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Frans Francken the Younger: Mankind's Eternal Dilemma – The Choice Between Virtue and Vice (1633)
"TheHandyman'sDilemma seems, in this light, utterly normal."

As a HomeMaker, I fancy myself a Handyman. I ironically refer to myself as HandyMan Dave because I'm neither a handyman nor a Dave, Dave being what people call me who attempt to affect that they know me well, but don't. I am exclusively David to myself and to my intimates, and nobody's handyman, not really. I recognize the paradox within which this title places me. This label both materially misrepresents me and my capabilities, yet I still don what I just as ironically refer to as my HandyMan Dave uniform—worn, paint-stained jeans now open at one knee and a shirt featuring smears of every color of paint I've handled while wearing it over the past decade. I crown this suit with my trusty Muse-made havelock which is equally as stained as my shirt. When so garbed, I experience a fundamental mindset shift. No longer the philosopher, I become a simple laborer. I cease fretting over making meaning of my actions, and dedicate myself to acting, and most often to acting rather mindlessly. I pride myself on my discipline then. I put my head down and simply engage. I feel most like some sort of monk then, not precisely Zen-like, but similar except absent evident wisdom.

I maintain a cast of characters within me.
Not to the point of clinically discernible schizophrenia, but perhaps closer than I'd care to admit. I remain mindful of my hands, which I protect if only to preserve my ability to play my guitar. Back when I still worked as cannery labor, I felt appalled by the nurse's indifference when I reported that I was experiencing a disturbing numbness in my fingers caused by cutting carrots slurrying in frigid water. She seemed to treat me as a run-of-the-mill slacker, as if I was supposed to just buck up and get on with my assignment. I pled for another job and she assigned me to work in the deep freezer where, after a ten hour shift, I felt frost bit, though my hands felt unscathed. I lasted until I'd earned the money I needed to escape, long before the end of that harvest season. HandyMan Dave cannot be so caviler now, for he's become the sole means by which he realizes his own dreams, however difficult the effort. Still, I never have gone balls out for anyone, not even myself.

The dilemma I as my own handyman face seems standard in every way, perhaps even universal. I am, I insist, a rational being with a powerful innate ability to reason. Trouble seems to be, though, that my queues, my to-do lists, resist logical resolution. I learned decades ago when first attempting to master projects that my ability to reason might be my own worst enemy, for I'd focus my energies on that superpower as if it might somehow reliably conquer the work queue's native Kryptonite. Like many things, I've since learned, aspirations cannot be logically ordered. Passion partly fuels them and there exists no native hierarchy of passions. Each seems necessary and immediate. The sure and certain knowledge that some passions must be deferred so that others might be first completed, resolves nothing, and only complicates the plot. Resolution comes by default or by excruciating choice, never by reason. No to-do list respects anybody's predicate calculus. The contents of that to-do list will largely remain undone whatever's chosen. There are no proper places to start. This feature might explain why plans seem to always fall apart. It's devil's bargains from every beginning through to every possible ending. Choose your poison.

I must, it seems, turn off my dreams to realize them. If I cannot, I drive myself crazy attempting to think myself through what at root seems driven more by emotions. My Handyman Dave uniform helps remind me into which realm I've immersed myself. My choices must remain at least partly wrong because no justification could possibly explain why this one rather than any of the many remaining. Consequently, there's never any absolutely right place to start. I can and have attempted to hold out until logically resolving, resulting in more holding out than doing. My desire, perfectly understandable, to understand why or to fully justify any choice stands firmly in the way of actually doing any choosing. I chose blind or I stalled, accomplishing nothing at all. I some days seem engaged in an extended game of keep-away with myself, holding my reason at bay so that I might eventually accomplish some HomeMaking. It's damned whatever I choose. In order to win, I must painfully, deliberately choose to lose something. Whatever I choose will leave something genuinely important unresolved.

The best that I can claim seems to be that I'm working my way through something. I seem to be juggling, but not with any evident skill. I suppose I understand that mastery's not the point. Completion might not prove too terribly satisfying other than that each one buys me the opportunity to choose again, from the same sorry alternatives with a few added since I last began. It was easier when I worked day labor. Me and my fellows could unselfconsciously complain about the boss's sorry priorities, seeing only shortcomings in them. It seemed as though not an ounce of wisdom drove any of those enterprises, but I might be coming to a tardy understanding that I was judging via reason and reasoning only tangentially explained any decision those bosses ever made. They, too, were balancing, juggling ten thousand conflicting priorities, each immune to logical resolution. So they chose as they chose and set out to see how that might go. None of those roads went straight to Hell even if none of them ever seemed to lead to Heaven, either. TheHandyman'sDilemma seems, in this light, utterly normal.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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