If We Don’t See, Eventually We’re Shown

Today I decided to cycle to the Post Office as a gift needed to be sent soon for a birthday. It had been raining heavily but now the rain had stopped. The sky was dark, heavy and cold, gusts blew suddenly from side-streets shaking the bike. The road glistened with rainwater and wet leaves. The sound of wind, cars rushing past and the slippery road communicated danger.

As usual there was a line in the Post Office, so Twin tensions of waiting and wanting to leap to the counter and get out of there,leaned on each other in my stomach. Finally I’m at the counter, the relentlessly cheerful lady with 1980s glasses hands me a customs form sending me back to fill it out. Now I’ve lost my place, I impatiently scribble addresses and the dollar value, contents description. Anger builds — why weren’t the forms out to be filled in while waiting? Anger is self-convincing, is its own proof, its own reason, its own righteousness.

Strong emotion seems to be rooted in its own conviction, its own necessity. Has its own special gravity, a certainty that makes an action sure-footed, undoubting. It doesn’t hover in the leaves but in the very trunk of the tree. In the middle of the brain, core of the body. Many things are hard to see clearly in life but strong emotion burns the fog away. Is an arrow in the dark. It is the heavy fumed certainty at the center of every ideology, belief or opinion.

So two more people are ahead of me, again waiting with that tight civility of so much of urban life. Will I say something? Or just let it go? No, I need to say, “you know if the forms were out there I could have filled them while in line”. Polite but firm, with a smile, not like a jerk.

Which is what I do when I’m finally again at the prized counter in front of the cheerful face with the big glasses. She points across to the side where all the forms are neatly filed right at the head of the line and say’s “I guess they could be more obvious”. How many times have I been through all such convincingly “true” emotional reactions to see again the mis-reading of their certainties.

If we don’t see, eventually we’re shown. The whole world conspires for our education.

Thomas Martin

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