#CluelessSummer

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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Reflecting


"They're already loosing steam."

If you want to learn what I think, ask me, then wait, perhaps for a very long time. If you want to know how I feel, ask, then prepare to wait even longer. I am a walking echo chamber, filled to the brim with contradictory, often conflicting perspectives. I remain steadfastly uncertain, humbled in my acceptance of the tenacious indecipherable surrounding me, eternally teetering on the forward edge of another great unknowable. In lieu of knowing for sure, I question. Of course I exhibit preconscious, essentially autonomous behaviors, though I'm hardly aware enough of them to explain them to myself, let alone to anyone else. On the scale of the grand action/reflection dichotomy, I'm sitting somewhere inside the mirror, considering.

My preference for reflection makes me a lousy fascist, for fascists value action, even reaction, above all else.

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MagicUnderpants


"I ain't telling nobody."

I knew today would become extraordinary the moment I reached into my underwear drawer and found my MagicUnderpants on top. I don't know how this pair earned its designation. Perhaps they just look more distinguished than all the others, but I knew when I purchased them that they would become my favorite. And the have. When wearing these babies, I fly confident that my airplane can't possibly fall out of the sky. I sense that parking karma will lead me around all day, leaving empty parking spots adjacent to front doors. Good things happen to me every day I wear my MagicUnderpants.

My other pairs just don't seem to do the trick and I do not know why.

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Religion


"Time might tell whether my relationship with religion proves wise or clueless."

Like most of the people inhabiting this world, I don't consider myself religious. I was raised in white middle class America which some report as not possessing a culture. I attended a white bread, right of center Christian church in my youth but never noticed Jesus attending. I identified as more a Just Visiting distant relation than a full member of the congregation, though I'd always volunteer to help set up or tear down the multi-purpose room. The doctrine eschewed smoking, but my dad smoked. My mom could wax irreverent about the dichotomies between what was preached and what was practiced and I guess I considered church as somehow distinct from religion, certainly from spirituality.

I thought bible lessons allegorical, unconvincing as literal truth, useful perspectives but certainly not holy writ. I thought that if The Bible was the literal word of God, God needed a decent copy editor.

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Thinking


"I grab just where I think it is only to find that it must be somewhere else instead."


Before you begin reading this posting, please reference Google (or even Bing!) and look up the definition of Thinking.

I'm fairly certain that most readers did not accept this invitation, but it hardly matters. Had you refreshed your memory with the formal definition of Thinking, I doubt that you came away any clearer about the meaning of the term. Google or Bing! Images related to the term Thinking, and you'd be no better off. Light bulbs, empty dialogue clouds, and photos of people scratching their heads greeted you, didn't they? If effective communication relies upon those involved sharing a common understanding of the topic's meaning, we seem to be sunk before we've even begun considering Thinking as our topic of the day, but since I'm really investigating the many facets of cluelessness, we might be starting at something close to exactly the proper spot. At least I think we might be.

I've thought of myself as a thinker all my life. I hold no advanced degree in thinking, mind you, but I've nonetheless thought of myself as more of a thinker than anything else.

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Feyness


"The net result of learning should properly be a slightly higher class of cluelessness, never Feyness."

In the days when The Muse and I facilitated workshops, we studiously avoided introducing any sort of lifeboat drill-type exercises into the curriculum. These were the sorts of games requiring the group to expel someone from the group, the kind of "play" we commonly see on so-called reality television programs. We never believed that these simulations very accurately portrayed real-world situations. Quite the opposite, we thought them suggestive of tactics relatively useless in anyone's real world workplace. Besides, they tended to make the learning space unsafe, and our primary watchwords for our workshops were, "Safety First." If we could not create a safe learning environment, we would be culpable for inhibiting deep learning, and nobody attends any workshop so that they can hold their facilitators culpable for inhibiting their deep learning.

Learning seems to require some sense on the part of the aspiring learner that they might have a decent chance of actually learning something, that they could not possibly leave the experience without having found something useful for themselves.

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Grudges

grudges
"I finally decided that maybe I could live with myself again, so I did."

Grudges have become badges of honor, honoring some past insult. We wear them like deep sea diving boots, hardly handy for tap dancing, or even walking around. They seem to ground us but tend to sink us instead. Still, social and political movements feature grudges as a part of members' required uniform. One cannot join without prominently displaying their grudge. Stadiums fill with supporters seemingly present to show off their personal grudge to others, some competing to demonstrate that their grudge is bigger than anyone else's. Just as if they could fix the past by dragging a particularly wounding part of it around with them, they engage in a kind of group primal therapy, howling at their common misbegotten moon.

It might be that nurturing the memory prolongs the past slight's life.

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Mediocrity

Mediocracy
"To pursue it might be to forfeit any possibility for ever experiencing it."

