July 2018

Unlearning

unlearn
"Memes do not manufacture memories but convictions."

Given the difficulties learning brings, I do not wonder why I seem to hold tenaciously to whatever I've managed to absorb. Letting go and letting something new come in feels like an exercise in unflushing a troublesome toilet. Once that shit's sorted and gone, I won't ever want to reexamine it. My attitude stems not from sloth but prudence. If learning's risky, unlearning might well raise merely risky to some obscene exponent of itself. I've seen what I've seen and cannot blithely ever unsee it. My initial impression, which sunk deeply into bedrock, does not seem to simply wash away with a light bleach solution. I've got what I've got.

Advertisers rely upon this understandable reticence to engage in unlearning. They project memorable impressions which they know you won't be able to easily, if ever, shake.

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AffordingToKnow

t_logo_291_black
" … I work diligently to stay within budget …"

I warily read my Times each morning, choosing what to expose myself to, and, perhaps more importantly, carefully, mindfully, avoiding what I do not feel I can "Afford To Know", to use my friend David Thompson's descriptive term. I suspect that we're each selective when subjecting ourselves to potentially disruptive information, the news that might well be "fit to print," as The Times touts, but somehow nonetheless, too personally costly to actually read. Go ahead and accuse me of overly-carefully tending to my cocoon. Dirty Harry insisted that a man has to know his limits, and while I can't exactly describe where my limits lie, I carry deep notions about what sort of company they keep.

Whole areas of subject matter, in this way, fall outside my range of interest.

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TheHunt

TheHunt
"… leaving the possibility for great delight to emerge
from an otherwise completely pedestrian activity."

Every Saturday morning, The Muse and I go on TheHunt. We explain that we head out to restock the larder, but we're actually on The Hunt. Nobody could reasonably label this activity shopping because, while we maintain an indistinct list of aspired-tos, we have little idea if we might find those or where we might find them. We do have a route, an old and largely reliable route, culminating at a supermarket, which serves as the source of last appeal, where what we were not fortunate enough to find might be approximated. TheHunt exists because we don't actually know or, perhaps more accurately, we refuse to accept good enough as good enough.

We know some who religiously head for Costco because they can reliably acquire their heart's desire.

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StudiedCluelessness

positivefeedback
" … defensiveness, too, eventually becomes an exclusively positive feedback loop,
an a priori universal, StudiedCluelessness."

Maintaining some cluelessnesses requires focused study. Given the proliferation of contradictory information floating around, defending any perspective against discouraging intrusions seems an inevitably hopeless undertaking. We live and we learn. Learning unavoidably entails reconfiguring earlier convictions to construct ever fresher understandings, some of which might well later prove misguided. We live and learn just how full of shit we used to be. Some, though, seem relatively invulnerable to the vagaries of the learning cycle, sticking by earlier guns as if they represented inviolable truth in spite of the presence of heavy conflicting evidence.

If your livelihood depends upon swallowing bullshit, you'll likely swallow bullshit. You might not appreciate the mouthfeel, but you will be forgiven for at least pretending that you savor it.

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HighSummer

HighSummer
"Gilded clouds greet each sunrise and surrender every evening."

Lupin blossoms creep up the small hill out back, starting at the bottom in late June. By mid-July, they've moved into the backyard. Yarrow stretches out of the garden bed. The damned deer have been gnawing off the rhubarb leaves again. Conifers finished their pollen throwing to settle into being background again. Rabbits wander freely. A gang of turkey vultures wheels overhead searching for untimely death. Grasses recently greening from the ground up have set this year's seed and begun their browning from the top down. I set my sprinklers in pre-dawn darkness before the breeze kicks in.

Windows stay wide open day and night. We chase the few flies that enter through the screen door we cannot seem to remember to close behind us.

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Jam

Choke-Point
"I might settle into this fresh reality, but probably not."

