Trans-It-Shuns


"I seem to know nothing of what lurks beyond."

On the morning of the last day of baseball season, I'm already grieving. Our team didn't play that well this year, hampered by early season injuries and tenaciously poor management, the opening day promise extended less than a month before fairly certain disaster loomed. It took me almost a month to figure out the new roster, one missing a couple of last year's favorites, and the last six weeks have seen so many upstarts elevated from the Minors that I've been unable to tell who's who, who's home team and who's visitor. By the last game of the regular season, I struggle to care about who wins any contest. Winning and losing doesn't matter very much. How each player engages with the game matters more.

The Muse and I will attend the last game of the season, a rare match between our home teams, the team that stole our hearts during early exile days and the one that has failed to attract our interest since moving here. We're visitors in both venues now,

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UnderSitting


"This is that unlikely place, I suspect."

I say that I understand, but I probably don't. Maybe I could understand, I might even be on my way toward understanding, but I've yet to sit down and deeply consider the situation. I seem to have something more like a strolling-by-ing. I haven't yet slowed down quite enough to stand with this perspective long enough to look it squarely in the eye. Even then, I'm still upright, still in mobile mode, not quite at my ease. I'm balancing on my heels, eyeing the surroundings, half distracted while failing to fully absorb. Understanding only gets me so far. A deeper comprehension requires me to sit a spell: Undersitting.

Undersitting seems a choice rarely proffered. I do drive-by comprehension, slowing just long enough to grasp some gist, but hardly long enough to recognize any whole concept or how it might fit together with other ideas.

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Be-Leaves


"I believe in the inherent goodness of people without holding anybody but myself accountable for living up to that belief."

Humans seem the most remarkable beings. We believe, belief being a kind of conviction requiring no supporting factual evidence. The highest, most treasured beliefs, insist upon, even brag about, being utterly unsupported, and necessarily so. Two generations ago, Stafford Beer named Firm Belief as one of the four antagonisms encumbering a firm's success; as with the firm, so also with the individual therein (and thereout.) We easily victimize ourselves with our beliefs, fueling certainty with the equivalent of gold-plated air. I'm not knocking this curious ability, but rather noting just how curious it seems. My more reverent friends seem especially blessed with their firm beliefs, confidently striding through a world that seems mostly overwhelming to the rest of us. The more self-aware of these readily admit that their doxology contains hefty bits of pure fantasy, easily disproven by even the most ineptly skeptical observer, and they also recognize the evident power their belief brings them.

The rest of us seem to struggle along beneath leaky balloons imperfectly elevating us. We seem to lose more altitude than we ever gain and scrape ground with some regularity.

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UnCertainTea


"If I want everyone to win, I might consider how I chose who loses."

I want everyone to win. Still, I seek resolution. I despise the unresolved. Encountering an 80/20, I'll give the eighty the benefit of little doubt and just disregard the dangling twenty as irrelevant. Encountering a 50/50, I'll switch to gut feel, discounting the whole concept of more quantitative evaluation. I will rarely leave any issue unresolved in my head. I develop a sort of spontaneous amnesia, quickly forgetting any controversy I could not very quickly resolve. I say all this while fully convinced that certainty seems to be the root cause of nearly every ill. Were I able to hold the exquisite tension between the thises and the thats, between the eithers and the ors, I might well leave myself better off in nearly every instance, but I seem unable to forestall the short-term simpler pseudo-resolutions attracting me. I create losers in this way while I say I want everyone to win.

I see them in fields of different-seeming us-es, missing the connecting structures. I sense almost exclusively superficially, quickly sorting to identify my tribe.

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Passsst


"They mostly only ever show through sometimes."

Some of the past never fully passes. A bit of it turns into legend, some of it into infamy, and the tiniest bit becomes deep, dark secrets over time. Even the secret seems more present than it should. No matter how many decades accrete on top of the original experience, it stays kind of close to the surface. A small scratch might reincarnate it at any time no matter how far out of mind it slips in the intervening years. A scent, a sound, a whisper from a dark alleyway as I pass, and that particular past, a Passsst, spontaneously reincarnates. Whether sweet or savory, bitter or sour, I re-experience the original sensations regardless of what I was just in the middle of doing.

I might then feel transported into another place and time.

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Ancienting


" … old treasure like me would never come up for auction, anyway."

The Antique Road Show appraisers speak of patina, and seem to worship it. The hapless owner's grandmother refinished the piece eighty years ago and stripped off at least ninety percent of the chair's value. In its present refurbished state, it might garner no more than a few hundred bucks. Had grandma been less of a go-getter, a few tens of thousands, maybe a hundred grand on a good day. What was once a treasure will now remain kitsch, authenticity forever compromised.