Throughout recorded history, mankind's unending quest for good enough has been goobered up by a few over-achievers, who, having reached a perfectly satisfying meadow halfway up the mountain, insisted upon turning their walk in the woods into some kind of extreme sporting event. They pine after that rarified, stony space above the tree line, where winds whip around lightening bolts. They want excellence. Their search seems endless, their lifestyles, downright obsessive. They become relentlessly proud owners of dissatisfaction, ever ranging even further upward. The rest of us, perhaps a little cowed in the presence of such seemingly misguided determination, feel moved to move no further. We're suddenly much more attracted to gratitude for what we've already achieved and acceptance of the way things currently are. We'd rather nap on our already acquired bed of laurel than go searching for unlikely eagle feathers.

I've noticed that business seems to have gone downhill since embracing the theology of excellence.

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Breaking

breaking
"I figure the whole truth will be better approximated in a volume to be published ten years from now and surrounded by enough context to bring today into clearer perspective."

Early yesterday afternoon, my Facebook Feed announced the latest breaking news. I followed the link to learn that this particular piece of breaking news was a lengthy analysis of news expected to break later that afternoon. Experts waded in to explain background and foreground, some even projecting the effects this impending breaking news might have once it actually broke. I wasted five unredeemable minutes of my afternoon on this floss. Later, the news the earlier announcement predicted, came to pass as breaking news, which washed over the late afternoon as no surprise, an anti-climax whetted by overlong anticipation. The earlier broadcast captured the gist of the actual event, with some details probably unavoidably miscast. The final breaking story, though, had by then lost much of its potential impact. I caught myself skimming through the details, more seeking to confirm the earlier implanted news than to broaden my understanding.

Breaking news might by necessity be about ninety percent distraction.

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Convictions

convictions
"As if to keep the universe in proper synch, you have no clue what's going on with me, either."

I'm driving that car you're trying to pass. Yes, I know the road looks clear ahead. It's a clear, sunny day. You zoomed up to ride my rear bumper and you're gesturing with both hands in frustration. I know you want me to drive faster. I'm not trying to act as obstinately as I must appear. What's wrong with me? A grave shortcoming. I'm driving at the speed limit. We've passed two speed limit signs since you started crawling up my tailpipe. Perhaps you were too distracted to notice? I'm noticing for you, I guess.

Why? Why can't you coerce me into driving more recklessly?

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Dichotomy

zenos-dichotomy-e1515427608294
" … it's subsequent sortings all the way from every here to every there, to the end of every line"

With his Dichotomy (illustrated above) the Ancient Greek Mathematician Zeno proved long before any of us were born, the logical impossibility of moving between any here and any there. While his logic was sound, his conclusion, curiously, was not, as I just demonstrated by walking all the way downstairs AND BACK! Logic works like this sometimes.

In my youth, I took a job as a bull hand dancer in an asparagus factory. My job involved performing the first sort on freshly blanched asparagus passing along a conveyor belt. Lift truck drivers in blue hard hats would dump huge steaming bins of the stuff replete with everything from chunks of fence post to freshly steamed snake and mouse carcasses which needed to be removed from the stream, and not only because they wouldn't fit into the little white containers which would later be flash frozen, labeled, and rushed to the frozen food section of local grocery stores. The first sort was rough, nothing like fine finish work. I'd yank out the obviously awful and line up as many spears as I could given the conveyor's speed. A long line of secondary sorters beneath my position on the conveyor performed ever finer sorts, resulting in containers capable of passing the quality control inspector's gimlet eye at the far end of the line.
Dichotomy works like this.

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Expectations

Expectation-Quotes-1
"They're disposable just after they seemed like the only possible One Best Way."

The above quote might qualify as one of the most clueless utterances ever. To act without expectations seems to be a recipe for not acting, but then I might not quite be Zen enough to comment. I cannot imagine acting without expectation though I recognize that expectations probably encourage most of the cluelessness in the universe. Still, expecting seems a perfectly human feature that leads us all into considerable trouble. I doubt that just omitting the expecting amounts to anything like sage advice. We are the ones who lead ourselves into the bulk of the temptations we encounter, but I can't quite believe that we're automatically screwed because we continually expect.

Like with cluelessness, the problem might not very fairly represent the problem. How we cope with this feature might hold some clue about what to do short of stifling one of our primary motive forces.

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Presuppositions

bmatebwcover
"… they still bite more than they ever bark."

When did you finally stop beating your dog? The best accusations come imbedded with presuppositions, unstated premises, darned near impossible to counter. This dog accusation "presupposes" both that you have a dog and that you sometime in the past started beating it, for how could you possibly stop beating your dog if you'd never started beating it in the first place? But wait! You say you do not now nor have you ever owned a dog? So much the better for the accuser, who can play The Denial Card. I mean, if you won't even admit to having a dog, how much further from repentance could you possibly be?

