Monday, September 12, 2011

You Stink

You Stink
by Scott Bradley


I have just returned from the garden, where I had set a trap for whatever it is that has been digging up my sprouts and just being a general nuisance. I knew what the culprit probably was, and knew from childhood (non-injurious) trapping adventures that catching it would pose problems. Sure enough, I had caught a skunk.

And, of course, releasing it led to getting sprayed. How badly, I'm not sure. Bad enough that it's in my nostrils so that whatever I smell, smells like skunk. Thus, if you were to come into the room just now, I would be obliged, as your friend, to tell you that you stink.

You do, of course, stink; it only takes the appropriate sniffer (a bloodhound?) and sensibility to confirm this. But we, as human beings, do not generally find our normal scents too terribly offensive unless we are predisposed to do so.

Our predispositions — how we view the world in general and individuals in particular — most definitely determine our perceptions of these things. If we see the world as essentially a hostile or impinging other, then we are likely to have a rather negative outlook on life. Conversely, if we sense an essential harmony and wellness in the world, how we perceive things and events will be much more positive. (Well, duh.)

There are the proverbial 'rose-colored glasses' and then there are the jaundiced-colored glasses. It seems to me that which pair we choose to wear is entirely up to us, within the context of our particular genetic make-up, up-bringing, and life experience. Admittedly, these are formidable conditions, and should we wish to truly switch glasses we have a lot of work ahead of us. For the most part, I see my own present pilgrimage as this task.

But what about donning a pair of clear and tintless glasses, or perhaps no glasses at all? Alas, I am doubtful that we could ever achieve such perspectival neutrality, for it would require that we do not interpret our world at all. It seems to me that it is the very nature of our self-conscious finitude that we must interpret our world. Even were we to achieve the bliss of a rock, it would be a human bliss, not a rock's.

Part of this thing of being human is to be able to transcend our own judgments, to realize that things are not always as we think them to be. But that takes some degree of maturity. So, I am going to exercise some of that maturity now (would that it were spontaneous), that transcendence, and declare that, No, you don't stink; the stink is in my nose.

PS. The original plan for the trapped intruder was transportation — not to Australia, but far enough away that it wouldn’t find its way back — but skunks create some special logistical problems. So, I let it go with the hope that a night in a trap and the terrible reek of human stink (mine) has convinced it to seek its dinner elsewhere.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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