Rendered Fat Content


Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes:
The Claws of a Cat and the Dress of a Devotee -
similar to Vice is often clothed in Virtue’s habit,
plate nine from Los Proverbios (1815/24)

"The devil deals in Habituals."

It has sadly become common practice that people try to acquire what they consider to be good habits. I guess they figure that if they can set some activity up as automatic, they're more likely to continue engaging in it. I've even heard of some who claim to have managed to set up a mindfulness habit, the thought of which just makes me cringe. Clearly, bad habits exist and seem to be almost impossible to disengage. Ask any smoker to explain why. I've long considered the Habituals a rather cheap shot, and a fundamentally misleading one at that. I doubt that salvation lies in that direction. Most things require more attention than any Habitual reaction allows.

I prefer ritual to Habitual.
A ritual provides for repeatable process, but pretends to be little more than a shell, a hollow within which something significant might happen. True, one might call in their ritual engagement, but the best ones seem to encourage something different than simple repetition. One prays for divine intervention or in appreciation, not just to check a tick box as done. The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Individuals was a paradox enticing people into reassuring dysfunction because habits do not directly create high effectiveness in anything other than repetition. Effectiveness seems more likely to emerge from less repetitive engagement, but what do I know? Nobody's ever seriously accused me of being a highly effective anything.

I do feel the seduction, though, of the notion that I should probably at least try to be more disciplined. But then discipline seems hard and therein arises the serious seduction from the Habituals. If I could acquire the habit of playing my guitar, of practicing my songs, then I'd never again have to engage in this business of reincarnating a SetList. There's something seriously screwed up about this kind of thinking. Dedicating myself to developing a habit so that I might avoid the difficulties of self-discipline seems as though it might undermine my intent. Perhaps I'd at best manage to produce Musac® if I successfully developed such a habit. Maybe I'd become addicted, Jonesing for a fix when separated from my instrument, later joining a twelve step program with a sponsor to help me get over it. Some things might not be meaningfully accomplished by the acquisition of a habit.

The creative process ebbs and flows, and seems to ebb much more than flow sometimes. No artist is creative every second and most experience at least some anxiety over exhibiting their so-called gifts. Few ever succeed in reducing their urges to habits and many might never manage to achieve what others would readily recognize as discipline. That seemingly disorganized mess seems to be the typical soup from which great work emerges, a soup swimming with good intentions and regrets, more mistakes than masterpieces, and more fallow days than productive ones. That's just the way this world works, regardless of whatever the advice-givers might be peddling. The devil deals in Habituals. Angels sell something else altogether.


I Engage To Remember
I suppose I could claim that my Friday rituals amount to Habituals, though I know from now considerable experience that not a single instance of them ever proved to come to me automatically, even after considerable practice. They emerge with sometimes great difficulty and I suppose that I engage in the continuing ritual to demonstrate something, and something far removed from anything like any of the Habituals. I've not yet managed to call in a single one of these stories. Each seemed to pose a particular problem for me to solve, and each demanded that I produce something I did not yet possess when I began. I never once just pulled a fresh story from the packet conveniently located in my left front shirt pocket, like I used to pull out a cigarette and smoke it. Nor was I ever just trying to quench an unquenchable desire by creating it. Remarkably little passion ever enters into it. This is who I am, not just what I do and not anything like a habit, good or bad. It's like drawing breath for me, not like any of the Habituals, a tiny matter of life or death continuously repeated. I engage to remember this, to repeat it afresh, never the same way once, never to forget.

I began my writing week by making a small distinction between purposeful pursuing and
Delving. "The future remains emergent rather than determined. It rises from an already overfull pocket, grasped without really understanding what we're choosing, the inevitable result, perhaps, of Delving."

I noticed that my efforts to create my Set List involved much Dredging through my random access filing system. "It's already too late to do anything right the first time."

I next wrote of my inherent
Laziness. "We generally fall far short of our potential but few of us choose to wallow in our shortcomings and even shorter goings. We revel in what we accomplish, to the extent that we revel in anything at all, and keep on truckin' anyway, getting on then moving on."

I considered what I do when
Reviving one of my tunes, the most popular story this period. "Performance renders the performer meta to himself, somebody else altogether than himself."

I set aside my stated purpose to notice a seriously
Consequential experience. " … there was a convergence there where the past resolves into a hopeful future as if to convince us that we are actually blessed and that miracles really do happen, and they occasionally even happen to us."

I reported a prominent feature of my accomplishing, how I slow way down as I near an impending ending,
Dawdling. "I might not have completed anything but merely approached donenesses."

I ended my writing week wondering who completes
Selfless efforts. "I often don't notice myself present until just after I finish creating something. This sometimes gets me wondering just who it was that created that thing, anywho."

I started with serious misgivings in mind this morning. It seemed as though I might have missed some mark this week, that the quality of my stories might have been lacking. Yet, going back through them, I found a useful pattern emerging, one I recognized but also one surprising in what it revealed. Delving and Dredging might seem similar to Laziness, Reviving familiar feelings of inadequacy. Consequential events still sometimes happen to everyone, even The Muse and I. Yes, I have been Dawdling, its one of my signature means of engaging, that and losing myself in the process. I imagined that I'd missed my mark this week only to discover a surprising self portrait on the easel afterward, not one brushstroke the result of Habituals. Thank you for following along!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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