On the Cusp of Wisdom

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Wisdom is acquired. It is something that takes time to realize. I’m on the cusp. I ordered COEVALS CLUB Men’s Western Cowboy Long Sleave Pearl Snap Casual Plaid Work Shirt (Black & Gray #9, L) on October 14th. The web site said that I should expect the item on the 30th.

That’s a bit more of a wait than I’m used to (I’m a Prime member, natch) but the exercise of patience is a stepping-stone along the path. To test me further I was taunted by an email from Amazon informing me that my arrival date (because that’s what it is, really) had been revised and to expect my package on the 16th. Here I sit on the 17th lamenting the latest missive. Arrival has been changed once again, this time to the 18th by 10pm. Waiting and acceptance of disappointment deliver bitter lessons. Considerate of the amassed wisdom of Tantalus I sit.

The stage is otherwise set. I have a beard and some comfortably-fitting worn jeans. My work boots have visible scuffs (you have to look kinda close) and I live near a creek. My hair is not particularly long or stylishly unkempt but I don’t fuss with it much so it has a natural look even if it’s not the natural look and I grew up in Alabama so I can convincingly affect a southern accent. All I’m lacking is a casual plaid work shirt and I can project the same discerningly non-judgmental, soul-searching savoir faire as our modern-day Gandalf: Kris Kristofferson. But in a non-threatening way like that guy in that commercial.

Of course the sleeves will be rolled crisply up, mid-way between wrist and elbow. Of course there will be a wide leather belt with an imposing buckle underneath the insouciantly untucked tartan pattern. I’m not sure about the buttons. Obviously the top button will be undone, but it’s the next one I’m curious about. I’ve never worn pearl snaps before. I’ll try it both ways to see how it looks and glean yet more wisdom from the experience. The image of rugged renaissance competence I’ll put forth will have the world wondering if I just mended a fence or translated a few passages from Ovid. Maybe I just nursed a kitten back to health.

Folksy wisdom from a bearded man clad in a casual plaid work shirt is powerful. On Northern Exposure the power was so great in Chris Stevens that he was able to transmit his optimistic faith in his fellow man through down homilies over radio waves. That guy was so Kristofferesque as to be Kristofferensian. I know I’m nowhere near there yet. At least I assume I’m nowhere near there yet. I’ve only seen a picture of the shirt so far. It may be so much more.

We allowed ourselves to be led astray for a while there. We forgot about the importance of the self-assured kind manners. More importantly, we forgot that pace the magnificence of Chris Stevens, a man in a western cowboy long-sleeved shirt with pearl buttons and the sleeves three-quarters rolled up is just a man in a western cowboy long-sleeved shirt with pearl buttons and the sleeves three-quarters rolled up unless he has a beard and a southern accent. Goatees need not apply. Thus was a generation lost to the Seattle Grunge “scene.” We’re only now coming back from that debacle.

It’s odd to think that I’ll soon be among the rod and creel magi interjecting into other people’s conversations, with my far-off view, insights that begin with “Y’know, sometimes…” followed by a nearly-realized path to enlightenment (lead them, but always leave something to be discovered by the seeker alone) and ending with “in this crazy thing we call life.”

Archetypes are important. They let us know what to wear and when to say “thee” instead of “you” or “ya’ll,” as the case here may be. We intuit that Darth Vader, later Raistlin, black knights that don’t turn out to be King Richard, post-makeover Sandy Dee, and the Wicked Witch are evil because they fit the black-clad archetype of the villain to be defeated by the orphaned hero. Since he’s already known as wise from his early plaid days Kristofferson now often wears all black and a newcomer might be confused as to his alignment if all you had to go on was a head shot with a bit of black-clad shoulder showing, but if you were to pan back you’d see that his sleeves are rolled up. [Note to self – Neil Gaiman and Nick Gillespie remain outliers – look up stuff about why – check N.G. initials against Spates Catalog.] We need a Playbill. You don’t just guess at whom to ask for advice. You will know them by their casual plaid work shirts.

It takes a lot to get it just right, and to some it may seem like too much, but we who wish to inch closer to perfect understanding will spare no effort, even when it comes to dressing the part. “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom in this crazy thing we call life.” – William Blake, kinda.

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