Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hail the white weasel! (Thoughts for a new year)

I saw a long-tailed weasel the other day. It had a long, slender body as white as the snow around it. It was all white except for tip of its tail, which looked as if it had been dipped in a cup of hot cocoa. I had never seen such a brilliantly white animal in the wild; it looked like something from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The weasel bounded happily until it saw me coming down the road on my roaring, beastly snowmobile. It instinctively dove into the nearest snowbank and vanished out of sight. 

I keep thinking about that weasel. It was a beautiful animal, and one I hope to see again. If I never see one again, I guess I'll just have to be grateful for the one chance. 

***

Perhaps the experiences that do the most to enrich life are those which we do not anticipate, that show up in unexpected places, at unexpected times. In those spontaneous moments we expand the borders of our lives and, if we allow it, we are reborn. We start anew with new vision and new values, new concerns and a new past. 

In our daily lives we can plan and prepare for many things, but planning has its limits. We can only plan for things that are known. What are the implications of living a perfectly planned life? A completely planned life would include only things that we rationally will to happen. Gone are the white weasels, the unexpected visits from long-lost friends, the freak storms that are terrifying and somehow enlivening, and everything else we do not already know. In my opinion, a completely planned life would be the most boring of all lives. Unless you already know everything in the world of any value at all, why would you want to limit yourself to your small world of experience?

It is a good thing to be organized, but organization is a tool, not a god. Happiness, fulfillment, and growth do not come from organization. These treasures belong to the person who develops sufficient compassion and gratitude to enjoy and respond to the unceasing flow of spontaneous moments. Instead of becoming organized to eliminate the unknown, become organized in order to enhance your response to the unknown. (You can substitute the word organization in this paragraph for your favorite resolution: exercising more, yelling less, etc.) 

This is not anti-science or anti-reason. Rather, it is reason best understood. We need science and we need reason, but without wisdom and compassion (which likely go together), they are tools with no purpose! Do not spend a whole year sharpening tools without ever putting them to good use!

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