After maybe the roughest night we’ve ever had with Gabriel, this morning we somehow drug ourselves out for a surprisingly balmy late morning walk. Surprisingly balmy until we got about a mile from home, at which point I’m pretty sure I felt winter officially descend on our little hill up here in Ohio. It was as if one season palpably pushed the other out. The wind turned cold. The grey sky ominous not like thunderstorm ominous but like hunkering down ominous (winter being the stubborn companion that he is). All of a sudden it hung lower. I snapped a shot, not thinking it would amount to much. I seldom am able to capture in a picture how the weather makes me feel, but this exposed itself (and me) in a most startling way:
Startling how, you may ask. The big red “Yield” sign for one. It occurred to me today that if one wanted to oversimplify the sorts of people that move through the world, one might break it down into two categories: the yielders and the unyielding. The majority of us probably aim to be a little of both, but man, moderation has to be one of the most difficult virtues to maintain. Is it even a virtue? But that’s not where I mean to go with this.
Mr. Yield as I’ll call him (he occupies this image in a more tangible way than most photographs taken of me ever do), fairly shouted, as though every yield sign ever planted was put there for me. He with his classic good looks, his bold trinitarian style—his other dimension-ness. You see, I am not a yielder. I am of the unyielding. This element of me has its advantages—advantage being the key word here, because the unyielding are all about gaining the upper hand. Seeing this in me is a start. Coming to terms with it another thing all together.
Instead of going all confessional here, I’ll cut away to an excerpt I read on thAutcast.com, from Everyday Zen, by Charlotte Joko Beck. This ranks right up there with the still stone in a rushing stream image I conjure up in times of need.
Suppose we are out on a lake and it’s a bit foggy–not too foggy, but a bit foggy–and we’re rowing along in our little boat having a good time. And then, all of a sudden, coming out of the fog, there’s this other rowboat and it’s heading right at us. And…crash! Well, for a second we’re really angry–what is that fool doing? I just painted my boat! And here he comes–crash!–right into it. And then suddenly we notice that the rowboat is empty. What happens to our anger? Well, the anger collapses…I’ll just have to paint my boat again, that’s all. But if that rowboat that hit ours had another person in it, how would we react? You know what would happen! Now our encounters with life, with other people, with events, are like being bumped by an empty rowboat. But we don’t experience it that way. We experience it as though there are people in that other rowboat and we’re really getting clobbered by them…
I read that yesterday, and I don’t know how many times that image of an empty rowboat appeared in my mind today, unbeckoned. And every time, it helped. The chip that gets lodged between my shoulder and collarbone shifted to a much more manageable position. At least I was able to look right and left, to gain a little perspective. And maybe all the yielders out there wish they were more unyielding, like I wish submitting wasn’t so damn hard. But I think the yielders have one up on us. The Beatitudes are pretty uncompromising on that front. Blessed are the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the poor in spirit, the peacemakers. Not so much the stubborn, the advantage takers, the proud, the satiated, the war mongers. Somebody ought to tell Congress, for goodness sakes.