Cause vs. Reason

I’ve been thinking a lot about that famous poem by William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow“.  It keeps popping up…and I find that it intoxicates me for reasons I can’t explain.

Words are like that.  They can be magically and musically inexplicable, for all their ostensible explicability.  I’m reminded of Bill Borroughs’ cut-up novels…the way that Kerouac chose the words in his novels for their be-bop readability…the way that Shakespeare would rather make a word up than let insufficient syllabic content muss up his perfect iambic pentameter.

I’ve recently been forced, by way of my efforts to secure a slightly more dependable paycheck, to undergo a bit of intense personal reflection.  It started like this:  I received a convocation from the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII) informing me that I would need to attend a one-day information session on la vie française.  

Lunch would be provided.

I was not, initially, happy at all about this inconvenient obligation on one of my treasured Saturday market mornings.  However, much to my pleasant surprise, I in fact learned a whole gamut of interesting things about la vie française, including that there exists a department of the French welfare system tasked with helping foreigners like yours truly to compile their degree and experience into a neat little portfolio to be presented to a panel who will consider it and award said foreigner with a sort of degree “title” – not an additional degree, mind you, but a sort of French equivalent, such that employers can more easily hire immigrants.  Much easier than doing that degree all over again, wouldn’t you agree?

I contacted this agency – the VAE (“Validation of Acquired Experience”) and had a meeting with a woman that lasted four very long hours, and about which I’ve already written.  From there I was sent a far superior version of my French CV, as well as an envelope with a list of jobs for which she thought my experience and education might make me appropriate.  I was instructed to contact people who work in those fields and ask them how they like their jobs, what it’s like and so forth.  I refused outright to do that.  Ick.  Cringe.

But I did follow all other instructions, which included making an appointment to get registered at the local Unemployment Agency.  As I’ve not been unemployed at any point that I can remember since roughly the age of ten (for the record, I do not consider myself currently “unemployed”…just broke), and also most probably because I am of U.S. American origin, that was very difficult for me.  Very.  Difficult.

I met with a not-so-nice gentleman (the first and only unkind person I’ve come across in any of these experiences, mind) who quickly referred me to someone else, with whom I was to meet the following week.  It turned out that I knew her from my French courses – she sorts us all out – and she and I discussed the same things I’d discussed with the woman at the VAE and with the not-so-nice gentleman at the Unemployment Agency (which they quite kindly call the Pôle Emploi here – the Employment Agency.  Speaks volumes, I think).  She informed me that I would need to meet with another woman.  Six times.  For meetings of roughly three hours each.

It was with that new woman that I met today.  I sat on the other side of her desk in much the same way countless young people and adults and staff have sat on the other side of mine as she worked on me, in much the same way I have always worked on everybody else.  This, too, was difficult.

Those forms!  Oh, those forms.  They are interesting.  And these – the ones she used – were quite effective.  I may never be able to move beyond the fascination with effective forms I developed in my years as a manager.  Her forms – as well as this whole effing journey, and not just the one to explore the possibility of getting another source of income…the journey that began at roughly the same time as did this blog – have got me thinking.  I’ve been thinking so much.  Like, how did some slip of a girly boy from communist East Berlin become the internationally ignored song stylist barely standing before you?  Wait…that’s not me.

But how did I get here?  Am I satisfied (because I’m not comfortable with the word “happy”) with the stretch of road I’ve reached at this point?  Why am I doing any of what I’m doing, why have I done what I’ve done, and what is it exactly that I expect to be doing when tomorrow comes along?

I’ve given up on a lot of dreams, but always with good reason.  There are things I spoke with conviction about doing one day (the rock star; the founder of an innovative and successful home for street kids in Latin America; the writer), but most often – in spite of years invested dreaming about the possibilities – those dreams petered out like the last drops of water falling from the showerhead as we rush to begin another day.

Too much life got in the way, and I don’t regret a single moment of any of it.

I used to invest quite deeply in that old adage, “Everything for a reason.”  Now I think it’s a big bunch of balderdash.  Lots of things happen that can’t be reasoned away – not when they’re happening and not years down the line.

But nothing happens without cause.

Nothing comes from nowhere.

Which really makes me think…

so much depends


a red wheel


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0 thoughts on “Cause vs. Reason

  1. time and time again you choose just the right words to express such intelligent, heartfelt thoughts.

    • ann says:

      dunno if that’s true, but i’ll take it, mr. shields…particularly from someone whose words move me nearly every day now. you’re a force to be reckoned with (dangling participle and all)…and i thank you for your kindness.

  2. “It keeps popping up…and I find that it intoxicates me for reasons I can’t explain.” This is such a beautiful mystery, Ann– that of words and intoxication and inexplicability. I happen to agree that things in life don’t happen for a reason, but if we can stay intoxicated and fascinated with life, as we can with a poem of 8 lines, then we’ve got something going on. xo

  3. Hello,
    Just letting you know that I’ve nominated you for Seven Things About Me Award.
    Check it out

  4. Brief interruption of my reading, to say how much I relate with this:
    Am I satisfied (because I’m not comfortable with the word “happy”)

  5. colgore says:

    What kind of lunch did they provide?

    • ann says:

      hahaha…you. crack. me. up. actually, we went out to a restaurant. however, owing to the fact that i’m a vegan who’s allergic to wheat, i brought my own. they called ahead to the restaurant to make sure they wouldn’t mind if i brought my own food with…they didn’t and it was fine, but it was more than a little embarrassing to pour my food out onto the plate from my tupperware container. you asked!

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