Rendered Fat Content


Jean François Raffaëlli: The Exhausted Ragpicker (1880)

" … simply too Exhausting to continue."

I've recently started noticing the weight this continuing Damned Pandemic exerts upon me. It's come to feel considerable, even unreasonable, and the newspaper promises even more of even more of the same, though the upcoming even more will continue becoming ever more highly evolved. It will become more communicable and craftier at evading our defenses, its offensive skills out-pacing our defenses. Since we must respond to defend, we're inevitably lagging competitors. Competing with this virus has been Exhausting, but insidiously so. It's never presented any particular hardship to me personally, for instance, to wear a mask in public or for this introvert to avoid gatherings. I rather enjoy going incognito and often chose not to go out into public places, though the option not to continue defending increasingly seems like a glaring omission. I'm just as free as I've ever been, just a little bit more constrained, yet the constraints, however small, seem increasingly limiting.

The experts label these feelings Pandemic Exhaustion and warn about its insidious influence.
Even in smaller doses, it can deeply influence the choices one makes for themselves. It can cause one to become lax, to allow themself to go out unmasked, "just this one time," to consider themself immune just because they've kept up with their vaccinations. It might be an unreasonable expectation for anybody to not let their vigilance lapse, even though every time "we" do let our vigilance lapse, we seem to end up with another surge. Weeks after rescinding mask mandates, we've reintroduced them, the rescinding order being the probable cause of needing to reintroduce masks. Pandemic Exhaustion easily interprets such a suspension as long-awaited permission to forego the mask, that this Damned Pandemic is over, when it isn't. I suspect that this rapidly evolving virus might be learning more effectively than us. Exhausting engagement seems to render us stupid.

It's clear to almost anyone who cares to observe that the majority of us believe that the virus is already finished with us. It's clearly had its way with us, and hardly a day departs without me hearing of another long-standing holdout finally testing positive. The rate of infection might well be falling overall, but the rate that long-standing uninfecteds have recently been succumbing suggests that none of us are nearly as safe yet as we secretly wish we were. Further, it's transparent public policy in some places to encourage spread under the very likely misguided notion that infection, if survived, might impart immunity rather than, in many cases, disabling longer term effects. Exhausting engagement seems to render us stupid.

I acknowledge that my complaints amount to first world ones, trivial when compared to history and almost anyplace else in this world. I might mostly feel bored with sameness, a human tendency capable of rendering even great luxury unbearable. I ache for difference. I need a vacation I will not be taking. I have been shirking in recent weeks, seemingly hobbled in place, neglecting my work and my usual obligations. I have been barely getting by some days, crouching in my cave unable to engage. Molly, our mostly feral cat, has recently taken to following me around. I image that she's looking out for me, that she's taken it upon herself to protect me from whatever threatens, for she's a fierce defender and nobody's preferred opponent. She's sitting on my desk at this moment, watching the day begin, rather than out on her usual foray over next door to visit their Big Chicken, work that she perhaps has lately found simply too Exhausting to continue.


Experiencing Significance
Friday arrives even if dragging itself across the finish line. It offers brief respite from the perpetual emotion machine, a short break from other daily expectations. Friday morning brings my weekly Friday Zoom Chat, an event I've convened since the earliest days of this Damned Pandemic, and one which for some reason has not yet turned into anything like an obligation or a burden. It's still play, a decent reason for me to look forward to one morning coming, anyway. It's enlivening in ways I wish the rest of my week could mirror. Friday also forces me to read what I've been writing, an activity I rarely warmly anticipate yet often leave feeling refreshed. Just earlier this morning, I was bemoaning the effort, feeling as though this Exhausting pandemic had drained the final drizzle of inspiration from me. Imagine my surprise when I discovered something useful in this week's writing. I needed a little distance to experience the significance of what I'd left behind.

I began this writing week admitting that I had been feeling discouraged and depressed in
OutOfTheBlue. "If I could have my dearest wish, I'd wish for a seventh or eighth sense, one which would reliably anticipate the fundamentally unanticipatable, such that I'd never lose that sense of course, that sense of history and future merging in this moment to express themselves."

I next introduced my considerable backlog of undones as my
Untouchables. "It's enough to embarrass even the most disciplined procrastinator."

I described my midsummer evening, sitting in my garage, just
Being, which, surprisingly, became the most popular posting this period, "Doing dooms me to practice, to imperfection, to trying too hard. Being's satisfied sitting here, wondering, watching, aware, timeless."

I next reported while trying not to complain about the differences between my experiences and my expectations in
Seasonal. "Balancing never comes into balance. It continues correcting or it topples."

I just had to reflect on how and to what we genuflect on our
HolyDays. "I believe that our patriotic spirit wounds us, that we wound ourselves whenever we engage in it, that The Fourth of July above all the HolyDays seems more perverse than sacred as currently celebrated. The rockets red glare scares the Hell out of small children and pets, and should. It leaves me cringing, too, cringing and wondering how it might be if we remembered to keep these sabbaths holy."

I admitted to sleeping different without accepting that it's disordered in
Sleep. "The amount of solitude needed to become a writer cannot be easily measured, for it's probably too vast to even imagine. Whatever's estimated, it's orders of magnitude greater, more, as they used to say, than hours in the day, so one quite naturally becomes also nocturnal."

I ended my writing week by writing what I suppose I was not supposed to write about in
HamSandwich. "When Our Supreme Court codified the myth of fetal personhood into law, they managed to trivialize both the law and human life."

Life continued this week, surrounded, it seemed, Exhausting yet still producing, still replicating and evolving. It continued to retain the possibility that something OutOfTheBlue might meaningfully intrude, rendering even Untouchables blessings. Being is balancing, not balanced, and whatever happens turns out to define Seasonal, even snow in July. We observe our days of unholy obligation even when we don't want to, out of tradition. I continue avoiding Sleep, even if that limits my access to dreaming. I intend to continue fighting against the malign forces who would declare a HamSandwich human if that served their perverse purposes. We're threatened by more than this virus and naive populism. We have met the enemy again, and he is still us. Thank you for following along with me through this dark wood of twisty passages.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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