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Recovery

recovery
Edmond-François Aman-Jean: Reverie (c. 1900)


"The patient seems to be Recovering this morning."


With my self-diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder came the emerging realization that I might already be recovering. Diseases and disorders do not just settle in and stay, not usually, not always. They pass through, first rendering us clueless about what might be ailing us or if we're even ailing. These visitors follow a progression from barely there to almost gone, leaving their benefactor or victim in some state of Recovery afterward. Recovery is where I integrate whatever that latest brush might have attempted to teach me. It's where I might freshly revel in same-old activities. It's where symptoms turn vestigial, and effects increasingly become intangible. Memories linger, though, of self-doubt and revelation, exhaustion and foreboding, and a particular haunting uncertainty. The Muse was convinced I had some bug. I believed I had lost my backbone and began slacking. Whatever the lessons, if any, I continue assimilating and integrating in Recovery.

I'm still naive enough to believe that everything probably happens for a reason and that my job primarily consists of determining underlying reasons and making some sense of them.

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AintNoCure

aintnocure
Alphonse Marie Mucha: The Seasons (1897)


" … an infinite game perhaps intended to encourage the pursuit of happiness …"

"There Ain't No Cure For The Summertime Blues." - common folk wisdom

In the deepest and darkest days of a typical January, some notable percentage of the population will at any time suffer the effects of what's labeled Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The effects tend to be mild to moderate depression, said to be caused by light deprivation. Common treatments include exposure to broad-spectrum lighting and long naps. Many escape South to become what we call Snow Birds. Some even become extremists and purchase second houses in places where the sun always shines, like Arizona and extreme Southern New Mexico, abandoning their more Northern homesteads half the time. Zealots might move to some awful place like Florida full-time to escape these effects.

There ain't no actual cure for January's Seasonal Affective Disorder, though there are treatments.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 7/11/2024

ws07112024
Unidentified Artist, stereoscopic photograph,
"See him, will you? He can't set his board down,
and he can't get his new cap off." (700 c),
(c. 1906)


What Was Never Realistically Figure-outable

I'd thought I'd banished the notion that intelligent people were smarter and leaders could lead, but I keep finding vestiges of my initial innocent beliefs. These wound me because I long ago proved that I could not live up to such fictional expectations. In my time, I have carried the titles but have yet to fulfill the naive expectations. My smarts were balanced with at least a counterbalancing amount of stupids. My leadership required some followership, too. As I've insisted before, I was never once an island and not even a half-decent isthmus. I remain connected to much I'd long ago hoped to out-grow or divorce. Anyone who ever divorced learned that there's no such thing. It's just another fiction. I rarely manifested anybody's overly advertised ideals, or believably wrote about them. But then, nobody's likely to purchase the guide for becoming the imperfect anything. Asperation requires absolute fealty to some impossible ideal. We thrive and also die on our dichotomies.

I stand shivering at the end of another humbling writing week, appreciating your presence here and quietly wondering what's kept you coming back. I remain supremely unworthy of your presence, for I have always been mumbling here, trying to figure out what was never realistically figure-outable. Thank you for following along!

Weekly Writing Summary

This Grace Story reports the sorry state of my
Clutter, a presence I often struggle to justify. I sometimes think I should produce better than Clutter without always recognizing the Grace it represents.
clutter
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin: The Attributes of the Arts and the Rewards Which Are Accorded Them (1766)
" … poor but honest penmanship …"

This Grace Story finds me happily Uncluttering after mentioning my Clutter in yesterday's story. It's funny how this universe sometimes seems to work this way. Just mentioning can start a chain of reactions that makes a real difference.
uncluttering
Unknown Artist: Panel of Uncut “Slip” Designs, Hemp, plain weave; embroidered with silk in tent stitches (1625-75)


This Grace Story finds me enjoying the only enjoyable time in the Summer Heat, the wee hours when the world feels moist.
heat
Angelo Caroselli: Summer (c. 1620s)
"Grace appears in these most unlikely places."

