Rendered Fat Content


Martin Schongauer: Saint Sebastian (c. 1480-1490)

" … everything I accomplished will become roughly equivalent to everything I ever wanted."

Two years and eight months into the Covid-19 pandemic, I've grown expert at Excusing. I understand the limitations that this damned pandemic places upon The Muse and I. I probably understand them too well, for while most of my contemporaries, colleagues, and friends seem to have moved on and back into what now passes for ordinary times, I remain steadfastly tied to wearing my mask, anti-social distancing, and, basically, turning down the opportunity to do much of anything. I'm still not eating out. I find disturbing the prospect of ever flying again. Oh, I also have somehow managed to avoid contracting Covid. In short, I live my life immersed in considerable negative space, informed more by what I refuse to permit myself than in what I grant myself permission to engage.

I some days feel as though I've become a master at Excusing.
I might be capable now of excusing pretty much anything, a skill that had previously mostly escaped my grasp. I consider Excusing the lowest of low class occupations, a skill not really worth acquiring, a refuge for passive scoundrels. Excuses work like negative permissions, they grant omissions. They also permit commissions. They attempt to undo promises, stories intended to negate stories. I guess they're useful for soothing owies, but I was reared by tough mentors, ones who insisted that I could have everything I want or the stories about how I could never quite get everything I wanted, and that I could only choose one of those alternatives. In their world, Excusing itself seemed inexcusable. There could not possibly be any reasonable explanation for opting to choose to not grant myself anything I wanted. Then came Covid-19.

Like anybody, I work perhaps hardest to protect my delicate ego. When I fall short, as I often do, I'm not above trying on a few excuses. They numb the disappointment until I realize that I've opted for nothing. I can talk myself into that negative space that leaves absolutely nothing behind, the one that renders anyone blind to their own blind potential. Nobody ever knows how to accomplish anything, really, and everyone might prove easy prey for the negative explanation. Each act of Excusing reduces the excuser's available resilience until he eventually proves capable of perhaps watching television or napping, certainly no longer capable of initiating or finishing anything for the ages. Excusing enables one to swallow themselves and their potentials.

I once wrote an essay entitled "101 Excuses For Why My Project Won't Get Done On Time." This was perhaps the greatest fun I ever had writing anything! The excuses flowed out the ends of my fingers and quickly filled pages. Each listed excuse seemed so familiar, so natural, so inexorable, I felt certain that I'd used each and every one many times before, because I probably had. Notwithstanding the fact that no project in the history of the world so far has ever finished on time, I thought myself brilliant for producing such a universally useful resource, one which every subsequent project community member might frequently reference. I had made my difference, or felt I had until I remembered that nobody in the history of this world so far had ever really expected their project to complete precisely on time, that no excuses were really necessary to explain this common, completely normal condition. What the world really needed was one good enough story to decide to continue pursuing, even when their objective obviously seemed to qualify as another fool's mission. Most are. We're all born with an innate understanding of the 101 reasons why our project won't get done on time. We need one good story that might motivate us to continue caring, to continue hoping, to continue living.

Another day slips by without me even touching my guitar and my newly enfranchised by Covid Excusing engine coughs to life. There are no real excuses, certainly none which actually manage to meaningfully excuse anything. There might well be a hundred and two perfectly acceptable stories explaining any fleeting bout of apathy. There might be no root cause for any dereliction of any duty. I'm enjoined to practice anyway. I might more usefully spend some time making up stories about how my work might actually be my play in deep disguise, that I must engage for its misleading appearance to change. Not until after I move beyond excuses could I ever actually experience anything approaching everything I ever wanted. Even if I fall a little short of full realization, I might well have managed something. In the end, it might not matter. Then, everything I accomplished will become roughly equivalent to everything I ever wanted. A difference only appears if one's successful with their Excusing, for then they will have accomplished nothing except to have written an essay entitled "101 Reasons Why I Chose To Produce A Hundred And One Excuses rather than living."

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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