The Muse and I call a narrow convergence home. Several busy roads merge into a single six-lane vulnerable to all the usual vagaries. I often choose to take one of the two most prominent two-lane alternatives rather than try to drive my camel through that needle's eye, though sometimes, even the back routes close down. A surprise Spring snowstorm can shut down the whole shebang, leaving us stranded along the way. Clogs are common, flow disruptions expected, except when they aren't. It seems to be the nature of traffic jams that they only occur when least expected and therefore least prepared for. We can't live in a constant state of readiness, and the demon traffic gods understand this, waiting for peak inattention to strike.

A seemingly small slowdown.

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StewPidity

stupid1
"What if authenticity was the coin of this realm …?"

I hold beliefs that make no logical sense. I have no clear sense of what constitutes logical sense. I am easily confused. I can't tell you how anything works. I'm often surprised. I make mistakes multiple times each day. I cannot seem to write legibly. I cannot sort laundry in a way that satisfies The Muse, who holds a laundry sorting algorithm which she cannot coherently explain. I have relatives who believe that the earth is no more than a few thousand years old. I do not 'know' how to write, type, or read, though I write, type, and read every day. I once scored well on an IQ test without knowing for sure what most of the correct answers were. I can only barely pass a driver's license test, but I fancy myself to be a good driver.

I'm always with stupid. I am an extremely mobile universal stupidity machine.

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Figuring

figuring
"They count on fingers unimaginable to me and perhaps unimaginable to them as well."

I consider myself to be a counting-on-my-fingers type guy. This self-image supported most all of my pursuits until about fifth grade. Long division won't yield to finger power. Neither will most of the most troubling difficulties (aka "problems") I encounter in this life. What smug scientists label 'higher level' thinking seems necessary to crack more advanced mathematics and most other truly troublesome questions. Two plus two almost never equals four anymore. Neither does seven minus three. I seem to need to stumble into some alternate strategy besides counting on my fingers to successfully unwind even the most seemingly pedestrian problem these days.

I suspect that simply classifying myself as a counting on my fingers type guy nudges me about halfway toward resolution, though.

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Salvation

save
"I'm more of a browser, myself."

At thirteen, I agreed to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I had no idea at the time what that agreement entailed or, indeed, what it might mean. Even today, a lifetime later, I still can't grok what it means. I had not been a hellion in my youth and carried no deep regrets or vile misdemeanors into my teen-aged years. Indeed, I've rather naturally not strayed too awfully far into the venial as an adult, never really attracted to the low life. I don't have to try too terribly hard to behave decently. Not that I'd ever consider holding myself up as any sort of exemplar, but I'm an indifferent sinner if, indeed, I really qualify as a sinner at all. Not that I'm a saint, either. I can carry murder in my heart for careless drivers, heartless landlords, and the more studiedly clueless, though I can't really see myself carrying out the crime.

I imagine Personal Lord and Savior to be a kind of superhuman personal shopper sort of role.

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Wind

wind
"Curtains turn frantic whenever someone slides open the door again."

The wind in "Sou' Dakoda" is nobody's friend and everyone's near constant companion. The Muse insists that it doesn't so much blow as suck, nothing standing in its way from Northern Saskatchewan, Western Wyoming, or the Gulf of Freaking Mexico. It rarely sucks west. A still day hardly ever visits and never comes anywhere near to wearing out its welcome when it does, leaving with the familiar groaning weather vane in the night. The ground's usually firmly enough tacked down to prevent blinding dust, but a fine gritty film seeps in around every window's trim. The porch feels like sandpaper underfoot. Wind turbines spin effortlessly, endlessly.

The Schooner nudges along, goosed or rudely shoved aside. Verges ripple like shimmering grease as the sidewind screams through the grasses there.

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Howdish

howdish
" …a simple flexing finger might welcome even a stranger home."

