Back in high school, when my mother would ask me what were my plans of an evening, I would shrug, tell her that my friends and I were headed to a game (the sport was seasonal-dependent) and then afterwards, who knew for certain. She would instruct me on the importance of finding things to do, that it wasn’t a good idea to Just Stay Home. I’d wriggle around the topic, informing her our ringleader would come up with the next step. Every group has one of those, and it wasn’t me. My friend Susan, the one with the cool banana creme convertible, made most of our rules, which we followed without hesitation.
“So, it’s the blind leading the blind,” my mother always remarked.
Decades later, nothing changes all that much. My kids’ response to a Friday morning query of, “what’re you up to for the weekend?” generally earns me a look which says, “Mommm, it’s waayyyy too early to tell. Seriously.”
In a recent conversation with my friend, Dimitria, about whether she and her husband could join us for a concert, one we’d discussed with enthusiasm over a month ago, when she called to order tickets, she discovered the show was sold out. Over back-and-forth emails, it unfolded that she had been overwhelmed by life and hadn’t gotten her mind wrapped around the need to purchase tickets; it wasn’t until there were no tickets left that she decided it would have been a lot of fun.
“We’ll do it next time,” I assured her.
The reality is, I never know for certain if I’ll go to an event, even if I have purchased tickets. While Dimitria admitted to a tendency to procrastinate until a crisis situation developed, and then later felt badly about her actions because she missed something fun, I tend to waffle. Basically, I can’t make up my mind. Should I stay or should I go? Will I be too tired, and then resent the fact that I’m not at home in my sweats eating leftovers? We both agreed that we couldn’t be irritated with our offsprings’ indecision and uncertainty regarding their own activities. How can we instruct them, “Do what I say, not what I do!” when we don’t always follow through on it ourselves?
The only thing in life about which I am certain is that my iPhone is always right, or at least it thinks it is. Even after I’ve typed over its autocorrects in frustration, because I do know what I want to say, my cellphone suggests an entirely different word, assuring me that I didn’t mean what I said. There seems to be little I can do to change it. The algorithmic predictions by word-monkeys who make a practice of crawling over linguistic tendencies on the internet to determine language patterns common to twenty-first century mini-QWERTY keyboard texters are not necessarily indicative of my thoughts and intentions.
It does make me wonder why there isn’t an algorithm to predict human behavior?
I remember a passage in Gone With the Wind, the epic tale of a bygone era of slaves, hoop skirts and cotton plantations, where the volatile protagonist, expertly-trained flirt, Scarlett O’Hara, bemoans the indeterminable nature of Rhett Butler, one of the story’s two male enigmas. Trained by her mother and her Mammy in the art of husband-catching in the Old South, Scarlett
knew only that if she did or said thus-and-so, men would unerringly respond with the complementary thus-and-so.
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With the Wind. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1936.
Although I have always wondered what those men soon-to-be-caught by feminine wiles were actually thinking about the silliness of the entire process, it is only in a false society where human behavior can be guaranteed by algorithmic calculations.
Humans make capricious actions on much higher levels than simply courtship and mating rituals. In Dred Scott v. Sanford the United States Supreme Court took on the portentous political issue of slavery, which divided the nation, and rather than healing the country, drove it closer to civil war over the “immorality of the decision”that slaves and all peoples of African descent were not United States citizens. The decision nearly destroyed the U.S. Supreme Court.
I’ve reached the conclusion that as erratic as are teenagers, adults are equally capable of inconstancy. While I am perfectly happy wiling away half an hour checking out the latest torqued language blooper on Damn You, Autocorrect! I am completely aware that this is an exercise in avoidance, better known as procrastination. It’s much more fun reading jokes on the internet than banging out this week’s blog post, or finishing up writing the next chapter of my new novel. I think it has less to do with not wanting to get a job done, and everything to do with a fear of the unknown.
It was at about this point in my mental perambulations on time-wasting and indecision when my daughter Isabelle wandered into my office, with the request that I review her speech which she’ll deliver at next week’s graduation ceremony from high school.
“It’s all about the future,” she told me.
I read through what she had written; it was full of ebullient hope and resolve that the Class of 2012 would provide the answers to solve the world’s problems. I didn’t want to pop her bubble, because she’s wonderful, and off to new adventures in the great, wide world. But, I believed there was a way to harness her energy and good intentions.
“Let’s just admit that we don’t know everything, but we’ll keep on learning and challenging ourselves to figure it all out,” I suggested. Because face it, every day that we learn something new will only bring benefit to all of us.
I don’t have all the answers, and I believe this is why there is hesitation. There are days when I cannot make any decision, except possibly that, yes, I would love to have my coffee this morning. But, I’ll keep looking. I think that is all that matters.
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