More than half of what some derisively refer to as The Aging Process involves retaining the deepening patina despite pressures to refurbish.

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Progressing


" … progress can be beyond even the the most watchful beholder's eye."

Ten years ago on this date, The Muse and I declared personal and professional bankruptcy. Lehman Brothers beat us to it by two weeks, and we'd lost a whole lot less they they did when we finally admitted to ourselves and to the world that we'd lost everything. We had not speculated in junk derivative bonds. The economy dried up and our business evaporated. Two weeks before we filed, my father died after a long summer of declining health. Those final six weeks or so, I'd manned the overnight watch. Both The Muse and I were ragged by then, frantic, then accepting, then finally simply dazed. We thought we'd probably lose the house, though bankruptcy allowed us to retain ownership in that one asset if we could wrangle some way to retain it; but with no work, no income, no savings, and little hope, other than a hopeful candidate running to replace the disastrous president, we finally admitted that we'd gone bust.

This experience represented real progress, as unlikely as it seemed at the time.

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LateralSlide


"Hail Mary, full of grace …"

Back when I was still a wannabe, I agreed to deliver a presentation at a prestigious conference. I'd successfully swallowed my insecurities and submitted the proposal, the organizers accepted it, then I was left with the small matter of preparing the paper and producing the actual presentation. As usual, I'd jumped with little idea where my leap might land me, so I found myself attempting to invent a parachute as I plummeted downward. I quickly realized that I'd jumped before possessing one critical bit of information. I had no clue what this information might entail, but nonetheless felt confident that if only I could somehow gain access to it, me presentation might succeed. Without it, I felt clearly doomed.

I fled to the library, a refuge which might at least open some possibilities. I mean, libraries are filled with information. Right?

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DifferentLies


"I was there all along …"

On the last day of summer, change does not seem like the universal positive anymore. This culture worships change. We each seem to fervently believe in it as the ultimate redeemer, which means that we subtly despise stasis. We think that if we're not growing, not continuously on some trajectory or another, that we're as good as dead, or, more, precisely, as bad as dead. Dead is the worst condition in our panoply of possible states. Forward, backward, sideways, we're a kinetic species, always supposed to be on the move somewhere, heading. We're quickly dissatisfied with any accomplishment, shortly bored by any status quo. About a quarter of the people who paid a minimum of forty bucks to attend the game will leave before the game ends, saying that they wish to avoid the heavy traffic on their way to somewhere else. We can't seem to find satisfaction standing still.

Still, for all of our movement, all of our building momentum, things don't often seem that much different. It's as if our collective motion somehow sums to little or to even no motion at all.

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Inter-gritty


"I can see you only through the indistinguishable blemishes in the mirror and on your face."

Nobody ever respects a braggart. Shameless self-promotion seems more an act of shameful self-degradation. The real authority speaks humbly rather than haughtily, seeming to acknowledge that not even she has ever been party to any ultimate truth, and she seems to still be sorting through the odd unreconciled bits. She acknowledges her own fallibility to demonstrate her personal reliability. She might efface herself and thereby amplify her presence. Anyone pounding upon any podium undermines their preaching. The more emphatic, the less truthfully it rings. People will think she insists altogether too dramatically. Big sticks might work as stage props without improving anyone's delivery.

'They' say that what one does when nobody's looking creates integrity. If this statement is true, and it might well be, how, then, could anyone not looking ever come to know another's integrity, not looking being the essential element enabling its emergence and all?

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Allegations


"I admit to being clueless some of the time, but not yet incapable of learning."

I was rushing home via the shortcut when my accuser waylaid me. "You've been disrespecting my sister," he proclaimed.

"Huh? What??," I cleverly retorted, gobsmacked by his accusation.

He repeated his earlier insistence. I knew this guy's name but nothing more about him. I'd until then been unaware that he even
had a sister. I explained the facts as I understood them. (These might have seemed like a lame dismissal to him.) He escalated, insisting that he was honor-bound to fight me to regain his sister's honor. I'm thinking, "Really? What IS this, King Arthur and his Round Table?" He would not let me pass, finally throwing a frenzied punch which mostly missed me.

Still stunned with disbelief, I tried to just go around him, but he continued the assault. I finally deigned to engage, throwing my first punch in anger (more like in goaded frustration, really), which connected enough to yield a bloody nose for him and an early end to hostilities. He went home crying. I went home feeling guilty.

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Liberty


" … it shades no one unless it intends to shade us all."

