Rendered Fat Content


Cornelis Massijs: The Lame Dancers,
from La danse des estropiés, Plate 10

" … bare trees and I will still be standing."

Every step I take might advance me, but it also somewhat hobbles me, for I remain far from an infinite resource. I experience wear and tear and might never fully recover from any exertion. I poison myself as I nourish myself, this dichotomy apparently indivisible. I can't have one without the other. This fact comes into sharper focus whenever I exert extraordinary effort. Though I do not immediately recognize this shift, my limits might have receded to well beneath my earlier edges. I remain focused on my goal while imagining employing the same old machinery. I seem increasingly an imaginary character, fueled by fiction and grounded by my creepingly prominent limitations. I can still stretch to excess, but only if I'm willing to pay the price. I’m almost always willing.

I hope to never engage with cautious circumspection.
I would rather be known for my excesses than for my limitations. I will not seek permission to refuse because I would never want to use any note from any doctor offered as a preemptive excuse. I prefer to engage 'as if'’ what I prefer might occur. I might reliably throw a shoe on the clubhouse turn, but I'd rather be in the race and lose than choose not to engage. I am prone to excess sometimes. I favor one knee after another day spent canvassing. I might have developed a blister beneath a toe despite the cushiony new socks I bought to forestall that possibility. I'm still planning on logging a few more miles before this campaign's finished, though I know I will be contributing at ever-diminishing rates of effectiveness.

Had I known or even suspected how hobbling my canvassing might become, I might have better focused my earliest efforts. We could have been more strategic at first. I chose the closest precinct as a test bed. I was just going to try it out. Seven miles later, I recognized how poorly I'd imagined the effort involved. The magnitude of the remaining challenge increased exponentially, and I better understood the already familiar face of futility. I did not surrender then but doubled before tripling down, taking on additional responsibilities, spiting my knees. However, my knees retained a vote and sometimes noisily argued while I pretended not to hear. I often limped my way back home for a beer.

How did Lewis and Clark make their famed Voyage of Discovery? Most often, gingerly, one step at a time, usually after moccasins wore through, forcing them to limp on small cacti. "Damn the spines, full speed ahead," they said. They didn't let their limitations disrupt their investigations, just the same as every discovery voyage before and since. I won't argue convincingly or otherwise for or against what anyone should avoid. We each undermine our best intentions in whatever way we learned. My dad learned self-sacrifice in the face of The Great Depression, where he had to carry his weight before he was eight, bent over picking green beans. He had a shorter bend over than the adults surrounding him did. He might have "just" been a kid, but he could swallow his feelings like a grand master.

We become experts at swallowing certain feelings but not others. What we do for love rarely takes more than an ounce of effort, and mostly the kind we're blessed with in nearly infinite quantities. We increasingly, too easily over-stretch any boundaries, by which I mean we gladly reach beyond our theoretical limits to please both ourselves and others. We might engage to surprise ourselves, to demonstrate that it's still not too late yet, that we still have potential we couldn't have possibly otherwise imagined possessing. So we engage as if we are twenty even when we're on the north side of seventy. Let that knee and the blister figure out what wasn't possible. The trees along the road toward the center of the universe turn yellow and red to remind me that nothing's green forever. By election day, the street should be properly paved with fallen leaves, but God willing, those bare trees and I will still be standing.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver