Rendered Fat Content


Arnold Böcklin: Ruin by the Sea (1881)

" … cast some shadow and light …"

I caught myself attempting to recreate my past, a common enough affliction for anyone touched by nostalgia, but it's an impossible. Not one of those "impossibles" intended to challenge to greatness, but one destined to produce growing frustrations. You see, the past is past and will not be seen again. Oh, I can always change the past by changing my story, by rewriting the history, my history, if I choose, but it will not be resurrected or reanimated or re-present-ed again, but only because it can't be. What I should have been aspiring to accomplish might be better understood as manifesting. I can manifest a SetList inspired and, indeed, informed by my past, but I cannot recreate what once was. Let's say that I left that on a bus back in the late seventies, so long ago that the bus company has already purged their lost and found a few dozen times since then. That past's gone and it's not ever coming back again. Period.

If I care to avoid this mistake, then, I simply must frame this SetList effort as a creating rather than as a recreating one.
The result will not be what was, but what will be, a brand new 'is.' It might or might not resemble what I remember from before, but given my memory, I'll likely never know. The Muse might notice, but few of us remain from the old days now and those still standing have memories every bit as fallible as mine. Even should the past stop by to visit, who would recognize it? I'm grateful once again that I never became famous way back when, otherwise, I might have been occupied full time since, failing to recreate former glory in a succession of casino gigs, taking those stages like the imposter I am, fooling nobody, not even myself, that succeeding years hadn't stolen something obvious and once familiar. Few spectacles could more depress than watching an eighty year old Elvis perform. He's gratefully dead and gone.

So the weight of an alternate world lifts up and off my shoulders as I realize that I won't be held accountable for recreating anything. This SetTheory presents a fresh set of circumstances along with ample latitude for satisfying them. I need not be a slave to past resolutions. I am free, for instance, to create brand new beginnings and endings. I need not feel indentured to traditions. My voice has experienced ample abuse since it was twenty years old, and I need not hold it accountable for producing youthful exuberance. I can shamelessly sing like the one I've become rather than the one I'm no longer. I find this realization enormously reassuring. Perfection might be just what it is, never once, what it once was.

I feel growing forward momentum, then, a sense that I need not go backwards to get ahead, to get where I thought I was going. It could have otherwise been a most curious race, performed by moving backwards into my future. I might have felt responsible, as if my stewardship necessarily includes the obligation to maintain my past, when my primary responsibilities must involve maintaining my present—Present-ing, if you will—and preparing for my futures, which must remain multiple until some future present decides which one manifests. My job must be to maintain possibilities, not to construct and maintain some mausoleum holding my pasts intact. My pasts were gone in the moment they flickered, like some quantum event. They were light, not the lightning bug, and could never have been held in any glass. My SetList will manifest like that, in some future present, cast some shadow and light, then disappear forever and ever, thank heavens. Amen!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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