Rendered Fat Content


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres:
Studies for "The Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien"
[Saint, Mother, and Proconsul]

" … a genuine symbol of that abstract Success."

We humans easily become attracted to abstract concepts, for they seem to be the brightest, shiniest objects distracting our focus. Napoleon insisted that men would only fight to the death for the more abstract concepts if first outfitted with colorful sashes and flashy uniforms. The unscrupulous promote an undefined patriotism and an undefinable faith to attract followers and encourage passionate responses. Only the very highest ideals seem capable of fueling the most degrading engagements. We might claim to want tangible goals, but our behaviors strongly suggest that we really desire the opposite. Running a flag up a flagpole inspires more passion than any dozen well-reasoned treatises.

These strange attractors carry one thing in common.
Being abstractions, they cannot be touched but only imagined. Our imaginations might be our greatest superpower, for with them, we can easily become anything and anybody for a while. We can project our presence where we can never actually tread and even relive the satisfaction of having achieved without ever once arriving. The propagandists and sleight-of-hand artists testify that it's easier than hypnotizing chickens, and they can place almost anybody under their trance. It's largely a simple matter of repetition combined with studied omission, for half-truths seem naturally more attractive than any whole-truths-and-nothing-buts. Each of us just knows how to fill in the narrative's blanks so that the result best satisfies us in a largely preconscious process labeled Trans-Derivational Induction. We almost always hypnotize ourselves.

The greatest challenge comes when attempting to collect on the alluring promise. We might show up freshly pressed at the finish line only to find nothing we can quite Grasp there. Whatever tangible result we might have imagined greeting us seems then to have vanished into foggy, thickish air. We find nothing to hold. Our aspiration failed to precipitate into anything tangible. The freedom we'd so warmly imagined acquiring then seems just so much hollow promise, for little actual liberation appears to be happening. Typically, the same old difficulties greet us from which we firmly believed we were fleeing. This might even seem like a familiar feeling, fooled again and numb.

One cure for this condition comes from insisting upon something rather more tangible than inspiration from our objectives. If we really want to experience Success, we might just have to insist that our world does not change too awfully much as a result of our efforts but that it stays at least recognizable enough to deliver some familiar 'stuff' to us at the end of our searches. We'll, of course, continue to chase the lofty results, but if we could only anchor those intentions with a small symbol of Success, some silly little something we might actually Grasp to signify Success. The alternative to that Grasp might be an empty hug and a hollow gasp.

The process weenies insist that a goal must be clear, objective, and measurable, advice I label as clear bullshit. We all know that a decent goal should satisfy almost precisely the opposite of those rational conditions. They're much more broadly palatable if opaque, subjective, and fuzzy, for these conditions kick our imaginations into conjuring much better than could ever be discretely described. Give us a sash and a flashy uniform, please, if you want us to willingly die for our country. Suppose you expect to survive the engagement, though, and hope to enjoy the fruits of your labor. In that case, it will prove better if you've envisioned something tangible to anchor your vision, something you might actually Grasp to signify Success. Otherwise, as the pirates used to insist, thems who die in transit might just be the luckiest.

I propose a Grasp test. However lofty the goal, anchor it with something touchable. If the purpose remains in the clouds, it will most certainly better attract hoards of followers, but the later satisfaction will more probably come from some little reassuring something that might well end up residing in the bottom of a sock drawer or somewhere similar. Yes, pursue the very loftiest objectives but temper them, please, with some simple little symbol that might successfully represent the achieved Success. My sock drawer still holds that Will To Achieve paperweight I earned as a team member chartered to deliver an impossible, then did. Once we'd succeeded, we were summarily disbanded and quickly drifted off to the furthest corners of the universe, resulting in one sorry-assed long-term sensation of Success. Except, of course, for those odd minutes when I happen upon that utterly useless paperweight and, for a fleeting second, relive that Success with something I can actually Grasp. Then, I remember and understand what I helped produce. Something ephemeral, sure, but also something as eternal and graspable as a genuine symbol of that abstract Success. Then, I understood that the effort was well worth whatever it cost because it was.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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