I went to bed last night feeling every bit as incompetent as I've ever felt. This morning, it dawned on me again just how overrated competence has always been. That's the subject of this Grace Story, Competence.
competence
Gordon W. Gahan: Star's Daughter (Eleventh -- End of Set): "I am interested in becoming a good actress, not a movie star. If I happen to become a star, too, I'd love every minute of it, of course. But my first goal is to become a competent actress."(1964-65)
"It's by the Grace of something far less than any of us that we ever manage to succeed."

The original version of this Grace Story was indescribably better than this one, but the original was lost to the ages after I'd gotten a little AheadOfMyself. The Universe attempted to teach me a lesson this morning about the dangers of living in lines.
aheadofmyself
Vincent van Gogh: Paysan de la Camargue [Peasant of the Camargue, Portrait of Patience Escalier] (1888)
"We do not live in lines."

This Grace Story includes no Grace in it. It only implies its presence within an explanation of a True Impossible, a HaveToWantToCant.
haveto_wantto_can_t
Gordon W. Gahan: Taking no notice of a troublesome right shoulder, New York Yankee star Mickey Mantle manages a "thumbs up" sign as he overlooks the Mayo Clinic from his hotel room here on January 17th. The champion slugger will undergo nearly a week of tests at the clinic to see if the shoulder can be fixed up. Before starting on the grueling series of examinations, Mantle remarked, "It isn't sore, but I can't throw with it." (January 1966)
"I must be dealing with a true impossible here."

In one of my stories this week, I mentioned that all the possible combinations present in every fifty-two playing card deck have yet to result from all the diligent shufflings to which they've been subjected. It shouldn't surprise me that I've barely nicked the possible combinations of a week's writings. If I can muster enough trust in the universe, a fresh perspective will emerge right on time every morning, resulting in an utterly different Weekly Writing Summary. A few of the resulting perspectives do not seem all that fresh, but each has been different enough, if not entirely unique. It was definitely me shuffling the deck. I'd imagined that I'd eventually exhaust the possibility of posting any new material, but that has definitely not been the case. I'd thought I’d eventually share that last half-decent Dad Joke and be done with this audacious experiment, but that hasn't happened yet, either. I have more than fifty-two cards in my deck. Clutter came up in this never-to-be-repeated rotation, as did its brother, Uncluttering. The Heat this Summer's delivering also made an appearance, if only as context. I encountered one of my abiding incompetences in Competence before catching myself getting a little Ahead Of Myself. I ended this writing week immersed in a Truly Impossible, a Want To, Have To, But Can’t, one of those occasions to which no one ever actually rises. Thank you for following along!
©2024 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved






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HaveToWantToButCant

haveto_wantto_can_t

Gordon W. Gahan: Taking no notice of a troublesome right shoulder, New York Yankee star Mickey Mantle manages a "thumbs up" sign as he overlooks the Mayo Clinic from his hotel room here on January 17th. The champion slugger will undergo nearly a week of tests at the clinic to see if the shoulder can be fixed up. Before starting on the grueling series of examinations, Mantle remarked, "It isn't sore, but I can't throw with it." (January 1966)

"I must be dealing with a true impossible here."


My senses usually keep me safe from directly experiencing many of the more terrifying realities. It's true that I'm hurling through space on a corkscrewing planet moving at 67,000 mph, or 18.5 miles per second. I sense none of this. Likewise, I hang upside down on the face of this planet while directly sensing none of that, either. My sense of the possible shares some of this blesséd blindness, for I cannot directly determine possibility, either. Much of my work emerges under Wait And See conditions. I can talk myself out of something without directly knowing just how possible it might have been to produce. More telling, I can just as easily talk myself into starting something that will later turn out to be an impossible. Knowing which it might become often proves the most impossible, for will sometimes determines way. Other times, no amount of will can translate into any feasible way. We only ever learn this later.

The run-of-the-mill Impossible might well seem eminently doable at the outset.

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AheadOfMyself

aheadofmyself
Vincent van Gogh: Paysan de la Camargue [Peasant of the Camargue, Portrait of Patience Escalier] (1888)


"We do not live in lines."


