Friday, June 28, 2013

The Importance of Being Inconstant

A foolish consistency, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, is the hobgoblin of little minds, to which I reply, yes, but…

Who among us doesn’t love his hobgoblins? Shakespeare had his Mid-Summer’s Puck. Where was Waldo when I needed him to remind me of my foolish consistency?

Back in the day when I knew everything life seemed so ordered. True or false. Natural or synthetic. Wars and ballgames were either won or lost. It was a matter of life or death to solve or resolve life’s puzzlements. Elementary, my dear whatshisname. If this, then that. Follow those breadcrumbs and step on it.

Now, I reserve the right to be wrong. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I agree with myself. On Tuesday and Thursday I’m not so sure. On weekends a third possibility pops up. Context changes.

Enter my hobgoblins. They leadeth me away from still waters. I wouldn’t have it otherwise. They have a nose for trouble and are faintly subversive. Catechism is consistent. Poetry is not. Astonishments are inconsistent. So are epiphanies and punch lines:

Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup/ It looks like the backstroke to me, sir.

Life is dissonant. Bring on the improv as in jazz or conversation, a Charlie Parker riff, the blurt, the flaw or mishagoss. The speckled banana is a narrative. The second banana with needless glasses and secret voice becomes first banana when the star slips on a banana peel.  Segues are turning to non-sequiturs. The sudden swerve in the road that takes me through a eucalyptus grove. The unscripted line when the phone doesn’t ring on cue.

The step by step argument leads to nowhere as in the cartoon of the construction worker building a staircase on a high rise and calling down, Escher, get your ass up here.

Before GPS we had maps in our glove compartments. They were carefully folded, like a well-conceived argument, into equal rectangles. Open them up and trace your journey. Then simply re-fold the paper according to the creases. Simply? Count me among those who struggled to restore the folds to their original flat, neat consistency. My hobgoblin won’t allow me. With the energy expended in the effort I could have written a blog.

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