I frequently see this dance initiated as a means for tangling rather than resolving differences. Notice how the accuser avoided making any actual accusation.

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SmartVSDumb

dumb-vs.-smart
"Like Mad Magazine, but, you know, real."

I've learned more in my life so far from Alfred E. Neuman than I have from Albert Einstein, and Neuman is a fictional character. I sometimes fancy myself a smart person. Just how dumb is that? I might conclude my summertime inquiry into cluelessness right here. Einstein, as insightful as he doubtless was, couldn't hold a half-melted birthday candle to Neuman, entertainment-wise. Can you imagine Spy vs. Spy in the hands of the celebrated physicist? People seem to require some absolute stupidity to attract their attention. A graphic novel about the history of 20th century physics was stickier than everything else I'd ever read on the subject. Eggheads love to read comix. What do stupid people read? Oh, the really stupid ones don't read, or … can't … read, which renders them social pariahs to all those to can and do read.

Some of the stupidest people I've met in this life held advanced degrees from prominent universities. Some of the smartest, failed to graduate high school.

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EditingAuthenticity

genomeediting-pencil-01
"I wonder some days when human existence will be edited out as altogether too messy."

I recently read about some study suggesting that gene editing doesn't work quite the way I'd thought it does. It's not a simple matter of snipping and pasting. Genes resonate changes more deeply than a simple delete or paste metaphor might suggest. Unanticipated mutations sometimes result. The connections appear to be much more complicated than our present understanding leads us to believe. Our modern day gene splicers might in the future seem no more skilled or insightful than a medieval medicine man does to us today, all leaches and humors and stuff.

We live in The Age of Editing. Forget about original content, repurposed content reigns now.

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Song-righting

song-righting
"They only ever seem right after seeming just wrong for the longest time."

I wrote my first song when I was in the 4th grade. It was stupid and derivative and absurdly simple, but I'd just taken up playing a guitar and like everyone else in my generation who came into close contact with a guitar, I found that it magically turned me into an accomplished poet and brilliant social commentator, at least in my own mind. The trance quickly became self-reinforcing. The more songs I wrote, the more I wanted to write, with no saturation point visible or audible from within the spell. I thought myself doing very well. I grew up to "be" a musician or, more accurately, I grew up to be a song-righter. I was never that accomplished at playing the guitar, avoided covering others' tunes, and stayed close to my own songbook. I never was anything like a human jukebox but I always wrote songs.

My earliest songs seemed indescribably precious to me then. I've forgotten most of 'em. A few through the years, though, seemed to stick and became an alternate identity for me.

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Conditions

conditions
"What in the heck am I supposed to do here?"

I swear that there's nothing I can't do if the conditions are right. When the conditions are wrong, though, it seems that there's hardly anything that I can do, or at least that I can do right. Now, if my nose were more sensitive to sniffing out right conditions, I'd belly flop much less. I belly flop plenty. I'll own this little inability, though I might claim that my training's been complicit in complicating my life. I've been more trained in how to do things than I was ever oriented in how to sniff out conditions, even necessary pre-conditions. Conditions seem to take up their position out on the far perimeter of my activities. I often forget to check for their presence before I begin and even when I remember to check, they're likely to slip past me.

Gregory Bateson spoke eloquently about context, the great unseen influence. He claimed that one could arrange a space such that the arrangement itself subliminally informed those who entered it.

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SubjectivelyClueless

subjective
" …reviews prove unreliably subjective …"

The eyeglass fitter at my optometrist recounted how she's worn these contact lenses designed to reshape her eyes while she slept. They worked, eventually reshaping her eyes to 20/30 acuity, which objectively rates as even better than the normal 20/20. Having had glasses since she was a little girl, the fresh correction left her feeling disoriented. She could not imagine how she could drive a car with vision like that. Her eyes finally corrected themselves to something more like 20/20 and she could see just fine again. Her story highlights the difference between the objective and the subjective worlds we simultaneously inhabit. The quants calculate best while the rest of us rely upon fuzzy felt-senses, which might well uniquely interpret for each observer. Perspective matters to us who live in the subjective world. We're extremely context-sensitive in ways the quants could never calculate.

The Style section provides lists enumerating various bests: best movie, best bagel, best baseball player. Your preferences might well vary unless you've figured out how to subjugate your tastes in preference to the popular ones, a slick trick, indeed, and one the media seems determined to help each of us master.

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A Mentor Passing

jerry_weinberg
"He didn't need to say anything else."

I suppose that Estranged stands as a valid phase of every mentoring relationship, for these sorts of associations were never chartered to become eternally continuous. They serve as leg-ups, nudges to help someone over some hump and somehow putrefy if overly prolonged. I think that both parties understand from the inception that the terms of engagement won't allow for real friendship to emerge, though the exchanges always seem warm enough.

