Rendered Fat Content


Nobody talks much about the genuinely awful aspects of creating. It seems at root a form of compulsion, sometimes obsession. It might be most satisfying when completed, but by then, of course, it’s no longer there, but past. It’s mostly lonely work, done under the most isolating imaginable conditions. Anticipating a new project can quite understandably seize up even the most previously productive creator.

When my friend Franklin first mentioned his brilliant distinction between talents and gifts, I quite naturally believed that it might be useful, perhaps necessary, to enumerate exactly what my gifts might be, to nail down the source of my talent. He pointed out that talents are merely the mediums within which gifts manifest themselves, rather like the canvas a painter might gift with paint or a cello gifted with a player’s inspiration. So I began decomposing toward a presumed essence, believing that if I could name that tune, I’d be better able to play it.

But yesterday on my last morning walk through New Orleans’ Warehouse District, I almost realized that I’d perhaps set up myself with the onerous task on the order of naming God, and I’m beginning to understand why the Old Testament prophets considered this to be a serious no-no.

I left The Big Easy feeling as if a weight were being lifted off my chest. I need not hold myself hostage to the presumed necessity of naming my gifts. I might instead simply accept them with a studied humility and heart-felt gratitude, just as if I deserved to receive them. I might appreciate their presence without ever once understanding a lick about their essence, which is what the Old Testament fellers claimed a name holds. I could, in all humility, exclaim, “Gee thanks, you really shouldn’t have. I really don’t deserve this,” then eat the chocolates, anyway. I mean, it’s a gift, right?

Nobody can go anywhere in the DeepSouth without looking up to see another church spire above them, and I’ve long wondered why anyone would need so danged many of them. They are a pain in the tail to build and an endless maintenance problem. Why bother? In Frederick, Maryland, churches competed to see who could build the highest steeple, a feat that, in their minds, would determine which denomination was closest to God. This was a silly race with a delightful outcome. Frederick now sports the most remarkable small town skyline, and while the citizens seem no nearer to God than those of any other burg, they do live in the shadow, the constant reminder, of their forebears lofty aspiration and resulting manifestations.

So what if that aspiration was delusional, compulsive, obsessional? It produced remarkable results.

Engaging in the grand obsessions in this life might require near constant reminder and reassurance, encouragement from some so-called higher power. It probably does not require that one name that higher power, but that reassurance be received from it. A steeple’s shadow might be a decent reminder of that unreachable, unnamable higher power which, of course, probably resides in you whether you look up, down, or across some street; still sweet.

Many denominations end their worship services with what’s called a doxology, a public restatement of their faith. These can seem curious oaths for anyone not immersed in the specific tradition they embody, but they serve the same purpose, perhaps, the steeple above them more subtly serves. Reminder. Reassurance. Encouragement. Because manifesting seems to require that.

I’m a cat person, but I live in dog town, and I sometimes sit on my front porch, which is situated high above the sidewalk where nobody’s likely to notice me, and I listen. I listen to people as they walk their dogs. I should say I listen as people talk to their dogs because dog walking seems to entail long monologues—maybe they’re reassuring sermons—from dog walker, aimed at the walked dog. Permission is passed, reassurances are given, and praises intermix with mild curses; what good boys and girls all those dogs seem to be. They receive at the conclusion of business, a dogsology from their owner, confirming faith, rewarding success, and reassuring hope for the future.

I’m on nobody but The Muse’s leash, but I need some of that stuff, too. I receive some from The Muse, quite a lot more than I feel I deserve. Where do I get the rest? Maybe that’s where that gift kicks in. I might not be able to name it, but I could call upon that great mystery, or at least appreciate its presence in the same way a church spire inspires appreciation. I could start each morning with a quick, “Gee thanks, you really shouldn’t have. I really don’t deserve this,” and proceed. I appreciate before proceeding with my own little dogsology confirming my faith in that which apparently must remain unnameable, then get on to the usual workaday business of compulsing and obsessing, manifesting whatever’s on the bench to get manifested that day.

Being a dedicated cat person, I’m uncertain if this qualifies as a religious experience, and I’m even less confident that the many denominations who’ve constructed church spires throughout the DeepSouth intended to inspire me in this way, but I’m appreciative anyway.

Gee thanks, you really shouldn’t have ...

©2014 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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