Why Ask Why?

This video has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject of this post:


But, these old ‘90s beer ads are still kind of funny and I did steal their tagline. Attribution was called for. (And I do wonder what advertising wunderkind thought it was a good idea to put dry in the name of a beer. Why? I haven’t had one in 12 years, 348 days, but back before I admitted my allergy to alcohol, I didn’t pull a beer out of the fridge because I wanted to feel even more dry.)

I have wasted more time asking why than I want to think about. (Sometime in my 20’s I decided the thing to do when you’re lying in bed is to take advantage of the solitude to figure things out. Forty-plus years later I am unable to shake the habit. I resist, even resent, having to use bedtime for sleep.)

Feeling compelled to figure out why has not served me well:

“Why go back to school and get a graduate degree in English, when I already have this law degree?” “Because I really want to, and I applied and was accepted into the program, and maybe it would mean I could do something I really love,” turned out to not be a good enough answer for me. I never showed up for class.

“Why spend all that time and effort and money when the trip to (wherever) will be over in a week or two and after awhile it’ll be like I never went?” Too often it’s been easier to just not go.

“Why change things around? I’m doing okay with things the way they are.” Okay has become the end game.


Which brings me to this chapter from Write Within Yourself by one of my favorite writers about writing (and living), Bill Kenower: I Don’t Know Why.

In case you don’t click through to the whole article, here’s the best part, IMHO:


Why didn’t I know this forty years ago? I would be getting a lot more sleep, probably in some interesting places. I might have written a few books or taught some classes about something – writing and literature – that I love. At the very least, I’d know more about it than I do.

You know what? I’m in catch-up mode from here on out, but I insist it’s not too late to stop asking why?


Tattoo Me

   We just returned from a trip to visit my mother and sisters in Alberta. (They didn’t start out in Canada, but all moved there around the time I was a senior in college, beginning with my parents, who moved to a ranch in BC, along with my youngest sister. Meanwhile my other two sisters, who went to college in Alberta, married Canucks. I’m the Remainer. (Although the Trumpocalypse has me re-visiting that decision.)
    One of my Canadian nephews is a gifted artist – Mark Schmidt Art – and musician – Invin – and professional tattoo artist – Mark Schmidt Tattoos. Knowing I was going to be visiting his shop was enough to push me past the edge of wondering if I should get a simple pair of tattoos. I had been daydreaming about having some favorite words “typed”, in typewriter-like script, on my inner forearms.
    On the left inner forearm:


   There’s a reason this is the title of the novel I’m working on, creating my “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott calls them. Shitty First Draft
   Jeebus (or, Jebus) has a wonderful backstory. From my first draft:
   I’m no missionary, I don’t even believe in Jeebus! … Save me, Jeebus! – HOMER SIMPSON (The Simpsons – Episode 15, Season 11 – “Missionary:Impossible”)
   Jeebus – Variation of “Jesus” first invented by Duke Ellington so as not to be beaten by nuns. Borrowed by Frank Zappa and, from there, by Matt Groening.Urban Dictionary – Comment by “mavi”, August 30, 2007)
   Besides the lovely backstory, I like the idea of personalizing the name of Jesus. Just because it’s personal. And, it gives a little tweak to the shibboleth, “What Would Jesus Do.” Give that name to a redeemer figure in a novel and I’m keen to write that story, even if it’s just for my own edification and nobody reads it.
   Turn the question into a tattoo and I’ve given myself the power of icons and symbols. The tattoo gives me creative electricity. And a conversation starter.
   On the right inner forearm:


   This is borrowed from Jitterbug Perfume, my favorite Tom Robbins novel.
   It means Lighten up!
   The best way to show how Tom uses the word is to look to the final pages of the novel. The main female character is Kudra, a woman of many talents, including distilling marvellous perfumes. Near the end of the story, after following her through centuries (she and her partner, Alobar, discovered the secrets of immortality), she winds up, unexpectedly, in the staging area for the Afterlife.
   In Egyptian mythology the Afterlife begins at a wharf where ghostly ships and barges come and go. Your Afterlife destiny is determined when the Wharfmaster, a young woman, has her assistant cut out your heart. Still beating, it is weighed on a balance against a feather. If your heart is lighter than a feather, you win immortality. If not, you will most likely vanish in a poof of spirit. If you are close to lighthearted, you may win a birth on an eternal party barge, marked HELL on one side, and HEAVEN on the other. You’re in for an eternal party, which for some will be hell, for others heaven.
   Kudra just wants out, back to her earthly version of immortality. The Wharfmaster is sympathetic and directs her to look for a door that will lead back to earthly life. Kudra is flummoxed, because there are many doors. The Wharfmaster directs her to a door marked ERLEICHDA. Lighten up.
   I’m someone who needs that reminder almost constantly, to ward off habitual high anxiety and to stop taking myself, and everything and everybody else, so damned seriously.
   Now I have it tattoed on my body where I can easily see it. As can others, giving me another conversation starter.
   Not that I’m looking for conversations. I’m a card-carrying introvert. But I do like the right kind of conversations. Like the ones that might be lit off by my tattoos.