I just had one of those conversations. You know the kind. The sort that leave you pissed off after the fact to a point where you keep replaying it.
Is anyone actually grateful for what they have? My whole conversation, bordering on argument was with one of those people who want me to grateful for what I have and contrast my current situation with how bad it could be. That has always seemed to me to be utter bullshit.
In the story of the little mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen, not the Disney tripe), she chose to live upon the land and walks each day as upon sharp knives to the shore where she looks longingly at the sea. This is meant, I suppose to illustrate that we must live with the consequences of our choices. It seems to me that it also illustrates that even in a "good" situation (she got what she wanted after all) good remains a relative term.
I am reminded that I have a house, an income, enough to eat, and my family with me. Am I grateful? Certainly. Is that sufficient to my happiness? No. Why do people persist in telling me that my sore feet are not nearly as bad as being flayed alive? If I had only those two alternatives, I would joyfully choose sore feet. I would still complain that my feet are sore.
Asked to name those conditions that would be required for me to be happy, I am hard pressed to list other than those four things mentioned before. What more is really required? I might plead that I need a purpose in life, security, a companion, or some sort of intellectual abstraction of contentment in the form of vocation or avocation, freedom, options, or liberty but I don't really feel that those are things which can be supplied, they must be supplied by oneself. Who else can give your life purpose without making of you a foil? What security is there that is not obtained by yourself in that anyone else's efforts might in some fashion someday become suspect? What options may be given you without suspicion of others withheld or ulterior motive in the gift? What is liberty defined by any mind but your own?
Why have I cause to be so unhappy? I'm not so unhappy. I'm unhappy. Things are not going well. I can hear my sons laughing at me when I say that I need to feel the ability to influence my surroundings. They would have me replace "influence" with "control" for the sake of honesty. I plead nolo contendere as I have had that argument a myriad times in as many circumstances and never convinced anyone else that my need is to be able to influence rather than to control or to be able to control. I'll ride the toboggan in the second seat as long as I can lean into the curves with you. Tie me to the damned thing and send me downhill, even with a skilled driver, and I will be unhappy.
I blame my inability to influence for my unhappiness. The major issues in my life are beyond my influence.
- Social Security Disability
- Returning to work
- My family
- My income
- My social life
Social Security Disability. I'm told the first application is always turned down and that if I were to receive this it will only be on appeal. I am utterly unable to do anything about this. The most I can do is to hire a lawyer and hope he is capable of influence. Working by proxy makes me unhappy.
Returning to work. This is utterly beyond me at this point. I can only phone and ask, "Yet?" I don't know what factors will work to return me to the workplace and which will work against me. I have no means of finding these out and have not even a proxy these days to represent me in the process. I must rely upon my superiors and in the HR departments involved. Asked if I cannot trust these people, I responded "Trust them to do what?" I trust them to do their duties according to the rules and procedures laid down by our mutual employer, and by their own lights, with fairness and equanimity. But what are their ideas on the subject? What do the procedures say? These are unknowable. They are, at the least, unknowable by me. I will not relate to you a conversation of some years ago with an HR rep reference to a student of mine, but on asking for a copy of the procedures governing the issue at hand that such were not written down and if written down were not obtainable. I suspect that most HR organizations in big companies propagate procedures and policies by oral tradition. I know that so it was in most departments in which I worked. In addition the phrase "That is a policy" is semantically equal, in most conversations, with "I will have no further conversation on this topic, this is the fashion in which I have decided to screw you." Mind you, I am not making any assertions nor predictions of anyone's behavior. I merely react based upon the observations of past behavior of others accreted over the years of my life.
Accretion an. - (ak-krshn)
- 1. Growth or increase in size by gradual external addition, fusion, or inclusion.
- 2. Something contributing to such growth or increase.
I thought it wise to define the word as it's precise meaning and the instance of it's use caused the mighty digression that I will relate upon the completion of my list.
My family. My mother's health and that of my sister are quite beyond my competence to manage nor can I see any sanity in undertaking to acquire such competence. My own health seems to be beyond my control.
My income. I could control my income. The price is too high. Until I know what is going to happen at work and with the whole disability situation, the prospect of looking for a new job, possibly in a new profession, at my age, in my state of health, with all the dependencies on me, is at the very least daunting.
My social life. *smirk* I'll say nothing about this except you come to Jefferson City and try to get a date being driven around by my sister.
Now as to that "accretion" remark. My correspondent took exception to my statement that life was an ongoing process not of accretion but of diminution or perhaps circumfusion.
By this I maintain that we lose things throughout our lives not gain them thus becoming less as we proceed to our end and not growing toward that point. I must state some assumptions or perhaps stipulations. In response to the assertion that our experience and our worth thereby accretes for as long as we live giving us ever more value as we grow I reply that this is true. It varies in extreme degrees from man to man (and all you feminists get off my fucking back the masculine gender includes the feminine in speaking and that rule of grammar has not been repealed) and based upon circumstances. I further assert that the accretion of experience in no way implies increase in wisdom or sagacity. The old fool who is proverbially peerless ("There's no fool like an old fool") is so common as to be, to wit, proverbial. Likewise, I will concede that material possessions accrete throughout one's life but insist that they are typically, if not quite universally, squandered.
Now to my assertion that our lives are more typified by circumfusion than accretion Is it not true that as children we are possessed of a potential greater than at any other point in our lives? Our every choice, our every experience narrows our lives, limits that potential, turns the course of the stream of our lives to ever narrower ducts and through ever straiter gates. Is not the imagination of every child pared away and diminished by the delimitations of a broader and deeper understanding of the workings of the world? Do not our very aspirations, our hopes and fancies become delimited by those who came before us and decant from the hogsheads of their knowledge the most plebeian brew for our edification, instruction, and containment for our management? Does not every accretion of experience and knowledge more clearly define, and more narrowly, our options?
I maintain that our progress through life is one from potentiality to impotence. I feel this strongly in my current state but I suspect that this does little more than to color my thoughts, not to direct them. In all things our lives break down into simplistic divisions as follows. There is that which we can do and that which we cannot. By this I mean there are those things which we are able to do and those which we are not able to do. Within the subset of those things we can do we find those things that we will do and will not. Will, in this context, I take as meaning that which we are willing do or which we want to do. Within this latter set we find ourselves constrained by those things which we may and may not do. The implication of permission in "may" may is intentional as I refer here to the rule of law, of convention, and even of the "social contract" as limiting factors. A final division therein is that of those things which we choose, which themselves provide the delimiting parameters of subsequent choice to a greater or lesser degree depending on circumstance, the grand arbiter of all these divisions.
Within the sets of options mentioned above we find ourselves diminished continually as we progress through our years. Children enjoy a freedom of imagination and behavior that they surrender as they grow. Youths are prone to acts and thoughts that they surrender to become adults and those shed fancy after conceit after wish as they approach their maturity. The things of maturity, attained, begin to be shed as we progress toward our age and our dotage.
And so, O world which holds me a stranger and ever an outcast in its jaded and jaundiced eye I give to you the words of the bard.
By the way, thank you Good Friend To Whom This Is Addressed for arguing with me and still being my friend for over 40 years. Argument (in the sense of an apology) is rare in the world and almost unheard of in my life. I contend though, that however rare that commodity, I am possessed of a greater bounty of it than any other known to me. This gift to me by you (and by certain of my sons) makes it a thing for which I must be and a thing for which I am grateful."I beg cold comfort, and you are so strait, and so ingrateful, you deny me that."