John Phipps: The Circle of Life is ... a Belt?

November 7, 2017 11:13 AM
John Phipps

All across America, our doughy doughty citizens are seeking. We are looking for purpose and meaning. We are looking for calm and hope. We are looking for our car keys and loose change in the couch. But most of all we are looking for closure.

In our fabled land of new beginnings, we struggle to find a way to end things. Outdated old habits such as eating dessert last or knowing what you’re talking about have lingered overlong in our culture, like the french-fry smell in your pickup from yesterday’s breakfast. But getting rid of them means ending a chapter, shutting a door, abandoning a metaphor—and we just can’t seem to do it.

Consider bringing a long relationship to a graceful end that leaves everyone involved with a sense of wistful recollection. I suppose such an event could happen in real life, but looking back on my inept linkages with the opposite sex (girls), it would seem rarer than modern fiction suggests. The best breakup I can recall was a social train wreck that haunted me for hours, until decades later I realized she actually broke up with me.

Deep in my shallow understanding is a longing for better defined endings. Something like a mortgage closing, I think. After one of those signature fests, presided over by a document referee who knows the rules cold, you know without doubt you’re in deep and serious debt. The clarity of that conclusion makes the rest of our life experiences resemble church committee meetings where it’s hard to recall any decisions five minutes after adjournment.

Of all the ends we want to make meet, none are more symbolically or calorically more fundamental than our pants. In the hearts of true Americans burns a longing for our flies to button and belts to meet. We need closure, and it’s not going to be easy.

I have a work belt that has been with me through four pickups. I carefully reverse its direction each day to prevent permanent warpage. For those of you with the same wise practice, if you look closely there’s a pinched point exactly in the middle of your circumference. This is the point to watch for fatigue failure, or when a buddy yells “She’s gonna blow!” when you bend over. But a faithful belt is not simply something to hold up our pants. It is a physical illustration of the Circle of Life—a sturdy beginning, strained middle and grueling finish.

Each morning when we successfully insert the tongue of our buckle into the strangely elongated hole in our belt, we enjoy what could be our only closure experience of the day. A goal is reached. A promise fulfilled. A strain is taken.

After exhaling slowly, we are ready to face the disappointments of the day, such as breakfast. That one instant of closure, however is enough to sustain the arguably childish belief that we will get one other thing done today. Closure seems not just possible but likely. One leather fashion accessory/tool anchor does for our spirit what hours of Tony Robbins lectures cannot.

This life-enhancing gift from the Belt of Truth is not without risk. Even on relatively new work belts (less than 10 years old), the right answer soon becomes obvious. There’s one setting creased into the end that’s the metric by which we measure our health. After all, if our belt setting hasn’t changed, our weight must be the same, right? It’s just physics.

But through no fault of our own, such as bulky flannel shirts or ruthless laundering, our moment of closure occurs at a more distant belt hole. As in life, we must take a step back to reassess and, well, breathe. So, too, a temporary belt adjustment allows us the opportunity to reflect on the passage of time and our accumulation of wondrous experience. Sure, many of those experiences involved eating something, but we have no doubt we will be back to the proper setting momentarily. The important thing is the closure, not the circumference.

And on that deep thought, I’m going to closure this article.

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