LateralSlide


"Hail Mary, full of grace …"

Back when I was still a wannabe, I agreed to deliver a presentation at a prestigious conference. I'd successfully swallowed my insecurities and submitted the proposal, the organizers accepted it, then I was left with the small matter of preparing the paper and producing the actual presentation. As usual, I'd jumped with little idea where my leap might land me, so I found myself attempting to invent a parachute as I plummeted downward. I quickly realized that I'd jumped before possessing one critical bit of information. I had no clue what this information might entail, but nonetheless felt confident that if only I could somehow gain access to it, me presentation might succeed. Without it, I felt clearly doomed.

I fled to the library, a refuge which might at least open some possibilities. I mean, libraries are filled with information. Right?
I'd already tried the old trick of taking a long walk with an open mind to discover what might find its way in there while I strolled, but that gimmick had failed me, so I figured a halfway decent library might properly serve as my source of last resort. The card catalogue was no help, since I had no notion of which subject, topic, or author might hold what I needed, so I performed what I call a LateralSlide through the stacks. A LateralSlide involves simply slipping sideways along an aisle of books, loosely looking at each title to see what might pop out as somehow prominent, to discover what might be trying to find me there.

I firmly believe (without any real proof) that the intention of finding something sets up a sort of parallel search party from the opposite side of the search. While I head out intentionally seeking, some sort of mysterious force, which holds some control over whatever I'm seeking, sends out a search party seeking me, to assist in connecting me with the object of my heartfelt desire. So, while I was physically scouring the stacks in a dedicated LateralSlide, some force within the stacks seemed to be mysteriously attracting me. Do not expect me to explain exactly how this process works, for I'm only half of the whole deal, and not the half with the greatest perspective. I'm just scouring, not exactly reading each title for comprehension, but scanning more than mere title, also checking for some curiously attracting element in the condition of the bindings, along with other strange attractors.

I'd used this technique to stumble upon many titles on my periodic wanderings through Powell's City of Books, a frequent date night destination, with my first wife when the kids were small. We'd hire a baby sitter and spend a blessed idle hour or two wandering through Powells' stacks before retiring to a now long-closed little pub called The Chocolate Moose, where I'd order a German beer and we'd share what we'd found. Our piles of titles always included something profound, something we'd had no notion of needing or finding, but always at least one that might just change one of our lives. These evenings were always godsends.

A LateralSlide serves as the intellectual equivalent of a Hail Mary Pass, a play specifically devoid of strategic plan or tactical ploy, with the intention only of advancing position, an utter reliance upon synchronicity with the perhaps delusional conviction that something useful could happen, with no assurances that anything would happen. It's a faith-based initiative. About two-thirds of my way down one stack, a book fell off the shelf to land at my feet. I bent down to retrieve it and noticed that it had an attractive title and interesting cover art. I stood there bringing this book into focus, then stumbled to a nearby table where I quickly skimmed its table of contents and started leafing through chapters. About three quarters of the way in, I found precisely what I'd been searching for, an essay written by a prominent psychologist I'd never heard of before which outlined exactly what my paper and presentation had been missing. I felt my parachute pop open in that instant. I knew for certain that I would not splatter all over the rocks beneath that cliff I'd so cavalierly leaped from.

The presentation was as much of a success as presentations ever can be, and I found myself one step closer to becoming whatever it was I was seeking to become. The whole affair turned out to be one of those pivotal experiences of my life. I'd imagined without any visible means of supporting my desire, then manifested my intention in better than expected fashion. I suspect that such occurrences distinguish wannabe from actuallyare, for I was forever after (so far) no longer an aspiring but a being. I later met that prominent psychologist and told him my story. He was suitably unimpressed, as if this sort of thing happened to him all the time. I understand now that this sort of thing does, indeed, happen all the time, or at least following those times when some naive wannabe innocently wanders off some cliff face and desperately needs to invent a parachute before meeting up with rocks below. Whether the transforming clue comes out of the plummet-er's own butt or from some obscure tome that has fallen off some shelf before him probably doesn't matter. It matters that the wannabe bite off way more than he might reasonably chew and discovers the means for swallowing it all anyway. It's always a faith-based initiative.

The LateralSlide reminds me that I might hold more power than I ever suspect, that mysterious forces labor along side me. I am never alone as I start sliding along any shelf lined with as yet unknown titles. One title might quite literally fall off the shelf before me and permanently alter my trajectory. The small fact that I do not yet know could not possibly prevent me from coming to know, and coming to know can never be precisely planned. Possibilities need opening up first, and opening up possibilities often means nothing more than moving forward without any resolved plan save a crazy Hail Mary call.

Hail Mary, full of grace …

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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