Friday, April 13, 2012

The Bronx Cheer Reflex

When you pause to consider the many components necessary to produce the briefest story, a natural leap of conjecture for you is the even greater enormity of elements present in you or any of the species from which you come.

How easy, in that context, to look upon the men and women you admire, wondering by how many vital components they outnumber you; which qualities do they have and to what degree, and is this a fair index by which to judge?

You grew up amid the “screw loose” trope, where an individual of demonstrable eccentricity was judged to have a connecting piece that was not as tightened in place as it might be.  In recent years, the metaphor of “two bricks shy of a load,” intended to mean a more exquisite metaphor of personal lack, has become the trampoline for an imaginative run of description.  Your own favorite in this context is “two ants short of a picnic,” but you have nodded approval at any number of others.

The important recognition inherent in such metaphor is the innumerable components required to produce a functioning, creative human being.  You could extend the metaphor:  an individual is a vast, complex mosaic, wherein the individual pieces have appeal and beauty because of their separateness, then combine or maybe seen to combine as some larger, yet more remarkable beauty.  The human being and the single mosaic tile now join metaphoric hands; the drop of water recognizes the ocean.

Both mosaic tile and human component need some kind of glue to keep them in proper, which is to say useful, format.  Proper glue in the mosaic is some form of cement.  Some psychologists have called the human equivalent ego supplement.

When the cement in a mosaic tires or becomes compromised, one or more of the tiles may disengage.  When the ego supplement in an individual loses its grip—remember the expression, “Get a grip on yourself?”—some of the components lose contact with the motherboard, resulting in a different flavor to the performance.  Such symptoms as “Not firing on all cylinders” come to mind.  Whether the mosaic or the individual or both are under diagnosis, the patient is now seen as missing some quality or attribute.

Same thing applies to a smaller, lesser mosaic or, to use the current descriptor for humans brought to term without all the standard equipment, a challenged person.

This entire line of self-diagnosis was brought about by a response you found yourself giving when, after accepting an invitation to a gathering, being informed of the attendance of an individual you find annoying, your remark to yourself was the equivalent of a Bronx cheer.  After a moment, you queried yourself, wondering at what approximate emotional age you were when producing that response.

Six, you told yourself.  Best case, seven.

Being that there are emotional age six times that still feel good, you in quick order devised this mosaic theory, wondering how many of the multitudinous mosaic tiles that comprise you were currently residing at an age under puberty, an age where whoopee cushions, jokes about bodily functions, and a general rebelliousness rule the emotional roost.

For some considerable time, no one has suggested you act your age (and even were they to do so, you’d have a difficult time deciding how your age should act).  This does not always mean you are in fact behaving according to the standard perception of how your age should act.  You like to think you are not.  This has little relationship to actual numbers and more to do with an operating philosophy.  While it is true that the years you spent in junior high school were dreadful, particularly in comparison to years spent in the fifth and sixth grades, you also observe how any age carries with it a potential for being “a bad time,” leaving you at the mercy of some circumstances and your own ingenuity.  There was, in fact, a difficult spell in your later twenties, one in your early fifties.  In each case, you were aware of having evolved to a say in the matter.

Not more than a few weeks ago, a dear, longtime friend of about your years asked you one of those “When did you stop beating your wife?” questions.  “What,” he asked, “do you do to deal with your night terrors?”

You paused for a long, difficult think.  By its very length, your silence conveyed an impression polar from the one you’d decided upon.  Thinking had dug a hole for you.  No sense trying to convince him you had no night terrors other than the occasional regret at having too much dessert.

Your mosaic is doing well, thank you.  Your world is filled with enough activity to keep you more than engaged.  You are about to become overwhelmed with books once again.  You have near crushes on too many ladies.  There are writing projects acting out in armed rebellion, seven classes a week, a schedule filled with speaking engagements, a refreshing number of individuals whose company you admire, and now that you think of it, a refreshing number of individuals close at hand and on a more global level whom the merest thought of produces within your psyche the Bronx cheer reflex.

Some things within the mosaic have no use-by date.

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