Rendered Fat Content


Alexandre Cabanel: Woman Reaching Over a Wall,
study for The Life of Saint Louis, King of France (1878)

"Reaching for the occasional impossible …"

The Muse and I differ in significant ways. I'm by far the more delicate of the two flowers. She's one tough cookie. She's more likely to dream big. Her grasp often seems to exceed her Reach. She often manages to successfully grasp something seemingly beyond her Reach. I do not know how she does this, but then neither does she. She apprenticed in a world where her grasp reliably fell far short of her aspirations, where even her own bootstraps seemed to lay beyond her Reach, until they just didn't anymore. She ascribes the shift as having had to do with dreaming bigger. I might insist that if you want to reliably Succeed, simply reach for things well within your grasp, while she insists that one must stretch further than that to Successfully achieve an impossible. She should know because she has had the Successes to show this sometimes works. Not every one of even The Muse's dreams fall within her grasp, though.

A class of aspiration exists which stands exclusively beyond any human's Reach or grasp, and these seem poisonous.
They might seduce us into wanting them, even though nobody could ever hope to successfully Reach or grasp them. People seem to file these aspirations under Heart's Desire, then set about dedicating themselves to breaking their heart pursuing them. It might appear to be mere bad luck preventing realization, but these represent an ideation difficulty. Like infinities, it seems that different grades and sizes of impossibles also exist, ranging from the merely unlikely to the genuinely delusional. The delusional ones ascribe powers beyond anyone's to our erstwhile dreamer, like when one chooses to want to make another happy, even for the very best of reasons, or when one insists upon needing a purple crayon when there isn't one in the crayon box. These sorts of aspirations can effectively prevent Success from ever occurring, regardless of expected grasp or Reach.

Perhaps the most poisonous aspirations fall under the Change The World label, for us mere humans seem to natively lack the leverage to successfully manage that, however much we might agree that it's needed. It seems instead that we're blessed or cursed to work with the world's nature without expecting to actually change it. We can sometimes shift results without fixing the context, that being impossible to Reach or grasp. We can always work with the devil when we must, but we dare not insist that he change his nature to satisfy us. Worst case, we might well manage to Reach right through his influence to grasp a real difference. Focusing upon changing the world might in the final analysis serve as no more than a distraction, something that sure seemed necessary at first but which experience taught us wasn't. To grasp what we could never have Reached seems the most useful insight.

Sometimes, The Muse insists, she merely needs to acquire a little influence, not to achieve any particular end, but merely to become party to some conversation. She need not be elected to serve as anyone's representative to deeply influence policy decisions. She prefers to invite the influential out for coffee then fill them up with ear worms which might well affect their thinking. Then, without them even suspecting, she's enlisted a better positioned pair of hands to work in her interest. Let them grasp if she can't Reach. She employs the better positioned lever even if it's not her's. No real need to change the world if it will willingly do your bidding. Maybe Reach and grasp just come down to understanding how the world really works more than becoming smart or well-positioned enough to successfully reengineer it. Attempting to fix this world might qualify as a sin of self-importance, anyway, far exceeding anyone's Reach and grasp.

It might prove useful to occasionally page through my aspirations to check for any absolute delusions. The ones where I'm counting on others to change might serve as the easiest to pick off, for they amount to Change The World targets. I might really want you to be happy but does it make sense for me to decide to be miserable in my attempt to cheer you up? Well, maybe it does, but I'm better off, I suspect, if I deliberately choose then choose again to pursue that end, understanding that I might well have chosen to chase a delusion which probably contains no Success in it at all, and never could. After all, you could always co-opt my initiative by simply deciding to be happy without my intervention. I do not need to win every round. I do, though, seem to need to preserve my ability to continue playing, so my Reaching and grasping might be better engaged in as if they were play and not the serious business they too often seem to be. A diet of delusional reaches does not promise much beyond continuing practice exceeding my grasp. If I need to be successful, I could always choose to reach for what lies well within my grasp. If I insist upon Reaching for the occasional impossible, it matters whether I could ever actually grasp it at all.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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