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Late 19th-century photograph of a yamabushi fully robed and equipped, armed with a naginata and tachi.
K. Ogawa: from KAZUMASA OGAWA - Military Costumes in Old Japan,
Photographed Under the Direction of Chitora Kawasaki of Ko-yu-kai (Tokyo Fine Art School), Tokyo, 1895 (Meiji 28)
" … while we're still alive and Kickin', we're all in."

Ask me how I'm doing and I'm likely to respond by saying that I'm still alive and kickin', kickin' apparently being an inseparable part of living. We unquestionably inhabit an addicted society. It might be that once adopting the language of addiction, we began noticing just how attached we'd been, or maybe we are all just addicted to something, whichever, we do seem to be continually occupied with trying (and often failing) to get over or along without something that's insidiously worked its way into our lives. We imagine ourselves free and clear but struggle to find a path between here and there. We aspire more than succeed, it seems, and so consequently well-understand what losing feels like. In our insistence upon winning, we perhaps most often set ourselves up to lose, which gives us almost endless opportunities to forgive ourselves for turning out to be human, albeit more human than we ever intended to become.

I might work just as hard to create my habits as I do to break them once they become bothersome, maybe even harder, for there's a certain satisfaction, a genuine sense of mastery, when teaching myself to master a fresh dependenc
y, with little sense that it might one day grow to master me. I started smoking on a lark with no real sense that it held a dark side. It was the devil's own challenge to rid myself of it, if I ever did. I probably just displaced it with another less foreboding addiction, like folks who become addicted to their dependency rejection program in lieu of staying addicted to heroin. Displacement seems a fine coping strategy, especially if it's true—and it might be—that people tend to maintain a fixed level of dependency upon something and that there's really no such thing as a non-addicted human. It's just a matter, perhaps, of which substances reel us in since we seem bound as well as determined to get reeled in by something.

Kickin's one of those activities unimproved by trying. The more one tries to kick something, the tighter that something seems to hold. Twelve step programs might have one point correct when they prescribe surrendering to powerlessness, since power itself seems to reliably turn back upon itself when applied toward addiction. We speak of will power as if it existed. We speak of discipline as if any of us possessed an ounce of it when facing the eradication of even a small familiarity. It's a war of identity where an alien presence—that imagined future self finally free of the evil dependence—attempts to displace the once wise and wildly popular king. It's a losing proposition on the face of it, and engaging only amplifies the paradox within it. It's never just a matter of stopping doing something because nothing just sits there passively accepting such shunning. It will kick and whine and berate you until such time as you forget about it and thereby leave it behind. As long as I'm fighting it, I'm losing the engagement. It employs my defense against it as its primary offense. There otta be a law against this. There ain't.

I might be addicted to writing. I certainly seem dependent upon my daily fix and can now no longer imagine myself starting any day without immersing myself within it. My keyboard's not playing cancer chicken with me, though. Other than a few self-inflicted embarrassments, my writing features no clearly deleterious side effects. The Muse and I might have exhibited a few symptoms of having become addicted to this house. What else explains our attachment and devotion to it? It really makes no sense, but other than reliably emptying our wallets, it doesn't seem to hurt anybody else. We suffer sometimes from our over-dependence, but we've recovered in the past. One day, our Villa Vatta Schmaltz Dependence might do us both in. We probably are playing a game of chicken here, but while we're still alive and Kickin', we're all in and SettlingInto.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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