There comes that moment
In the consideration of a thing
When a man tells himself
He understands it.
And from that moment forth,
We may observe the most delightful little play
As we watch our character work his way
Through the plot that lies ahead,
With that assertion he made to himself
(That he understands the thing in question)
Dangling in his pocket
Alongside his car keys and
The thirty-seven cents in change
He got from lunch at Burger King.
And having watched lots of plays,
I can tell you he’s as unlikely to re-examine
That conclusion as he is to re-count
The change in his pocket.
And we wise folk in his audience
Can watch him go down the wrong path—
Feeling good about ourselves that we know better
While he does not—
And being proud that we are good enough
At watching plays,
That we recognized the importance of that moment
Right when it happened—
When he told himself he understood,
But was wrong.
And that’s the way it usually goes,
For it is our job to catch the moment,
And then to watch the tragedy of it all
Play out from there.
But I saw a play once
Where the character
Told himself he understood,
And where most all of us in the audience
Knew he didn’t—
Because we were cool like that—
And then settled in to watch
The consequences unfold,
Only to be surprised that this character—
This very special character—
Had the habit of re-counting his change,
And had got his error about his understanding of the thing
Figured out quickly, before it could lead to tragedy.
And what a brilliant twist that was!
For we know how plays go,
And this wasn’t that!
And the novelty of it all
Stuck with us for days—
That a man might anticipate his own errors
And even check for them from time to time,
Being at the ready
To correct them on sight.