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Jheronimus Bosch (manner of): The Temptation of St Anthony
(c. 1550 - c. 1600)

"… to better appreciate my many shortcomings."

"The requirements for design conflict and cannot be reconciled."

David Pye: The Nature of Design

When I'm painting, I'm also pining, for I shirk other responsibilities while fulfilling my repainting one. The rest of my little overwhelming universe does not freeze until I find time and focus to attend to them. They continue unsupervised, yellow-blooming clover conspiring to overtake my lawn, the annual purslane bloom taking root. The side of the house I'm painting is presently living up to my highest standards of maintenance while the rest of my existence slums it. I only have so much to contribute and, as David Pye reminds, the requirements conflict and cannot be reconciled, always have and always will.

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.
But it's a persistent notion, one tangled up with my self-esteem generator. Every success seems counterbalanced with some embarrassing failure, each peak mirrored with a trough of roughly equal magnitude. I'm not merely damned if, but damned when, unconditionally, because the conditions defining success also always conflict and defy reconciliation. There's no getting ahead, ever, and also no winning.

A studied sort of blindness fills in for every imagined unconditional. I can revel in my progress only if I find the energy to utterly ignore the always accompanying shortcomings. Love, I suspect, has more to do with such blindness than anything. One does not love in spite, but because, primarily, eventually, because one's chosen to accept the divine contradictions, the whole irreconcilable package, rather than insist upon one or the other. One comes to simply not register the shortcomings, to not make such distinctions. One grows blessedly blind to them.

I start most days still hoping to bridge the unbridgeable chasm. I too easily imagine that this day will find me finally successfully balancing my most urgent irreconcilable contradictions. I receive a few enlivened and reassured hours before finally, once again, accepting that it probably ain't happening again. If anything, I've become quite skilled as disappointing myself, at accepting such inevitables. Maybe this is what it means to be more fully human, to nurture graceful acceptance rather than endlessly wrestle with irreconcilable differences. Choosing one means that I must ignore the other, and this seems the simple price of decisiveness. The alternatives seem to require acceptance of endless irresolution, for to not choose foregoes even successes' fleeting illusions. I might one day come to better appreciate my many shortcomings.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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