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Lucian and Mary Brown: Untitled
[children in classroom looking at globe]
(circa 1950)

"I still haunt my own periphery …"

I suspect that we all received a somewhat different than a standard education. I certainly did. Rather than advance directly to college after high school, passing Go and collecting the obligatory two hundred dollars, I entered a kind of Limbo, where for a year or so, I was neither here nor anywhere, really. I enrolled in the local community college, which I called the high school with ashtrays, and set about trying to avoid getting drafted. I never really suspected it at the time, but I was receiving an exquisite education, albeit from around the edges. I would receive no advanced degree in observational methodologies, just one Hell of a lot of practice in the field. I might not have been formally enrolled in one of the finest universities, but I was nonetheless receiving the highest quality instruction, personally curating content as well as instructors.

Within a year, I'd followed the woman who would later become my first wife back to her shared apartment in Seattle's U District, for she was formally enrolled in a genuine University.
I helped her study and slowly became a fixture around campus. On the surface, I appeared to be just another student. With over thirty thousand students there, I easily disappeared into the crowd. I had no credentials, though. I could not enter the libraries or sit in the back of classes. I would occasionally be invited along as the guest of an enrolled student and be introduced as Just Visiting. I became a denizen, I guess, strolling down The Ave and performing at the open mic at The Last Exit On Brooklyn. I was every minute, I realize now, absorbing, assessing, and learning. Nobody was grading my performance except, perhaps, myself. I knew for sure only that I was not college material and, therefore, in charge of my matriculation and education from along the edges.

I learned to peek in around the edges and apparently imprinted upon that method for learning. I prefer to learn that way now, still not agreeing to enter any school that would consent to have me as a student. I thought the selection process too exclusive as if higher education’s purpose was first to disqualify just as many aspirants as possible, to utterly crush their ambition lest they enter and poison the upper echelons. For instance, those who proved that they already knew were granted special status, for the administration could tell, based upon the proof that they already knew the material, that they'd undoubtedly make successful students. This seemed ironic and self-fulfilling, as well as disingenuous and bogus. Those who couldn't make heads or tails of the "qualifying" examinations, which were specifically designed to primarily present material that no normal student would have ever before been exposed to, would be sagely counseled that they didn't appear to be college material and encouraged to work in the canneries or become apprentice mechanics, and learn how to hammer nails. This explains how legitimacy became my mortal enemy.

I was not blessed with any sense of mechanics and was funneled away from school, so I tenaciously hung around the edges. I listened and read books and wrote my own papers after a fashion. I wrote songs and letters and walked for miles and miles, just watching a world dead set on excluding me by denying my gifts and my potential. I would have damned myself had I bought into that assessment. My Success would have to be hand-crafted, forged in relative secret, and deployed when least expected. I became well-read despite the system into which I couldn't quite gain entry. I later managed to gain entrance and quickly advanced to graduate almost as anonymously as I'd entered, for I'd entered to get beyond the barrier my not having formally attended represented. I got my ticket punched, but I never did manage to move in from the edge. I still haunt my own periphery, stalking Success of my own fabrication, still pursuing my Edgercation.
Can't Seem To Help But Become Suspicious
This felt like a filtering week, one which I spent winnowing this idea of Success into something more surprising, something different than it seemed before this week arrived. I suspect without absolutely knowing that I face considerably more winnowing in upcoming weeks and that this whole exercise might become more like an I Ching divination than an exposition. It already largely has. I seem to be delving rather deeply into what I wasn't really aware that I knew about Success, though I freely admitted when starting that I couldn't qualify as a conventional expert on the subject. I still knew and understood plenty, some of which was doubtlessly incorrect and some of which now seems startlingly spot-on. I wonder if I could take apart or put together a coherent series purporting to be about anything, any phenomenon, any topic. I ponder this question not because I expect an answer but more to encourage my own acceptance. I'm learning that nothing—nothing—turns out to very much resemble what anyone presumes it will resemble before someone sets about disassembling it. The wrinkles and cracks, hardly prominent before investigation, come to seem the primary components. The apparently smooth and consistent surface can never stand much scrutiny. The topic itself can't seem to help but become suspicious, just like Success has started seeming something I never before suspected it might become.

Weekly Writing Summary

I began my writing week considering cobblestones and asphalt
Paving, each intending permanence, just like I intend for this series. "They seem to make no progress as they progress."
Giovanni Fattori:
Small Street on the Outskirts of Florence with Puppy (1870–75)

I next wrote a story about what Success brings in 2ndOrderSuccess. "If Success qualifies as an infinite pursuit, and I believe it does, then there's always, always, always something else that comes as a result of every and any Success."
Lucas Kilian: Second Vision, from Mirrors of the Microcosm (1613)

I next noted that Success seems to require a certain rareness in *Rarely, the most popular posting this period. "…there's just no knowing, and I keep myself going by mostly ignoring whatever's going on out in the audience. Not that I'm indifferent, quite the opposite. It's more that I dare not become dependent upon displaced judgements."
Willem van Mieris: The Raree-show [’t Fraay Curieus] (1718)

I reported on my initial impression of Success in GoldenTicket. "I imagine Success to be securely defended territory guarded 24/7 and then some by experienced and deadly serious Gatekeepers."
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen: A Veteran of the Old Guard (1915)

I more deeply considered the role of mythical Gatekeeper. "I was never a passive commodity impassively passed, but an active entity making my own choices.
It might be true that one must always serve as their own Gatekeeper first …"

Waldemar Franz Herman Titzenthaler:
A soldier of the Prussian guard (1903)

I considered the curious Anticipations I project when approaching any success. "I seem primed for failure in ways that that I'm never, ever primed for Success."
Edouard Manet: Le ballon [The Balloon] 1862

I ended my writing week considering how I might blow up my preconceived notions in BlowingItUp. "BlowingItUp Better sometimes seems like the only way to achieve Success"
Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen: Truth and the Two Soldiers (1891)

I learned early this week that I had been booked into a conflict with my usual Friday PureSchmaltz Zoom Chat, a regular occurrence since the start of This Damned Pandemic nearly three years ago. I've missed fewer than a half dozen performances since I started these and was angry when I learned I'd been over-committed. I'd agreed to facilitate a meeting and trusted that my schedule might be respected, but it wasn't. I'll swallow hard and move beyond my frustration, if only because Success often demands a little humiliation. It's not all sweet cherries and roses. Success might well seem painstaking, like setting cobblestone Paving and producing something other, something beyond simple Success. It might only Rarely manifest this Success of which we speak and seems to require a GoldenTicket to placate a Gatekeeper, who might just end up being ourselves. I'm free to anticipate whatever I choose, but I seem to be much better off when I can anticipate positive outcomes. Otherwise, I might manifest something that might need some Blowing Up to succeed. If so, I can aspire to blow it up better this time.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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