Sunday, January 28, 2018

Clearing the Air

How do controversies arise?  Friends and lovers are abruptly at one another's throats! You'd think to hear them they had nothing in common. But considering the global nature of the remarks - introductory statements such as, "You always..." - it is reasonable to assume that the malignancy has been festering.  What often astounds the recipient of the opening volley is that the same invective might as easily have been directed to the other!  The squabble quickly descends into a full blown snowball fight, tit for tat.

I can't honestly say that I have learned to engage in these rows with maturity.  In fact a childish sandbox wrangle would more closely describe the unfolding war of words.  Subsequently - usually after the combatants have separated like pugilists in a ring - there frequently follows an unqualified determination to bale and erase every nexus of association one with the other. This heated reaction may in time give way to general misery not aimed at one or the other. But the charity to excuse the other is markedly lacking.  Eventually it all becomes too tarsome to perpetuate the anxiety - especially as by then one has completely forgotten what was initially at stake or even who said what exactly.

It is then that it occurs that the storm was a passing one only, maybe only the consequence of unrelated personal disturbances (which might be as inconsequential as lack of sleep or a morsel of undigested beef). By degrees we come around to making up and reminding ourselves that we care for one another - but what a dreary task it is!  It all seems so superfluous and ill-spent.  Yet it is demonstrably in aid of clearing the air.  No amount of counsel to "say what you feel" comes even close to the velitation required to animate the subject.  Though it is a rude metaphor, it's rather like an abrupt fart - unpleasant but relieving.  And the related matter of clearing the air is apt!

Animals - humans included - prefer their habits. A skirmish in the burrow seldom signals a desire for complete overhaul though certainly it establishes boundaries. As everyone knows, proximity is both a blessing and a burden. Apart from the utility of companionship (a pragmatism which frankly fails to compete with current emotional upheaval) it is remarkable how willing the disputants are to abandon previous alliances. What strengthens the sinews of friendship and love is seldom related to the substance of the original divisiveness.  Instead we seek to return our associations to equilibrium.  It is our natural inclination to seek balance. Unless one is completely frivolous - and assuming the grounds for disagreement are as clouded as a smokey room - there is seldom anything to elevate the points on one side or another of an argument.  The paradox is that the extraordinary volatility of a relationship only increases with its longevity.  Short-term relationships usually turn on a dime and the disintegration is normally irreversible and as quickly disregarded.  But a long-standing liaison admits to far more complicated adversity.  Shades and shadows of meaning are liberally imported to attempt to define an otherwise impossible difference of opinion.  The only workable resort is to jettison one's petty assertions and attempt to right the ship.

Whether it is purely a literary technique I cannot say, but I am reminded of the endurance of obnoxious behaviour promoted in "Rumpole of the Bailey".  Horace Rumpole unfailingly referred to his determined wife Hilda as "She Who Must Be Obeyed" and responded obediently to her every demand with, "Yes, Dear!".  Though Horace Rumpole clearly had his talents it is not beyond imagination that his financial uncertainties and legal descensions to the criminal classes (not to mention his love of "plonk" and "cheroots") would be unsettling for the more business-minded partner. The tug of war which persisted between Horace and Hilda was nonetheless always marked by unspoken affection.  Though it may be purely figurative it is yet compelling.  The overwhelming absorption of star-crossed lovers happily gives way to the less contentious alliance of soulmates.

Old fogeys have their personal foibles and customs.  Living out those sometimes less than respectable  preoccupations can be disturbing to others close by.  But whenever bickering ensues between the parties it is invariably better to clear the air and get back to doing what one prefers. There is no value in pretending to ignore or side-step the occasional heated discussion anymore than there is to imagine singularity of ambition.  I have always maintained that any relationship worth its salt comes with such baggage and diversity.  But likewise it is equally salubrious to wipe aside the complaints and clear the air.  Oddly I am hard pressed to apply an asterisk to this universal truth.  Perhaps the qualification (if any) built into these altercations is their redemption; that is, only the deepest affection can prompt commensurate obloquy.  Certainly not every relationship has the corresponding features.

When at last one has relinquished the misguided need to make a point or to take a stand it is convenient to lapse into old customs, private dreams and whimsical permutations.  The hardship of life is mandatory production and interfering discord, perhaps succeeded only by obligatory management of one's affairs.  These preoccupations separate us from idle contemplation and appreciation of nature, both significantly without stipulation or expense.  Such is the privilege of clearing the air!

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