Sunday, July 11, 2004

Still crazy after all these years?

What is it called? The name for the practice of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? I’m not sure if it’s a psychological term, or sociological term or a made up syndrome type thing… my mind’s a blank. Let’s just call it nuts.
I’m the habitiest creature of habit whoever developed a routine and stuck to it.
I find enormous pleasure in repeating a well-ingrained series of rituals; it’s calming, comfortable, delightfully, deliciously, decidedly predictable. (I even have a particular contentment sigh that’s as much a part of my rituals as the lip-smacking ‘Ahhh!’ after the first swig of coke (diet) on a sweltering hot summer afternoon.)
For example, I begin each day – barring early morning auditions, unexpected long distance calls, or early morning flights - in exactly the same way. Upon awakening, I immediately slip out of bed and make a beeline to pat the dog (lying in state on the nearby chaise) on the way to the kitchen where I heat the water for the coffee. As the water boils merrily away, I prepare the coffee and destination cup, then whilst it steeps I toddle down to the front door, (looking through the peephole so’s not to shock the neighbours with my typical wanton dishabille) and should the coast be clear, I whip open the door and whisk the paper through the narrow aperture, as quick and precise as a trapdoor spider snagging a fly.
Paper in hand, I separate the advertising flyers and sports section, installing them neatly in the recycling bag, then flow back up the front hall, detouring briefly into my room to drop the paper on my bed, fluff and arrange the pillows in precisely the right way for maximum paper-reading and coffee-sipping pleasure, then turn on the computer, before gliding purposefully toward the kitchen, where if my timing is right (it is) the coffee will be ready to be poured into my lucky cup (the best days start with my lucky cup – that’s why it’s lucky) and my return to bedroom, computer and paper complete with piping hot coffee will have been completed in just over 2 minutes - rarely more than 3.
I could go on (trust me) but perhaps you get the picture; I like what I like. If anything interferes with the routine – even things I enjoy, like friends staying for a visit, a call from someone dear, preparations for an audition I feel certain of nailing – I’m uncomfortable… discombobulated… disconcerted, and not entirely happy.
I remember feeling distinctly out of sorts the morning I woke to fly to Barbados for a much anticipated holiday: the dog wasn’t there – she’d been taken to a kennel the day before – I showered before making the coffee, didn’t have time to read the paper and didn’t turn on my computer for fear of forgetting to turn it off. It took me a few hours to shake off the feelings of dislocation and I wasn’t completely comfortable again until I returned home 10 days later. That’s when I started to question my love for habit and ritual – considering 10 days in tropical heaven an annoying break from routine.
So it doesn’t surprise me in the least to see symptoms of my slightly neurotic need for sameness played out time and again in the bigger picture – in that arena that worships form over substance like a savage worships an idol – politics.
Take the most recent Canadian election (please). In a move that stunned the pundits, the loathed and despised Liberals pulled a qualified victory out of a predicted near certain defeat, from the snarling and accusatory Conservatives who had done everything bar measure the PMO for new drapes in their smug conviction of a win. I, of course, voted Liberal. (Truthfully, I had many other reasons besides the comfort of familiarity, but I’m still deeply grateful that it wasn’t curtains for the Grits.)
But in watching the political machinations as Americans contemplate the upcoming Presidential election, I find myself ready to abandon same old-same old, now-now-now! But watching and reading reports of reaction to findings of lie after lie, mistake after mistake and death after death in relation to the war in Iraq, I’m beginning to suspect that the citizens south of the 49th are a little closer to insane than in sync.
How else to explain that there haven’t been more demonstrations, a bigger change in the polls, or even the wholesale dragging of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfelt et al, out of the White House and through the streets of Washington like Aristos during the French Revolution? I’m not saying public decapitation, or heads mounted on poles lined up along the bridge over the Potomac, but a little righteous anger folks! A little less Fourth of Julying and a little more May Firsting!
Somehow, some way – and it’s a trick I’d like to learn – W has taken the damning results of the 9/11 commission, the recent reports of CIA misinformation on WMD, and the American atrocities committed in both Abu Grhaib and Guantanomo, (not to mention the box office success of Michael Moore’s scathing documentary ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’) and rolled it all into a ball called ‘might have been a boo boo, but the world is safer from terrorism’ and pitched it back at Americans who seem to be pondering whether what was first considered a home run is merely a first or second base hit, and completely missing the fact that it’s the foulest foul ball the baseball-loving Bush ever lobbed.
(Texas Democrat Jim Hightower on W: "George Bush was born on third base and thought he hit a triple".)
There is a real possibility that Bush could win a second term. Looking over the most recent polls (all conducted in the first week of July) released by Newsweek, Time, Zogby, AP/IPSOS and NBC, the President maintains a higher rating on average for ‘Job Well Done’ (average 48%) than ‘Fair to Poor’ (average 47.8%). You’ve got to wonder, what does this guy, this administration have to do to piss off Americans? To make them question doing the same thing over and over? To make them vote the Democratic ticket?
I am pledging as of now to change my routine. Kick over the traces of repetitive behaviour… open my mind to the possibilities of change. I’ll begin by picking up the paper before getting the coffee; maybe not turning on the computer until I’ve eaten breakfast. I draw the line at kicking the dog instead of patting her, but besides that, it’s no holds barred – I’ll pull the curtains off the window and install Venetian blinds… whatever it takes. I won’t vote Conservative, but I am considering the NDP.
You don’t have to be Einstein to know that doing something over and over and expecting different results is actually (I just this minute remembered) the definition of insanity.

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