Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Current State of Affairs


"...henceforward want nothing but a cup of good wine, a good bed, my back to the fire, my belly to the table, and a good deep dish..."

Rabelais, Fran├žois. “Gargantua and Pantagruel, Illustrated, Book 1

I prefer to characterize the simplification of life as not a reduction but rather a distillation - more than a mere diminution but instead a refinement. The process is not so much a downgrading as a perfection (though the etymology of reduce - reducere - extends to "bring back, restore" which is more positive than depletion). Filtering at least captures the extraction of essential meaning or important aspects.

The inescapable glamour of simplification is that it makes things easier to grasp. This is not a rhetorical device to be dismissed.  My experience is that a simple rendition is among the most grinding to achieve. Its clarity derives not from its failure to be cryptic but rather its success in being digestible. Consider for example my late father's explanation why large automobile tires make for a smoother ride.  He said, "Take an extreme example - say a 2" wheel. If the vehicle passes over a hole, it would sink into it. If however the wheel were 20" in diameter, it would roll over the hole!" This illustrates the broader appeal of simplification which extends things beyond "dumbing down" and that is communicability, the ability to share. In a world at times so complex, anything which makes wisdom and knowledge more palpable is good. Very often the answer is so-called basics. And make no mistake, there is always an answer. We were not born with a sign at the door proclaiming, "You can't get there from here!"

Ironically it is sometimes the lack of definition which affords the clearest analysis - the big picture, so to speak. Certainly part of the insight is the identification of fundamental needs. The challenge is to acquaint oneself with those pertinent to oneself, not the larger demographic. I have illustratively chosen "bike, jewellery, compass and clothes", a neat metaphor for my pressing affections (or perhaps I should say, affectations). The exceedingly diverse fabric of our being as it surfs across the sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy surface of events is far more intelligible if its necessities are reduced to plain-speaking manifestations (many of which might easily be linked to the traditional five senses of touch, taste, sight, sound and smell). Each person's incarnation of those stimuli will obviously be different but seldom incomprehensible. We need only believe what we see (or hear or touch or taste or smell) to know what it is of which we are a compound - our current state of affairs - and thereby achieve that state of refreshment which permits traction and fulfillment to which we are each entitled.

A further significant recognition is that the current state of affairs for any of us is occasionally marred - if indeed not perpetually so - by annoyances of one degree or another. Lest these constant eruptions are permitted to contaminate a more favourable condition we must learn to disentangle them as well. The world is seen through but one end of the scope and its entire contents require identical clarity. We cannot choose to extract essence from one but not the other; and in both - or all - cases the refinement will allow similar illumination.

Again hearkening to my late father’s technique of choosing an extreme example to make a simple point, even Queen Victoria had problems. That state unfortunately is also part of everyone’s reality whether simplified or complicated. The perception of its import and bearing does however ultimately reside in our own mind - especially the choice we make as to the extent of its application, whether overwhelming or understood. The atmosphere is ultimately as toxic or as clear as we allow it to be - no matter how changeable. There is but one constant in this reality - and that is us.  There is no reason to dispute a meaningful - and agreeable - state of affairs. It is the only control we have notwithstanding its possible suggestion of bloodymindedness. This doesn't imply life is a picnic but neither is it a shitstorm.

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