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the potential illusion
was, is, could be, or not
by robert a. melos
pop culture

When I got up today and went out to my car I discovered it was covered in bird droppings. There is a tree, belonging to the township, which hangs over my driveway and since the tree isn’t mine I can’t cut it down and thus the birds hang out in the tree every morning and by afternoon my car is more often than not covered in bird droppings. I have no illusions that I’ll ever get the tree removed because the only way the township will remove the tree is if they plant another one in its place. They have this silly law about replacing all the trees they remove. The township has mutilated the tree for numerous wires running though it, but the Gods forbid they ever actually cut it down.

So while I was sitting in the car wash slowly being dragged through the suds and soak cycles it hit me. I knew what was wrong with the world. It was a clear as the soap on my windshield. Now follow me here because it’s easy to get lost in my trains of thought. The station alone is larger than Grand Central and more heavily traveled by my thoughts. Commuter thought traffic is at an all time high in my mind.

See, I’ve lost you already. What the hell is he rambling about; you are no doubt asking yourself. Feel free, many people do. My point being, the thought that led me to realize where the world went wrong. Potential.

No one is accepting what is right in front of their faces. Everyone in today’s society is geared toward thinking in the terms of what might be, or could be, rather than what is. Face it, look at our advertising. The potential is being sold to us, the illusion of what might be rather than what is. For you dieters this should be apparent. The marketing is to give you the illusion of what you might become if you live up to your potential, a potential the dieting product companies want you to aspire to, rather than accepting the fact you’re fat. Okay, fat is not a politically correct term. You’re out of shape, you lard butt. Sorry, again not P.C.

If you don’t live up to your potential you’ve somehow failed yourself. That’s the general thinking. Of course it isn’t always your potential but the potential others see in you that is in question. This hit home in the clear seal cycle of the car wash.

No one knows this to be truer than those who are divorced. Now whether or not most divorced people admit it, if they stop to think about it, their partners did not live up to the potential they saw in them and that contributed to the demise of their marital bliss. These people looked at each other and instead of seeing and accepting the person as they were, they looked beyond their current situation to a mythical time when that Mr. Right, or Ms. Right, would magically become the person they envisioned instead of the slob standing before them.

This applies to every aspect of life. If we all lived up to our potential the world would be this blissful, disease free place where everyone loved everyone else and no one ever disappointed themselves or another. Unfortunately this isn’t the reality of the world, but the potential it could be if all the perfect scenarios fell into line. Instead the world is a mess, much like my car had been before the car wash.

When I pulled out of the car wash and returned home, upon exiting my car I discovered the car wash had failed to live up to its potential by not fully removing all the bird dropping residue from my vehicle. Had I expected the car to be pristine I would’ve been disappointed, but I’m not fool enough to expect perfection from anyone or anything. I looked over my semi-cleaned car and simply accepted it as it was. Sure I could go to one of those “do it yourself” car washes, and I might someday when the weather goes back up to a reasonable level of warm, being 80 degrees or more, but until then my option was to be disappointed or learn to live with what is.

Since I accept that I’m personally not living up to my potential I simply will not hold anyone or anything to a higher standard than myself. Now someday I might change, and the world might change, but that is a future potential that doesn’t exist in this moment in time. I have no illusion about it.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


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bonnie shaw
1.24.08 @ 10:52a

Its like Dylan Moran said in his "Monster" stand-up: "You should stay way from your potential. I mean that is something you should leave absolutely alone, you'll mess it up, its potential, leave it! And anyway its like your bank balance, you always have a lot less than you think!"

No but seriously, I think the deeper problem is that the ideals people are considering and measuring against are largely empty ones. Like wanting to be a pop-starlet, or famous for no reason like the Hiltons.

Wanting to improve oneself in an earnest and levelheaded way, I have no problem with. Wanting the world to be a better place? I do that all the time.

I'd probably be a lot better off if I didn't want for everything to be less stupid and just acquiesced into it. Or something...

robert melos
1.24.08 @ 11:11p

What really triggered this column was a job offer I received that completely ticked me off. I work as a Realtor. Realtors are not salesmen, yet the majority of people look at real estate as simply a sales position.

The job offer was to sell insurance. I have little to no belief in insurance, and to be approached to be a huckster, to me is insulting. The headhunter talked to me about the potential of selling, and I talked to her of not being a salesman. There is much more to selling a house than being a "salesman", and this person redused what I do to the smallest part of the job.

The most annoying thing was how she talked of the commission only pay as having such great potential. She was offering me nothing. Come to work for me for free, and maybe if you can convince some schmuck they need insurance you might get a paycheck. I already have a commission only job and it isn't paying the bills. If I'm going to get another job it sure as hell won't be without a base salary.

The potential illusion is also something I will be mentioning again in a future column on real estate. One of the biggest problem you come across with sellers is the unrealistic potential then see in their property, and want to sell their property not for what it is, but for what it could be. I'll go off on a complete rant on that topic another time.

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