Rendered Fat Content


Theo van Doesburg: Counter-Composition VI (1925)
"I might ask if another wants the benefit of my experience."

The best advice I ever received arrived just after my friend WayneeBoy asked me if I wanted some advice. He had not begged the question, either. He made an honest offer. If I had not nodded my approval, he would have held his advice to himself, none the poorer, for his advice came on multiple levels. The first bit he communicated by observing an uncommon courtesy, similar to that extended whenever a visiting sailor seeks to board another's vessel. "Permission to come aboard sir?" Boarding a ship without first asking permission could cause an international incident, so by long tradition, permission gets asked and extended, a small courtesy which somehow seems to sanctify the visit. We, as in you and me and almost everybody, commonly neglect to ask permission to dispense our GoodAdvice before dishing it out. We often sow our seeds without first preparing the soil, without first considering whether the one so obviously needing our GoodAdvice might be in any position to hear, let alone act upon it. We tend, then, to waste an awful lot of effort.

I know that it seems, in that pregnant moment, that I might be able to help another avoid an error or perhaps recover more easily, if only, if only. If only, indeed!
If only I could share my wisdom and they could hear it and it came in some immediately applicable form, then, I might make a real difference. In about one in perhaps ten thousand attempts do those preconditions seems to align, and even then, the GoodAdvice-giver will likely not be around to witness the convergence, for even the very best GoodAdvice often takes a while to digest and deploy, often so long that nobody's left to witness the resulting shift. The receiver might not even remember where the advice originated. Giving GoodAdvice often seems like thankless effort.

But those who really, really, really, really need to advise can hardly be expected to hold back. In this culture, it's first nature to advise. When I see someone not wearing their mask, for instance, I feel an almost overwhelming need to advise them of the perhaps innocent error of their ways. Their oversight seems so stupid, so obvious to one like me, better informed, obviously, and probably wise beyond my years. Imagine my surprise, then, when my thoughtful suggestion falls on deaf ears or worse, upon a hostile situation. Had I asked before dispensing, I might have also sparked an international incident, but I would not have spent my seed in irrelevance. I might have kept my secret. I had exhibited being needier than my target. I might have needed to give GoodAdvice more than my target needed to receive it, a recipe for creating authentic irrelevance.

So much in our culture seems to produce just this sort of irrelevant response. I've been tangled up in my underpants this week, trying to explain what makes different the manuscript I'm preparing for publishing, one titled Cluelessness. Unsolicited advice kept pouring in over the gunnels, all of it innocent and genuinely well-intended, but none of it prefaced with the sailor's almost indifferent question. "Permission to come aboard, sir?" Permission to dispense some genuinely well-meaning advice, some insights that have really helped me get over similar humps in the past? Nobody asked. I read the advice anyway, read it all as if it had been intended for someone else, probably someone who had extended permission to come aboard, but I took none of it to heart. I couldn't, though I shudder to share this news lest they get wind of my response. I just couldn't hear it.

Then I got it, that element that made my Cluelessness book different. It didn't offer any advice. Oh, my first attempt at writing about Cluelessness, I tried. That draft was dripping sage advice, for with a difficulty as damaging and wide-spread as Cluelessness, it seems simply necessary to set the clueless reader straight, to prescribe and dispense, to at least attempt to provide some GoodAdvice for those legions suffering from it. Then I caught myself wondering just how I'd become so damned expert at Cluelessness that I might deign to transcend it, that I, perhaps alone, might create the definitive book which held the key to utterly vanquishing it. What kind of half-assed expert even aspires to become the expert of Cluelessness? The absurdity of my attempt came into disconcerting focus and I went back to staring at the ceiling, wondering what I might use for inspiration. If I could not share GoodAdvice, how could I approach the subject?

