Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Calculating the incalculable

During my wife's brief time teaching school, I liked the notion of a rubric. I'm not entirely clear on what a rubric is, as my common understanding of the term and the context in which it seemed to be used in education classes do not match up.

In practical terms, a rubric seemed to be what a school teacher used as a template to evaluate essay answers. One got points for this, points for that, with the points each amounting to an assessment of how well the essayist/examinee got the point of the assignment/question. I'm sure I'm saying this all wrong, so I hope anyone who knows what I'm talking about will forgive that I really don't.

What I do know is how easy it is to "tote up" our lives. It's like one has some internal Jones with which one is always keeping up. One's internal sense says "I should have a beau", and suddenly one feels the lack of one intensely. One's internal sense says "I deserve better respect in my chosen calling" and suddenly one is deeply unappreciated. One says "I should be happier", as if one has some omniscience about the way one is "supposed" to be.

I am anything but a great thinker on matters of the internal life, but I suspect that surely our upbringing imprints us with notions of what is "normal", which we never quite shake.
Somehow, then, some internal counter, imprinted deep within us, runs a constant math problem--do I add up, do my sums balance?

I am pleased, I suppose, that I rarely meet anyone who says "I really come out to an impressive sum", because my own limited experience is that such people are insufferable (and further, interestingly, they usually have a deficit in the credibility calculation). Indeed, I find myself insufferable when I feel that I've achieved an impressive total.

There are some ways, of course, in which we can assess whether our basic human needs are being met--enough to eat, a roof over our heads, the ability to pay our bills, and the presence/absence of cruelty and exploitation in our lives.
I suppose some "toting up" makes sense on things like "can I afford to buy meat?" or "am I being hit?".

But I think that so often my own internal calculator is humming away at equations such as "am I appreciated enough?",
"do I achieve enough?", and "do I have the things I want?".
There's nothing wrong, per se, with stray thoughts like this,
but there is a certain Olympic gymnastics quality to it. Will my ego someday replace that "7" sign with a "9"? I'm concerned that all the tens go to teen girls who train all the time.

I think it's very hard to just "be". I think that just living in the moment, accepting that one is just doing what one can, is a genuine challenge. Yet all the things I've ever done right I've done when I put aside the internal calculator of whether I'm doing them right. I've observed, too, that achieving a goal does not quite bring the joy that striving for it brings. The destination is not only worth the travel, the destination is the travel.

I have no great conclusion to all this. I guess I should put on a "rah rah" coda like "I'm going to be very zen from now on". But in fact, I don't think a journal post is going to change my internal calculator, or redefine my values. But I'm aware this morning of how incalculable the joy of living can be, and yet how I tend to "tote it up" anyway.

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