Friday, February 06, 2004

Pathetic Fallacy

Word Count: 1612

Pathetic Fallacy. Incorrectly projecting (attributing) human emotions, feeling, intentions, thoughts, and traits upon events or objects, which do not possess the capacity for such qualities. A term coined by John Ruskin (1819-1900). In literature, you often find it when nature mimics the emotions of a main character by changing the weather patterns. King Lear is a prime example, Shakespeare being particularly fallacious in the pathetic vein, and is reflected in the scene where a great storm rages around the mad King and his fool. We see his insanity in the insanity of the tempest. [Of course I'm being needlessly pedantic here, probably more information than you need to know, but I'm trying to set a tone here and if I've bored you with too many details, I'm sorry. If, however, you're impressed by my erudite intellectualism - well OK then!] Pathetic fallacy works very well in literature but rarely in "real" life, and seemingly never in mine. The universe travels its course. I travel mine.

I know this to be true, for the considerable amount of empirical evidence I've collected over the years attests to the fact and shows me categorically, that pathetic fallacy in nature works only in books. Two cases in point will illustrate what I mean. Firstly, the day my dog was hit by a car and died the sun was shining brightly, warmly and did not have the decency to go completely black at the moment of my most terrible shock and horror. I was four at the time and the dog pushed me out of the way of an oncoming truck but didn't manage to get clear himself. The dog and I were inseparable companions and suddenly we were no longer. I cried and was incredulous that all of creation was not crying too.

Now I realize that this first example is not the most pleasant one to contemplate and the fact that I've come right out and hit you over the head with it might probably make you reconsider reading on. You're probably thinking, "OK dead dog, little kid crying - that's just great! What next? Famine? War? Pestilence? And whatever they call that other apocalyptic horse guy?" I simply needed to illustrate my point strongly. I'll refrain from pushing any more emotional downer buttons, but the essential fact remains, the universe went along its merry way.

The second example I will present as evidence is less intense and more mundane, yet valid proof nonetheless. The day I received my first real kiss, yes I know what you're thinking, I said less intense and more mundane - bear with me. The day I received my first real kiss was on the steps of the Church one Sunday morning. I had loved this particular woman all my life and we were both just sitting on the steps talking. I was wearing a dark suit and a bow tie, she was wearing a blue dress that highlighted her wonderfully sky blue eyes and long flowing blonde hair. It was a magical moment for me, but it was raining like cats and dogs. It was dark, gloomy, and cold - good thing for that too as it gave me an excuse to put my arm around her. We looked in each other’s eyes for a while and then I leaned in and kissed her. I thought that nature should at least of allowed a tiny ray of sun to shine at that moment but the universe provided nothing in the way of mood lighting or music. I sort of fault the universe for not helping my romantic endeavor as the relationship lasted a brief passionate week and then this woman whom I had worshipped forever, left me for another man, and as I recall the day I saw them together the sun was also shining very brightly and warmly. I was five and so was she and the other man had a bike without training wheels and he was six.

I learned at an early age that I could expect no assistance from the universe to provide backup to my emotional states, whatever they were. This was an unfortunate discovery for me as I had been raised in a society and culture where everything has a soundtrack. Every movie or TV show has a soundtrack (and a lot of pathetic fallacy too! Especially the horror flicks I liked as a teenager, with angry lightning flashes et al.), every shopping experience is associated with planned happy Muzak sounds to encourage us to feel good and consume. I eschewed these obvious ploys of man-made environment to influence or reflect my moods. Manufactured pathetic fallacy is just pathetic. I wanted the "real McCoy", wanted the universe to wake up and notice me, to reflect, and thereby reinforce, the make up of my mood.

Take this morning for an example. This morning I was in a miserable mood. I've not seen my love for an eternally endless epoch. For those of you who require more details than provided by literary alliteration I can be more precise to say approximately 18 hours. For sure the more jaded types will scoff at my plight, but they are not walking in my shoes and one man's sixty-four thousand eight hundred seconds is another man's epoch. I woke up with the expectation of meeting her for breakfast at a little café we frequent. I then remembered that no such meeting was going to take place. Schedule's being what they are on this particular day a rendezvous was unable to be penciled in. I was aghast at the thought of it! I knew she would not be there because we talked about it at our last meeting and I was paying attention. I was. Look, stop rolling your eyes and saying "Ya right". Who’s telling this story anyway? I simply had fallen into a pattern of seeing this woman for breakfast frequently and in the daze and haze of morning I didn't remember that it just wasn't going to happen today. If there were ever a time for the universe to kick in with some unadulterated pathetic fallacy today would have been it. It would have been a great day for a drizzly rain, complete with a cold north breeze, dark gray clouds, and I could sit in my bay window, listen to some sad music, sip my morning cup of coffee alone, and wallow in my own melancholia. The universe, as usual, didn't play ball. I opened the curtains and was assailed by a glorious summer day. The sky was a bright blue with no cloud in sight.

I got dressed, made it to my car, cursed the universe silently to my self and drove off to our café to wallow in self-pity and loneliness over a cup of hot java. The drive was uneventful and morose. I was feeling the pains of a love lost with no hope of seeing her again for maybe another eight hours or so. The utter inhumanity of it all - my sorry state reflected back at me by bright, warm, pathetically cheery sunshine. I don't quite think that things could have gotten any worse. I was, however, as I often am, wrong. When I got to the café, another couple was sitting in our booth, and injury of injuries to my heart and soul, they were holding hands and laughing and smiling and.. it's too much to bear and I can describe it no more. I had hoped to at least be able to drink a cup in my solitude and sit in our seat and search with faint hope for some imprint of her there, a whisper of her voice perhaps still echoed there for my ears to hear. Instead, lovers unfamiliar to me enjoying what I desired most, and what I was deprived of, confront me. The gray drizzle of my mood became a cloudburst of despair. I purchased a coffee "to go", retreated to the fortress of solitude that was my car and drove to my office. I thought that I could hear faint otherworldly laughter as I put my sunglasses on to shield me from a cheerful day.

By the time I arrived at my office I was in a foul mood. I wasted no time and I threw myself into my work determined that I was going to milk as much productivity from this frustration as possible. I turned on my computer and started to read through the day’s notices and electronic mail. I was startled for a moment when a single note arrived. It was from her. I felt my heart beat a little faster as I opened it, and as I read the words, my gloomy rain soaked existence, brightened immediately. The few short lines read:

I missed you too but it'll just make seeing you tomorrow and Friday that much better. I'll call you later on.

I was a fiery sun beaming on a sandy beach and a sparkling ocean. My heart soared. The phone rang and the call display boldly announced her name and number and the joy I was experiencing at that moment was multiplied a hundred fold! I picked up the phone and said hello and as I leaned back in my chair to savor the sweet sound of her voice and loose myself in her words I glanced out the window. A light rain had started to fall, and the sunny sky had become overcast. I chuckled a little to myself. Typical. The Universe goes its way I go mine.

The End


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