Earlier today, I was reading about someone currently famous who may soon become a regrettable footnote in American history unless he does the right thing.
”He may be too hot to handle at this moment in time, but when the dust settles, his dance card will be very booked,” a headhunter in the financial industry was quoted as saying in a NYT article yesterday.
I thought about my future. In the months ahead, there is zero chance that powerful people — or anyone at all for that matter — will say to me: Hey, make sure you pencil me into your dance card.
They are likely to say nothing at all. They are likely to notice very little about me, just someone occupying space, a possible mark, nothing more.
To their peril, they will also forget about Alfred Korzybski, who is remembered nowadays for saying that the map is not the territory, and inventing the field of General Semantics.
They will have no interest at all separating their beliefs from what passes for reality.
They might, however, dismiss whatever I am writing with the snippy, oh, well, we already know all that: you obviously can’t always tell a book by its cover, but that will not be it at all.
They will not be interested in anything I have to say, because, other than possibly trying to trick me out of whatever little I have left, I’m an Eskimo on an iceberg. Understanding Twitter is far less important than having lots of followers.
It’s not just men, of course. Some believe, for example, that there are few dance cards for women past the age of 60, unless they marry someone who becomes the President of France.
No cries of passion in the night.
Some do not like even to touch old people, particularly if they are sick. Is that why souls shrivel?
But this Comey fellow, who may or may not do the right thing in the days and weeks ahead, will surely have a full dance card.
Though he is already 56; not old, certainly, but no longer young: the circles under his eyes speak of material weariness.
FBI lifer, except for a brief stint in the money machine, rising through the ranks, becoming important, making life or death decisions, doing hard things that cause some people to hang themselves in a jail cell, or letting them be, and then, after all that amusement in a hall of grotesque mirrors, being fired by a geriatric Orange Clown.
Is that… Justice?
But his dance card will be full, they say. He will soon be the belle of the ball, they say. There will be many suitors and much flirting, they say.
Million dollar speaker fees. Media appearances at mover and shaker gatherings. Consulting work with foreign governments. Book deals. Maybe even another stint at a hedge fund.
But what about you and I?
Nothing like that ever happened to me when I was fired 16 years ago. All that happened was I got two months severance pay, 6 months unemployment, and a COBRA deal that I could not afford.
That is what happened to me. So I lost my house.
I wasn’t the only one. There were millions like me. After the crash of ’01, if you were over 50, maybe your goose was pretty much cooked too.
Maybe you turned around and made a go of it elsewhere. But maybe the job was not so cushy anymore. Maybe you ended up having a heart attack because now you had to dig ditches in front of a rich man’s house under the summer sun. Maybe the wife left. Maybe the kids couldn’t go to college and got themselves a new Daddy.
You never once thought about the future in terms of dance cards. You were not just passed over, you were squashed.
In this life, you make your own way, they say.
They also often said “we” this, and that, at every corporation you’ve ever worked at, but when the axe fell, when the shit hit the fan, all that we business seems to go out the window.
It’s all a big farce, you will tell yourself.
You will play the victim, and feel sorry for yourself.
Maybe you’ll end up like millions of guys with no dance cards who voted for that geriatric Orange Chauncy Gardiner to feel better about themselves for once.
Or get revenge.
To right the wrong of it.
To shit on the ones with the golden dance cards.
But nothing really changed.
Many still had to choose between buying medicine or food on some days.
Still couldn’t afford the deductible, and now all that was left was living in a rented room, with two sticks of furniture, and nothing but a slow death staring at them in the face.
Last week, I think it was last week, or maybe it was last October, when I realized I was not going to vote in the sordid election of 2016, something in me changed.
I had of course long ago grasped that no head hunter in a sharp suit would come to me and say, step right this way, Johnnie, we have big plans for you around here.
In a general sense, I began thinking about what Korzybski was trying to teach us. I had not thought of him for a long time; not since I was a Ph.D. student at New York University studying Media Ecology under the late Neil Postman in the early 80s. Dr. Postman was someone who wrote and spoke engagingly about Korzybski, and they both had a major influence on my life. He died before Twitter came on to the scene, and would no doubt have been appalled that a clownish malignant narcissist like Donald Trump parlayed a cool medium such as Twitter into a hot Presidency.
Sometimes, when you get to a certain age, you will find yourself compelled to give wise advice to no-one in particular on your blog or even to passing strangers on the street, as you clutch a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 or Night Train and sit in the dead of winter on a meridian bench on Broadway somewhere around 100th street on the UPW.
This impulse is best avoided.
For instance, you may find yourself typing or saying unfortunate banalities such as, Whatever you think Life is, it most likely isn’t, or, worse yet, the dance card of Life is a meaningless piece of paper.
113 days away from today, I will be abandoning this country. I wonder if I shall still think of Neil Postman then?
Neil himself was not above providing homilies, late in life. He did so, however, with humor, as evidenced by these pseudo pearls of wisdom, as recounted by fellow Media Ecologist Janet Steinberg.
For me, the best one is Dr. Nystrom’s nugget #5, despite the antidelivuan overtones of much of what Medio Ecology was about, which is probably why I ultimately rejected its core statist belief system, and left the Media Ecology program though I was soon to enter a harrowing period of my life.
But I miss her, as I do Dr. Postman, and will probably always think of them, from time to time, at least, but I am like the old man in the top picture. It is getting colder now, and I must wear a coat and scarf. There are doors, but many of them are now shut to me forever. And there is an insistent brightness that beckons at the end of the street.
Time for me to fill out that dance card, again, as I did once, in the mid 80s, when I decided to go diving with sharks instead of spending my days drinking beer at 9am and watching Rockford reruns in a dinky 5th floor walk-up in Harlem.
It’s always too late, but it doesn’t matter.