Rendered Fat Content


Gustave Caillebotte:
Study of a Man with Hands in His Pockets (1893)

"Let the inquiry fail to resolve the mystery."

The Muse and I, putting up in an ancient Bridge Tender's Shack while visiting old friends in a small hamlet on Puget Sound, encountered a culture for which we have no referent. We can register its presence but cannot reason ourselves into comprehension of it. The Yacht Culture, the denizens of which tie up their vessels at the modest town dock, which the deck of our tiny shack overlooks. The Muse Googles to find that the biggest one would sell for well over a million dollars and comfortably sleep six couples. Our friend recalls watching one embark with a crew following their captain's directions via Bluetooth headsets. Such grandeur! Such pretense!

I cannot imagine that scale of existence, the idle time required to engage in it, or the wealth needed to support it.
I do not envy or denigrade it. I just do not comprehend it. It seems unthinkable why anybody would even want to engage at that scale. The meaning of cruising to yet another tiny anchorage, of tying up for the night, of roaming the streets in search of supper, the wandering back after dark to return to a berth. This takes trailer camping to a whole other level. It all just seems incomprehensible. It does not grok for me.

I suspect that the unimaginable holds special influence over those of us unable to imagine. I see what's clearly before me yet cannot unwind its significance, its supposed magnificence, its presence. It seems to be there and also not there, Schrödinger stuff. Great wealth works like this. I cannot be jealous of those who possess it because I cannot comprehend precisely what they possess. I might imagine an array of properties with which I have no personal experience, so my characterizations probably amount to cartoon characterizations, not based on any objective reality or even any subjective kind. Just impure speculation, projection on an imperfect wall, nothing tangible enough to warrant even presumption, even curiosity. I can't even seem to muster coherent questions and certainly carry no basis for one way or another feelings. I see something I clearly cannot understand.

So much I witness seems so far beyond my experience. I suspect that only humility could serve as anything resembling reasonable response. I can see but not perceive. I stand witness to actions I cannot characterize. They register as motions but without comprehending referent. I experience similar reactions when I enter a big city, for life there seems unimaginable. I do not understand the rules by which anyone might make sense of such places, so I consider those places crazy and slink through them as fast as my little legs can carry me. When forced by fate or competing intentions to linger in such places, I hunker in and continually glance back over my shoulder, anticipating what I cannot sense, dreading what I dare not even try to comprehend.

I reconized long ago that I was made of something other than the sort of stuff a slick contains. I would lack a certain sophistication, never fully socialized. I would never learn how to gamble because I couldn't understand the tenacious innumeracy required. I'd never fly an airplane because it seemed to require sensors I didn't possess. I limited my life to what I felt I could comprehend, leaving much in this world far beyond my reach. Yesterday morning, I demonstrated that I didn't understand how to operate a simple countertop coffeemaker when I put it together so that it ran for half an hour without leaving any coffee in the awaiting pot. The thing had been designed so that if someone like me tried to use it, a circular feedback loop would appear. The brewing coffee would be passed back into the input reservoir to produce an endless loop of brewing coffee overflowing into the input and then back out again. It leaked coffee all over the countertop, too. What a foolish invention! I had no business even trying to use it since I could not comprehend it.

I get into the most trouble when interacting with such things, and such things have become commonplace. This world has been inexorably leaving me behind as it introduces fresh incomprehensibles. I once imagined that I might catch up one day, but now I realize I never will. I do not want to catch up now. I prefer to live half-surrounded by unresolvable mysteries, by stuff I do not even care to comprehend. This world was not conceived for my convenience, and it never was any creator's intention that I might come to understand it. Let the mysteries prevail. Let the inquiry fail to resolve the mystery. Let sleeping yachts lie since I have no business passing judgment. I suspect the yacht captain cannot quite comprehend what might drive someone to spend a night in a Bridge Tender's Shack, either. We are a society divided into its incomprehensibles.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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