Friday, December 7, 2018

Idle Reflection

I am a shameful creature of habit (a classic bore I am sure made all the more offensive by my wackadoo commitment to its endless reiteration).  Mid-afternoon each day - following my morning routine of restorative ablutions, a predominantly protein breakfast (ham, eggs and American cheese), strong black coffee and bicycling - I collapse on a chaise longue by the pool and allow my mind to reflect idly upon what I've contemplated throughout the prior three hours, always stimulated by the burnishing rays, dry heat and changing sounds of the Gulf of Mexico. It is a summary exercise which frankly seldom succeeds to do anything more than repeat tiresomely what I have thought time and again. I nonetheless persist in what I choose to fashion an investigative analysis with possible improving consequences (also highly unlikely).

In spite of the inutility of the philosophic undertaking it pleases me to regurgitate the euphoria of the vernacular in which my carcass prevails after a questionable 70 years of effort. Broadly speaking - which is to say the definition of accomplishment is essentially irrelevant - I'm alive and kicking on a barrier island which for whatever reason captured my imagination a year ago and established a barometer by which I proposed to measure my achievement.  I say this because the theme of this morning's deliberations as I bicycled beneath the Ficus trees along the shaded paths adjacent Gulf of Mexico Drive was "What are you trying to prove?"

Though of course I mustn't imagine that others are disposed to consider the same things that animate me in particular, I suspect I am safe in saying that most people occasionally estimate their success, whether for example as students or in business or as a parent or a friend. I recognize that there are those of more far-reaching perception who utterly dismiss such assessment, preferring instead to adopt the not objectionable standard, "I am what I am" (axiomatic but still persuasive). I on the other hand regularly find myself lapsing into a degree of debate - or at the very least moderate self-incrimination - about what exactly I've done for the past seven decades.  There can be a shred of advantage to throwing some light on the past. But once again the more assured consequence is that reflection (as the word implies) simply bounces the light back without absorption. The collateral fallout is a diminution reminiscent of Ecclesiastes ("everything is meaningless"). Inevitably - depending on the weather and whether one has recently had a relieving bowel movement - materialism and status of almost any scope are less than sustaining (though I confess I am not yet fully prepared to abandon the uncertain allure of trinkets and a chilled martini).  But other than that I am satisfied to exchange the strength of human ambition for the natural phenomena of the Universe (which I suppose is just another way of saying nothing really matters).

But things do matter. While it may not matter that one is young or old, thin or fat, rich or poor, famous or unknown, here or there or this or that, it certainly does matter how one feels during the day. And I am reminded of the provocation of a former acquaintance of mine (who as proof of her intelligence told me the way to get drugs from a policeman is to sleep with him) pointedly told me to be particularly honest as I left the room. The thrust and legitimacy of private admissions depend entirely upon their unqualified rendition.  There is no room for translation or refinement or interpretation. If however one's understanding is confounded by those attempts at expression, the easier resolution is not to deny their significance but rather to ignore them altogether. The bitter truth is that no amount of navel gazing will resolve the paradoxes of humanity.  Better instead to accept the complication and move on - which may nicely remove not only the conclusion, but specifically a possibly wrong one. We are deceiving ourselves to pretend to know the motives which propel either us or others. Clearly we'll continue to harbour a view of either, but the safer and less onerous bearing is to ignore the pretence and focus instead upon having a nice day. Labeling is at best chicanery.

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