My relationship with Jerry Weinberg, who passed yesterday, lasted about fifteen years, which is long by any mentoring standard.

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Truth-ish

TheWholeTruth
" Truth was never as popular in junior high as most every lie, and so grew up rather shy about its native social acceptance."

Would you prefer that I lie and promise to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when the whole truth usually has a few elements besides the truth imbedded within it? The truth of the matter might be (must be?) that it's never wholly whole, but only because it can't be. It can't be because us humans tend to be unreliable recording instruments. We seem prone to seeing what we anticipate rather than what's actually there. We remember what doesn't shut us down rather than what we experienced. We are subjective beings, never objective observers, and so prove unreliable conveyors of any absolute, truth being prominent among them.

Yet we still, sometimes smugly, believe ourselves capable of discriminating between a truth and a bold-faced lie, and we are not always incorrect in our assessments.

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Electronics

bm-01-9780080519944
" In trust we trust. Amen."

Our new car, The Schooner, has very few moving parts. I expect in a few years to be able to buy a car with absolutely no moving parts. Once, cars were mostly moving mechanical parts. No longer! Now they're smart, or at least much smarter. Many of the formerly laboring mechanical parts have up-sold themselves into management positions thanks to the marvels of electronics. Our new car is a thinking car. It anticipates for us so we don't have to. It's not rocket-scientist brilliant or anything. It just maintains vigilance where ours might wane. It helps keep us safer and just that little bit saner, too. It almost seems benevolent, a friend.

A friend until something goes wrong

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Books

Books_0
"I never feel more here than when I am immersed in some author's somewhere else."

I read a lot of books, well over a hundred a year, maybe twice that. I rarely remember anything I read, not in any detail, but then I try to avoid the types of books requiring me to remember much. I almost exclusively read fiction because it seems much more real, although there's not really any genre BUT fiction since even so-called non-fiction gets filtered through authors who perhaps unavoidably fictionalize whatever they put down, wrapping their stories in the trappings considered appropriate to "real" storytelling: hero, journey, challenges, and triumphant return. I consider myself an exacting reader in that I only rarely finish a book unless its prose pleases me, either in construction or concept. I consider myself to be a prose chameleon, my own writing quietly influenced by whatever I happen to be reading at the time, so I'm careful to quickly discard trash. I read all the time.

I'm in and out of the library several times each week, often daily. I scrupulously return any book I've finished the same day I finish it or the very next day at the latest. I always figure someone might be waiting for me to put it back into circulation.

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Whom

belltolls
"Never give them a passing thought," …

This week, a Facebook friend (a designation with which I intend no derision) asked me who I wrote for, by which I interpreted him to mean, who do I imagine reading my stuff. His question sparked quite a bit of old tinder because I never could find an answer to that seemingly perfectly uncontroversial question. I once again encountered what I consider for me to be a fundamentally unanswerable question, though it gets down on one knee and seemingly begs for a response, and a straightforward one at that. Certainly, if I write, an object of my efforts must be present, if only in my mind. There isn't and I don't.

I realize that by admitting this omission, I might be violating a first principle of marketing: Thou Shalt Have A Target Market, except I'm not marketing, but writing.

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NothingMuch

zeroinfinity
"We're here in the middle, comforted by the edges we imagine constraining us."

I understand nothing about as well as I understand infinity, by which I mean, hardly at all. Like infinity, nothing can appear in a surprising variety of quantities. I can experience Plenty of Nothing as well as NothingMuch. Likewise, infinity can come in any of, dare I suggest, an infinite number of discrete forms. Even Forever After might hold a shorter shelf life than Ever And Ever, for instance. The concept that neither nothing nor everything comes in specific single-serving packets should set me back on my heels. It might be that this explosion of variety never comes into play until one thinks they're experiencing nothing or everything. Then, a multiverse appears.

Some mornings, I rise convinced that I have nothing to say.

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TwistedMetaphors

Metaphor1
" … seemingly, suddenly, self-licking ice cream cones."

The VP of HR called me into his office to discuss a troubling complaint he'd received following my last workshop. Two participants had taken umbrage at a metaphor I'd employed, insisting that it clearly demonstrated that I was racist. Pretty certain that I could not possibly be fairly characterized as racist and curious about where this conversation might go, I showed up, though I arrived wary. I'd gotten tangled up around misunderstood metaphors before and felt fairly certain that I understood where this conversation would go, for there's no counter-argument to anyone's firm conviction. There's also no way to fix this sort of past. I sat quietly as the VP failed to explain my error to me. I hardly mounted any defense. I knew before I showed up that I would not be asked back to deliver another workshop.

I permanently deleted that metaphor from my patter.

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BeesBall

baseball2
"We love who we love."