I just "lost" my first hour of writing. I hadn't managed to do that in years. I'd grown careful and cautious. As one who measures my progress in captured words, I never approach my work in a cavalier fashion. I tend to be deliberate to a fault, following patterns varying little from session to session. I set up my page before setting to work, saving often, as if sighing. This morning, I must have forgotten to sigh. I inadvertently sorted my collection of stories by something other than the usual Date Created. I had not anticipated that I could have sorted them by Title instead, and there's only a tiny checkmark in the corner of the column label to indicate that the underlying list has even been sorted.

The list made no sense.

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Competence

competence
Gordon W. Gahan: Star's Daughter (Eleventh -- End of Set):
"I am interested in becoming a good actress, not a movie star.
If I happen to become a star, too,
I'd love every minute of it, of course.
But my first goal is to become a competent actress."
(1964-65)


"It's by the Grace of something far less than any of us that we ever manage to succeed."


Competence has always been overrated. Most of the best that has ever been accomplished has been achieved by those who have yet to be fully qualified to produce such works. The writer, who was considered unpublishable until she squeezed out that best seller. The artist who lived in an unheated garret through most of his life and whose oeuvre now graces The Louvre. We're all of us essentially Bozos on this bus, and, for sure, always were.

It's not that we haven't tried to create effective certification programs; they're over-enrolled.

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Heat

heat
Angelo Caroselli: Summer (c. 1620s)


"Grace appears in these most unlikely places."


Summer turns merciless when July Heat arrives. Days bleach the lawn a buff-brown, and the gardens cower, praying for their morning or evening shower. The hanging pots need watering every morning, or they'll wither in the late afternoon sun. There's nothing to be done. I can work outside until noon. Then, I must flee back inside to hibernate until evening. I go effectively nocturnal, and the light seems more of a hindrance than helpful. Cold showers come back into fashion. It's not the Heat so much, but the humility of restricted latitude of movement. I daresn't go on a whim. I need a pretty darned good reason to venture out into it. It brings no discernable benefit.

They still say, "At least it's a dry heat."

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Uncluttering

uncluttering
Unknown Artist: Panel of Uncut “Slip” Designs,
Hemp, plain weave; embroidered with silk in tent stitches
(1625-75)


Sometimes, but only sometimes, naming a condition starts the process of resolving it. So it was yesterday when I called out my Clutter before, later, tucking in to clear out some of it. I spent most of my day Uncluttering. If only it were also so easy. I feel grateful that it IS sometimes just that simple.

I've long held that I have an ethical responsibility to discuss whatever's not supposed to be discussed, for undiscussables hold special powers.

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Clutter

clutter
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin:
The Attributes of the Arts
and the Rewards Which Are Accorded Them
(1766)


" … poor but honest penmanship …"


My desk belies my self-conception as a tidy person. Perhaps I once was neat, but an honest appraisal would conclude that I am no longer well-ordered. My desk holds the residue of innumerable works in progress, some of which I finished. I've always struggled with creating permanent records. I maintain no files, just piles that continue accumulating. To put anything "away" seems the equivalent of losing it.

With the death of a dear friend last month, I've started wondering what sort of legacy I'll leave.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 7/04/2024

ws07042024
Henry Peach Robinson:
When the Day’s Work is Done,
A combination print made from six different negatives.
(1877, printed January 1890)



I Sleep Though My Julys
I dread July more than I dread the dead of Winter. Aside from the cool mornings, July days tend to turn punishingly warm. There's no escape until I turn on the sprinkler as the sun starts setting lower. The gardens exist balanced between scorched and saturated; whatever water I manage to apply early will be evaporated out by the end of most days. It's exhausting just failing to keep up. The gardens start producing, though, and the evenings, once the sun sets and the sprinkler's done its magic, compel us to eat on the back deck instead of in front of whatever's streaming. The TV's not been turned on in more than a week, and I'm not missing it. If I'm up by two, I have plenty of time to finish my writing before the sun starts to blind me. I can maintain my schedule as long as I'm out early. I hibernate most afternoons, remembering a soft blanket my mom used to spread on the living room floor before inviting me to nap through the blistering early afternoon hours. It was cool on the floor, and I could never keep my eyes open. I sleep through my Julys just like I doze through my Decembers.

