Making it Manageable

If our education had included training to bear unpleasantness and to let the first shock pass until we could think more calmly, many an unbearable situation would become manageable, and many a nervous illness avoided.” ~ Claire Weekes

In a world where most people are not consistently giving their highest and finest you are bound to run into unpleasant situations every now and again, if not daily. The world we have is the result of the choices we’ve made collectively, and no matter how perfectly you’ve carried yourself in the midst of the chaos you are bound to feel the results of poor choices being made elsewhere.

Ask the toe who in and of himself would be healthy and strong were it not for the mouth who found an overly rich diet irresistible. Gout may be his burden even though it might not be his fault directly. So it is in the body of humanity. We may not all be visibly connected to one another, but the causal ricochets of the choices made and actions taken by others impact us constantly.

Realizing this, we needn’t be shocked when things don’t go as expected or when we encounter an unexpected rough patch. You can broaden your scope of expectation – anything can happen! – and resolve to make the most out of whatever does.

The vicissitudes of life are much more manageable than some would have you think. If you didn’t learn this lesson at home or at school while growing up, who says you can’t learn it now?

By Bread Alone

Analysis kills spontaneity. The grain once ground into flour springs and germinates no more.” ~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Life is a mix of predictable cycles punctuated on occasion by the unexpected. The most obvious rhythms we experience are those caused by the machinations of the universe. Our planet turns on its axis, its revolutions give us a 24 hour day. Our orbital path around the sun provides us with a year, which is roughly 365.24 days. And the inclination of the earth on its axis – despite the occasional shift due to large earthquakes and the like – bring a regular pulsation of seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn.

Life is predictable on the whole, yet full of surprises. It is for this reason that the “best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” For example, fashion week in Paris saw unseasonable warm temperatures this year, rendering the autumn wardrobes packed by many of the attendees unwearable. On a less serious note, in 1971 a Soviet oil drilling rig accidentally punched a hole in a massive underground natural gas cavern, causing the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in. Poisonous gas began leaking from the hole so the Soviets, in a effort to divert a larger problem, set the hole aflame. The hole has been burning ever since.

To be effective in living you must be well-prepared for the predictable and adroit in handling the unexpected. If you become prejudiced against surprise, where your first flush of feeling in relation to unforeseen events is “I hate surprises,” then you will likely confuse a blessing for a curse. If, on the other hand, you develop the ability to handle everything that happens within your scope of responsibility with equanimity and poise, then you can turn even the most shocking and unfortunate surprises into stepping stones for victory.

This sounds good, but how is it done? For starters, you have to make room in your consciousness for the unexpected to happen. Rather than steeling yourself against the capriciousness of life by trying to make everything routine through schedules, habits and inflexible opinions, keep it light by cultivating a lust for the adventure of life. Moreover, be spontaneous on occasion. Spontaneity – the exhibiting of actions, impulses, or behavior that are stimulated by internal processes – is your opportunity to infuse life with the creative impulses that come to focus in you.

One of my favorite poems on spontaneity speaks of a time not too long ago, where wells ran dry in the autumn. This was a predictable side-effect of the rhythmic pulsations of of the seasons, yet the children exercised their spontaneity in relation to an event that could have disheartened an otherwise happy person because of the inconvenience.

Going for Water by Robert Frost

The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if still it ran;

Not loth to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.

We ran as if to meet the moon
That slowly dawned behind the trees,
The barren boughs without the leaves,
Without the birds, without the breeze.

But once within the wood, we paused
Like gnomes that hid us from the moon,
Ready to run to hiding new
With laughter when she found us soon.

Each laid on other a staying hand
To listen ere we dared to look,
And in the hush we joined to make
We heard, we knew we heard the brook.

A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.

Enjoy this lovely autumn day!