If you want to experience the human condition, watch sports. It hardly matters which one. Baseball works best for me because I naively presume to understand the game, but soccer or football or golf will suffice. Each relies upon the fan believing that they know something about the game, though the numbers strongly suggest that they could not possibly know very much. The baseball fan up in the cheap seats wearing the porkpie hat and holding a kraut-smothered dog in one hand and a frosty Iron City in the other, could hardly be expected to grasp the statistical swirl they witness. They, like me, focus upon probably irrelevant elements, fully expecting that they can predict what might happen next. That home run hitter, coming up to the plate, brings with him the strong statistical probability that he will return to the dugout deeply disappointed, but the fan sees the opportunity to pull ahead in a lurch.

I guess it does't matter how many times the fan's expectations end up being disappointed. Enough homers happen to encourage that hope essential to encourage any supporter to hope yet again.

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MondayMorning

MondayMorning
"I remain an apprentice in this life …"

Somebody wiped the slate clean overnight. Whatever had backed up and accumulated over the last week simply disappeared. By the end of this week, another clog will have appeared, detritus remaining from the fresh aspirations coloring this sunrise and the few to follow. For one moment, I feel as though I've caught up. I leave The Villa refreshed. On the drive down to the lab, The Muse muses over the clog before her. Everything coming due at exactly the same time. No time in reserve for her upcoming week. It's spent before it's lent.

I've got my circuit. Gas up the car. Stop at the hardware store for parts to fix The Muse's leaky toilet. Pick up that special roast the coffee shop agreed to make up for me.

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MidLife

MidLife
"A degree of difference, persisted over time and distance, results in a lot of difference …"

By the middle of summer I start to catch on that this season ain't gonna quite turn out the way I'd envisioned it. This recognition should come as no real surprise because 'not turning out as expected' might simply be the nature of things as they've always been and therefore most probably always will be. I still plan ahead, anticipating some facility never before in evidence. I stop near the middle, taking stock of my progress to always find it wanting in some material way. I have even shown myself capable of chewing on myself for failing to achieve whatever it was I'd earlier convinced myself that I would have achieved by now. It all seems such a ridiculous swirl.

I'm not very goal-oriented. I do not now nor have I ever maintained a bucket list. I hold my aspirations rather loosely.

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KnowingBetter

knowingbetter
"Acceptance speaks loudest of all."

What better demonstrates cluelessness than KnowingBetter? I suspect that it's not the knowing that contributes to the sense of cluelessness but the bettering. KnowingBetter seems to set up a sort of competition, a one-up, which easily sours any encounter. The intended betterment encourages a kind of resentment from the one being bettered at, or from the one being battered by the attempted betterment, for no one actually achieves the objective of demonstrating that they KnowBetter. They achieve at best a tentative nomination for inclusion in the Asshole Hall Of Infamy instead, for turning what might have been a collegial sharing of knowledge into a pissing contest.

I've noticed that I feel smarter when in the presence of a genuinely smart person.

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Lieberry

lieberry1
"It's become the Go space on the seemingly otherwise completely built out Monopoly® board …"

When Ben Franklin first proposed the creation of the US Postal Service, the now-humbled post office, he envisioned a strategy for instilling the presence of the federal government in every town and hamlet in what until then had been a divided collection of colonies. The postmaster would be the duly selected representative of that far distant machine which remained otherwise invisible to the average citizen. Over the past thirty years, successive attempts to manage our postal service as though it was the business its founders never intended have left it no better off than any under-inventoried K-mart awaiting closure. What once carried a grave sense of place and authority now holds all the ambience of an ill-maintained men's room. It's still a go-to starting place to receive a raft of government services, but one feels as though you really need to squint hard and use both hands pulling those services to the surface.

As one after another government service has been slight-sized, many needs now go begging.

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Pre-living

Preliving
"The Plan Says rarely qualifies as a good excuse."

I've spent most of my working life so far anticipating futures. I advanced in my career to the point where I was sought after as a teacher of the dark art of projecting useful shadows on far walls. I eventually realized that I paid for every moment I spent planning for any future by forfeiting my present; my presence. I became an acknowledged expert at pre-living life, but remained a rather rank amateur at actually living it.

I believe that I understand that no existence could hope to be complete without balancing some mix of presence and absence, whether that absence be spent in review or anticipation. Obsessing over the past seems somehow equivalent to obsessing about any future,

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CluelessLove

LoveClueless
"I only know it when I feel it."

Many seem to conflate love and like. I'd love to tell you why, but I don't know why. I think, perhaps, I'd really rather like to tell you, but the common idiom insists that I oversell my motivation by insisting that I'd love to tell you. I would if I could but I can't. Perhaps such conflations originate in our inability to properly define the term love. Love fails the noun test—it's clearly neither person, place, nor thing—though everyone uses it as a noun. It seems to be a terribly personal emotion without a specific universal referent. Ask what it's like and you'll receive a flood of profound banality in return. Some say that God is love, which, by The Commutative Law Of Is, means that love is also God. Go figure.

