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"One foot seems to stand behind me no matter how straight I stand."

Irrelevance seems the proper reward for any lifetime spent astering anything. I'm not sobbing into my beer, but reflecting on an apparent evolutionary imperative. I've forgotten more than half the stuff I once knew, but still know quite a bit more than even the cleverest Johnny-Come-Lately, who couldn't possibly have forgotten even half the stuff I have. Further, I've retained some truly subtle stuff, the sort of understandings that cannot be described or explained: sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth-sense stuff. The newer kids, though, still think they've reinvented the world, or are well on their way to utterly reinventing it. They worship a future that hasn't had her way with them yet while slandering a past they never knew or cared to understand. Those who won't worship that naive future or slander that trusty past seem simply irrelevant to all those who will.

Fortunately, none of this matters.
In the retail trades, they call this cycling The Wheel of Retailing, The pushcart becomes the storefront, the storefront becomes a pair, the pair becomes a chain, the chain becomes a Brand, the Brand becomes old-fashioned, the old-fashioned becomes artisanal, the artisanal becomes a craft, and the craft becomes a pushcart again. Gravity insists that what goes up just has to come back down again. Society insists that what was once fundamental must eventually become merely traditional, more ritual than substantial. Ever fewer seem to care why we used to always do it that way. Nostalgia stops in for a brief visit before moving into the guest suite for an indeterminate stay.

The go-to guy grows into the go-around guy without ever lifting a finger to aid in his demise. Time moved on without inviting anyone else on his bus. The phone grows increasingly meaningless. The land line disappears. Email clogs with unsolicited solicitations selling something somebody somewhere must care about, but not me. Whomever signed me up for thrice-daily updates on the latest in compliance training probably was eventually shot for similar deeds, but he died before confiding the secret for unsubscribing from those thrice-daily come-ons. Some days, only these auto-bots think to visit me, though I know they don't even really think, not even mindlessly. Auto-pilots who never knew me never seem to forget me. It still feels nice to be relied upon.

In reflection, no clear image appears in the mirror. The ambiguity I once worked hard to beat into a compelling elevator speech returned, and I welcomed her with grateful, open arms. The straightjacket that never quite fit, I've relegated to a back corner of a storage closet. I can still struggle my way into it, but as always, still need some help accomplishing that. When my natural cleverness focused upon a more studied practice, my performances became both more predictable and less satisfying. As my brand matured, my product all but disappeared. Another arrogant innocent tail-gated me before finally passing me on a blind turn, with me wishing them at least good riddance if not good luck. There never was any shortage of blind turns ahead and there's no reason they should not continue to appear for anyone traveling there.

Progress might have always been an illusion. History suggests, if anyone cares to research what happened while popularity was concocting myths, that we have never very well retained what we learned. We cannot remember how we created medieval stained glass, for cripes sake, and many of our traditions have turned back into mysteries again, as if the once foiled perpetrator was reincarnated to begin his serial infractions all over again. We seem to get better at fooling our selves into believing that we've figured something out only to relearn that we perhaps presumed too much. Some study suggests that the study we've been relying upon as a matter of fundamental principle got it wrong. The Paleos might have understood some segment of our metabolism better than the post-moderns ever did. One foot seems to stand behind me no matter how straight I stand.

Then, the phone will ring. It will be a dear friend on the line reporting that my name came up twice today in conversations in some place far away in both space and time. It's been every bit of twenty years almost since I last cast my shadow in that shop. Who besides my dear old friend could have possibly heard of me? Sure, I'd love to do some work there. I've been lately feeling rather irrelevant. Of course I'll welcome the opportunity to chat about what they might want, though you know I'll try harder to chase them off than persuade them to contract with me. They'll have to convince me that I might leave more good than irrelevance there as a result of my brief presence, or I might just as well stay at home remembering my more halcyon days while waiting for my regular thrice-daily updates on the latest goings-on in the always fascinating world of compliance training.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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