Rendered Fat Content


Marsden Hartley:
Landscape No. 3, Cash Entry Mines, New Mexico (1920)

"I have been the one creating that world."

"Jeremiah's just as wiry as the sagebrush.
He built his home out on the desert sand.
Just a toothless old fool with a mangy mule beside him,
and a scrap of worthless parchment in his hand.
But Jeremiah says he doesn't mind his neighbors,
'course he's the only living soul for miles around,
With fifty-five years behind him in the Arizona sun,
searchin' out that old Lost Dutchman's claim."

Most of my songs seem autobiographical in that I serve as the obvious protagonist.
I explicitly include the observer, a journalistic as well as an academic sin. Neither journalist nor academic, my songwriting self freely employs the 'I'. This song, though, serves as one of my few exceptions, for this one features a completely fictional character, a grizzled old Prospector named Jeremiah. As with most fictional characters, he resembles nobody living or dead, or so the lawyers advise the attached disclaimer to declare. Also as with most every fictional character, he serves as a reasonably transparent metaphor for whatever any reader might care to ascribe to him. That's on the reader, though, because the author leaves no fingerprints at this crime scene. He makes a clean getaway.

"But Jeremiah will be a rich man one day,
he'll be a wealthy man beyond believin',
he's gonna buy himself a castle in the sky.
Jeremiah will be a rich man one day
He'll be a wealthy man, he's still believin'.
He's gonna keep that faith until the day he dies."

I related to Jeremiah because it occurred even to me that my occupation as a songwriter was very similar to Jeremiah's job. Both were based upon speculation fueled by imagination frothed up to become an all-consuming conviction. I knew when I wrote this song, like Jeremiah claimed, that I would be a rich man one day, beyond believin'. Not quite as much supported my conviction as seemed to support Jeremiah's. He, at least, had tenure in his position and that parchment. When this song visited me, I had barely begun my commitment to my primary delusion. There might be no better state than to feel consumed by some notion nobody else believes in, for it creates a unique universe suited to only the deluded individual, and nothing, certainly no logic or reason, could possibly penetrate the boundary surrounding that delusion. Heaven was not contingent upon Jeremiah finding the Dutchman's motherlode. As unlikely as it might have seemed even to him, Heaven was where he nurtured and pursued his dream, regardless of his unpromising appearing surroundings.

"Jeremiah hunts down rattlers for the bounty.
He buys his beans and coffee with their hides.
And though he firmly believes in the providence of a Heaven,
while he smiles and says, "Those devils will provide."
And Jeremiah recons that he'll never lose the feeling
that most any day now he's sure to find that lode.
He's gonna buy his mule some pasture
where grass grows sweet and green,
then buy himself the cure for growin' old."

Living such dreams gets unavoidably complicated. Devils usually involve themselves. Compromises erode, but if one remains fortunate, by which I guess I mean, faithful, the motivating force remains behind and propelling forward, or ahead and pulling ever onward. Aspiration nurtures the hungry soul. One comes to live for the next one and then the one after that. Precedent never defines potential. Experience only reinforces conviction, whatever actually happened. Is a man still a prospector if he's been unsuccessfully pursuing his stated purpose for fifty-five years? I find myself, my songwriting self, in almost precisely this position, and I'll contribute an enthusiastic "Yes!" to the question. It was never once about achieving the dream, which might have meant the succession of subsequent dreaming. Dreams come true through dreaming, not by ending. Castles in the sky prove irrelevant in practice. Mules founder in green pastures. Prospectors retire by dying.

But Jeremiah will be a rich man one day,
he'll be a wealthy man beyond believin',
he's gonna buy himself a castle in the sky.
Jeremiah will be a rich man one day
He'll be a wealthy man, he's still believin'.
He's gonna keep that faith until the day he dies."

