Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the curse of context as compensatory device

I have this affliction called alternate extropia. (I have no idea how to spell it, and I'm loath to consult Wikipedia lest I find out stuff I don't want to know.) It boils down to this: I only look out of one eye at a time. Hence, I have zero depth perception. I parallel park by instinct. I have to guess, based on experience of velocity and angle, where the tennis ball is likely to come down.

I remember biology lab, looking at cells through one eye or the other. I never got that 3-D peek at life, up close. The thing that's right in front of me? I'm never sure what it really looks like and where it truly is. But I'm really, really apt at context. Ergo, if you'll take this leap with me, I have a wee bit of trouble staying in the moment. Everything is assessed for its potential for inclusion in the masterpiece, at the expense of its value in and of itself.

This come-to-Jesus weekend I had with Laura…it became clear that we both lament the speed of expectation, the feeling of never being caught up. That to survive, one must multi-task—not just a few things at a time, but everything. One must carry upon oneself, at any point in time, all the things of a given day. A masterpiece on our backs, laden with heavy frame and thick oil paint and the musty odor of the ages. That's the myth, anyway.

I feel as though I have to actively practice an antidote to this madness. Dismiss the intrusion of context. Practice multi-tasking with just two things, instead of seventeen. Sort of like weaning myself off of coffee by mixing in the decaf portion by portion. Like now. I'm writing, listening to Lucinda Williams. Two things. No checking e-mail, no lining up the client work, no mowing the lawn, starting the laundry, scrubbing last night's salsa from the kitchen floor.

Going back to the eye affliction. When I was eight years old, a scary eye doctor made me wear a patch over one eye and look through prisms in an attempt to cure me. He was trying to get my individual eyes to strengthen so they wouldn't take turns checking out when they were part of a team. Alas, it didn't work. But maybe I can revisit that experiment with other parts of me—see if the parts can be strengthened in and of themselves by detaching from context for a while.

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