Friday, April 8, 2016

Same Old Surprises

 Whether you're on the offering or receiving end of the expression, "Same old, same old," is the most dread response you can imagine. The pity or, better, compassion you feel for the person who uses that answer to your inquiry about how things are going for them, bad enough, is nothing compared to the way you feel about yourself, having used it to reply to someone's concerns about your own well being.

Even though the question, "How's it going?" is a condensed, coded form of acknowledging the presence of another individual, there are times when you do have concerns, otherwise you'd say something more passing, such as the time worn, "Hi."  

When you hear "Same old, same old," the image comes to you of some small, burrowing animal, wanting to free itself from some trap or maze.Wanting to get away from where it is to some infinitely more attractive place.

Much of this feeling has to do with the carryover from your earlier years,where there were of bouts of boredom. These bouts were eased in part at first by using reading as a vehicle to transport you to a state where there was interest, which is to say challenge, problems to solve, new terrain to take in, and that place you could not describe then because you had neither the physical nor emotional vocabulary. The place of which you speak is the state where you are so involved with what you're doing that you are no longer aware of self.

"Same old, same old," means being in a circumstance or situation where there are no surprises, little challenge, little more than a routine in which events are predictable. The circumstances or situations are made dreary by the apparent lack of change or surprise, qualities you'd begun to notice in stories. There was a tidal worsening, which, in its more effective forms, produced a sense of foreboding. 

You went to great lengths to avoid same old, same old circumstances, often to the point where you'd come to regard visits to the offices of various vice principals as a welcomed change in routine. One vice principal in particular became a temptation because of his solution to you being sent to consult with him about your attitudes toward teachers. 

He would assign you a letter of the alphabet, give you a pencil and a few sheets of the foolscap so common to middle grade schools in those days, then a number, more often than not one hundred.  Whatever the world you had to think of a hundred words beginning with that letter, then render them in correct spelling, then you would get the canned lecture about your need to be less obstreperous, were the letter of that day an O, querulous, were the letter a Q, and perhaps cantankerous if the letter were a C.

By the time you were through with junior high school, you had a pretty good vocabulary with which to describe your personality. You were also working on a lifetime affliction, the distrust and dislike of being bored. Most times you hear "Same old, same old," you are reminded of the things, pranks, stratagems, antics, lark, whim, tomfooleries,and, a recognition of your cultural background, schticks, you employed, deployed, or used as a consequence of boredom.

Another authority figure set you to work on taking the number 13 to its thirteenth power, a task you warmed to at first because you seemed always to arrive at a different result. 13 x 13 =169, X13 =2197, x 13=28561, and onward, say 28561=371393, which you find you still remember, but knowing these relationships did not suggest any particular use to you. Nice as it was to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide with accuracy, it was nicer still to see Mr. Hunt disturbed by the wide range of answers you produced, the suspicion growing that you were deliberately making mistakes.

At one time, your attitude toward spelling reflected your attitude of not liking a thing without change. In subsequent years, you've made an accommodation with spelling, but only because it allows you to acknowledge the need for some conventions.

You were not deliberately making mistakes to irritate Mr. Hunt, merely demonstrating something you would later learn in geometry, when introduced to the concept of what parallel lines were and how to define them. You and mathematics were parallel lines, destined to meet only in infinity. Although to be fair, you find the concept of parallel lines, as they relate to dramatic narrative, useful to the point of being inspirational.

There it is, inspirational. You want the direct opposite of "Same old, same old."  Even if a thing is inspirational ,once it becomes "same old, same old," if the inspiration remains the same, has no surprises, twists, or signs of evolution, it loses its forward thrust and becomes derivative. And we know, don't we, what derivative is?


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