I chose to feature myself instead, to paint little self portraits of me as my natively clueless self, as the poster child for Cluelessness incarnate. The manuscript features few glimpses of me overcoming my ignorance and many, many disconcerting long shots of me simply wallowing in it in any particular moment. These illustrations were not necessary beautiful, but they were honest. In any moment, after all, where I discover myself not knowing, I cannot in that same moment connect to the specific sort of enlightenment I might need to counteract the effect. I tend to be, like you, stuck with who I am in that moment, and cannot leverage myself out of the fix by becoming who I might desperately desire to become next. I will not be clued-in in that moment of need, but clueless. The questions I attempted to ask in the manuscript were not so much what should I do?, but what did I do?, what do I do?, in those instants. I attempted to accept my own Cluelessness rather than trying to swoop in and then fail to resolve it again. GoodAdvice seems an old pattern which I figure might be improved by simply not engaging in it ad nauseam again.

The GoodAdvice that WayneeBoy gave me, once I'd extended my permission for him to come aboard, simply suggested that if I felt I had useful advice to give, I might first ask permission to dispense it. He'd caught me being needier than my client and quietly suggested that I might notice that I'd mostly managed to make my client's eyes glaze over. I had not properly prepared the soil. For myself, now, I recognize that I've been wallowing all week, but my wallowing, however painful it might prove to watch, works like a butterfly shedding his cocoon. Any attempt to ease my struggle might render me unable to move into the next stage. My struggle to make meaning, to make sense, just seems to take whatever it takes with no shortcuts. As painful as it might be to witness, believe me, it's worse inside the chrysalis, but I'm learning that these struggles tend to produce the insights I seek. The GoodAdvice might come later, when I might ask if another wants the benefit of my experience. They probably won't.


Friday brings some glimmers of resolution for the questions with which I've been wrestling all week. The struggle couldn't help but show up in my daily Authoring Stories, for each seemed to be an integral part of the unfolding saga, however much I might have wished my experience had been otherwise. I, of course, always prefer to appear wise to my readers, as if I effortlessly manifest each fresh story and as if each of them embodies my very best GoodAdvice, but I, like everyone else, live my life forward and only usually manage to make any sense of it what looking over my shoulder. Hence, this Friday ritual.

I began my writing week embarrassed with
AnEmbarrassment of riches, too many manuscripts to properly publish. "I feel every bit like King Midas surrounded by a gilded family, embarrassed by my wealth."

I then considered how things tend to turn into their opposite in
Enantiodromia, the most popular posting this period. "The state of the art of project management might, then, be fairly characterized as the fine art of keeping one's countenance while the universe shifts rather than the primitive art of merely keeping a ship on a predetermined course. Authoring seems no different."

I noticed in
Circuitous that when Authoring, the long way tends to be the shortcut. "I read words one at a time no matter how many times I've read them, which seems like anti-progress, anti-learning. Everything seems to stand in the way of everything else."

I caught myself critically reviewing another of my manuscripts in
SecondGuessing. "I know what's flesh and what's window dressing. I'll feel grateful for any future acceptance and unsurprised by any upcoming rejections, for I will have by then already completed my SecondGuessing."

I slipped into that space just beyond skepticism with
Doubting. "The doubter smells garbage where the skeptic suspects gold."

I next cornered myself seeking answers when I might have more usefully employed AnSight. "Like understanding that an almost infinite array of answers exist to any yes our no question does not determine which answer to apply, though it does shift the limit from a suffocating two to something approaching the sky."

I ended this writing week sliding Slideways, still seeking insight, still aching for answers. "I hold myself to speak the truth to myself if not always to everyone else. I expect myself to be capable of handling if not the Whole-and-Nuthing-But Truth, at least a fair approximation of it.

And so ends my writing week, finishing with what feels like a halfway decent start toward finishing a surprisingly important phase of my Authoring effort. I'll remember this week as the one where my initial enthusiasm and confidence eroded and left me wrestling with myself, always a seemingly unfair contest. What began as a genuine embarrassment of riches became its opposite. I discovered that the long way around might only prove necessary, not a problem, and that SecondGuessing might prove beneficial. I gained a fresh respect for the Doubting as well as for the Pouting Thomases, and accepted that Fundamentally Unanswerable Questions might need insights more than any answers. I ended my week in a lateral slide, slipping sideways, which might just be the way to finally recognize any orthogonal perspective. I realized that I'd written an exposé again, a genuine revelation, but no real surprise. In summary, I experienced a perfectly normal writing week. Thanks for peeking in and even for offering advice. You always have my permission to come aboard, but please ask anyway. It's courteous. :-) Thank you!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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