I want things easy. And I’m willing to work hard for it. Would I work my whole life to make things easy? Maybe. Working hard makes me (and all humans?) happy: my goal is to make things easy so I don’t have to work. Is that a paradox? Not except under a loose definition. Enigma? Not unless you consider an informal synonym of enigma, “poser.” How about a puzzle, even though puzzle implies a puzzle-maker. Why not? I enjoy being led down the path of deification of the universe so comforting in principle. Pull aside the curtain so I may see the truth. I know, it would destroy my imperfect mind. Meanwhile the need for constant work towards a never-reached goal of having things easy puzzles, if I choose to take up the pieces and try to fit them together.
My version of easy goes something like this: when I want something done I push a button. Shopping? One-click. Taxi? Uber, single-click. Need help getting something done, click and the best available provider does it for me. Need marketing help: I don’t spend months trying to find the right assistant, instead I just press a button and someone is engaged. I’d be willing to work pretty hard to have it so easy. By the way it looks as though I will have to work hard to have these things as it seems anyone can get help but it’s hard to get good help. How about if I accept bad or mediocre help and just baby the person along but just keep hiring all the time so I have the benefit of the net best that we can attract? That’s what everyone else does, isn’t it. Not sure why I’m so late to see the light, although there’s something awfully murky about this light…
I try to build systems at my real estate office to simplify and streamline. I set up procedures so I can just make calls and press buttons. And maybe I’m not the only one who goes about things like this. Looking across the way from the tabletop where I work with my daughter eating her strawberry ice cream I see a woman standing behind pastries behind glass in Japantown. Following protocol. I hesitate to say as a robot while she laughs and smiles politely at the Japanese woman with the dyed white hair carrying away her bag of treats. The pastries are arrayed and served by similar protocols to those I strive to make. Robotic? I don’t know but I’m advised to stop working so hard on protocols and get back to work, let my helpers create the protocols, stand back myself and demand consistent service. It seems to me not only are other businesses protocol-driven but the concept of modernity itself may be synonymous with protocol. We are modern because we allow others to do many things for us, and they do those things following a protocol, whether it’s burger flipping or protocol writing, there’s a protocol for all of it.
My daughter in third grade is asked to discern between the words triumphant and victorious. I needed the same crossword puzzle clue as she to figure it out. Otherwise I’d have had to get it from context. Part of the dictionary definition of triumphant is victorious, so I’m not the only one who finds them similar. My potential client in a real estate deal today applauded my use of the word intrepid, and then fondly said I had unmitigated gall. I’m glad it was fond but shouldn’t we watch out for fond hopes, such as the hope that this will lead to a listing assignment (six weeks later it hasn’t yet!)? Seems like to be triumphant you have to have unmitigated gall. To be victorious isn’t enough: anyone can beat someone but who can triumph over adversity without boldness? What is it in the Art of War, “Victory is reserved for those willing to pay its price?” I keep wondering what is the price of victory for a commercial real estate broker. I’m unsure whether unmitigated gall carries a high price, as it seems pretty easy. In fact easier all the time. But I’m not sure it doesn’t carry a growing cost, as I have pushed past the edge so long I’m no longer sure whether I can find my way back to mitigation. Are things too easy now? No. Things are as hard as ever, but different things, such as getting along with people with whom I have more than a simple sales opportunity relationship. I can get better at that too. How about mixing unconditional love with unmitigated gall, what could that produce? Well-adjusted kids.
Doesn’t triumphant have a religious as well as a personal connotation? A mythological word. More fraught than victorious. We can all be victorious in something. But who will triumph? What would Sun Tzu have said. I have a feeling the cost of triumph is one’s immortal soul. Not sure I dare traffic in such currency, unmitigated gall notwithstanding. But then again why not? Where angels fear to tread I speculate that hopes, fond or not, lead us down a path towards unveiling truth, and the currency with which we pay our immortal dues is each moment of our lives. In other words, in this moment I have certain hopes and those determine my eternal fate: so my triumph is in choosing goals that I can either achieve, or, perhaps better yet, have a good time pursuing. And in the process I have sold, or at least spent, whatever immortal soul that I have. (Key word is spent, as the question of immortality is a trick and the currency of our souls, that which is spent, is not only our time and attention but the soul itself. In each moment I spend myself, my soul, obviously. That is what time takes from us. What it gives in return is life itself, in the same sense that air and gravity and food and dirt give us life by allowing us a context in which to live. Pretty good deal, limited time or nothing? I’ll take the limited time if that’s what’s on offer…) So what shall I hope for? Maybe I’ll inevitably be triumphant (or does the formula require that I am even now at the cusp of triumph, in other words, This is it, how does it feel?), yet will I celebrate that triumph or rue it? What sort of triumph is rued? Unmitigated gall, fond hopes, single-click, take your pick because this is it, wrapped up in a package and served, complete with the chatter of everyone around us in the cafe, and the tesseract effect of multiple cafes over time kneaded into this reflection, affording multiple layers of perspective over time, amidst layers of chatter. Not that this triumph is rued (shall we call it triumph?), just that I’m still trying to figure it out. And I see this through yet another film of time, while standing facing 35-story office buildings in downtown San Francisco, eating all-organic sunflower pate and no-gluten seed crackers with green smoothie and date nut dessert. Passed up the no-guilt nut milk shakes this time. Just noticed the two little potted plants in front of me are venus flytraps. A carnivorous plant in a vegan bar. No, now it’s Whole Foods. Ah, paddling the rapids of time.
I looked up triumphant in German and the only translation out of four offered that wasn’t either an obvious taking from Latin or the word “jubelnd” which sounds pretty religious to me and therefore ruled out because there’s already too much talk of immortal souls herein, is “seigreich.” That sounds German. Why German? They’re an essentially landlocked country filled with powerful northern, non-latin emotions that have to find an outlet. Call my failure to look up triumph in Russian a result of the fact that my wife has Russian ancestry but I do not, I have German and English. According to my machine resources (“no human translation has been found”) it means “National rich.” Nice thought. We can all be triumphant if our nations become rich, or maybe if we are rich. Anyway, I don’t think it necessarily means that. The meaning I’m most fond of is “palmy: flourishing, successful or covered with palms.” Now if I sell my immortal soul to become palmy then hopefully I’m setting a good example for others. If I scratched the surface of religion and found a desire to become palmy then at least it could have been worse, triumph might have been to be covered with horse hair, and then no one would call me dapper or palmy. (Not that that couldn’t be triumph too, I just don’t happen to have an angle on that now.) National Rich. Can I add National Powerful? I mean, do you want to be rich and not powerful? Sorry if it’s popping a bubble to ask that question but think about it for a minute: being rich without power is like being a ripe fruit that someone is going to pick…and eat. But still, being palmy sounds so innocuous, more like a fruit than a sword. Get eaten and let the oppressor spread your seeds all around the countryside? Find for a berry. But I just don’t feel like a berry… So maybe we can let National Rich go the way of the bold and powerful and daring and satisfy ourselves with listening to the sweet sounds of the wind in the palm fronds of our healthy hair and children and the music in the restaurant where we pay for fresh food and wine. Except…don’t those things have a price tag? Maybe they don’t? Maybe there is a path that is palmy no matter what, such as Marx’s opiate of the masses, religion, or Marx’s alternative, or someone else’s alternative. It’s starting to sound more like alternative jazz than palmy sweet sounds. Too bad. I still like the idea of palmy as it sounds so easy. So easy. Say it again: so easy.
Leave a Reply