Rendered Fat Content


Jules Bastien-Lepage: Study for “Les Foins” (Haymaking) (1878)
"It's a stretch to show The Muse that we're making progress."

Reviewing progress on our grand revamping of The Villa Vatta Schmaltz, I feel struck most by the utter insignificance of most of what we've accomplished. Our progress has manifested exclusively via insignificant increments, tiny steps rather than big bold moves. Not even our brush strokes have qualified as broad, but narrow, tight, and tiny. This army marches forward on its fingers. The skill in this work does not come from grand planning but modest execution, from keeping the scope simple and easily grasped, from finding satisfaction in taking baby steps and delaying gratification. Should we break our discipline and attempt to accomplish something big, I suspect that we'd break the trance that's held us steady and the whole project would digress into irrelevance. Relevance must also come in Insignificants.

I disappear when Kurt Our Painter invites me to contribute anything bordering on the relatively meaningful.
I'd planned to play a supporting role, hopeful that my help would come in the form of freeing up the professional from the more mundane but necessary work. I don't need to pay Kurt to do work that I'm capable of completing. He wonders if I want to participate in an experiment he's concocting to try to match the wall's sandy finish over the patched bits, but I decline, explaining that I wouldn't know how to contribute. He explains that it's just an experiment, that he doesn't know how to do it yet, either. He's trying something. If it works, fine. If it doesn't work, also fine. He seeks information about a solution, not necessarily revelation. He's framed the problem so that it might be resolved by Insignificants, which seems uncommonly wise. Paint, I'm reminded, goes on one insignificant coat at a time. The prime coat doesn't finish it. The first top coat doesn't either. That second top coat works like magic unless it doesn't. Another coat's always possible, each imparting more color than substance, each the very soul of insignificance all by itself. The many insignificant moving pieces work together like watchwork, tiny Insignificants.

I'll keep the secret. Those who marvel at the scope and depth of our completed revamp need not know the truth of it, that what they witness amounts to concatenated Insignificants. I filled Kurts pickup with removed wall-to-wall carpet and pad, and it looked even to me as if I'd finally accomplished something significant on this project. The pile of detritus mislead even me, for even that carpet came out a scant square inch at a time. I spent more time skewering 1/8th inch carpet staples with an awl than I spent hauling carpet, which was only tacked down along the edges. The tack strip also came out in insignificant increments, one scant nail at a time. Iteration of insignificant actions ultimately amounted to something like a pickup loaded with worn out carpet. We tossed it into eternity without really needing to think very much about it.

We engage almost exclusively in humble, humbling work. Kurt's genius lies in understanding how to string together these tiny increments, to identify precedents and focus upon those first, to recognize kingpins and show them the respect they deserve. Only a very few elements of this entire effort make much of a difference. The rest amount to hygiene tasks, set-ups and aftermaths, transports from place to place without really affecting any change. We're lucky if at the end of a shift, we can identify one glaring accomplishment worth remembering. We need to strain to inflate our egos. It's a stretch to show The Muse that we're making progress. Only longer views render out Significants, thank heavens.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver