Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. And sometimes they are exactly what they seem, which can be even weirder.
One afternoon, as I walked toward the school building where I taught, I passed two of my 4-year-old students on the playground. Both boys had buckets on their heads. Reflexively, I said, “Nice hats.”
They both looked at me as if I were completely insane. “These aren’t hats, silly!” one cried. “We just put buckets on our heads!”
“Oh, of course! Now I get it!”
A big part of childhood play is transforming objects through imagination. A chair is the seat of a space shuttle, a blanket over a table makes a fort, a blade of grass becomes a diamond ring. So naturally, a bucket can be a hat.
In the adult world, it can be hard to accept that things are just what they seem. I have wasted a lot of time trying to come up with logical explanations for the inexplicable.
When people and institutions don’t make sense, I look for some piece, some person, some rationale or missing fact that will put it all in place. But by the time I arrive at that point, scratching the surface yields more questions (like, “How can this possibly be?”). The more I learn, the more apparent it becomes that the whole thing is deeply, pervasively illogical.
And the more that happens, the more I ruminate, coming up with creative, wild hypotheses that might make great plots for HBO dramas, but are probably too far-fetched even for that.
“Maybe some years ago, Person A saved the organization by secretly contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars and that’s why….”
“Maybe Person B knows where Person C’s skeletons are buried and that would explain...”
Surely it can’t be that people are actually dishonest, greedy, power-mad, crazy or willfully ignorant. Surely institutions don’t cover up dysfunction with more dysfunction until the whole thing is one big façade. Surely things are just as we learned in school – do your best, get straight A’s, tell the truth, and everything else falls into place.
Life is fair, right?
So people who get D’s don’t make honor roll. People who lie get punished for it. People who don’t know anything about, say, Art Education don’t become Directors of Art Education at Art Schools. Places that are going under financially don’t insist on repeating the same patterns that got them there, with a little more navel-gazing.
Unfortunately, when things seem dysfunctional through and through, in every way, it’s often because they are. No amount of thinking will come up with a reasonable explanation. As my wiser sister told me once, when I was in full rumination mode, “You’re trying to make sense of something that just doesn’t make any sense. We want to make sense of things so we can understand them, but some things just don’t make sense.”
Sometimes it’s hard to accept that senseless things are just what they seem.
Sometimes it’s mind-boggling to find that they really are not complicated, or accidental, or unclear.
Sometimes people with buckets on their heads are just people with buckets on their heads.
All you can do is accept it, smile, and move on.