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Adam Smith, Our Invisible Friend
"May we each come to more deeply appreciate our own agency."

The clever critic starts every review with some variant of, "Far be it from me to criticize, but …". That's a really BIG but, ingenuous as Hell, so I will allow myself to start this criticism more authentically. Your Invisible Friend continues betraying you. Your continuing faith in his underlying beneficence crosses the line between devotion and idolatry. Believe whatever you choose to believe, I say, but consider what each belief bestows upon thee. (I'm very likely to get preachy from here on, so proceed with care.) Any belief that continuously punishes your faith in it, ain't that great of a belief. Any faith that feeds cynicism should simply be abandoned. Any devotion that breeds a deepening sense of victimization, does damage rather than good. I know I'm not supposed to propose any hard shoulds, but please consider what your experience could become if you ditched your insidious Invisible Friend.

He has, they say, an invisible hand, one which, without human intervention, rules economic progress.
Our Invisible Friend never actually insisted this, for he cleverly invoked the subtle As If, attributing nothing to any actual appendage, imaginary or otherwise, but rather, it seems, to some great mystery not yet understood by him, or, indeed, by any man. An economy, once properly configured and engaged with by upstanding moral "men," he said, seemed to eventually operate as if regulated by an invisible hand. No actual invisible hand involved, and no genuine invisible friend. What might regulate an economy not properly configured and engaged with by venial "men"? Apparently not as if by any invisible hand. Thumbs rule instead, and not invisible thumbs, but ones which jealously guard their anonymity, lest they be charged with market manipulation. These thumbs find it terribly convenient to tout their Invisible Friend with the reassuring Invisible Hand, but they know that they own the actual hand with the influencing cloaked thumb which, undercover, makes everything run.

Almost twenty years ago, I published an unfortunate paper. In it, I investigated a curious phenomenon very similar to an invisible thumb. I noticed that some mysterious forces seemed to have been behind every successful project I'd ever run. I mapped a possible parallel between my experience and Adam Smith's invisible hand, perhaps eternally embarrassing myself by presenting the finished piece before The City of London's Economic Club, which I later learned existed primarily to provide an excuse for brokers and economists to improve their day drinking skills. I later came to reflect that perhaps I had been deflecting some subtle influence I might have injected into my projects, albeit unknowingly. What if I'd amounted to Smith's upstanding moral man and that invisible hand, which I suspected, had been some agency I'd unwittingly injected into the proceedings? My philosophy underwent some serious reworking.

I underplay my own agency. You might, too. It's easy to do, given that none of us ever once get to stand aside to observe our own influence at work. We're too damned distracted acting to become an effective or compassionate observer. Out on our pointy ends, our supporting unseen sticks might sincerely seem like Invisible Friends regulating. Were we able to more circumspectly observe, we might find the hands of God involved. Jesus, spoiling centuries of deeply imbedded myth, was said to have held up his own paws and reflected that "these are the hands of God." Some observers likely thought, well, of course you see God's hands in your own. Being the Son of God and all, like me, you probably see your father's face increasingly appearing in your own shaving mirror, too. Others might have more deeply understood his reference.

I now think it easy and cheap to ascribe to some Invisible Friend with Invisible Hands what we might ourselves be deeply influencing. In so doing, we seem to volunteer for first class victimhood, for we become flotsam in some shipping lane. We tie our success to luck, to lazy fairies, to chance. Committed gamblers ascribe their successes to some benevolent invisible hand and their losses to simple bad luck. When they firmly believe in the beneficence of that guiding hand, they're most likely to overplay their hand. Invisible hands deftly explain innumeracy but little else. They might disclose a deeper lack of faith in one's own damned agency, an imperfect regulator, but one relying upon something other and more than chance. I believe myself the beneficiary of considerable synchronicity, but I'm coming to understand that even mysterious forces emanate from my own two hands, still unbelievably, maybe, God's hands. My plans sometimes come to naught. My intentions aren't always realized, and I'm coming to appreciate that I cannot become a victim to any outcome if I own my own agency first.

I can't see where any of this is going, either. I have no truly grand plan. My hands seem hardly modestly skilled, yet I still feel compelled to continue to employ them. This Damned Pandemic could yet choose me to be one of its victims, but I continue to exercise what some consider to be drastic precautions. I do not yet understand how that seemingly invisible hand guides its path. If only because of that, I remain wary and exercise my considerable if subtle personal agency. We're presently losing a citizen a minute, a crazy Gattling Gun statistic which seems only unrealistic. It simply could not be, yet is. Our present administration and the Republican Senate ascribed to some Invisible Hand the ability to protect us from This Damned Pandemic. They firmly believed that the associated economics would take care of itself and us by association, denying any agency to influence any outcome. How's that been working for them? About as well as assigning another Invisible Friend to handle it.

It's Friday again, and time to recount my prior week's machinations:

I began my writing week by inspiring myself, suggesting that I might be seeing clear signs of our society starting to right itself, as every danged thing our Chief Executive tries turns against him in
ReOpeningUp. Whatever Invisible Friend protected him up to now seems to have thankfully gone out for an overlong lunch.

I next considered the dangers of achieving the status of expert in
Experteasing. I'd rather work with an optimistic journeyman than any dismissive, know-it-all expert.

Then, I experienced a dream in
Visitations. I sometimes need not another insidious Invisible Friend, but a reassuringly present long-lost one appearing in some vivid dream, resurrected to kick me squarely in my butt.

No week could possibly be complete without me resorting to some small bout of public self pity, so I crafted a short entry complaining about my
Detention. It was not my intention to find satisfaction there, but where else should I have expected it to appear?

I next engaged in some overdue
SelfExamination, recounting how re-re-re-reviewing a "finished" manuscript provided some fresh appreciation for who I've finally become, no Invisible Friend involved.

I then stretched the boundaries of precedent propriety by asking for my readers' assistance in
Publickity. If you'd like to become a pre-reader of my latest "finished" masterpiece, you know how to contact me.

I ended my writing week
PursuingHappiness, an activity fraught with difficulty. I'm still headed in that direction, but with renewed circumspection. There's no free lunch just like there are no Invisible Friends.

Thank you for sticking with me through this week. We're now measuring casualties in Vietnam equivalents, yesterday the volume of Damned Pandemic deaths grew to One Vietnam. Continued into the reasonably projectable horizon, our Invisible Friend seems culpable in producing a genuine, visible tragedy. May we each come to more deeply appreciate our own agency.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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