Party On Reductionistas!

Tracey Barnett ©December 2008


There is a moment almost every morning when my young son stumbles into our room to use the bathroom in that pre-lingual just-waking-up time. He only manages to wanly wave hello, his fingers pointed upward in the direction of his bed-head hair. He then flops into our bed like a large trout that’s given up the good fight.

There, we figure out who can make more chins when you bury your jaw into your chest. We look up each other’s nostrils and make jokes that can’t be repeated here. He wonders out loud how the Black Plague went away. We do the forensics on what might have happened to the last four Mint Slices in the pack.

And then I say decisively, “I’m getting up.”

And then he says, “Me, too.”

When I start to make the move, he collapses my elbow at the hinge and both our heads land splat back on the pillow. The whole exercise then repeats.

I believe that I will think of this on the day I die.

I believe I know three things for sure:

Be grateful you are not an economist in Iceland this year.

The best age of your kids is when they still ask first if they can use a swear word that somebody else used in a story.

And, the things that matter most are probably in inverse proportion to the time it took for it to happen.

There should be a blank space in all forms that ask your religion: Christian, Jewish, Winston-Peterist [“He will rise again.”] –or in my case, the Reductionists. That is the faith that everything most important in life –the things that will flash before your eyes when your rubber-band-sized commuter plane is nose-diving into your neighbour’s garage– happen in less than two-minute moments.

Like most of the errantly faithful, I’m a better hypocrite than practitioner. That’s not how I live my life. I run around. Or, I sit down in front of a small screen and my brain runs around. Then, I finish off my day by pushing stuff around. Things go into the car; things go out of my head. I live mostly with my back turned in the exact opposite direction of the small moments I’m supposed to worship.

For every one of us who will spend the next handful of weeks running around buying presents that will sit in the back of someone else’s closet that they then won’t have time to clean out, there is a weirdo like me who is quietly welcoming a recession.

Maybe we’ll all pull it in a little this year. Maybe we won’t be able to afford as much stuff so we won’t expend all that energy pushing it around once we get it.

Maybe, if you’re very lucky, this will be the year that you will be able to count the number of times you will be in the room when somebody will laugh so hard they have to pee. What better way to measure a life, “Yeah, 2008 was great, I saw four laugh accidents. But I think I can beat it this year.”

Why are none of us ever smart enough to assess the vintage of our year by the number of times you admire somebody? Or that maybe this will be the year we will notice that a great question is better than its answer.

I will say out loud that I have to slow down. I will say that I won’t get caught up in stuff. But I won’t do either.

Because here is what I really believe. There are only three things you can see at a time, such as:

The real reason Pita Sharples is successful is because both men and women secretly wish they could look that good wearing necklaces.

My answer to my son’s question on how the Black Plague ended will always be a whole lot worse than his father’s.

The greatest tragedy in my life was once finding out that my other half didn’t know where the toilet paper was kept in our last house, which meant he hadn’t replaced a roll for at least six years.

Even armed with this, I will never be a good Reductionist. I work, and that tells me who I am—at least that’s the con I’ve fallen for. I’ll labour this year like some Big Goal is what defines me. It’s what separates the sinners from the saints in my dodgy faith. But don’t think that will stop me from proselytizing. Two-minute moments will whip it all in the end someday.

Maybe then I’ll be able to explain why all the deadlines, pay cheques, or stuff, won’t ever have earned me more than one karate-chopped collapsed elbow affords me: Two more minutes of grace.


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