by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Although I aim to steer myself upon smooth roads inevitably I happen upon the grit and gravel of consternation. It’s rather like taking a summer drive in the country hoping not to encounter road construction. I suppose there are some for whom the recurring disturbance of life is not an unbalancing condition – though I can’t imagine why it would be desirable. Perhaps because the alternative of stability and assuredness suffers the perceived want of novelty or dynamism. Some people are born dare-devils and risk-takers. My preference is far less robust; I am not by any stretch an Indiana Jones model. Instead I’ve always opted for a controlled environment (though I hasten to add one based on reason not blind submission or unqualified behaviour).

I abhor what the French amusingly call “désaxé“, the equivalent of being thrown off one’s rails. That uncomfortable state of uncertainty is for me seemingly the consequence of having too many things to absorb at once. Some might call it wrestling one’s demons to the ground. We all have our demons, those haunting reflections which regularly percolate from our subconscious to remind us of niggling worries.  What causes personal consternation is typically anxiety, a discomposure which can assume gigantic proportions if left unaddressed. The malevolent forces – though initially having the appearance only of an annoying gnat – can succeed to render a highly edgy symptom. The disorder insinuates everything causing a combination of the heebie-jeebies and regret.

My strategy for overcoming apprehensiveness is nothing more ornate than confronting the dilemma head-on. This means first that I must metaphorically reduce the conundrum to writing; that is, translate the emotion into hard copy of some sort, whether through the catharsis of actual writing (such as I am now doing) or by verbalizing the complication either to myself or a sympathetic other (such as I occasionally do with a close friend). It amounts to a re-enactment of a process of logic, namely first to state the question, then the answer and finally the reasons. Sometimes merely posing the question – lifting it from its immaterial world of incubation – affords a manageability hitherto unavailable. That is, simply recognizing the perturbation can go a long way to quelling the alarm if for no other reason than that it succeeds to trivialize or at least minimize what previously seemed more pernicious than it is, flushing the mystery enemy into the open so to speak.

The inspiring force of ogres is frequently less substantive than imaginary. Even legitimizing the source of distress by casual reflection upon it, while not vaporizing it, nonetheless at least strengthens one’s cause for dismay. Knowing for example that the issue is not uncommon is to that extent assuaging. Clearly I prefer to resolve the matter by more than an acknowledgement of the problem, but it’s a first step. Taking it to the next level of identifying its intricacies constitutes an unfolding of the disquiet which in turn enables a clinical analysis of it. Often it is in this forum in which one appreciates more fully the complexity of the initial panic. Indeed the discovery that a cause of consternation is many-pronged is peculiarly further relieving – as though it were a consolation for all the fretting. Likewise disassembling the issue into its elemental features assists dealing with it.

The overwhelming authority of consternation is its universality even though necessarily it finds expression in particularity. Dealing with such ubiquitous background spirits is per force cumbersome.  For example the recurring theme of man’s evil to others is hard to escape when reading or listening to any news of the day. Overcoming the anxiety isn’t merely a question of rationality no matter how skilfully the cause is dissected. These shadows are in the nature of world-wide malaises, regrettably the ineludible threat of wickedness which sometimes is paradoxically propelled by what are considered by their authors as sanctified religious reasons or what more often in my opinion are nothing but bigoted drivel and reactionary criticism based on false premises and secretly driven by private economic and political goals.

Today as I ruminated further upon the most recent contamination of my mind, the sensation was spookily reminiscent of the post-narcotic withdrawals I endured following my open-heart surgery almost exactly ten years ago to the day on Friday, July 13, 2007. The reason the reminiscence arose in the first place was because it occurred while I was doing what I did ten years ago to alleviate the anguish – driving my automobile to the Village of Pakenham and back home.  Actually today’s outing was putatively to the Neat Café in Burnstown for a coffee ( which of course was just an excuse to drive my car on this glorious summer day). But there were uncanny similarities to what I underwent after my surgery; namely, an inexplicable need to move and to fulfill a stated ambition, to go somewhere to exhaust the silent scream of my simmering unease, to occupy myself with a distraction from my default focus upon blunt and unavoidable reality. Somewhere someone must have observed that unconstrained thinking can cause paralysis. As much as I normally dwell upon the uplifting features of life, at times there is a boomerang to despondency. The recoil may be nature’s way of restoring equilibrium.  We are not after all living in a magical world of smiles and hugs. Nonetheless I resist being persuaded by melancholy to the point of defeat. It is one thing to be downhearted and driven to calculated brooding, quite another to be ruined by the perception.

Why it is so I cannot say, but lately I have been preoccupied with the cultivation of what amounts to curmudgeonly habit. Perhaps it is because I have been rendered bad-tempered by events which offend my sense of equivalency and correctness. It is I confess always a mistake to presume to judge the behaviour of others.  But in the instances at hand the paramount thrust of the communications was commercial and that alone entitles me to a hardline and less forgiving characterization of its quality. I find increasingly I am attune to the pragmatic agenda of others; and less inclined to swallow the seed of purported generosity. If the cloak of beneficence is shown to be a tattered disguise then I am speedily disengaged (though in retrospect not without personal admonition). I quell this latter abuse by reasoning that it is merely a scientific exemplification of action and reaction which is virtually one of the laws of nature.

Although I hated it when my mother said it, “It will all work out“. It is unimaginable that any one of us will avoid having to deal with life’s consternations at one time or another; and equally foreseeable that by whatever peculiar process of reconciliation most of our distress will abate. As fond as I am of attempting to subdue a disturbance through thought and logic, more often than not it is diverse emotion which dictates the outcome. When once the mechanism and spontaneity of life resumes, things fall back into gear and edge forward on life’s relentless path of innovation. Thinking about it in the cold early morning hours is never healthful.  One must instead reignite the flame of activity and get on with doing what has to be done. It might be only  contrived smokescreen which rescues us from the obsessiveness of consternation. Yet the storms of our existence like the patterns of weather ultimately reveal a sunnier day. So very much depends upon nothing more than luck; but when it happens, it’s always good!