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Paul Klee: Death for the Idea [Original Title: Der Tod für die Idee] (1915)
"The exit routes me through negative space toward an apparent vacuum."

Just over a month ago from now, as I was nearing the end of my SettlingInto Stories, I posted a story about being a quitter. In that story, I had started quitting the inconvenient habit of ingesting nicotine, a hyperactive nerve agent and mild sedative. I was doing battle by means of a counterbalancing hyperactive nerve agent, a psychoactive drug, apparently designed to make me temporarily crazy. The drug was working better than the quitting, though I had as the more dedicated addicts always say, "Virtually" quit. First by no longer carrying, then by no longer purchasing, while continuing crawling further and further out onto an ever-narrowing limb. I had not envisioned that limb's limits. Some days it seemed like I was crawling toward oblivion, which, I understand, amounts to a perfectly respectable and even an expected reaction when quitting. But quitting connotes a definite direction, like building up or winding down, not what now seems like perpetual around and around and around. I don't yet see an end in sight, when the recent hostilities might reasonably conclude and I get to go on enjoying what's left of my life.

The difficulty with doing without might be that it amounts to negative doing. It creates a vacuum.
I'm here to tell you that nature apparently still despises vacuums. She rushes to fill them in, stretching thin her other resources. Negative space objectives suck enthusiasm. They lack substance. An impending absence looms which seems likely to persist forever after. No matter how bravely one faces such a negative prospect, they find no continuity beyond it, just a gaping maw of a future, unimaginably different. I've been trying to sleep my way through the transition. I keep figuring that one day I'll just wake up and realize that I'm already beyond it and then never look back, and from there, I might even find myself capable of looking forward again. This damned prescription produces disturbing dreams, though, further complicating my passage. Yesterday, I reverted to reading a novel. Spies in Russia, almost mindless.

I told The Muse that had I gone out yesterday, I would have eventually made my way to an inconvenience store to score some Skol, even though I had not done that in over a month. I performed the equivalent of tying myself to the mast instead, much like any Ancient Mariner might, and secured myself to that novel's plot. My tactic worked, but I wonder when I might be able to see the end of this ordeal. Quitting seems harder than continuing, whatever the externalities. I am gaining a fresh appreciation for those addicted to stuff for which nobody's developed a treatment to help them get off. There must be a dozen different ways to kick nicotine, each unpromising near the beginning, but each potentially useful for those who can tolerate the Quittering for long enough. Those addicted to misinformation face far fewer options. There ain't no pill designed to kill the desire for lies. Those poor devils who think George Soros a devil are on their own to escape their echo chamber. The dopamine flush accompanying a fresh QAnon post must be as tough as heroin to kick, perhaps tougher. And, there's no known treatment for the QAnon addicted. They're much worse off than I.

I figure that everyone's in some sort of transition. My Quittering's probably tiny potatoes when compared with most of the others, and I won't impose any Federal case upon my current condition. I remain hopeful, though more distantly, that I might one day find myself beyond this stage where negative so heavily out-weighs positive space. Other than more space in my right front pocket, no obvious improvement accompanies the kind of quitting I'm engaging in. There are no day-by-day improvements to notice, no rediscovered flavors, no diminution of things I've grown to hate, just a fresh inconvenience piled on top of the ones I held before. Quitting seems much harder than starting, harder than continuing, too. The path of least resistance seems to route right through the greatest reinforcement to continue as I had before. The exit routes me through negative space toward an apparent vacuum. No strange attractor tugging, no obvious reward compelling, just a tunnel of Quittering egging me through.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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