The Courier

Sometimes I face a problem that I am ill-equipped to deal with.

Fairly often, the problem is something outside of my own personal experience, which means that I am both bewildered and scared at the same time. This does not mean that I cannot find a way to give the person in question my support, but rather that I have to ask what kind of help the person is seeking. Take, for example, when someone comes looking for help dealing with the breakup of a longer-term personal relationship, I have no personal experience to fall back on. This means that I have to ask about how the person feels, and whether he or she can see “a positive way forward.” At the beginning, and this is very hard, everybody needs to accept that he or she has contributed something to the situation as it stands. Being overly patient can be one of these things.  Selfishness is not always the main root of a problem. There are other situations where we are reminded that we humans don’t control everything, and that we are part of a larger and greater cosmos.

A well-known tale tells us of how some railroaders stopped on a siding near Lake Louise, to have breakfast on their way east. Enthusiastically breaking out the frying pan and tossing on the bacon and eggs, they soon sat down to a tasty meal. This was in the caboose or brake-van, in the days when trains still needed this equipment.  Soon enough, the van rocked a bit as it normally does when someone grabs onto the railing to lift up his or her weight to climb aboard.  What came into the cabin was not a crew member, but a mother bear with her three cubs. The brakeman threw a chunk of bread to lure them out, but it missed the open doorway and stayed inside. The crew climbed as quickly as they could through the cupola to safety. Looking back down, they saw the bears helping themselves and inadvertently smashing almost everything as they went along. One cub was even seated in a chair at the table! In the end no one was harmed, but the caboose needed new light fittings and most of the furniture was wrecked. This kind of problem is so obviously out of our control that we do not even have to try to do anything, but just wait to clean up the mess afterwards!  It seems to me that many of our problems stem from the fact that we are trying to fix them, when it might be better merely to leave things be and carry on with life as best we can under the circumstances. When I put my mind to doing the best that I can, and be as practical as I can, I take my attention away from what is going wrong.

As Shakespeare had King Lear say: O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.” (King Lear, III.4)

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