Rendered Fat Content


Paul Cézanne: Maisons parmi les arbres (circa 1904-06)

" … never finished, just contributed."

If I were charged with grading my performance so far in my life, I would not assign an immediate 'A', and not a 'B', either; nor a 'C', 'D', or even an 'F', and not only because I have not yet finished performing. I suspect that I still have an act or two left, perhaps even a few more full productions to produce, but I harbor few delusions that any future performance might nudge my grade up into the exemplary range. I am pretty much who I am. I no longer stay up late studying to achieve the next level of anything. Those who love me, love me. Those who do not, don't. I'm not completely uninterested in flipping my critics or in chasing away my fans, but I certainly do not invest much sweat toward achieving either. I am just about who and what I am, no more and little else. So what grade would I assign to my own performance so far? I'd award a big fat Incomplete, the orthogonal judgement, the forgotten achievement. Whether any fat lady's sung or not, my performance ain't quite finished yet.

Famous composers and artists left behind unfinished symphonies and paintings, so do us less famous brethren.
So does everyone. This image I display today, Paul Cézanne's Maisons parmi les arbres (circa 1904-06), is clearly an unfinished landscape yet it still managed in its most recent auction sale, to garner just over a million Pounds Sterling for its seller. One can only wonder how much a finished landscape might have brought. Most of most of what any of us have wrought might be best judged as unfinished business and best assessed employing an Incompleteness Theorem, one which more fully acknowledges both presence as well as potential. Every complete work contains a few If Onlies, some unrealized potentials, and even the obviously unfinished ones certainly feature more than did their initial blank sheet of paper.

I argue, I guess, for a certain tolerance for inevitable shortcomings; not to encourage ragged finishes or incompleteness, but to acknowledge the nature of our works and of our presence. We can generally take nicks out of aspirations, but do not often utterly vanquish anything. We leave a few relatively unnoticeable ragged edges along the edges of our masterpieces and should not mistake these results as utter failures. If I were king of the big wide world like I'm king of my own world, I'd never assign a terminal 'F' to any effort, if only to show that I continued trying to appreciate the energy invested if not always the achievement. There's often room for improvement and it seems to me that it might be my obligation as an aspiring appreciator, to open that space to hold that potential, even if it never manifests.

The Most Generous Possible Interpretation Rule, which I hold as one of my ethical responsibilities, my own happiness and well-being depend upon my extending magnanimous findings, generous judgements toward myself and others. For me, it seems that the traditionally ignoble Incomplete might best satisfy this intention, for it often seems presumptuous for me to ascribe 'best' to any object or experience. How impossibly omniscient would I have to become to confidently dispense bests? Likewise, my experience hardly seems adequately vast to cast the ultimate aspersion by assigning a permanently failing grade to anything. Judge not lest you unleash worse upon yourself. The humble Incomplete seems completely benign, forgiving, even reassuring. Incomplete's still competing, still in contention, the jury's still deliberating. Properly constructed, I suspect that a life's work can never be finished, just contributed.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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