Rendered Fat Content


Stefano della Bella:
Mannen in een reddingsboot [Men In Lifeboat]
(Undated- circa 1620-64)

" … nobody intended or wanted to do anyone any damage …"

As consultants, The Muse and I often employed experiential exercises to help our clients gain insights. These amounted to what appeared to be silly little games, though they usually managed to help the client gain traction against some difficulty. We were extremely careful with our game design, though, as we came to understand that these silly little games could leave lasting, even damaging impressions. We always avoided introducing any game which might resemble what we called LifeBoatDrills, those games where a group was forced to choose to vote one or more of its members "off the island," for these can spark real trauma and produce permanent ill feelings, more harm than good. Curiously, this design seems the most common one employed by what has been strangely labeled "reality television," since reality only very rarely if ever actually delivers these sorts of dilemmas. Those who practice LifeBoatDrills probably practice for conditions they will never encounter in the real world or they produce the sorts of experiences nobody ever really wants, probably both. A master of the LifeBoatDrill seems the sorriest master of all.

My long-anticipated house concert, though, seems to have morphed into somewhat of a LifeBoatDrill.
Try as we might, The Muse and I could not seem to avoid this collision between high aspiration and the lowliest form of execution. We were only trying to limit exposure, given that we have three viruses currently ravaging through this valley. We're wary of overcrowding The Villa, even for the very best of reasons, of which we count four. First, The Muse receives her final immunotherapy infusion today, marking the end of the planned overt action of her treatment regimen. She's graduating into the surveillance portion of the program. Next, her cancer diagnosis came just three days before she retired, pre-empting full recognition of the fact that she's finally proven herself to be unemployable, perhaps even permanently, so that milestone needs recognition. Oh, yea, and we were planning on hosting this SetTheory House Concert, so we might include that premise into the invitation, too. Finally, it just happens to also be the height of the holiday season, so we have the makings of a quadruple celebration.

But seating's limited unless we want to convene one doozy of a superspreader event, which we do not. Therefore, we felt forced, if we were going to host this gathering at all, to limit invitations to a number The Villa might be able to actually hold. We invited with the explicit notice that only the fully vaccinated need accept, welcoming with open arms anyone feeling compelled to wear their mask. These conditions disqualified some we would have preferred attending. Each carefully considered before accepting, and a few declined the opportunity for their own good reasons. We wished it was Springtime instead of the dead of autumn so we could have moved the proceedings out of doors, but it was not and we could not. Instead, we were forced to vote a few of our close friends, family, and colleagues out of the opportunity to gather together on this little island of our own making. This felt like one Hell of a way to go about celebrating.

After month and months of preparation and planning, the act of inviting knocked me to my knees. I cannot describe the gratitude I felt when first one, then others, confirmed that they would attend. These acceptances felt like great gifts as I enter my third sequential damned pandemic winter. I noted to The Muse that it seemed like a lifetime since I invited a list of locals to celebrate together. It felt like a lifetime since because it
had been a lifetime since, since before our exile, which began thirteen years ago next quarter. That a LifeBoatDrill found itself into even the execution of this great and glorious blessing, disturbs more than surprises me. Part of this world remains brutish, however blessed its other parts.

It was no disservice for The Muse and I refuse to provide our consulting clients opportunities to practice coping with LifeBoatDrill situations, for they serve as a perfect example of the sorts of conditions which seemingly must be naively addressed. Anyone fancying them self master of the LifeBoatDrill is not really dressed to kill, but suited up to wound themselves and others. There are never any winners when LifeBoats become necessary, when the primary conveyance proves itself incapable of further proceeding. Then, the only good and decent reason for engaging involves avoiding some greater calamity, never preventing one, for the very fact that the Lifeboat's employed means that something untoward has already happened. These conditions cannot be reasonably anticipated. One must adapt in that moment, holding the best of intentions, knowing that some permanent damage might have already become unavoidable. These serve, I suppose, as some measure of character. The worse you feel about your execution of them, the better off you really are. Better, if not necessarily best, to take these tragedies without preparation, if only to acknowledge that nobody intended or wanted to do anyone any damage or harm, but did.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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