The New Improved Same As Before

Harry Drabik

I should probably confess having an oversize enjoyment of word play. If diddling with words was a candied delight my instinct would point me at the largest piece able to be accommodated on a plate. But was I to confess such a thing I couldn’t include a “weight off the shoulders” relief of a fitting admission of guilt. For guilt to be present there needs to be what was once called contrition but is now somewhat rare and comes out as mild regret, something I begin to see as a new manner of guilt in a pathetic weakened form. I prefer, if I’m required to take a position, real guilt proudly held to the sort of wishy-washy miasma of regret for nearly everything that comes our way. “Oh, if I’d only known to be born at a different time with a different biology and culture I’d be OK.” As regrets go one such as that is of more than ordinary uselessness. When regret is forced on us I think it breeds false contrition that results when others are attempting to direct and guide us with the much used implement of hypocrisy.

When it comes to the foibles of self or others I find the prime thing is to have fun with it and not be caught in the sticky web of seriousness where a person becomes caught gloating over a silk shrouded corpse serving an unending but ever bitter meal. Do I have an example? Well maybe I do. – Quite long ago my mother suffered a peculiar accident never commented on because we all knew better. Even the cats declined to purr over that one; an incident of uncommon qualities. Mother was on her way to a completely legitimate winter time errand when a freakish occurrence sent her car skimming off the road like a skipping stone. She flitted (somewhat miraculously when examined later) past one power pole into a wide shallow ditch sloping gently toward water where the spinning car slowed to a halt upright, facing backward, with rear wheels a few feet from the wet. It was an unexplainable accident that her car simply skipped off the roadway at that particular place just at the end of a broad curve. No one could think of a reason for such an event. Mother would shake her head trying to find an explanation for which there could be none voiced.

Except for the officer and tow truck driver familiar with such things any mention of speed or speeding was left out. We at home shook our heads and agreed with mother “No, no, speed was not a factor” in a mysterious event that put her undamaged car at the maw of disaster. Our role as family was to act as mystified as if mother had found the image of The Virgin in a pat of butter only to see it dissolve away on a stack of pancakes. There are, after all, forces and things outside human control. For the sake of general peace there were things more important than objective facts. A heavy sedan would not have skipped and skimmed as did a flat bottomed 356 C Porsche. Like a skimming stone it left the end of the arc in a classic launch the officer and tow operator knew from having seen other vehicles in similar straits at that location. We who knew better the peace that needed to be maintained kept any thoughts to ourselves and sided with mother about the freakishness of the accident and potential unfairness of an increased insurance rate as a result. (As the underage driver it was by right my job to fill that slot, one both parents took over getting numerous speeding citations in the 356 that driving a 52 military Jeep I was unable to get.)

Some things simply don’t seem to change. A person could go tilting at Quixote windmills and not accomplish a thing. The wind will blow and sails at sea or ashore will respond accordingly. It is not the stuff of constructive comment, ah but it can be fun to observe the ardent seriousness of a windmill tilter. I know one who is conscientious in rejecting any form of religious superstition, meaning essentially anything bordered on faith. I’m fine with that. Belief is, after all, damned difficult to hold and for a great many it is in no way necessary for them to do so. The funny part to me is that at mention of anything that might on any oblique be seen in some way as aligned with patriarchy it’s as if Beelzebub has been called up and evil spirits been set loose. Use of the right words and incantations are required same as one of my severe old aunts got when the social sin of mixed marriage or out of marriage pregnancy was mentioned. A careful person can argue on observation or fact all they wish and still run against a bulwark of pre-arrived conclusion. There goes the 356 spin-jigging toward the water and we discount the element of speed same as we’re expected to nod agreeably about other somewhat shaky propositions. If patriarchy is bad does that make matriarchy better or perhaps anarchy? If the nod goes to one gender that implies recognition of superiority on one side of something that’s supposed in current thought to either not matter or be of equal matter. I wonder how big an improvement it is simply to swap around one’s biases. Favoring this over that is favoritism; useful to calculated thinking as saying all beliefs are equal except the ones we disagree with and want to silence.

Anyway, it amuses me to see the spirit of a long deceased relative reanimated in a fresh shroud of unfaltering belief. It saddens me to think of the ages of desert dwellers denied the lifesaving benefits of fish oil in their diets and all the uncounted tundra dwellers who passed on without the benefit of kale to sustain them. The unfairness of life is more than I can list. Yet on we struggle.