Nothing is “Beyond the Pale”

Daily Prompt Beyond the Pale When was the last time you did something completely new and out of your element? How was it? Will you do it again?

“Who’s to say?”

“What, Lamont?”

“Who’s to say what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ of character? ‘I learn by going where I have to go’. That’s a line from ‘The Waking’ by Theodore Roethke. It’s a very nice poem I learned in high school.”

“OK, look, Lamont, you’re not making sense.”

“I’m thinking that we can only do things that are ‘beyond the pale’ if we’re in control of everything and we’re not. I don’t know how many times life has required that I do something I never imagined or put something in front of me, a challenge, without choices. I think if a person is alive at all he or she is always a little bit ‘beyond the pale’. If not? No one learns anything or goes anywhere.”

“The prompt just wants to know when was the last time you did something that was out of character.”

“That’s impossible, too. We discover our characters through doing things just the way we discover our talents and live our lives. I’m very poor at math because I have a thing they call ‘discalcula’ or something.”

“Sounds like someone from Transylvania.”

“Yeah, right? I learned that when I lost about $800 — maybe it was $300 — see what I mean? 3 and 8 look the same to me and they look like B…”

“How can a 3 look like a B?”

“Uh, 5 looks like S. 4 looks like F. 2 can look like 5 which can look like S. 9 looks like g. 6 looks like G.”

“Al6ebra must have killed you.”

“Nearly. ANYwho, I lost some money in my checkbook. I went to the bank to get help finding out why I couldn’t balance the damned thing. That’s when I learned. I won’t seek a job as an accountant, not because being an accountant is ‘out of character’ but because I would do a very bad job.”

“But you’d done accounting.”


“They let you?”

“I have better luck when I used a 10 key calculator but that was also before I discovered the problem. I just had someone go over all the numbers with me. Thank goodness it was a short-term, fill-in kind of job at the law school when I was a graduate student.”

“You rode your bike to work every day, didn’t you?”


“Most people didn’t do that. It would have been ‘beyond the pale’ for most people.”

“No, maybe they didn’t have a bike or they had to work 8 hour days or maybe they lived too far.”

“You just don’t believe in this ‘beyond the pale’ thing, do you?”

“I looked up the idiom and discovered the original meaning. It’s a LOT more interesting; it’s a 17th century idiom related to the English invasion of Ireland, but, in our parlance it means ‘unacceptable; outside agreed standards of decency’. Here’s more.”

“Have you ever done that, Lamont? Gone beyond agreed standards of decency?”

“You know I have.”

“Are you going to write about it?”

“Not here. That would be beyond the pale. Anyway, here’s the poem I mentioned.”

The Waking

By Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

6 thoughts on “Nothing is “Beyond the Pale”

  1. Love Roethke.

    An odd little bit of tone-deafness from the DP today: “unacceptable behavior” = being daring? Or vice versa? Heck, I was raised with that equation as a best practices life-rule, that whole being daring equals unacceptable behavior rule.

    • Wow — I guess I think “unacceptable” refers to the perception society might have of ones actions. My move here was perceived by a lot of my friends in California as “brave” and “daring.” For me it was just necessary. In neither case was it “unacceptable.” Of course, most people in CA view anything east of I-5 as “beyond the pale.”

      • I agree with you. It’s about perception. The DP title rankles me for some reason. “Beyond the Pale.” New and daring are not beyond the pale, not at all. Doing something necessary certainly isn’t, either. Thank you, Martha, for virtually listening to me again.

  2. I do a bit of everything but nothing really perfect, but have got through up to now. Anyhow today we have Wikipedia etc. so there is always a solution. Funny Germans kids have problems with the “p” and “b” when writing and the “t” and “d”. I saw it with my step children. I think it must be a problem with the language that the sounds are so similar.

    • T and D have similar sounds even in English. P and b are the same letters upside down so it makes sense to me! q, p, and b — all of them can mess me up that’s why I like fonts that have serifs and always found handwriting easier to read than some typing…crazy. z and s gave me problems for a while, too. Strangely, I was reading at a high school level when I was in third grade, so phonics works. I’m glad I don’t have to do it again, though.

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