Gilbert Stuart: George Washington [The Athenaeum Portrait] (April 12, 1796)
"Maybe SelfEvidence inevitably insists upon regulation."

The Father of Our Country, George Washington, never fathered a child. I suppose that he was too busy fathering the country to get around to attending to his wife's procreation needs, or he might have been one of those futuristic types who could not quite justify contributing to eventual population explosion. The country he fathered was the only one predicated upon SelfEvidence. Also, his most recognizable portrait was never finished. These two facts might be related. The Declaration of Independence, a rather petulant document, insisted upon Self Evident Rights, ones requiring no independent evidence to prove their existence, a then unprecedented proposition. It left the infant country in a curious position, independent in unproven ways and decidedly headstrong, for it had created a conjured foundation, one lacking confirmation within the then-existing common law governing any nation. How might one go about translating this notion into practical governance, if mere propositions underpin the nation? This would prove to become the underlying question for the maturing country. It fueled truly terrible teen years which rent it in two, and a difficult early adulthood which went to its head. It encouraged diversity while endlessly punishing its presence. I think I can say without much fear of contradiction, that the nation, so constituted, became a skitzy mess.

I ascribe the resulting chaos to that founding principle of SelfEvidence, which encourages a certain Know It When I See It sense, which often manages to make little sense at all to someone else.
I was raised, for instance, in a small city with an adjacent even smaller city. That smaller city fancied itself a religious place, where the separation of church and state was never taken very seriously. The chief of their police would kidnap passers-through during tent meeting times, and force them to attend a service, but only for their own good, of course. This place was well-known as an Adventist town, and Adventists held the most curious beliefs. They insisted that Saturday was Sunday, or Sabbath, as they called it. They closed up shop at sundown on Friday, and chartered no taverns or even alcohol sales within their city limits. They preached vegetarianism as a central tenet, and "health food" as a sacrament. Some of what they considered healthy contradicted what the FDA commanded, so a healthy underground economy in raw milk and apricot pits thrived for reasons obviously self-evident to the devout inhabitants. The citizens believed themselves to be patriotic, even conservative, though their form of self-evident conservatism ranged from Old Testament Cro Magnon to abject radicalism. A schism sprouted and flourished there.

Now, of course, even dietary preference falls under the SelfEvidence aegis. Serve an unsuspecting soul some ham and spark World War III, for we do not uniformly sit at any supper table. The cook must remain steadfastly aware of the many, many conflicting SelfEvidences present, and at least attempt to satisfy each one, lest he be accused of at least insensitivity. There are almost certain to be a few who self-evidently perceive such sensitivity as inherently offensive. We cannot even agree upon the menu in question, so it should be no surprise that we cannot settle the immigration question or the seemingly critical questions surrounding taxation. Each question becomes a dilemma without self-evident resolution, or perhaps I should say, with many competing self-evident resolutions. The All Ya Gotta Dos see no further than their own, apparently self-evident noses. And, yes, it was always like this here. And, yes, it's gotten even worse over time.

When our revered Constitution was drafted, much about the world certainly seemed self-evident. Sure, the frontier farmers held perspectives radically different than the landed gentry's, but both lived within a largely sensory universe. One could, without seeming the least bit perverse, insist that they would probably know anything if they could only see it, and they were not deluding themselves much. But since, we've increasingly come to exist in a universe ruled by more mysterious forces, ones beggaring belief in the five senses to resolve differences. Not one of us has ever experienced one of the last century's significant advances in science, for instance, for they exist far outside of self-evidence. We see no pathogen. We witness no quantum event. We observe only evidence, which only makes any sense by suspending self-evidence, by comprehending the calculations and accepting their relevance, all of which occurs far beyond any proof arrived at solely through our founding principle of SelfEvidence. Still wondering how we managed to concoct this mess?

Resolution of our resulting fragmented condition could not possibly be self-evident, and will very likely emerge as some counter-intuitive insight to co-opt our situationally sorry insistence. Not every important issue bows to even tenacious belief in SelfEvidence, Our Damned Pandemic not the least among them. When someone rails against wearing a self-preserving mask, they plead not for liberty or freedom, but for a fictional SelfEvidence to justify their acceptance. SelfEvidence won't comply, but only because it can't. SelfEvidence perhaps always qualified as a useful fiction, useful for starting something, but insufficient for finishing much. Like with a project, initially dependent upon an inspiring objective but eventually completely dependent upon a much less inspiring sort of acceptance, SelfEvidence was perhaps never intended to become the Be All of independence. Our interdependence might well transcend this founding tenet, and render it worthy perhaps of respect but not necessarily undying allegiance, relegated to revered myth rather than guiding principle.

By now, I'd have thought (I did think!) that even the unenvisionable exponential trajectory of a Damned Pandemic might have gained some wide-spread sense of Self-Evidence, but it apparently hasn't. Churches still, in unmandated states, conduct services where "most" of the parishioners wear masks and all attend to pray for deliverance from This Damned Pandemic, thereby delivering yet another super spreader event. It seems SelfEvident to me that the virus might thrive on prayers for deliverance and that perhaps some counter-intuitive response might improve results. Even the tech industry abandoned the notion of creating anything touted as an intuitive user interface, once it realized that whatever might seem intuitive to some would seem counter-intuitive to just about as many, a dilemma easily resolved by simply insisting upon some mostly mildly inconveniencing procedures which rendered the majority of the otherwise bugs into features to be liked or lumped, with not an ounce of SelfEvidence among any of them. Maybe SelfEvidence inevitably insists upon regulation. Our country seems just as unfinished as Gilbert's Athenaeum George Washington Portrait, the now iconic representation of The Father of our curious country.

This Friday arrives road weary after a week where SelfEvidence convinced me it was crazy. One of Our President's lawyers showed up in an Arizona court yesterday to present evidence of wide-spread voter fraud, but insisted his evidence amounted to anecdotes, very likely mostly spam. The judge wisely rejected that lawyer's petition, an act which I suspect relieved the conscripted attorney from further obligation to suspected SelfEvidence. I receive no such reprieve, for I leave behind just what I created, evidence that I was there if not necessarily always present.

I began my writing week recounting a night spent in frustrated anticipation as I awaited election results in
Can'ticipation of a previously unimaginable outcome.

I next reflected upon the terrible price
Grudgy exacts, freshly appreciating the good losers among us.

For what must have seemed like a good reason then, I wrote a piece about
InFLUencing, wherein I considered just where I might more effectively deliberately influence, recognizing that nobody ever gets to avoid influencing.

I next dabbled in what seemed like a fundamental paradox. I realized that I write not because I know how to write, but to assist me in
FiguringOut how to write. It might be that everybody is still figuring out. This was the most popular posting of the week.

Every week seems to necessarily include one off day, and a day spent doubly sequestered—by The Damned Pandemic and also a seasonal snow—showed up to deliver a
SnowDaying down experience for me.

I migrated then to considering the arrogance which seems to inevitably accompany ignorance in

I ended my writing week by wondering what might become of a swath of the upcoming generation and making a humble recommendation in

Those of us who survived this week have survived this week, which doesn't even seem to me to be a terribly definitive proclamation. Many did not survive this week, though, so their sudden absence seems well worth mentioning. The Muse and I lost a dear old friend, informed by a phone call from her daughter, who reminded us of our presence here and there. We had just been embracing, The Muse and I, weeping in relief over the election outcome, when the phone rang and prompted a fresh round of weeping and embracing. Some weeks, this world seems to be slipping away from any influence we might have ever possessed over its affairs. This week was both precisely like that and also exactly its opposite. Thanks for your continuing presence here!

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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