Rendered Fat Content


Pierre Puvis de Chavannes:
The Sacred Grove, Beloved of the Arts and the Muses (1884/89)

" … if any of us can still muster any of that within ourselves."

While it might seem unlikely from within anybody's daily routine, I believe that we each labor within an often tacit SacredDuty. It doesn't very much matter our occupation, we each hold a similar obligation, to each other, to ourselves, to our society, however wounded or unjust each might appear to be. We hold this SacredDuty for our own good and for the good of those around us, for the good of the universe, if you will, if I dare mention it. It probably doesn't matter where any individual acquires their sense of duty, their specific marching orders, though it matters much whether an individual received theirs and whether an individual managed to hold theirs sacred, to respect it and to actually attempt to live up to it. However we're each employed, we each report to the same supervisor, the same cruel overseer, and that ruler is us, ultimately our 'I', and no other, though we each might start with a mentor, an exemplar or two who attempt to clue us in to ourselves and our duty, and to our own sacred nature, with varying degrees of success.

The House Select Committee's Public Hearings on the Events of January 6, 2020, reminds me of the presence of such a thing as SacredDuty.
For our President, who takes a public oath, no less than for ourselves, most of whom don't take any sort of public oath, we're none of us mere freelancers. We labor for more than our own selfish ends, or, even if we don't, we're each obligated to labor for more than mere vanity here. It matters that we're splattered all over creation, struggling in various degrees to survive and thrive, and this struggling could just as easily—more easily, even—degrade into mere dog eat dog competition, into activities no self-respecting dog would ever engage in. If we intend to enjoy the fruits of civilization, we're really obligated to perform the necessary cultivation of those blessings. We're enjoined to, at the very least, be decent.

Every few generations, another so-called leader emerges who gains their attention by shamelessly violating cultural norms. They abuse the language or ignore some accepted convention. They bring a shameless background with them. They've played loose with what others hold scared and demonstrate a curious kind of freedom, a perverse sort of liberty, one entirely focused upon a Gospel based upon the perverse trinity of me, me, and me. He becomes a beacon not of hope but of revenge, not of charity, but of finally getting even. He fuels the sacraments of begrudgement, the ones which poison rather than nourish souls. He extends permission to suspend reason and civil considerations. He encourages mobs which make much noise while effectively undermining themselves, all the better for this leader's self-aggrandizement to flourish. In the final analysis, he doesn't give even a loose shit about anybody but himself. He dispenses tokens which only enrich his own previously outrageously inflated self-esteem.

I intend none of what I say here to suggest the source of this marvelous and essential SacredDuty. Does it arise from understandings shared in church, school, or on a grandfather's knee? All and none. This sense of duty to something bigger and more eternal seems a basic part of human nature, the absence of which seems to encourage the very worst of what our species can produce. The absence of SacredDuty might be what ancient teachers explained as living a life of sin. It seems a supreme not knowing, ignorance elevated to post-graduate study, perversity persisting unto self-destruction, the very soul of self-undermining. Those who pursue without SacredDuty clog the courts and behave uncivilly at public meetings. They ban books and infringe upon others' rights without apparent remorse. They seem to lack an essential moral and/or ethical compass. They are lost and seem to not suspect it. Their followers, even worse off.

I am no exemplar of anything. The best I can claim, and even then only on my better days, might be that I continue striving even after considerable and serial shortcoming. Successfully fulfilling a SacredDuty might be an aspired-for benefit, rarely if ever achieved. We might continually send ourselves to the showers in the sixth inning, but we still show up to play again the next morning. We have not forgotten, we never forget, that we're up to something damned sacred here, so we never stop striving. We will not ever forget. We will not follow temptations to forget, however numerous and seductive. We're like the monk meditating on something elusive, better at going back to zero and restarting, perhaps, than we'll ever be at achieving. Achievement's not the purpose of any SacredDuty. They're always, always, always about trying. About giving a decent shit. About amounting to something.