Liberty seems more a collective than individual property. Our forebears fought to secure the opportunity to govern themselves, not to ensure that any individual could just do whatever they want. There were innies and outies, of course, so some felt oppressed under the yoke of 'their' so-called freedoms. The conflict was not settled when the British retreated. It simmers, occasionally boiling over, even today, perhaps because of this one complication, that liberty never was and never could have been the property of any individual. It must belong to all.

Free speech, for instance, never was the same as loose talk. The guarantee to say whatever I want does not extend to yelling fire in any crowded theater or cursing at grandma's table.

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Evil


The Banality of the Banality of Evil by Banksy


"We're better than that, even after we catch ourselves having been no better than that."

Seeing it probably won't enable you to know it, or even recognize its presence. Understanding lags considerably, and acceptance lags even further behind. Its presence will likely startle you. Its influence will already be draining your life force before you catch on that you're being had, or have already been had. Evil does not at first organize any occupation parade, no show of overwhelming force. It seems to first seep in, putrefying from the inside out, leaving the peach apparently pristine until you try to pick it up. It will seem banality incarnate, more banal even than that, imminently ignorable until it becomes nearly inexorable.

It will not be dismissed. You will need to forcefully escort it to the door, so it remains essential that you always remember where to locate the door and to remain mindful of the conditions necessitating removal.

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HealthScare


"Maybe what doesn't kill me might make me stronger, or insolvent, one of those."

I'd find it difficult to converse with my tax accountant if she wore a face mask. Maybe an early exposure to Beagle Boys comics left me with an unnatural fear of anyone wearing a mask, but I find health care professionals inherently terrifying. I understand that they're trying to limit my exposure to their germs and their exposure to mine, but the affect leaves me more wary that wide open. Our exchanges, otherworldly. My defenses immediately stand up taller. I'm on-guard. I might suffer from White Coat Syndrome, a tension encouraging higher than normal blood pressure readings when I'm in the presence of anyone who might be able to reasonably interpret those readings. It's a double bind.

I have no clue how our health care system works. The Muse seems to have at least the patter down. She can spout 'out of network' and 'copay' as if she understands the theory and the practice. I fumble for the insurance card, clear that I understand nothing printed on the face of it.

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Impossibility



"A spare ounce of acceptance seems to achieve more than any metric ton of impossibility."

Writer Molly Backes recently tweeted about what she calls “The Impossible Task." The Impossible Task might appear perfectly pedestrian unless considered by someone suffering from depression. Under the influence of depression, pretty much any aspiration might appear impossible to achieve. The lofty desire to refill a prescription or the Utopian urge to mow the lawn today might qualify as functionally impossible to achieve. Theoretically and even practically, these objectives might appear perfectly possible, but functionally, they might lie far beyond my reach. The old self-helpless adage which insists that the impossible just takes a little longer seems silly for anyone feeling as though the touted 'a little longer' amounts to infinity.

I fully understand that in this culture, my culture, we presume a positive outlook. Any welcoming embrace of any standard impossibility seems to qualify as evidence of the presence of a positive outlook, even should the objective fully qualify as theoretically or functionally impossible. We do not normally consider anyone exhibiting symptoms of positive outlook delusional, but plucky.

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Rhythm


" … the poem comes out as if missing all the spaces between the words …"

When she was in high school, The Muse played drums in a garage band. She's always had a more sensitive rhythm sense than I. As my songwriting and performing matured, I grew to appreciate rhythm as the cohering force. A song properly backbeat can hardly go wrong, while one losing its thumps can hardly sound right, however otherwise precisely I might play the notes. The rhythm, almost always much less intricate than the melody, subtly rules the whole performance without anyone hardly noticing. The drummer and the base hold the foundation, wherever the primary and descant instruments might wander. They'd be utterly lost without them.

I believe that every activity holds a natural rhythm. Find it and, like the soaring piccolo, I'll remain at least in step, an essential congruence one mostly only notices when it's absent. Lose it and nothing I might try will seem to work.

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Becoming


"Becoming seems to be what we really are when we insist that we are anything at all."

Defining "done" was one enduring difficulty every project I ever worked on, lead, or consulted with experienced. Some adopted the curious First Customer Shipped metric, which insisted that the project was done when the first customer's order was free on board a truck. Others presumed that when they'd successfully tested fixes for and integrated all critical bug reports, the project had ended. In actual experience, though, the project team inevitably continued their efforts long after the designated completion date, for that first customer, upon receiving the first instance of final product would experience unanticipated difficulties that only the development team could resolve and additional critical bugs would emerge even after testing and integration were successfully completed. Eventually, the end product would be more or less integrated into the finished product maintenance stream, though members of the original development team might never completely divorce themselves from the product.