©1969 by David A. Schmaltz- all rights reserved

I always considered Jeremiah to have been a rich man, perhaps the wealthiest. Give me a man who's satisfied with his beans and coffee, and accepting of the means he must muster to acquire them, for he's wealthier than anyone who begrudges his station. Those aiming to get even imprison themselves with contingent conditions. Jeremiah lives by straightforward aspiration. He's not dying to achieve, but living to achieve, and so he succeeds. The likelihood of winning any billion dollar jackpot falls almost short of absolute zero. Should we win, then we inherit the trouble that only a billion dollars ever drags around behind itself. Even giving it away could consume every remaining day, Amen. Every song I've ever written reinforced, for a little while, my fundamental delusion that I would one day become some world-renowned songwriter. I never considered that I have been the one creating that world. Within the world I'm creating, I already inhabit my castle in the sky.
My Own Creation
I don't write very many songs these days. I write these stories instead, though I suppose the aspiration's similar if not nearly as all-consuming as once was my songwriting. I can now imagine everyone around me cringing as they witnessed me making an absolute fool of myself pursuing what must not have even appeared to have been dreaming. Yes, I now admit, I was, indeed, living under a spell. I've only ever approached Hell when not living under such a spell. The life I live remains likely fictional, my world, remarkably, still mostly of my own creation. I live overlooking the center of the known universe, where gravity actually works right, for instance, and I married The Muse. Excuse me if I'm not buying into anyone else's reality. I couldn't find it using both hands. I interface with difficulty.

I'm trying out a fresh layout for my Friday writing week summary, a gallery of the images that graced this week's stories to accompany the summaries.

This Week's Gallery

Frans Hals: Jester With A Lute (c. 1620 - 1625)
Fretwork: I began my writing week fretting then figuring out that much of every effort unavoidably involves Fretwork. "Like any aspiring artist, I sought validation not knowing that only I could ever punch the ticket I was holding, and not even I could necessarily appreciate the ticket I already had."
John William North: The Wood Gatherers (1869)
Founding: I next wrestled with the idea that I've lost every song I'm recreating for this SetList. "I might deal exclusively in dust, for I retain no archivist following me around with a broom and dustpan, attempting to preserve anything I attempt. I deal exclusively in the ephemeral under the hubris of the eternal. None of my work seems very well suited to last through the end of the week, let alone much longer. I deal in dust, not statues.
Cornelis Visscher: The Large Cat (1657)
MellowCat: I revisited a moment in time, frozen within a portrait of me with a cat in my lap, resurrecting another of my SetList songs. "The belief's the thing. Some claim to labor for their supper, but I'm convinced that we all toil in search of and in service to our belief system, the one we own and/or the one we seek."
Unknown artist-Central Tibet, mid 15th Century:
Tsong Khapa, Founder of the Geluk Order
(c. 1440–1470)

Entropying: I experienced a small epiphany, just as if there were ever any other kind. "We know for sure what's coming, yet we persist. We will be rearranging deck chairs until we're sucked into the abyss, and we're generally completely satisfied with this arrangement. Our rearranging carries deep purpose, much, much deeper than any mere arrangement might hold."
George Stubbs: Hay-Makers (1785)
*Twenty-fiveDown: I set aside my SetList effort to update this audience on The Muse's progress through her cancer treatment. "She remains an extrovert frozen within an introvert's dream."
Martin Lewis: Chance Meeting (1940-41)
ChanceEncounter: I reincarnated yet another SetList song, this one about the undeniable blessing of the ChangeEncounter. "There's no reason to think I could ever outthink what chance has intended I find."
Edgar Degas: Waiting (c. 1880–1882)
TheWaitingGame: I ended my writing week playing the single most popular game in this universe. "My juggling of the spaces in-between seems just as important as my mastery of the stuff they're separating."

It's probably fitting that I ended this writing week as a Prospector, for I end this writing week just as I began it, in passionate pursuit of some rather intangible things. Of course I catch myself fretting, for much of everything unavoidably involves Fretwork, especially Founding, which first involves losing something dear to my heart. I remember sweet moments through my songs, once recovered, my eternities still exist there in spite of, or perhaps just because of, the considerable Entropying involved. As of this morning, The Muse is twenty-nine down with just a single radiation treatment remaining. Remember the ChanceEncounter and understand that it's reliable if unpredictable and that we're all more than familiar with TheWaitingGame here. We're all at root Prospectors. Thank you for following along on this adventure.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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