Fall in love and lose your mind, though losing your mind has never been shown to be a clear path to God.

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Democracy

Democracy
"It's messy here, but human."

Democracy seems as if it might be a terrific way to govern the clueless. After centuries of spotty results presuming divine rights and absolute authorities of kings, popes, and potentates, The Founders chiseled out a radical alternative: Hows about we ask The People what they want and focus the government on achieving that? Version 1.0 seems rather crude to our eyes, a couple of centuries and change after the founding of this republic. Version 2.0 seemed better, at least more promising, though some of the new promises faced steep opposition by foot-and knuckle-draggers who struggled with the realities of equal justice for all. They'd apparently become accustomed to unequal justice, where their thumbs weighed more on those revered blind scales of justice.

We're eyes wide open now, I think, ever more closely scrutinizing our intentions against our delivery. We inevitably fall short, though finding that we're still falling short seems a perfectly normal and expected outcome for the avowedly clueless.

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TheFonderHeart

absence3
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

I think of myself as a great proponent of folk wisdoms. They tend to be tricky, though, with unexpected nuance lurking behind what everyone automatically takes for granted by the five thousandth time they've heard it. Absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder, doesn't it? But this chestnut applies to more than separated lovers. I've noticed that the very best moment in the life cycle of any project tends to happen around the very start of the effort, when the outcome still seems glowy and perfect, before the accumulated disappointments and compromises have had their way with the originating big, bright idea. Before emerging knowledge had grounded the balloon. Nearer the end, familiarity tends to have bred considerable contempt, and by then even the early champions would drive a stake through the effort's heart, given half a chance.

TheFonderHeart might prove to be a tell, an indicator of considerable cluelessness.

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AbsentEye

Eyeballs
" …the long-banished philosopher, our long-lost best friend."

About a decade ago, while browsing in The Library of Congress, I happened upon a field of study I'd not previously encountered, The Philosophy of Science. I ordered up a pile of books on the subject to my study desk and over the following weeks, read through several of them. Since Descartes, the philosopher, once one of the principals of scientific enquiry, had been more or less banished from the laboratory in favor of more physically-oriented observers. The practice of I Think, Therefore I Am might be better characterized by the phrase I See, Therefore I Am. The philosopher might bring unseeable into the conversation, muddying otherwise clear inquiry. Heck, the philosopher might rail on about the nature of 'is-ness' itself, seemingly endlessly questioning the very base of observation as the principle tool of enquiry. Objective assessment nudged out the subjective.

I over-simplify, for living, breathing, thinking, actively observing people populated the ranks of science, and so the philosophical never fell too far beneath the surface, like one of those public secrets needing no confirmation or commentary.

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TooMuch

TMInformation
" … either overwhelmed by Too Much Information or underwhelmed by far too little."

Cluelessness carries a paradox. Too little information cannot always be resolved by simply providing more, like water resolves thirst or food, hunger. Too Much Information can induce cluelessness every bit as vacuous as too little. The detailed specification might leave the fabricator overwhelmed. On the other hand, mere rumor probably won't suffice as meaningful instruction, either. The more anal systems analyst might insist upon producing essentially executable pseudo-code while the more cavalier coder prefers to iteratively refactor, no sweet spot seems to exist in the middle of this eternal muddle.

The Bible opts for analogy and metaphor, seeking to induce rather than instruct, but then many insist upon interpreting as if they were not interpreting at all, sticking to the literal meanings as if those weren't interpretations, then blaming the resulting tangles on heresy and worse.

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TheGreatMystery

TheGreatMystery
"Some desires seem best served by being denied their denouement."

Pagans, philosophers, scientists, and poets have been diligently considering TheGreatMystery at least since the beginning of recorded history, and probably much longer. While great progress seems to have been made, our inability to report that we're even close to solving TheGreatMystery might say most about the nature of that mystery. TheGreatMystery persists, perhaps more amused by our machinations than informed by them. Competing theories seem to simply thicken the plot.

I greatly admire the Jewish Talmudic tradition, where sacred texts are endlessly studied and discussed with the intention of gaining greater insight but without the expectation that TheGreatMystery encoded there might ever be resolved.

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Deception

sleepingdogs
"If I deceive myself, and I do, how inhuman would it be to exclude you from my grand Deception?"

I consider myself a fundamentally honest person, perhaps because my many false pretenses have migrated into spaces I rarely ever think about anymore. I doubt that even I know the truth about myself now, if I ever did. I question what utility complete authenticity might buy me. I am not quite what I appear to be. Confessing just how deceptive my appearances might be seems to offer little utility for anyone. I'm not sitting on a murder most foul, committed in passionate insanity, but where should I draw the line? As a somewhat public persona, I studied the arts of clever projection. I understand that appearances matter and that people tend to judge harshly when their unconscious expectations get disappointed. For appearances' sake, I deceive, and quite deliberately.

