About a month ago I bought a golf shirt at Mark’s Workwear in Carleton Place. The venture is of no import apart from the fact that my shopping sprees lately have been confined to groceries and hamburgers. The shirt however pleased me sufficiently that I didn’t want to diminish the initial pleasure of wearing it. As a result I have been postponing the petty exhilaration until completion of the sale of my elderly mother’s house. This arbitrary detention is of course a laughable fabrication, a combination of superstition and reward. The sale project (and the collateral undertaking to remove my agèd mother to a retirement residence) have monopolized my attention and exhausted my patience for the past five months. Yesterday the sale transaction finally closed, signalling the end of the substantive administration of my mother’s domestic affairs and the re-opening of the avenue to my personal province. Today as a solemnization I intend to wear my new shirt.
The 2XL Classic Fit shirt (“a relaxed fit to provide superior comfort“) is further described on the manufacturer’s tag as “oatmeal”, both a lovely word and colour. I initially trolled the racks for a plain white shirt but none was available. In keeping with my binary nature I feel best suited to either white or black but modest accommodation is bearable especially in these low level sartorial matters (the price of the shirt was all of $21.99).
This vapid little anecdote – highlighting as it does the features of superstition and reward – is on analysis nonetheless illustrative of some deep-seated psychology. As convinced as I am of the strength of rationality (a disposition upon which I pride myself as an old lawyer) I oddly submit from time to time to what can only be described as unjustified belief in the supernatural. Granted the intuition to believe this or that is probably founded in some logical extension but it seems to elevate the conduct to attribute sorcery to it. I do however acknowledge that the folklore about not wanting to “jinx” a matter has some primeval sway. Who for example hasn’t once said, “Knock on wood!” It is but a small hop to embrace the more profound myths which humanity regularly harbours about the universe once you have taken that first step into the abyss. Any attempt to distance one legend from another may in the end be a distinction without a difference. Anyway you look at it, faith is all about apprehension. For that reason alone the shirt complete with tags stayed tucked away in my closet awaiting the advent of this day.
The second pivotal element of this yarn is the feature of compensation, the entitled expropriation of which has never been beneath my dignity. I have not however been one to reap my advantage until it is earned. On balance I much prefer to suffer deprivation rather than reclamation. Once again the drama is little more than toying with superficial sentiments – I mean, really, how important can a bit of textile be! Yet such is the subtlety of advanced age and a mellow mind that even inconsequential frivolity is absorbing. I please myself to imagine – perhaps madly – that the measured parsing of life’s rewards will both heighten and lengthen the experience.
The final feature of this account is – as with the postponement of anything – the realization of it. No matter what idle fancy, diligent planning or exhilarating anticipation has gone into the exploit, the ultimate proof of the pudding is in the eating. The lesson here is that things seldom turn out the way we had expected, which doesn’t necessarily mean bad things happen but rather that the trajectory of one’s ambitions may become quickly altered or detoured. The superstition and reward which initially motivated the conduct are in a flash dissipated. They like any other sensation have their fabric in the living not the expectation.