I learned that whatever the product developed, it never left a state of becoming.

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MeaningsFul


"Not a problem for any of us, but a feature of us all instead."

The truly clueless seem stuck on literal meanings, as if any word could be delivered without nuance or subtext, when every utterance comes cloaked in some sort of ambiguity. It's a wonder anyone can ever communicate anything to anyone else. Different people employ different encoding tactics some of which instantly impart meaning while others only begrudgingly disclose it. While I might never reliably interpret the contents of any book by its title, considering the many elements present on the cover often helps me feel as though I do understand what I stoop to pick up off the shelf. The design says more than the title, but without words. The designer chose the color for its reliability in inducing a certain attraction within the prospective reader. I might identify a thousand interacting elements there, each sufficiently ambiguous to leave me either wondering or certain. Taken together, these design elements make a statement beyond, beneath, and behind what the title might impart. All communication seems to work like this.

On days where my awareness seems especially tuned in, I might consciously catch one in a hundred or a thousand of these cues.

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MakingADifference


"Just being here seems to spawn more difference than anyone could ever comprehend."

A Difference seems to stand at the very top of the list of 'things' people say they want to make, well above 'supper' and even 'trouble.' The statement itself strikes me as banal, though I know it's supposed to seem supremely inspirational. I, myself, think of myself as a difference skeptic. When comparing myself with the context within which I stand, I see little leverage. I'm a small guy imbedded in infinite infinities, tiny in comparison with almost everything else. Sure, I hold BIG ideas and sometimes even great notions, but the possibilities seem the very opposite of endless, even before I add in the insidious effects of time. I figure that if I really want to make a difference, I just need to close my eyes for an instant, then open them up again. The challenge seems to lie in noticing what's different then.

Even when I accept that I might make some difference, I tend to think in inappropriately grandiose terms. I want to make a BIG difference, so I start gnawing on something much bigger than anyone could effectively chew, let alone eventually swallow.

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Ninny



"I pray that no one will take me very seriously."

I consider myself to be at root a ninny, and not a particularly apologetic one, neither. As the ninny I consider myself to be, I fail to fully qualify as a coward, for I am known to stand up and be counted on some occasions, but I hold few strong convictions. I keep a low-ish profile. If you want to pass me, be my guest. I'll even slow down to make it easier for you. If you want to take advantage of me, I'm wide open. Not naturally suspicious of my fellows, I'd rather anticipate the best than the worst of everyone. I prefer avoiding competitive games, and not just because I hate to lose, but because I hate to see anyone lose. Winning zero sum games offends me, even when I win.

I figure that there's not really any leverage in being pushy or shove-y. Better approaches exist.

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TheGoodCitizen


"We seem destined to continually surprise each other."

Any conversation broaching the topic of good citizenship seems destined to follow the same sorry trail that conversations about being a good christian usually take, and that trail tends to terminate in irresolvable recriminations within which no citizen, good or otherwise, ever feels very good about themselves. They lean toward the Thou Shalts, which all by themselves seem antithetical to anything other than the dominion of some authority over everyone else; hardly anyone's idea of civility. When I speak of good citizenship, I intend to speak more of the I Wills, the rather personal covenants I hold myself responsible for abiding by, whether or not anyone else even knows that I hold them. For citizenship seems a painfully personal proposition, the never fully resolved answers to the question, "What will I agree to do for the mutual benefit of everyone else?", not what society demands that I contribute. Good citizenship never was a matter of simply obeying the law, but of abiding within it, which sometimes seems to demand working hard to change it or even to civilly disobey it. Like I said, it's a personal thing, but a personal thing writ larger than any individual.

It's a personal thing in context, that context being innumerable others also pursuing their personal things, the boundaries of each person's pursuit essentially undefinable but not necessarily indiscernible, for each individual seems first free to attend to those surrounding them, to respect their space and reasonably expect them to respect your space in return.

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Master-re-re-re-re


"The end does, indeed, come like a thief in the night, but then so do new beginnings."

We all understand what to do if, when, at first, we fail to succeed. We try, try again. But what should one do when failing after achieving a certain degree of mastery? Regardless of the previous level of play, failure always remains a possibility. In the early years, the budding apprentice grows to accept that some percentage of his efforts will very likely prove fruitless. The journeyman grows to increasingly rely upon success to manifest, and might even explain these wins as evidence of his growing skill. The master, though, tends to perform in front of larger crowds who amplify his own anticipation of success. Then, a stumble disappoints others, too. We all know what that can do to you.

