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Titian: The Death of Actaeon (1559-75)
"It exists to change us"

Mythology tells the sorry story of the hunter Actaeon, who besides having the misfortune of possessing a name with an imbedded digraph, once stumbled upon Diana and her nymphs bathing in the forest. Diana dealt rather harshly with Actaeon's blunder, however innocent, turning him into a stag which his own dogs then hunted down and killed. I sometimes get confused about the moral this allegory intends to impart. Does it caution about blundering into nymphs or something else? I choose to interpret it as referring to what I'll call SacredContext. Every blessed and damned thing possesses SacredContext, for it is the very nature, the subtle essence, of each thing. It appears in different guise depending upon the underlying nature of each thing, and cannot be adequately anticipated. It must be discovered, often blundered into, and when violated, responds in heartlessly harsh ways. To violate a SacredContext is to violate the universe and the universe seems to possess no leniency or sense of humor where such violations exist.

I believe, if only to reassure myself, that most violations of SacredContext occur innocently, like poor Actaeon's must have.
He was clearly no run-of-the-mill Peeping Tom, but an innocent John who just blundered into very private business. He was, of course, guilty as charged but I suspect not really guilty at heart because I imagine that had he known there were nymphs bathing, he would have maintained a healthy distance from those proceedings, nymphs carrying a certain reputation for vengeance. The whole tale just seems tragic, as do the ramifications of most SacredContext violations.

Okay, David, what does this story have to do with Homemade anything?

I had this wake up dream this morning, the last in what seemed like an endless stream of them through the night, but because it was positioned last in the queue, it was perhaps destined to become the one I would remember once I awoke, and so it was. In it, I was sitting with a client who was, as clients will, attempting to change the world. He had, as clients also often can, blundered into trying to change the essence of something. He had confessed to me that because he had grown up in New York City, the rural Southwest where we were having our conversation, had always looked disheveled and dirty and that it was all he could do to keep himself from trying to tidy it up, for its own good of course. This admission, I instantly recognized as a clear violation of The Never Be Needier Than Your Project Rule, one both Diane and poor Actaeon might have also violated but for different reasons. Curiosity might have been Actaeon's demise. Humorlessness, Diana's, but that doesn't matter. Considering context a mess requiring intervention, that's the point. In my dream, I chastised my client, understanding that I might have been chasing him off by so doing. I told him, "That mess in your fucking god! Do not under any circumstance ever attempt to clean it up. It has superior antibodies against such tidiness and it will take you out with extreme prejudice if you should try to tidy it up." Yea, I know, a flair for the dramatic.

I woke up before that client could fire my ass for insubordination, but my point was not lost on me, who had probably been playing both the role of client and consultant. I'm away from The Great Refurbishment this weekend, taking a little Muse-enforced R&R vacation, playing with my grandkids and my son, away from the effort for a few days. As I distanced myself, I sensed that I could better sense an essence in our enterprise. We were not just, as refurbishes past had doubtless done, updating the place, not just slapping on a fresh coat of paint, but in many ways restoring some of the wounded SacredContext of the place. It will still be drafty in winter and dusty in summer. Floors will continue creaking long after this work's been completed. Even the grand new staircase seems to be closer to its builder's original intentions for it, closer to its SacredContext than it was before. But we've encountered plenty of little seductions to update rather than refurbish, each a potential violation of SacredContext. Even the incessant dust we unavoidably generated with our work, that dust that had grown to annoy me so, was somehow sacred to the very intentions we were pursuing such that attempting to eradicate it could have undermined our ability to pull off the refurbishment. Perhaps that dust had been my fucking god, my Diana bathing with nymphs, best tolerated from a distance.

My AA friends, recovering self-acknowledged addicts not much different from their recovering un-selfacknowledged ones, whisper a prayer which should probably be included in the basic curriculum of life. They call it The Serenity Prayer, but it speaks to SacredContext and the wisdom necessary for avoiding a fate like poor Actaeon's:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

We do not ever successfully change SacredContext. It exists to change us.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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