the first place I stopped didn't have what I'd requested. They'd had what Joel requested. I spent the better part of an hour scouring the world for something that didn't exist while surrounded by precisely what I wanted, but I was unable to recognize it. I felt like an idiot.

I moped for a while, remembering many similar situations where I felt certain that I knew what I was seeking but ended up being mistaken. I've rejected perfection in favor of non-existent abstractions. Many times. I've tried to help but made it worse. I've felt cursed when I was more probably blessed. For the following hour or so, I felt Divisible, divorced from our collective effort. I could see no reason why I should continue to even try to play in that arena. I'd clearly over-played my hand and/or my position. Joel seemed unperturbed by the situation and we continued hanging crown moulding, no apparent doubts about me harboring. I slipped back into my more usual position but remained wary, uncertain if I really belonged.

It occurred to me just how easily we divide. Hearing Kurt Our Painter's Hate radio shows playing in the middle distant background, I find myself frustrated by its very existence. Why must some people make trouble for others, slandering and misrepresenting positions. What's to be gained? Aren't we already fragile enough without professionals picking every supposed scab for us and broadcasting commentary intended to misrepresent the experience? I'm of the strong opinion that we desperately need to be more generous with each other, though I admit that this represents a great challenge. The anti-vaxing crowd seems especially vexing because they make up facts to support their opinion and treat anyone better informed as if they were ignorant. They can be quite insistent.

The ignorant will always be with us. Hell, we are often the ignorant among us. We're not all of us as insistent that we're right when we're wrong, that we hold a fundamental and inalienable right to be just as stupid as we want and you're a communist if you insist that I don't, but we're all ignorant on some subjects and at some times, and we're loathe to recognize that in ourselves when it visits us. My excursion seeking brads probably fails to qualify as news it's so common, a dog bites man story rather than a more newsworthy man bites dog one. These stories intended to divide us misrepresent in precisely this way. They rewrite history away from what actually happened into stories about what was narrowly averted and what might have happened had we not thoroughly prepared for what didn't happen. The commies were never once an existential threat to our existence. The commie hunters were always greater threats but not even they could find the enemy they insisted was on our doorstep. He simply never existed.

Our Grand Refurbish could not have happened had we attempted to divide and conquer. I overhear Joel and Kurt talking about current affairs and I can't believe their naive notions of how government works or doesn't, ill-informed opinion probably garnered from listening to some Hate Radio commentator. I told Kurt that I could not imagine how he tolerates that tone mumbling into his ear all day. For me, it would prove poisonous. I do not want to inhabit the world so misrepresented. We're not sliding into Hell in Homemade hand baskets yet and we're not ever very likely to. We're just too decent. True, we're idiots at root, eminently Divisible. Our Pledge Of Allegiance, for which we're expected to stand, declaims that we're indivisible. Of course we're not. We're here together in the middle of this continuing experiment because we're eminently Divisible and we know it! We come together to counteract that tendency to split apart, conservative Hate Radio notwithstanding. We've gotta find reasons for not blowing ourselves up, better reasons than we can find to conquer ourselves through division.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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