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Stages

stages
Jean Metzinger: Paysage coloré aux oiseaux aquatiques (1907)


" … it's all a series of silly games we play with passionate sincerity."


I began this Reconning Series because I sensed that I had entered a new stage of life. Typical of my species, I suspected that I'd detected this change considerably after the change had already occurred, but I still felt almost compelled to take a little deeper look and consider ramifications. One of the saddest cheap human tricks involves essentially engaging at the wrong logical level, for instance, engaging in age-inappropriate ways which might include wardrobe dysfunctions up to behavioral ones. Few sadder sights assail anyone than a person wearing some follow-on generation's fashions, the sixties grandma wearing Carnaby Street or the once distinguished gentleman in day-glo bell bottoms. These errors transcend mere faux pas to enter the realm of pathology, perhaps even treatable conditions. I suspect that many of these transgressions occur inadvertently and demonstrate more ignorance or personal insensitivity than volition. Few volunteer to appear the fool.

Yet many still manage to appear foolish, if not in their own eyes than pretty much everyone else's.
I believe that a series of Stages might well exist, each serving as context for a certain period of development, each also destined to be supplanted by some successive stage. This seems the way of the world. I was once an enthusiastic Apprentice, absorbing every ounce of information and experience I could access. I felt then that my very survival depended upon my rate of absorption, and I fear that I might have appeared frantic in acquisition then. I bordered on the fanatic, so dedicated was I to succeeding in becoming something, to have a profession. The university education just started the Apprentice ball rolling. The first decade of my professional practice following graduation also involved increasingly passionate Apprenticing.

I'd imagined that the following Stage of my life might prove more sedate, but it didn't, for I matriculated from Apprenticing into becoming a Practitioner, not merely a practicing professional, but a champion and promoter, even a teacher of my cause. I did not have a skill to trade as much as a perspective to share, and I sought every opportunity to infect others. I sensed that many had never experienced the revelations I'd encountered, those that had really sealed my understanding of how we might conspire to make this world better, albeit one small step at a time. Each engagement seemed to stretch far beyond the meager scope of the effort, but stood in as a metaphor for all society. I encouraged creating small Utopias, which never proved impossible and always seemed to improve some aspect of every project. I was a Champion.

The next Stage found me Disappointed. Had I changed the world or had it changed me? I continued my studies of how we might do better together, but with considerable less evangelical enthusiasm. I'd warmly welcome opportunities to share my wisdom, but I had clearly grown less insistent, less inspiring, and a whole lot less evangelistic. I'd cast my bread upon the waters without insisting that anyone partake. I still felt as though I'd genuinely come to understand something worthwhile, but came to believe that it might not be anybody's job to convince any other of anything, that perhaps the very best way to come to understand anything involved something like the method I'd employed rather than anything involving spoon or force feeding. One might just have to stumble upon their own wisdom and there were no shortcuts or universals, no savior or salvation, save that embodied in and applied by one's self. I successfully avoided cynicism, and grew to accept certain limitations. I was, after all, no longer an Apprentice or a Practitioner, but had become a Reflector, I guess.

Now, of course, the question comes up, what are you gonna do next? I suspect that this question might prove more appropriate for an Apprentice or an early-stage Practitioner, perhaps even for a Practicing Professional. I've long stiff-armed the notion that I might ever retire, proclaiming that I'd Pretired decades ago, shifting into insisting that I engage in work of my choosing, but always continuing to engage in meaningful work. To be without work seemed the equivalent of death. Not without a paycheck, mind you, but without meaningful engagement, some work worth engaging in, whatever that might entail. I figured that as long as I was so occupied, I might manage to hold back the rising tide that aging implies. If I kept swimming, I might just keep my head above water. Treading water might inevitably result.

I might have entered the Reflector Stage, the purpose of which might be to start posing tentative conclusions. Not definitive ones with Thou Shalts attached, but a few under-handed tosses intended to be caught, for enjoyment, if nothing else. I imagine this Stage of life being like a leisurely game of catch, where I toss some gem that I've stumbled across and you gratefully catch the damned thing before reciprocating in kind with one of your sparkling conclusions. We toss great wisdom as if it were comprised of stained baseballs, cracked, aging, and terribly, terribly satisfying to give and receive. Should an impressionable Apprentice pass by us, we might invite him to snag one, but he'll likely demur, being on a mission and lacking time to engage in silly games of catch, not having yet caught on that it's all a series of silly games we play with passionate sincerity.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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