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Michelangelo: The Libyan Sibyl (1508-12) from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
"A grain of insight seems worth the investment."

I seem to be getting no wiser as I age. The old adage about older and wiser seems to pair near strangers rather than inevitable partners. For me, aging, like learning, has proven to be more humbling than enlightening. Rather than great mysteries resolving themselves, they seem to grow ever more mysterious, ever less likely to ever come into sharp focus. By the time I've figured out something, I'm usually catching shadows. That thing's time has past, never to return. I might possess fresh knowledge, but almost always of an arcane variety, out-dated, the kind that would have been useful had I known it sometime in the past, but relatively useless in any imaginable future. My understanding of how this world works has accumulated much clutter and become less ordered than it was before I began acquiring knowledge. I seem to be on a glide path to die much dumber than I was born, and no wiser.

That opening declaration represents the extent of my accumulated wisdom thus far.
Oh, I daily experience fresh insights, but few of them stick around for lunch. let alone longer. I can't remember the name of most of the essays I've written, something over 1400 over just the last four years, almost sixteen full books worth. I was trying to remember the names of the series those essays comprised. There was AnotherSummer first, then AnotherFall, AnotherWinter, and Another Spring. Twelve other series followed including CluelessSummer, FallingSideways, Reconsidering, and FindingHome; NuthinSpecial, GlancingKnow, SmallThings, and WhatNow?; NowHere, WhatNext?, Heading Homeward, and now, SettlingInto. Each of these series remain posted on my PureSchmaltz Blog, except for AnotherSummer. I had to look them up to remember what I called them. Give a kid a guitar and he'll believe himself a poet and start dispensing wisdom by writing songs. He might or might not eventually catch himself pretending to be himself and start WisingUp. Probably not.

I fancy myself a writer because I write. I dispense insights because I possess little knowledge. I have not figured out how this world or very much within it works. I'm not lost but neither am I found. I'm just around, watching, sometimes catching myself pretending to be myself, but usually not. I hold the notion that each day might well prove extraordinary if only I could pay attention and catch it being so. This was how I justified starting AnotherSummer four years ago. I had been fighting a depression. I'd lost my tribe and felt exiled to wilderness. I had grown weary of feeling so damned sorry for myself. I decided to commit to something outrageous, something I might well fail to achieve. I needed something bigger than myself upon which to focus my attention, so I started focusing upon spotting the everyday extraordinary. I had not been trained to do this and had no idea what I was promising. Over time, delivering on that promise became my lifeline. It sustained me through three and three quarter more years of exile and followed me back home. No wiser, just more experienced, now practiced at catching those glimpses which might never qualify as wisdom but which nonetheless seem extraordinary. I have to invent how to do it every day. I'll likely never learn how it's done. I expect that I'll never be done looking.

They're just stories. Just. Nothing more pretentious. They do not aspire to greatness and sometimes seem to fall far short of any standard. Most have no plot or obvious purpose. Maybe they're allegory, not at all what they say but something else, non-representative reflection, fun house mirrors. Most attempt to hold at least a small insight, often a paradox, like how WisingUp might seem exactly like how I expected dumbing down to feel, like how the extraordinary seems to be an everyday occurrence, utterly ordinary in appearance such that it just slips by unless I focus my attention and share without ulterior purpose what I only accidentally glimpsed. Insight is always an accident. It cannot be bidden. Nobody masters it, ever. It visits. I'm learning that an ounce of focus sometimes yields a grain of difference. A grain of insight seems worth the investment.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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