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Adriaen van Ostade: Saying Grace (1653)

" … the best example of graceful aging I can imagine."

There but for the Grace of some God or Gods, went I. I have lived a remarkably fortunate existence, an unbidden gift for an unworthy recipient. I could ascribe all I have achieved to the presence of Grace, the free and unmerited favor of some God or Gods I very likely would not believe in if they were identified. I suppose this attitude alone qualifies me as a heathen. Now that I'm recognizably aging, I am urged to at least attempt to accomplish my aging gracefully, whatever in the Hell that injunction might mean. The Muse complains that I have been complaining about almost everything lately, and I reluctantly admit that I have been. Was I not supposed to complain about everything that failed to work as expected? Technology grows progressively—regressively—worse with every upgrade and innovation. Is this phenomenon evidence of technology aging gracefully? It might be that my pointing out the increasingly obvious shortcomings of Google Drive Apps amounts to one sort of Grace. My complaints beat going unconscious in the face of such disgraceful performances.

Grace might be the great undefinable.
It might be associated with luck or good fortune or represent some earned income, the reward for something, if not for pure thoughts or good works. Life increasingly seems like an escape room where the purpose might be to discover its underlying purpose and thereby escape an ignorance that leaves us the laughingstock of everybody else. We might inadvertently get something right, guess correctly without even fully acknowledging that we were guessing, and thereby earn the admiration of some alert watchman, who rewards us with some success like a treat dropped into the bowl of the subject of some Skinner experiment. I drool and, therefore, seem successful.

I suspect that if I write for a quarter on the general subject of Grace, I might somehow come to understand this apparently random visitor just a little bit better. This understanding might enable me to actually age more gracefully, or perhaps it will encourage me to spit in the eye of that expectation and set about aging however I please. There might be ten thousand equally elegant alternatives to aging gracefully, any of which might usefully replace this confusing expectation. It seems to me that the default setting encourages me to age ridiculously, for aging seems at root a ridiculous undertaking, every bit as silly as attempting to use one of those thoroughly-evolved Google Apps, like the one that enables you to forward a document while leaving the document unforwarded. That one's absolutely brilliant!

I considered focusing on acceptance in this series, but I eventually concluded that this focus would be too narrow for me to manage ninety perspectives on it. Acceptance might be the eventual result of the repeated application of Grace, but it seemed derivative and unlikely to surprise or please on deeper inquiry. Grace seems full of something worth investigating. I've always been fascinated by the image of some humble family saying Grace over the most humiliating supper. The contradiction involved in such an act might qualify as a parody. It might also just as fully qualify as humility or humanity, a gratitude that anybody might receive anything, even an otherwise humiliating stew. In that scenario, I see our humbled family offering a big Fuck You to whoever set them up in their situation. "I'll show you!" They pray to maintain some dignity in the face of serial humiliation. "You can't get me, no matter how low you go." That might be the best example of graceful aging I can imagine.

©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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