We hold a SacredDuty to those who choose to mock us as losers, too. We dare not suspend decency for a second, not for anybody, not even to mete out well-deserved punishment. We must remain just, an apparent disadvantage when competing with the unscrupulous among us. We owe them justice, not revenge, not mere punishment, for they hold a SacredDuty, too, however irresponsibility, and might become exemplars of civility in some emerging future. Throw away the key and we forego the opportunity to receive the eventual benefit of their striving, however unlikely. Our challenge might be to imagine what might constitute justice for such grave infractions. Theirs were much more than mere misdemeanors, but grand mal felonies, deserving the most insightful justice, if any of us can still muster any of that within ourselves. We hold a SacredDuty, even if—perhaps especially if—nobody else seems to respect it.


This Keeps Us Going
This Friday arrived just in time. This was a week of accomplishment for me, one which saw the completion of a couple long-standing aspirations, the realization of long-held dreams. I'm left wondering what might occupy the space those aspirations had for so long taken, since nature reportedly abhors vacuums. The part of The Villa I'd most dreaded repainting now stands behind my dreading, a conquered villain, a resolved conundrum. Nobody shot off any fireworks upon completion. No brass band marched in. No Champagne was popped. The Muse was celebrating her own grand success, giving lectures to scores of interested parties, gaining long-deserved notoriety while I labored in my usual obscurity. I had fulfilled, it seems, as she had, too, our own personal Sacred Duty. Fulfilling these might not render anyone famous. The neighbors might not even notice. We notice, though, and this helps keep us going.

I began my writing week by very nearly failing in
NightDrive, the most popular posting (by far!) this week. "Of all of humankind's truly ingenious inventions, the headlight must certainly rank just below the bottom of the list, for headlights simply do not work for the purpose intended."

I noticed that I had been experiencing a cluster of happenings in
Clusters. "It would be news to nobody if I reported that things tend to happen in Clusters."

I spoke of a downside to decisiveness in
Torn. "The notion that I should be able to keep up, to not merely juggle all those chainsaws, but to simultaneously operate a hot half dozen of them, that seems to be the source of the problem."

I mentioned how I've touched multiple times every square centimeter on the surface on The Villa, and that it touched me back, in
Touched. "I want this inconvenience to continue, though. It's become a part of my life to the point that I'll have to invent some similar challenge to procrastinate from should I ever call this one done."

I attempted to reframe the concept of mystery from something needing solution into something sometimes just needing acceptance in
EverydayMysteries. "Understanding that I'll probably never understand might just be that understanding beyond knowing the ancients used to carp about, though accepting this suggestion should not be mistaken for permission to simply give up trying to understand or striving to learn."

I confessed that I'm increasingly skilled at
Inducing a useful trans-like state when working. "It's not flow I'm inducing. It's not anything like I imagine mindfulness. It might be quite the opposite of mindfulness, a state perhaps better acknowledged as more like mindlessness, for I feel after I return to my senses that I must have been out of my mind to even attempt what I just accomplished, but then I was not fully present and therefore not fully responsible."

I ended my writing week by confessing my seasonally
Nocturnal nature. "I wake a few short hours later to a world transformed. I feel moved to find a sweatshirt. It's not cold, but definitely cool then. The house seems quietest, long before the sunlight portion of the day begins."

This week, like every one before it, just seemed to happen. I had not planned to accomplish anything except strive to fulfill my SacredDuty to my writing, to my readers, and to myself. That I completed anything, an accidental if welcome convergence. I began unable to see the road before me due to its illumination before noticing that I was in the middle of a cluster of somethings. I felt torn by what I had not been focusing upon, then touched by what I had accomplished. I re-realized, for, what?, the thousandth time, that I'm no Sherlock Holmes and needn't strive to become one. I remembered that I'd mastered inducing a useful working state and confessed to being basically nocturnal through the summer. I feel moved this morning to revel in just how damned ordinary even fulfilling SacredDuty can seem. Thank you for following my inquiries. Your presence matters to me.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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