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Wronking

wronking
Utagawa Yoshifuji:
Five Men Doing the Work of Ten Bodies
(Gonin jushin no hataraki) 1861


"Let nobody say that I compromised and delivered anything the easy way!"


I was wrong on several levels when I assumed that work would become easier as I aged. I presumed that I would naturally become more experienced so that my prior knowledge would accumulate to the point that I might only rarely feel baffled. Almost precisely the opposite has proven true. I find myself freshly baffled with virtually every engagement, with experience proving to be lousy preparation for whatever presents itself next. Contrary to my earlier theory of ever-expanding competence, my proficiencies wain. This feels more painful than I might have imagined. After decades of living without much ego involvement, I've lately started suffering from a wounded ego, a debilitating if rarely fatal condition that nonetheless feels alarming. My best intentions sneer back at me these days.

I have heard of people who claim to enjoy learning.

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RootDirectory

rootdirectory
William Trost Richards: Tree Roots (19th-20th century)


"May the Grace of perseverance preserve my sanity in the face of this unending inanity."


I recently
complained here about the new and improved Google Apps, for they seemed to have been specially designed to be unusable. Further use has led me to a deeper understanding that they were not new or improved but rely upon a now ancient design, one I had until recently managed to avoid learning. They employ the same form as MS-DOS' old hierarchical directory design, one so counter-intuitive as to seem unusable to anyone not entrained to comprehend it. I do not know how one comes to learn how to use RootDirectories and such. I know they offer few clues about navigating within and around them. I'm suddenly back to the primitive hunt-and-peck stage, often bewildered and frozen without a clue what to do next. If The Muse isn't around to advise, I stay frozen until after she returns.

The Muse is barely civil when I ask her one of my questions, for she learned about RootDirectories ages ago.

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Convertible

convertible
Jack Rodden Studio: Untitled
[dignitaries riding in convertible in town parade]

(c. 1950)


"Grace even catches up to politicians when they ask nicely enough."


Political campaigns look different from the inside. Outside looking in, an observer hopefully sees mostly what the candidate wants them to see. Scenes should seem carefully choreographed, scripts thoughtfully written and practiced, and presentations more or less perfect. Inside looking out, it's continually one damned thing after another, none of which seems quite right or even right-able. The ship seems like it's taking on too much water. The campaign started too late and seems to be falling ever further behind. The difference between inside and outside states gets to grate on the campaign team. Everything takes longer, costs more, and produces less. If not careful, the candidate and team might grow despondent. Were it not for the likely fact that the opposition has it worse, the effort would hardly seem worth it.

Take, for example, the simple idea of the candidate appearing in the Pasco Fourth Of July Parade, a tradition in this legislative district.

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Memorial

memorial
Jan Verkade: Memory (1893)


" … he'll forever overlook his homecoming."


No death seems complete until the survivors attend a Memorial. These affairs range from simple to elaborate, family to community. They represent much more than merely the memory of the recently departed; they embody an utterly unique slice of the departed's community. We trivially insist that everyone's essential and nobody exists as an island, but few ever suspect the depth and breadth of anyone's circle until after that center departs. Then, it's as if the central point of orientation has left the building. Even those otherwise related to each other seem somewhat worse for the absence without that one additional degree of connection. For instance, I could have sworn my friend Gary lived as a virtual hermit these past few years, but legions showed up for his Memorial picnic, catered with a massive hauled-in barbeque rig and a separate chuckwagon bar.

I came with my requisite pocketful of words.

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UnwantedInsight

UnwantedInsight
JOHN SINGER SARGENT:
FUMÉE D'AMBRE GRIS [SMOKE OF AMBERGRIS] (1880)


"Grace often comes unbidden and unwanted, insisting upon differences we would not have chosen. Grace seems to trade in UnwantedInsights; acceptance serves as the medium of exchange."