Some forms of cluelessness seem absolutely benign, unlikely to wound anyone involved.

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Telling

telling
"My elementary school teachers unwittingly taught me that Nobody Can Tell Nobody Nuthin' …"

I hold the firm conviction that nobody can tell nobody nuthin'. In this case, the double negative works both ways, and I fully intend it to carry the apparently contradictory message. Part of the phrase insists that nobody can tell anyone else anything. The other, that one cannot ever fail to communicate something when trying to tell another something. Pundits persist, though, trying to convince the dedicatedly disbelieving. I believe that they fall into a shallow cognitive trap when thinking that they might hold the power to clue in others. Though their words are unlikely to be interpreted in any way they anticipate, so thick the membrane protecting people from unexpected information, they (we!) persist.

Our elementary school teachers might have taught us something, demonstrating a curious superpower whenever they'd call on us to respond to their trick question with a simple response while the whole danged class watched.

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EmotionalIntelligence

emotionalintelligence
"Our spontaneity IS our superpower."

I decided to write about Cluelessness because I'm not that bright, myself. I often feel stumped enough to conclude that I might justifiably claim that I'm not quite bright enough to qualify as not that bright. The Muse insists that I complicate my life by over-thinking it. I can appear aloof and dismissive even when I try to appear engaged and inclusive. I read others poorly, which means, in my experience, I read others about as well as they read me. Being a cypher to myself, being misread by someone else fails to very deeply disturb me. I figure that some things aren't really meant to be read.

I've delved into several self-assessment instruments, managing to keep a straight face through most of my delving.

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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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Up-Out

up&out
"tomorrow will deliver a fresh faced opening in the turmoil"

I have no more than an hour each day I can call my own. Though I might spend most of every day alone, save for Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat's ever watchful eye, only that brief time really feels as though it completely belongs to me. Just after sunrise, I'm the only one moving. The yappy neighbor dogs still snooze. Even the freeway across the gulch fairly whispers at that hour. The Times hasn't yet arrived. The Muse wraps herself in emphatic covers, sucking every second out of her last hour of sleep. I've been up puttering for over an hour by then and feeling restless.

I step outside to immerse myself in the moist, cool stillness. Even in the middle of a heatwave, that early morning hour caresses. I'm up and just have to get out.

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Entrope

entrope
"I could swear that an early summer morning is more eternal and more designed than a statistically accidental convergence …"

Things fall apart. More than ninety percent of stuff purchased today will be discarded as garbage within a month. Everything displayed within the BIG box store has the same destination. Energy, while conserved, is also more or less continuously disbursed into higher forms of entropy: heat, wind, tidal motion, photosynthesis; each further disbursing energy until indistinguishable, unmeasurable. We retain memories of lower forms of entropy and hardly sense the higher forms. What's here today continues its inexorable run, each tree temporarily suspended between seedling and dust. Nothing ever stays the same.

We speak of change as though it were the exception rather than the continuous norm.

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TheThirdPerson

eyeinthesky
" … you might as just well be mumbling."

Me, myself, and I never considered becoming a trio, for we are one and the same perspective using three different names. I can describe you, from my perspective, and you, me, from yours, each fulfilling the role of second person, like a back-up. Me and my shadow have always been two distinct entities, speaking not as one but as opposites. While me, myself, and I speak from personal experience, like me and you do, explicitly owning the perspective we share, my shadow, whom I refer to as TheThirdPerson, exclusively speaks as though he were not there. Instead of proclaiming that he saw something, he hints that something was seen, leaving nothing more than an innuendo of ownership behind. Product descriptions and scholarly papers read as though nobody wrote them, an anonymous voice mouthing hollowed-out phrases.

Such writing works far more effectively than knock-out pills.

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CluelessCookery

questionmarkpan
" … by the last guest's departure, I will have somehow managed to have done it again."

The night before, sleep won't come. My mind had become a nattering checklist ticking off items while I tossed and turned. The Muse had invited twenty or thirty, more or less, over for a supper the following evening and I, as usual, assumed my proper role as cook. The "Pork Shoulder Butt Roast" had been soaking in its sou vide bath for a day and a half, to be finished off over a slow, smoky hickory fire the following day. Two chickens were marinating in lemon/herb d'provence goop. A whole steelhead fillet waited attention in the cold corner of the fridge. Two dozen San Marzano tomatoes and a couple of Vidalia sweets were queued up, destined for salsa. A hearty half dozen different beers hovered in the garage, awaiting ice. I would be prepping all the following day.