Section roads checkerboard the state of "Sou' Dakoda." East River—that is, east of the Missouri—where the land lies essentially flat, section roads seem to run in an expansive one mile grid; every mile, another section road appears. Most are gravel and provide access to cropland and farmsteads. They're numbered according to their distance from the state's borders. This morning, I'm writing near the intersection of 139th Street and 412th Avenue. It's not uncommon to find section roads numbered in 1/2 increments. This whole state, however lonely it might seem, has been thoroughly surveyed and settled.

The dust reappeared yesterday.

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CellAbrasion

cellabrasion
"Nobody can credibly critique another's celebration."

Nobody can credibly critique another's celebration. Each to their own. Some only find satisfaction with a big brass band; others, a quiet beer. Cheer's in the ear of the one who's cheering, never the one's who's jeering. Your hip-hop sounds like noise to me. So much the worse for me. Holidays bring the need for genuine tolerance. Some just seem to need to celebrate by disrupting their neighbor's tranquility. Accusing someone of making war on Christmas only further fuels the presumed conflict into perhaps a genuine one.

Some say the world will end with a firecracker, others, with an ice chest overfilled with beer.

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Monumental


monument
" …traces of their passage still remain."

As we neared Watertown, The Muse started musing about her grandmother's heritage. Her mom's mother's birth family had lived in and around Watertown for a few decades around the turn of the last century, and since we were in the area and running early, she proposed that we exit from the eighty mile per hour rat race route and toodle over to see what we could find while she reconstructed some history. That side of her family were what was then derisively referred to as bohunks, Sudaten German Catholics displaced from Germany following religious wars a couple of hundred years before. They'd immigrated in through Baltimore then migrated inland to central Minnesota before settling into what was then Dakota Territory, before statehood. We don't know exactly what these people did for a living, but it's a good bet that they were laborers. Most migrants into this area at the time worked at least part time for the railroads who had recruited laborers by the thousands from their home countries.

The South Dakota countryside on the third of July easily passes for an extended park stretching further than any eye can see.

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ChurchLeague

churchleague
" …the sort of ball Jesus would play."

Over root beer floats at the Dairy Queen after the game, I asked why they did this, this being ChurchLeague slow pitch softball. "Why wouldn't you?", was the response. Never having belonged to any church in my entire adult life, the idea had never occurred to me. My team sport of choice has always been solo yard work, being the extreme introvert and homebody that I am. I have trouble meeting up with myself, so the idea that a dozen folks might manage to converge at the same place at the same time throughout an early summer season to play a series of weeknight and weekend games baffles me. In theory, it seems possible, but in practice, impractical, but in this small midwestern city, impracticality seems little encumbrance to actually pulling off such an unlikely anything.

My brother-in-law and I had just watched a double-header, home team losing both games. The play seemed baseball-ish, varying only in degree from the baseball I'm accustomed to. The balls are day glow yellow

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BackHome

stillhere
"It gathers each of us, native born and adopted along the way, into her wide-spread skirts …"

The prairie hasn't read the memo yet. It still thinks it's Spring though Summer's nearly two weeks on. Eight inches of rain in the last week has left the corn tall and deep green with muddy feet. Wildflowers smear expanses of prairie grass coming into full fuzzy head now. The thermostat hasn't found its upper reaches and we run with the sun roof and side windows wide open, more ambient than we had any reason to expect. We both seem born to this place. The Muse because she was born to here, me, I suppose, because some of my forebears homesteaded just south of here. The Muse is headed BackHome.

In our part of this culture we say that we "go BackHome." Most of our generation moved away somewhere. The prior generation was no different.

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Denial

denial
"I'll be gone until I'm not gone anymore."

Denial is the first stage of vacation. The few days leading up to departure swell with stiff-arming tactics. The list of preparatory must-dos grows as one thing, then another blunts apparent progress. By the morning before, I face a numbing blank wall of possibilities I feel certain might hang us up for at least a day. By the night before, that list reduced to a final one or two, I resign myself to the high likelihood that we might even leave on time.

I figure the unknown blunts me. It slows me down, disabling whatever others experience as excitement at the prospect.

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