I claim to be seeking truth, but I prefer confirmation. I'd much rather my preconceptions reveal the truth instead of my pretensions. I think of myself as an insight seeker, though I'm just as disconcerted as the least of us when an insight reveals some suddenly glaring shortcoming in my once so proud performances. I wanted to get it right the first time, if only because that rarely happens. I thrive on misconceptions, perhaps valiant attempts destined to undermine my best intentions. I frequently find this cycle unbearable. I retire, thinking myself especially put upon. I only suffer from sometimes especially virulent cases of The Normals, for progress might have always been achieved chiefly by discovering errors. Perfection could not have ever been an objective. Seeking the more perfect seems the more realistic perspective.

I can be confident that I will be capable of writing a better story than this one tomorrow, but I'm not inhabiting tomorrow yet and couldn't possibly.

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HesitantHedonist

hesitanthedonist
Alfred Stevens:
Hesitation (Madame Monteaux?) (c. 1867)


"Life cannot be fulfilled by merely satisfying obligations."


I love to weed my gardens. I'd rather be on my knees digging dirt than do anything else, although I do maintain a mental list of the activities I most enjoy. Curiously, on any given day, I'm unlikely to engage in any activity on that list. I prioritize otherwise, first dispatching obligations to satisfy expectations. Then, I'm more likely to engage in hygiene activities, cleaning up messes. While certain satisfactions come from completing these, I cannot honestly report that they please me. I'd rather be weeding. Still, I catch myself making excuses that delay me from engaging in this most favorite occupation. It might be too hot or too cold. I seem easily dissuaded as if I require perfect conditions to engage in this most perfect of all possible occupations.

This might say something about how I was raised.

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Weekly Writing Summary For The Week Ending 6/27/2024

ws06272024
John Singer Sargent: Study of Two Bedouins (1905–6)


An Achingly Aspired-for Answer
We seem to be floating here and always have been floating. Nobody among all our forebears ever once experienced firm footing. They each slipped and slid, stumbled, and mumbled their way into whatever they eventually seemed to become. There were no shortcuts then, and none remain for any of us to leverage now. How will we survive? We might survive for now without any of us individually surviving much longer. The very purpose of this exercise must be rooted in its inevitable demise. We're short-lived, whatever we might devise. This means we must seek for purposes other than salvation or survival. However attractive notions of figuring might seem, we're clearly not born here to figure out anything, and certainly not for any plausible long run. We're dancing on next to nothing without the promise of transforming any of that surface into anything lasting. We enquire in lieu of knowing. We ask instead of answering. We wonder when we'd prefer to know. We might be here to inquire, not to resolve. It might be plenty and enough to manage what the best of our forebears manifested: a decent question, an achingly aspired-for answer, a hopeful presence, and a grateful denouement—a life. Thank you for following along this week!

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GracePeriods

graceperiod
John Singer Sargent: An Artist at His Easel (1914)


"I was out-dated before this product was even released."


I'm terribly slow on the uptake these days. I seem to need more space and time than previously, and I find myself far less productive. Give me a deadline and I'm almost sure to miss it, usually for good reasons, but sometimes for lousy ones. For instance, I've been trying to learn how to use the new and "improved" GoogleDrive apps, and it's been an excruciating experience. They've been almost entirely redesigned, seemingly to impede performance improvement. I need to rediscover every function every time I try to use it. The passageway into the file list was hidden three or four layers beneath an unrelated link, so I often wander aimlessly. Doing anything takes longer and becomes more frustrating than I ever remember GoogleApps being capable of inducing before. I need a GracePeriod, acknowledgement that I’m typing with chopsticks, so everything will quite naturally take much longer than otherwise necessary. I am a beneficiary of this encumbering technology.

I need to forgive myself for my own unwanted trespasses.

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Humbling

Charles Bird King: The Vanity of the Artist's Dream
Former Titles: The Anatomy of Art Appreciation
Poor Artist's Study
Still Life, The Vanity of An Artist's Dream
(1830)

"I deserve a Humbling cup filled with a bitter brew."


