Friday, March 12, 2021

May 8, 2013: Second Thoughts

I don't usually precede these best of clerkmanifesto posts with any notes or commentary, but a small note is in order here: Six years ago today Terry Pratchett, a very favorite author of mine, died. 

And so I have pulled this one out in small honor to him.

But first this quote from him:

"First Sight and Second Thoughts, that’s what a witch had to rely on: First Sight to see what’s really there, and Second Thoughts to watch the First Thoughts to check that they were thinking right."

Second Thoughts

May 8, 2013

My favorite Terry Pratchett books generally seem to have something to do with the witches. And somewhere in those books, probably Wee Free Men and maybe the other Tiffany Aching books, is Terry Pratchett's idea of Second Thoughts. Poorly put, by me, this has something to do with being able to think about how you think. I have sort of spread this around conceptually in me and taken it to mean something about seeing what I'm doing from a second place and being able to consider it again. I consider this skill, as a clerk, to have generally saved my life.

I could just be a better person. I could be the person who, when he uses the third-to-last slip, goes and gets a new stack because that's automatically, as a decent person, what I do. But I haven't entirely worked out being that person yet. So I use second thoughts.

I see a transit box that is over full of books. It needs a lid and a new, labeled box to go on top, and I think "Who would fill this and just leave it like this? This is not my responsibility." and then I walk away from it. And then I have my second thought. And then I go and get the lid and box. This is not a rare occasion. This happens many times every day. It happens with books abandoned on shelves. It happens with a scrap of litter on the floor. It happens with a bin almost full at the end of the night. It happens with unpleasant patrons contesting their fines rudely, but legitimately. Second thoughts happen when it is my responsibility and they happen when it isn't my responsibility. They don't always cause me to change my course of action, but they tend to make it vastly more likely that I will settle on the better one. They make me consider one more time, maybe take a step out of the heat of things. There is so much heat everywhere.

Without second thoughts I am not terrible.  I am nice to the patrons. I am fair. I am almost industrious enough. I will often be in a mental place where I take care of things, and take care of them thoroughly. But also I fall, and I fall often. I don't want all these boring little tasks, and the world is not very fair. Remember that. It isn't. And there is no one who should have to endure that. But a quiet undercurrent of bitterness is a terribly dangerous friend. And I fall. I fall and I fall again.

My second thoughts are there, to catch me. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

March 3, 2015: Go

From March 3, 2015:


There he is, oh man think of it. What's he live on? He sure doesn't have a job. I think his brother helps him out. He's really into painting so he paints a lot. Most people don't like him. I wouldn't. His personality is abrasive, sullen, argumentative. He doesn't get my jokes. He's passionate, sure, but let me ask you, where do you put that when you just have errands to run around town, when you're getting dressed, or choosing a loaf of bread (he didn't mean to bark like that at the baker's apprentice)? Where do you put all that feeling when you're trying to get a decent nights sleep? Where do you put that when you're lonely. Sometimes... well, the painting and drawing helps, but it works you up too.

He's sure the paintings are good. His brother, who loves him, says so, and he sells paintings. But he doesn't sell his paintings as nobody exactly wants them. Some people really seem to like them though. He has a friend who is a very great, somewhat famous painter. This friend acts as if he likes his paintings, or maybe respects or admires them. But he never says outright.

The thing is he suspects he might be something like the greatest painter who ever lived. That's wrong isn't it? But is it wrong if it's true? He knows he is just like a crazy person when he thinks this: "I am the greatest painter in the world!" What on earth does that mean anyway? "Yeah, I'm the greatest painter in the world, painting today from a crazy house." He's had a breakdown or two. Anyway, isn't it love that matters?  He loves the sunlight. He loves the air and the color and feel of everything. But has this, has what he's doing, ever been done before, by anyone in all the world?

The strange thing is that he actually is the greatest painter who ever lived. At least him, or Caravaggio, or one of a half dozen people out there through history, depending on how you feel about it. The greatest, whatever that means. He doesn't know what it means and neither do you or I. But maybe someone should tell him that he is the greatest of all time anyway, before it's all too much. Before it's too late.

It is all too much. It is too late, by 125 years. At least for one crucial moment something was too much for him. He shot his way out. Was it knowing? Not knowing? "What is all this I made?" It's hard to be alone. Life happens on the street, a million miles under the stars. Nothing is ever a myth or a legend when it's happening. There are no stories on the ground in real time. It's boring, it's slow, it's beautiful, and it breaks your heart.