Thursday, September 26, 2013

Taking Stock

It was just after 4:00 a.m. this morning when I got out of bed. I wanted to get a jump on the day. The first matter on the agenda (after pointedly having wound all four mechanical clocks in the house) was to drive my new car to Stittsville. There I would put it through the touch-less car wash for which I have a season’s pass entitling me to 90 days of washes, once a day. Of equal if not more importance than the exterior maintenance of the vehicle was the driving of the machine to “teach”it my personal driving habits. Two days ago the mechanic completely erased the car’s computer transmission memory. While he didn’t say the tactic was hocus-pocus, neither was he adamant that it would correct the winding-down sound which to date has annoyingly punctuated each gear shift. After listening intently to the sound of the engine during my early morning jaunt today, it is fair to say that although the “condition” has not entirely evaporated, it is certainly within the realm of acceptable tolerance (which admittedly has been lately heightened by my constant preoccupation). I am additionally motivated in this result because there are so many other features of this particular automobile which I relish. Having bought another new car exactly like it no less than ten months ago, I can say with some authority that that this number is a fine specimen of the brand. Not surprisingly no two vehicles perform identically, and I know from experience that when one finally gets a good one, it is wise to attach to it. My recent obsession with this car is due in no small measure to having suffered the cost of trading the first new one three months ago because of recurring transmission problems, only to discover that the replacement vehicle was plagued by yet another distortion. It appears that we are now are the end of that line of trouble. Like any new love affair, new cars come with high expectations, and one forgets that they, like lovers, ultimately have their problems. One must adapt to the idiosyncrasies of the candidate.
One needn’t look far to discover what it is that prevents one from getting a good night’s sleep. There may be some among us who enjoy complete indifference, but I am rather inclined to imagine that the majority of us go to bed with at least one pack upon our back. It is equally likely that most difficulties cannot be resolved in an instant. As persuasive as it is, the argument that the first step towards the resolution of any problem is the identification of it, is not the end of the challenge. This is particularly so where the involvement of others is either imperative or critical. Granted there are instances where we alone are in command of our fortune, but even then an early resolution is not assured. Problems of whatever sort require patience for their harmonic progression.

For the past several days we have enjoyed wall-to-wall sunshine and relatively warm temperatures. Every day this week I have ridden my trusty cruiser to and from work. The talk on the street is that the fine weather is contributing to an alleviation of the malaise which has recently paralyzed the economy. It is of course arguable that something as inconsequential as the weather would affect the current of our lives, but I think it is safe to say it has an influence, just as it affects all other living creatures. Combined with the culmination of other national and international events, the prospects for the future are at least less constrained than previously. The scope of activity appears to have widened. It may however require some further time to flush the system of the congestion. At moments like this one must remind oneself of all that is good, what it is that testifies to the quality of one’s abilities even though they may currently lack employment.

Periods of “correction” (to use the vernacular of trade) invariably seem more enduring than they are in fact. This applies to both personal and commercial adjustments in life. If the internet and email have taught us anything it is to expect instantaneous response, not exactly the most useful of life’s lessons. So often we prefer to have a lot going on, even though nothing is happening. It is after all less absorbing (though perhaps more demanding) to have to contemplate inactivity and silence. Nonetheless one must at times face the need for forbearance, like it or not. Given a reasonably healthy outlook, there are frequently advantages to down-time. How easy it is to neglect the value of that magic feeling, having nowhere to go. Speaking for myself, after twenty-one years of study and thirty-five years of working, I have at least the privilege of supposing that I am entitled to some degree of inactivity now and again. Granted I would prefer the industry for which I am trained, but taking stock and a portion of navel gazing is not without its worth.

A memorable line from Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” was the description of one of his less likeable characters as having all his affairs in “apple pie order” (though I understand the expression may have originated in Pasley’s “Private Sea Journals” in 1780 - “Their persons clean and in apple-pie order on Sundays”). Whatever the derivation the reference is to virtue, albeit finicky, meant to capture an ideal standard of achievement, though it often succeeds only to solemn and respectable mediocrity. I am quite aware of my tendency towards such empty superiority. Nonetheless it placates my serious-mindedness and permits me to establish temporary dominion over my soul.

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