Rendered Fat Content


Gerard van Honthorst: The Merry Fiddler (1623)

Three weeks into this SetTheory experiment, I remain Unconvinced of this effort's viability. I know that I was supposed to be all in as a precondition for beginning, but I believe that such strict entry criteria might do more damage than good. The myth of the necessity of unambivalence persists, though. It haunts me as if my engaging without full conviction might doom the effort from the outset. I'm beyond outset now, though, and this work seems to be unfolding more or less normally. The resulting slight sense of inevitable failure haunts me. I have my good days and my struggling ones. Some mornings I could swear I've been blessed by angels, and others, cursed by them. I wend my way rather than stick to anything very straight or narrow. Progress mostly crawls.

Yet I sense that I'm making real progress.
The results seem especially stunning if only because they emerge from such foundational variability. I remain Unconvinced yet I remain engaged, hoping for better while fearing worse, a working model, I suppose, of the human condition in action. It seems from here that our culture insists upon certain fictions to maintain its self esteem. It must believe, for instance, that overall, things are always getting better. Curiously, it also maintains a backstory that everything's growing progressively worse, but only as a counter narrative. We find this story interesting because it isn't supposed to be happening. It offends us deeply. We defend the notion that we're progressing whenever we're grousing about how we fear it's degrading. That's how we move forward, poking sticks into both darkness as well as light.

We perform similar dances at work where we learn to hide our deep down ambivalence, and at church, where we exclusively speak of sinners in the third person while nobody ever deigns to exhibit a spiritual crisis in the middle of the service, for heaven's sake. We might well remain Unconvinced but we needn't dip it in chocolate and roll it in nuts. That's mostly private business. We draw our straight lines with circles and mature to understand that one does not mention this, that there's really no need to confess anything. We suffer exclusively from sometimes extreme cases of The Normals, but generally more mild ones. I'm Unconvinced that my, or anybody's, ambivalence, really matters very much in any broader scheme of anything.

So, some mornings, I drag both feet on my way to engaging. Others, I'm bee-lining straight to my desk. Either way, I'm engaging! I figure that delight might emerge from either sort of session, since it often has. There's really no predicting. To that part of myself that remains skeptical about my genuine commitment, I bequeath whatever resulted, and insist that the skeptic judge for himself, but later, not in this or any immediate moment. The quality of any result seems gratefully separated from its producing effort. While mindset might well prove causative, it only comes in various shades of grey and never in simply black or white. The good guys wear the same shoes as the villains. Angels dress like us, hardly ever in robes and sandals anymore.


Its Own Founding Ambivalence
Then Friday comes around again for the very first time and all seems a little bit righter with my world. I paved my receding week with my ambivalence again. I maintained a pretty steady Unconvinced perspective and still managed to delight and to also disgust myself at more or less my historic pace, though I'd very likely never notice without engaging in this retrospective ritual. I work exclusively with short horizons. My shelf life's at most a week, though I keep my stories posted indefinitely. Nobody, not even me, seems to crawl back through prior weeks' prehistory. New stuff's emerging daily. My past fades into its own founding ambivalence, its meaning receding after first reading, its significance perhaps lost in its own experience. Neither glances nor glares persist anywhere, really.

I began my writing week by writing about habits and rituals in
Habituals. "That seemingly disorganized mess seems to be the typical soup from which great work emerges, a soup swimming with good intentions and regrets, more mistakes than masterpieces, and more fallow days than productive ones. That's just the way this world works, regardless of whatever the advice-givers might be peddling. The devil deals in Habituals. Angels sell something else altogether."

I asked myself the magically disconcerting question, "If you had that, what would you have?", to get to the bottom of something in
InMyHead. " I know for certain in this moment that I'm engaged in a process of organizing something that only exists InMyHead. No mere artifact will do anything about that fact."

I expended some continuing frustration with technological "improvement" in
PluggingInto. "It's perfect technology in that respect. Utterly useless, of course, but endlessly promising, eternally just out of reach but still deeply desired."

I next reported on a legitimacy crisis this SetTheory effort's induced in me in
Illegitimate. "The academy, of course, was never in the business of sanctioning my work. That was solely my own responsibility, to both conceive and to give birth, then to figure out how to live that life without any promise of ascension. The academy should quite properly never hear of me, but I hold some sacred responsibility to hear myself."

I set aside my SetTheory effort to report on The Muse's unfolding cancer treatment experience, the continuing saga of much greater importance than my daily vanities in
ValleyOfShadow. "Though she repeatedly walks through a ValleyOfShadow, she might fear no evil, but not because she'll have her emotional support animal in tow. I'm no defense. The Muse knows where she's going. I suspect that she'd walk through worse than a ValleyOfShadow to get there, too."

I finally put pen to paper to produce a rough first draft of the SetList at the heart of this SetTheory effort in
FirstIteration. "Now, though, I feel like I might actually be juggling something more than some high-strung aspirations. For better or worse or even worse than worse, I'm blessed or cursed with the list I have, and ten more weeks to polish it into something public."

I ended my writing week by considering my experiences with
*Practicings, with what I've done to lead up to actually doing something, yielding the most popular posting this period. " I have a SetList to perform and all the time remaining in this world to Practice it."

Whew! What a convoluted story! What an utterly typical week! I fought against The Habituals before realizing that I was "only" struggling with something InMyHead. I caught myself aspiring to be PluggingInto what's never once added value, before confessing my deep down Illegitimate nature. The Muse walked into a ValleyOf Shadow with me, her emotional support animal, a step behind rather than leading. I succeeded in producing a physical artifact, if nothing more than a FirstIteration, then ended my writing week reveling that I now have all the time remaining in this world to Practice my aspiration. I remain Unconvinced, thank heavens, yet still engaging! Thank you for engaging with me here! You bless me with your presence!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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