Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The moment suspicion elbows in front of you in the cafeteria line of reality, trust and optimism have suffered setbacks. By its very definition, suspicion evokes pictures of police line-ups, of persons of interest being displayed so that a potential miscreant in their midst might be identified. Suspicion is the fly in the ointment, the fox in the chicken coop, the awareness of and dread response to something gone wrong. It is the herald of the fall, the serpent in the garden, and hell, why not, the snake in the grass.

Things that seem too good to be true generally are in fact too good to be true; along comes suspicion with the notion that things are not as good as they seem, that there is a worse result than the one already planned for. Suspicion is the gut fear that the tab, when presented to you for payment, is going to be more than you bargained for; it is the sickening sensation that there is yet more to come when you believe you have met and gotten into bed with Rock Bottom.

Suspicion is the cynicism we offer up to the cheerful, the naive, those who seem always to have one more cheek to turn, one more smile to offer, one more rabbit to pull out of a hat; it is our protective coating to prevent over-optimistic rhetoric into our thinking and behavior. No wonder it is such a strong presence in the novel of detection, the tale of social consequence, the story of Edenic happiness known as the Utopia. Small wonder utopias are invariably boring and dystopias are so fraught; suspicion looms on the horizon like the rise and set of the sun. Suspicion exists to keep us honest, to convince us that no one, not even protagonists in novels and short stories are perfect; it recognizes our trespasses and the incursions of those who trespass against us. We are alive and suspect even in our better moments. Indeed, some of our better moments come as the direct result of our having suspected ourself of meanness of spirit or lack of motivation. We suspect we could have done more, should have done more, even to the point of seeing retrospective ways in which we could have done so. We could have been better children, better students, better lovers, and when someone praises us for something we have written, our momentary gratefulness is submerged by the suspicion that we could have done better, tapped more into the internal music and vibrant meaning of the work.

We are quick to suspect that some individuals are liars, all the while seeming to ratify our own relationship with the concept of truth, not in the slightest suspicious of our own tidal relationship with such abstractions as absolute accuracy. Parallel lines meet in infinity while truths converge readily within our conscience.

To use the words suspicion or suspect immediately denotes a negativity that haunts the rest of the thought process, the introduction of the worm of doubt into the apple of reality. There are the usual suspects of mystery and cliche fame, the unusual suspects of our imagination and doubt, gaunt, dark-eyed travelers in trench coats who loll about at street corners, waiting with abundant patience for us to pass by, whereupon they follow, just at the outer range of our awareness. We are always suspicious unless we are in those delusional states known as love, happiness, listening to music, or writing. And even then we are fearful, suspicious really, that the love, happiness, music, and writing will not last nor will the coffee that sustains them.

There is nothing worse than being suspected of entertaining some activity we may have contemplated but not yet done--unless it is the worseness of writing about a suspect or some individual's suspicion in an unconvincing way, producing the suspicion that you are not as accomplished a writer as you'd suspected.

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