The blithe response to a master failing tends to be, indeed, a blithe response, a faux-cheerful, aw-shucks chuckle. At least that's the way it might appear on the outside.

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TheTruth


"Just like life. Exactly like living."

I do not ever speak TheTruth. I almost always speak MyTruth, and almost never tell an outright lie. I might fudge details to impart a higher-quality story, but I only very rarely embellish anything into its opposite, at least that's what this guy admitting that he never speaks TheTruth insists. I seem to me to be the only difference between TheTruth and MyTruth, for MyTruth appears to accurately represent only me to myself, never everyone to anyone else. Others might perceive something less than genuine in my confessions, yielding TheirTruth, which might seem considerably less than genuine to me. Nothing irks me more than someone contradicting my characterizations of MyTruth, as if they could possibly know better than I what only I could possibly know. Bottom line: I am not now nor will I ever be (nor do I aspire to ever become) the holder of TheTruth. You might as well entrust the family jewels to the tender care of a cranky two year old.

MyTruth seems slippery enough for a guy like me to handle.

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Probl'ms


" … clinging remnants of our previous naivety about the nature of a difficulty …"

Can we all agree that we're surrounded by problems? Might we agree that they seem to be getting ever worse, more intractable? Certainly, the vocabulary of the times seems infused with problem language. The casual invocation of this 'P' word might have, at least to my mind, became a fresh category of problem, for many of the difficulties described as problems really hardly satisfy the criteria for problem-ness. I believe that if we could just clean up our language a bit, many of our most intractable-seeming 'problems' would cease to remain problems. I'm not saying that they might not still exhibit the troubling characteristics of genuine difficulties, but at least, perhaps, we could reduce the overload of problems haunting us.

There's something about a problem that seeks a solution.

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Opiniums


"a recipe for creating dystopia"

Karl Marx insisted that religion was the opium of the people. These days, though, I think that opinions have replaced religion as the opium of the people, or maybe, to wax more thoroughly modern, the Oxycodone of the people now. I call them Opinums in side-smirking homage to their addictive presence.

The phone rings and it's someone seeking my opinion on the subject of Death Taxes. I ask what the heck he means by Death Taxes and he sounds a little stunned by my question.

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CircadianClueless


"I figure a pot of beans probably won't do any harm."

I've never lived a particularly well-regulated existence. I've never had a difficult time making it on time to any job I held, usually arriving early and staying late. I burned midnight oil for more than the first half of my life and lit the predawn lamp through the other half so far. I do more than get by on fewer than the recommended hours of sleep. I serve no meal at any regular time, breakfasting five or more hours after rising in the morning and rarely sitting down to supper until well after seven at night. I've grown to despise regular hours, which seem more designed for the convenience of farmers and industrialists than for the benefit of hunter-gatherers like me.

The rhythms persist, however.

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SquarePeg


"a breath of breeze through glistening trees."

I think of myself as a square peg. Always have. Likely always will. I seem to thrive only in bespoke contexts, ones custom made to house my particular eccentricities. When someone asks me who I am, I think to myself, "What an exquisitely impossible question to answer." However I might search the standard stereotype archive, I seem to come up empty-handed. Even constructing an N-dimensional Venn diagram of overlaps seems simply impossible, resulting only in odd lot, ant/elephant combinations, almost but not entirely unlike whatever I might reference within it. My favorite response has usually been, "David," which, of course, amounts to no response at all, for we live in a time immersed in BIG 'I' Identity, where to fail to identify with at least one of the more popular stereotypes renders one essentially irrelevant. It's as if the 'I' in identity must associate with an even larger 'O' in Others for an individual to be considered even relevant.

It's a fine paradox, and one complicit in much of the depressively low self-esteem floating around society. If I am not you, or at least an awful lot like you, why should you like me?

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Competition


"I consider competition to be a mental illness,
hell bent to destroy all who engage, a snake eating its own tail."

Competition is a form of self destruction. Initially, it might seem designed to merely conquer competitors, but repeated, it turns into the opposite of its original intention, ultimately undermining the competitor himself. Even the Ancient Greeks recognized this subtle curse, and counseled great caution whenever engaging as if competition might accomplish something positive in the longer term. How much better to cooperate, though people being people, we seem more than capable of turning even generous cooperation into some form of a Holier Than Thou competition.

The contest seems necessary, though, so we struggle hard to get ahead, to leave the weaker sisters in our dust. Then, of course, we hold culpability for the violence visited upon our weaker sisters.

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