The scandal had broken the Friday before the Candidate Forum. The incumbent County Commissioner had been investigated for some incidents of incivility at the prior year's fair, where she'd pushed around some underlings and humiliated herself for no good purpose. Those of us supporting her opponent quietly cheered inside to see that she had decisively stumbled. There might be no way Jenny Mayberry could be reelected with this black mark on her record. She'd already conclusively proven herself to be an inept commissioner. She'd proposed raises for first responders and hired some more without considering how the county might pay for those changes. Then, she'd steadfastly refused to vote to increase taxes, saying she'd sworn not to raise taxes when running for office. The adult commissioners voted in favor of paying for her increases, and she'd set about blanketing the county with reelection signs, insisting she really cares about the county and its people.

The morning of the Candidate Forum, Jenny called in sick.

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PickEmUp

pickemup
Lucian and Mary Brown:
Untitled [boy playing with truck in sandbox] (c. 1950)


" … the continuing possibility of these strange convergences and Grace."


I'll start this story by declaring that I do not believe in The Prosperity Gospel or the often-touted Laws of Attraction. I believe this theory and practice amount to a cruel joke, a fraud perpetrated on innocent people who probably deserve better. That this fraud is often self-inflicted is no defense and might render it even more offensive. There are plenty who encourage such beliefs.

I admit to sometimes seeing evidence that, if I was unconvinced, might convince me that The Prosperity Gospel and The Laws of Attraction could be real.

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Self-Sacrifice

selfsacrifice
Camille Pissarro: Self-portrait (Undated, circa 1888)


"Never get yourself so busy not doing your job that you can't properly not do your job."


The Muse and I arrived at the convention hall feeling hopeful despite the frustrating time we'd had attempting to properly prepare for the experience. After reviewing the first draft of the party platform document, I'd started before the prior weekend to influence the final wording, which I found primitive and demeaning. Our Legislative District Chair first deflected my suggestion that he invite delegates to talk through the document to identify areas needing improvement. The Chair explained that he was too busy to convene anything before finally agreeing to try to schedule a session over the upcoming weekend. He hadn't scheduled the session, so The Muse and I arrived feeling as though we'd missed an opportunity to influence anything there.

Further, the day before, we'd learned that the platform committee on which our Chair had served had unanimously adopted a plank that could tank every candidate's opportunity for election in the current race.

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Damns

damns
J. H. W. Tischbein:
Three Beavers Building a Dam (c. 1800)


" … surrounded by the effects of our great-grandfather's profound ignorance."


All who live near the end of the Oregon Trail share a heritage. The valley I call my valley, the one they liked to well they named it twice, was once home to artesian wells. The groundwater was under such pressure that when a well was dug, the water would fountain up high into the air. That aquifer was filled with water that had taken twenty millennia to work its way down out of the mountains and under the valley floor. It could be removed in minutes on no more than a whim.

Our forebears were not system thinkers.

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Grace

grace
Adriaen van Ostade: Saying Grace (1653)


" … the best example of graceful aging I can imagine."


There but for the Grace of some God or Gods, went I. I have lived a remarkably fortunate existence, an unbidden gift for an unworthy recipient. I could ascribe all I have achieved to the presence of Grace, the free and unmerited favor of some God or Gods I very likely would not believe in if they were identified. I suppose this attitude alone qualifies me as a heathen. Now that I'm recognizably aging, I am urged to at least attempt to accomplish my aging gracefully, whatever in the Hell that injunction might mean. The Muse complains that I have been complaining about almost everything lately, and I reluctantly admit that I have been. Was I not supposed to complain about everything that failed to work as expected? Technology grows progressively—regressively—worse with every upgrade and innovation. Is this phenomenon evidence of technology aging gracefully? It might be that my pointing out the increasingly obvious shortcomings of Google Drive Apps amounts to one sort of Grace. My complaints beat going unconscious in the face of such disgraceful performances.

Grace might be the great undefinable.

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