Monday, January 7, 2013

unwrapping the package

I don't remember the movie ("Mon Oncle?" or perhaps "Mr. Hulot's Holiday"?), but I do remember a scene in one of (I think) French comedian and director Jacques Tati's films.

In the scene, Tati as the hopeless naif he played to perfection is sitting in the back of a bus on a summer's day. On his lap is a neatly-wrapped package which (for whatever reason) contains dough. The sight gag revolves around the dough that begins to ooze out of its neatly-tied confines. The heat of the day makes the contents expand beyond its tied and taped borders as Tati tries and tries and tries to contain and repackage what refuses to be neat. It's impossible ... and sticky into the bargain.

A friend with whom I used to practice Zen Buddhism once told me he had had a dream about me. In the dream, the two of us were traveling in a European train compartment. I was making my friend's life uncomfortable because I kept untying the neatly-tied package he had in his lap. He would tie ... I would untie ... and why the hell couldn't I just leave things alone?!

During the seven years I went once a week to a shrink, there would be relatively calm days on which I would leave a session with a spring in my step. On other days, however, some deep and troubling nerve would be touched and I would go home and lie on the couch for the rest of the day ... feeling desperately unwrapped and exhausted.

Isn't this the way life is? I unwrap you. You unwrap me. And each of us has taken some care in wrapping the package. Pleasant or unpleasant, that seems to sum things up.

Packages are built for unwrapping -- for surprise, for delight, for relief, for horror. What good is a package that remains unwrapped?

Or wrapped either?

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