Monday, March 15, 2010

The Skin and Bone Bags We Were Born Into

Podcast / Audio:

"My skin and bone bag is looking even worse than ever," said Tinguely to her dad. He was reviewing a set of maps on their prospect and reviewing where they still needed to lease the subsurface rights. "My face looks haggard. I'm getting fat. Worst of all, I'm getting fat in all the wrong places."

"You don't have anything to worry about. How would you like to be me and have to look in the mirror every morning?" said Dad. "The clock runs just one way. Forward."

"It's the stress," said Tinguely.

They were having coffee at Marvetta's Cafe, a small country diner on State Highway 99 on the way to the oil and mostly depleted oil and gas field in Okfuskee County.

The waitress smiled. She was small and had a rather unwholesome energy, possibly dawn to midnight slugs of coffee and lard-based gravy ladled over lard-riddled biscuits.

"Yup. Pretty ridiculous to be all uppity and prideful about one's body. You get what you're born into. You have what you have," she said Her lips were wrinkled around the edges like a long-time smoker. She was thin, and her skin looked thick

"Pour me another cup, please, JoBeth," said Tinguely, reading the "Hi, I'm JoBeth" tag affixed to the crisp, white waitress blouse. "I'll take an order of biscuits and gravy. Torpedoes be damned. Humor the skin and bone bag while you've still got one."

Dad looked rueful.

"Look at her. Promise her a warm bed, full water bowl and dog dish, and she'll follow you anywhere," said Dad.

Tinguely was surprised Dad would say this. Nothing could be further from the truth."


Yup. No doubt. My skin and bone bag is looking even worse than usual these day, thought Tinguely.

If someone else had said it, I would have smiled, thought Tinguely. She loved poking fun at the hubris of anyone who took credit for beauty, athletic prowess, skin color, and cognitive pizzazz.

Hah! Hubris! Don’t we all know that it’s all a matter of the skin and bone bag we happened to be born into?? Nature vs. nurture? Yeah. They matter. But, by an large, the factors that affect both nature and nuture are totally luck of the draw. What skin and bone bag were you born into?

Well. Whatever it is. Live with it.


We get used to our particular skin and bone bags. Eventually, we figure out how to work them. We learn how to get the maximum benefit from them – we learn just what everything takes.

Good grief. This sounds like we’re going into a conversation about aging, illness, and passages. I don’t want to think about that. We all go through it. I have a friend who has convinced herself that it must not be such a bad thing – after all, every person who is born has to die. So, why should dying be any more traumatic than being born?

Of course, some people are dying even as they are born – at least that’s what some would have you think. I, personally, think that no one is born until they take their first breath. I know that’s ethically problematic, but it’s easier to measure, easier to deal with. I hate to think of all the women who have been forced into abortions (either by cultural, economic, or political exigencies) are going to go to eternity as murderesses. It is just not possible.

Nature is harsh. Human practices are equally so. If we take the right-to-life approach, we could stand back in amazement and horror as a gardener weeds her garden. If we take this logic to an extreme, we can see problems with pesticides and herbicides as well. But, we should look at “culling” as something horrendous, heinous, heart-wrenching.

That’s the way it is.

Birth, death, cycles, eternal return. These are the words that self-juxtapose in my mind.

Then, of course, the narrative of eternal return – the apocalyptic narrative.

I’m sick of it.

You’d think everyone else would be equally sick of it. I mean, what’s so seductive about the end of the world as we know it, and the “reconquista” – the reordering of the world, in the image of those who have the forebearance to stick around and do the defining/ redefining…?

What’s so seductive about mass death followed by mass re-animation?

I used to like it. Now it just seems tiresome. Hah. It’s endless. The narrative has a built-in self-destruct mechanism.

Sadly, we’re foolish enough to apply that internal, built-in self-destruct narrative into virtually everything we build and onto which we depend for our profit, our prosecution (of wars), our progeny, and our pride.

Yeah. That’s it. Keep it going.

Hah. I think not.

Nice to be addicted, isn’t it? Adrenaline junkies? Does that explain it? No. We’re closure junkies. It’s ugly.

So. We plaster virtually everything we do or create with a narrative that – well, really – never ever fits. Think of an artist crunking in paint on a canvas. Think of sloppy, thick brush strokes. No – think of a palette knife. That artist slathers on the paint like “lashings!” of clotted cream. Oh yes, those thick globs of paint are sweet, but they’re also messy and all too sweet/sour. I’m just saying that to let you know the apocalyptic narrative has become a brush with way too much paint; a palette knife loaded up with ugly pigment to be applied in big ugly globs on a canvas we call our life.


Stop it! Our lives are too delicate, with thin threaded lace for structure. It’s just not fair to slam down the 20-tonne narrative – apocalypse – on the fragile scaffolding we’ve erected and which we’ve started to call consciousness.

This life has too much imbalance.

It’s like throwing a shotput into a flowerbed filled with tiny, delicate leaflings and new blooms.


I don’t know what else to say.

I must stop.

Forgive me as I weep.


"I'll have the same," said Dad. He ordered biscuits and gravy.

"Are you sure that's what you want? The sodium. Your cholesterol." Tinguely realized the hypocrisy but continued to speak.

JoBeth winked at Dad. Tinguely's face flushed. She felt annoyance, but decided not to respond. It was't worth it. After all, it was all in fun. Was it the waitress's fault she wasn't invited to play the same game?

"Live it up. Gather ye rosebuds, as they say," said Tinguely. "Carpe diem."

A truck backfired. A flock of starlings squawked, left droppings on whatever lay below. A cloud passed over the sun. The shadow passed quickly.

They were hungry.