I think it axiomatic that all great work emerges from some annoying disadvantage, sleep deprivation most common and cluelessness not unknown. No well-rested adventurer ever achieved anything, only the stupidly yawning, painfully limping, and disturbingly impaired even need apply.

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Besting

blessed1
"I could have had plenty good enough, but dug in my danged heels insisting upon The Best instead."

Nothing better encourages the human comedy than the concept of best. Whenever it enters a conversation, meaning flees to be replaced by abstraction. Ask someone to recommend The Best place for dinner and they might provide an opinion. Take that advice and you'll learn to question their perspective in the future. Many companies self-proclaim themselves to be The Best. Some rating agency, that is, a company in the business of absolutely discerning The Best, will publish their annual top ten best places to work list. If you'd ever worked inside any of those places, you'd deeply question the findings. Our search for best might be inbred, instinctive, but innate capacity does little to inoculate against the resulting obvious cluelessness.

Best exists as a comparator, not an absolute designation.

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Rumors

saltspiral
"Maybe I could blame the sugar high."

Before any truth becomes substantiated, it seems to exist in tentative suspension, a rumor-like state awaiting validation. Most of us don't hardly wait. Screw the grain of salt, we're wide open and suggestible. We believe what attracts our ear and reject what repels it. The freshest news seems to ache for echoing. By the time it's become fully validated, it's already anchoring the fifteenth page of the Times. The cover screams for attention. We rarely see the back pages where the details emerge.

It seems that those most up on the breaking news exude a particularly clever kind of cluelessness.

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SecurelyClueless

securityline
"I live close to home …"

I cope with living in the Greater Denver/Front Range region by mentally cordoning off parts of it. Early on, as we explored the area, I silently swore to myself that I would thereafter make it my business to ensure that I would never return to this or that neighborhood or town. I could not have explained exactly why some places failed to pass muster, and I'm uncertain if I even now could explain my exclusion process, but I've come to realize that I'd roughly marked off what I would think of as "my" territory. I would never have to learn about or overly concern myself with any of the area outside of my selected territory, for I would maintain it as more than simply unfamiliar, but unknowable. I would remain clueless about them.

Most of the Denver Metro area now lies within my temporal no-man's land.

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TooClued

rtoo-many-clues_shop_preview
"I generally find that I can well afford to continue with my cluelessness …"

I sometimes use the term Clueless to mean the opposite of its denotive meaning. I can certainly seem clueless because of an obvious lack of clues, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by a rather un-obvious abundance of them, especially subtle ones. In retrospect, by gazing into my rearview mirror (the one where things sure do appear to be a whole lot closer than they are), I finally register what seems like should have been obvious before, when I wandered as if clueless when merely unable to see forest for the proliferation of trees. I believe that clueless only rarely means an absolute absence of clues, but rather a curious inability to winnow them down into any immediately useful form. I focus upon foreground when the real story's unfolding in background or I'm simply not paying close enough attention, or even too close of attention.

When I observe another wallowing in obvious cluelessness, I often wonder how it could be that they cannot see all the feedback trying to inform them. The inability seems willful.

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SelfDeception

Fields
"I've been deceiving myself through the worst of it
just hoping to make the best of this someday …"

I will excuse you if you mistakenly conclude that I know what I'm doing here. I have been what I consider fairly diligent in my pursuit of the various masteries of life, but I know without even delving very deeply down that I've yet to realize my aspirations. Decades ago, I quite deliberately chose to just get on with my life rather than wait around for any mastery to appear. I was aching to get moving and not so much impatient, for I'd idled a considerable time, but disgusted with inaction. This decision brought with it the apparent necessity of deceiving myself, for my sense of being an imposter could otherwise overwhelm me. I proceeded as if I were capable when I knew with certainty that I wasn't, not yet.

I still don't know how else one might pursue mastery without beginning that pursuit long before having achieved what one pursues.

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UnintendedConsequences

"I firmly believe that there's always a pony in there somewhere,
no matter how much horse shit fills the stall."

Because I inhabit a tightly-coupled, deeply inter-related universe with only my sense-making apparatus with which to comprehend, I don't always understand what's going on around me. Or maybe I should say that I too often believe that I understand when I could not possibly understand. My dilemma doesn't make me in any way special, for it seems that each of us inhabits the same (or very similar) tightly-coupled, deeply inter-related universe and we each possess roughly similar sense-making capabilities, so we're all pretty much in the same boat. Sure, we each consider someone a whole lot stupider than us and also a few we consider much smarter, but our senses seem puny when compared with the surrounding universe. Our shared inheritance might be best characterized as Cluelessness. For all we know, all we couldn't possibly know looms far larger around us. Always.

I can't quite bring myself to characterize our native Cluelessness as in any way a problem. It's just the way it is, and it brings with it certain advantages as well as disadvantages.

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