Saturday, October 13, 2012

Wumpick and the Opposite Job

My Dear Wumpick,

So, your patient is dissatisfied with her current situation?  Certain duties attendant upon her state in life, or at any rate, upon her present occupations, she finds annoying?  More damnably yet, she finds them—boring?  Boredom, you know, is the ultimate torture conceivable by the mind of modern Western man.  This only goes to show that modern Western man has a very deficient concept of torture.  Of course, in this as in all errors the humans make, there is an inkling of truth.  There are from the human standpoint many and far more painful tortures than boredom; but from our standpoint there are few more effective.  You have heard the American phrase, “The idle brain is the devil's playground.”  There is a great deal of truth in that.  Certain men’s vices can tempt them to certain sins; boredom can tempt almost anyone to almost anything.

You are probably working on the patient's natural peevishness (even the most unselfish patients have some natural peevishness) which will be heightened by the circumstances, working to provoke an outburst of temper, whether internal or external.  That is a standard and very effective tactic; keep at it.  At the same time, however, you might consider whether or not you can use the circumstances to provoke something more serious.  It is possible with any patient, although certainly easier with the scrupulous variety, to use their discomfort with certain courses as a way of making them persist in them.  I am not talking here about persistence in resisting temptation (I would have said “in innocence” but none of them are really innocent, are they, Wumpick? not even the Enemy’s favorites) but about persistence in a way of life to which they are profoundly unsuited.

The agents of the Enemy like to preach about “obedience in one’s state in life.”  Well may you shudder at that phrase!  In the minds of those who have heard it, it becomes one of their most potent weapons against us.  To all of our gentle reminders, all of our little proddings, all of our never quite heard and only barely felt impulses to rebellion, they simply reply, “Yes, I’m not very fond of this, but it’s part of the duties of my state in life.”  Faugh!

And your patient?  Well, if you can get her enact the little rebellions, well and good.  But if she comes back at you with those lines … Well, then we can have some fun!

It will require a bit of research on your part, but that should not be too difficult for a spirit of your aereate quality.  You are going to have to find out what the Enemy intends for her.  I don’t expect you to uncover tremendous surprises; very specific and grand and unpredictable things like “She will be a martyr” or “She will marry Prince Harry” or “She will be president of the United States” are very rarely foreseeable, even from our perspective.  But it is surprising, or would be to the humans if they knew it, how much of the broad shape of their lives prefigures the Enemy’s will for them.  He likes to jabber about “free will,” but the fact of the matter is he has been preparing all of them since they were very young for some particular job or jobs; and we, by looking at the preparations with an unprejudiced eye (such as the humans never have) can generally tell what that job is.  This one is going to be a manager or a leader of men; that one a monk of some sort; she is intended for a teacher; he will do some sort of scientific research—that is the sort of thing.  Snailglop will have gone over it all in your Future’s Course; I hope you took good notes.  I seem to remember him showing me afterwards the ones you had turned in, and they bore a striking resemblance to mine …  You did not crib them, by any chance?  I know opportunity would not have been wanting, but I rather like to think that any self-respecting devil, or any who wished to survive his future career, would have made so colossal a mistake.  It’s not just the cheating that would be fatal if detected: the material in those notes is a crucial part of your own education, and if you didn’t pay proper attention at the time your blunders will be the greater for it now.

But, as I say, and as this little refresher should remind you, with a little research and a little mental effort, it is not to hard to guess broadly what the Enemy intends for your patient.  Certainly you will have a better time of guessing it than she does herself, infleshed and wrapped up in her own perspective as she is.  Your job, then, knowing what her job will be, is to see that she suspects it of being something very much the opposite.  This is where those little irritations we discussed at the beginning of the letter are supremely useful to us.  If the tasks she is performing now are closely akin to those the Enemy has set for her in the future, then you must use her irritation to persuade her that she is not in fact intended for what he intends her for.  This should not be very difficult: human beings are always ready for a spot of wishful thinking.  If she throws the “state in life” bit back at you, you can always respond with something like “Yes, but this is only temporary,” thereby leading her into a spot of wishful thinking which, in its contrast with her real day-to-day existence, will only make the latter smart the more.

But what, you ask, if her vocation really is something rather different from what she is doing now?  What if she is a nun trapped in the body of a CEO, an artist who ought to be a teacher, or flight attendant who ought to get married?  (Crucially, she has made no irrevocable decisions with her life as yet—if she had, we would be going about this in a very different way.)  Well, if she is not doing the job for which the Enemy intended her, she will be unhappy, or at the very least dissatisfied.  Her irritations then will not only be signs of her imperfections, but indications of the fact that her “vocation” (as they call it) lies elsewhere.  But you mustn’t let her see this.  You must—if she doesn’t come up with the “state in life” phrase—introduce it on your own—watch her seize the bait!—and then keep hanging onto the line for all you’re worth.  (Not much, Wumpick, I know; but you’re rather fond of your own skin.)  Don’t let her forget that she is more or less responsible for where she is now.  Exaggerate that responsibility; remind her of how her own choices got her here.  Exaggerate at the same time (she is human; she won’t notice the contradiction—and if she does, you can throw that fat saint’s cursed blest word “paradox” at her!) the providential nature of her present circumstances: If such-and-such had only been this much different, I would not be where I am today.  This is true enough; but from the true premise human beings nearly always derive the false conclusion that, therefore, the Enemy wants them where they are.  Au contraire.  They are assuming the unspoken premise that the Enemy couldn’t have gotten them to perform his eventual purpose in any other way but the one they’ve taken; that is a very human way of reckoning.  The fact is, if the Enemy really wants a human being to be X, that human being—short of direct rebellion—will be X.  Sometimes their mistakes and follies will shorten the road, but nothing less than an absolute and explicit Non serviam can prevent them from eventually doing his will.  (You see how far he has stacked the deck against us?  And how courageous Our Father Below was in his reply!)

Thus, if you go about it the right way, your patient can be persuaded to one of two things.  Either, she will take her own irritations as signs that she’s in the wrong business, when in point of fact they are merely the product of her own imperfections; or, she will take her irritations as signs of her own imperfection, when they are really signs from the Enemy that This task is not for you.  The key, as always, my dear Wumpick, is to find out what the Enemy does want for her, and persuade her that she ought to be doing the exact opposite.

Your ever affectionate uncle,


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