Rendered Fat Content


Jasper Johns: [title not known] (1967–9)
"Long live our illusions …"

In this house, Plumb amounts to a fictional concept intended to be interpreted rather loosely. It never refers to anything like absolute verticality, which does not exist here, but to orthogonality relative to level or flat, which also does not exist in this fine home. Every surface might play off the general concept of level and Plumb, but never actual exhibit either. Our new library shelves, the last installation in Our Grand Refurbish, are taking longer to install than expected, though we might have reasonably expected complications. The left adjacent wall, upon close scrutiny, turns out to be roughly dish shaped and canted a degree or two off Plumb. It abuts into the freshly refinished window seat, which slopes ever so slightly back to front, perhaps designed that way to keep marbles from accumulating along its top. The right adjacent wall slopes slightly away from the vertical, necessitating much ciphering and trimming in order to yield more or less level shelf surfaces and also to properly fool the observing eye, which might otherwise discern just how out of Plumb the whole construction turned out to be. Properly constructed and painted, the eye will be fooled and satisfied, for it will conclude that this little corner of the world actually appears to be Plumb, a rarity and a fiction.

We seem to prefer our fictions and even conspire to preserve them against opposing evidence.
We pretend after happily ever after when we know that every relationship carries complications conspiring against both happily and longevity. We play along, mostly successfully, until we can no longer muster the energy to properly misrepresent ourselves. Tidy, likewise, tends to be a relative condition not always obvious without having experienced the mess that preceded its presence. Clean, too, might stretch belief, but we are each enjoined to believe and warmly engage in active fiction-making, largely satisfied with our efforts. Those who cannot muster believable fiction are said to suffer from mental illness, often incurably, for they cannot seem to unsee what to them seems obvious. It might be no blessing to be able to see anything as it truly is, the stuff of nightmares.

Our finish carpenter suffers from dyslexia, though 'suffers from' seems an extreme description. I'll say he exhibits some of the properties of someone gifted with that condition. The dyslexic might garble complex instructions and stumble when trying to precisely replicate certain calculations. He might reverse a number or misinterpret a measurement and so must be especially careful when dealing with what we so loosely refer to as reality. The dyslexic might become quite skilled at constructing patches and fixes for they more often than others find themselves patching and mending, recovering from yet another misunderstanding. He's the guy who's creating our library shelves, amid considerable confusion. He's operating in a context where nothing's level and intent upon creating level surfaces, both level and Plumb in a world accustomed to neither. Kurt Our Painter entered the conversation and they struggled a bit to find a common dialect. Much frustrated mumbling finally resulted in an understanding and baby steps toward finally crafting a response, with Kurt creating optical illusions to finish the carpenter's physical ones. One must always, always, always maintain the fiction. Our sanity depends upon this.

Our Grand Refurbish will, indeed, come down to a Photo Finish. It will conclude a day or two late, but with a satisfying flourish. We will have successfully forwarded the prominent fictions of level floors and Plumb walls by means of clever painting and subtle carpentry. Those Houses Of Mystery tourist traps are just houses where the misleading arts were ineptly practiced. Any place not properly finished to fool the eye would prove equally unsettling, and while the tourist traps might seem extreme examples, they only differ slightly and in small degrees. Any odd one percent difference really makes a discernible difference when persisting over any distance. If we look too closely, the whole universe would collapse around our shoulders. We thrive upon our fictions and likely would not long survive without them. Long live our illusions of Plumb and level! Long live our sacred delusions!

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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