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John Rubens Smith:
Arms - proportions and attitudes. (1831)

"Plot twists never redefine our heroes."

What experience serves as information and what as definition seems as a much better question, Mr. Shakespeare. To be or not to be comes in, at best, a distant second, for many different states of being exist simultaneously, and not being seems to take the whole question of that side of the equation out of the running. Being or nothingness or Being And Nothingness? These hardly amount to questions, either. The Information/Definition Divide continually haunts each of us and profoundly influences our choices. My fleeing bout of Deltoid Bursitis adopted both guises throughout its tenure. It arrived as simple information, spawning questions first focused on identifying causes. I then held no doubt that the disability would pass quickly. My denial of it characterized our initial relationship. I analyzed it as if it afflicted somebody else. I mostly felt confused by its informational content.

I later came to mistake it as definitional.
After a few weeks, it seemed to have become a permanent feature rather than just a passing distraction. It somehow crossed The Information/Definition Divide, and I began integrating the disability into my resumé. I became like the boring party guest who insists upon introducing themselves by what they're not while omitting any sense of what they might be capable of. I admit that I moped around this recognition that I might never get any better or become one of those regrettable chronic sufferers, someone seemingly selected to suffer, perhaps forever repaying some previously unrecognized accumulated karmic debt. The disabled uncle. The debilitated aunt. The one whose past seemed unbelievable because who could imagine them having ever before been young and overfilled with hope? The relative who died before they left us. The one whose fate visibly overtook them.

I reached out for assistance, first from an Immediate Care doctor and later from an acupuncturist. The Immediate Care Doctor gave my affliction life by naming it. It had been a faceless pain until he dredged up a label for it. Then it gained dimension. It had a history and a clinical trajectory. It might be permanent, but most probably wasn't. Nobody could predict when it might recede, just that it MOST LIKELY would, but not today and probably not tomorrow, but eventually. Eventuallys teeter on the very edge of The Informational/Definitional Divide, inhabiting both the neither AND the either side, a Schrödinger State, the precise definition of which remains decidedly iffy, seemingly more definitional than informational, but also somewhat orthogonal to either. In practice, the label resolved nothing and probably only deepened the divide.

The acupuncturist might have been the only practitioner capable of dealing with my resident paradox. She showed it little respect, treating it as at least illegitimate, certainly not a candidate for inclusion as a definitional part of myself. It was just an affliction and deserved little attention. It certainly should not elicit a note exempting the holder from either PE or Band practice; transient and so definitely only informational, nothing to be changing any lifestyle over. The mindset this perspective gave me has so far proven powerful. I caught myself having disengaged from several of my previous activities of daily living, excusing myself from my own PE and Band practices, along with several other of my once-revered activities. I had responded as if who I was or who I could be had changed and that I would probably never be able to resume my familiar activities again.

What an innocent error, what a naive notion! It might be rare that any experience necessarily becomes definitional, that any event could actually change anyone's underlying self. Many occurrences genuinely amount to significant intrusions, but each remains information until seemingly permitted to fiddle with becoming definition. It's common for a passing bout of limited self-esteem to turn one's head, amp up the dreading powers, and get one grieving before any capability even starts seriously thinking about leaving. I, for one, can surrender the fortress on the bare rumor of an impending assault, then wonder why I suddenly feel so overwhelmed. I sometimes forget that this life is a story, always information first. Of course, I am no objective observer, for I am also the inference engine interpreting everything I experience. A quirk in that inference engine can chronically misinterpret incoming information as changing definition rather than simply twisting the story. Plot twists never redefine our heroes; they just challenge them.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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