― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart:
Heart Advice for Difficult Times
"It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew,
and in that there is joy.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti
|Bodhidharma by Shokei, 15th Century|
Of course, not having a clue rarely stops me these days.
In fact, at age 68, it seems to be the best stance to take in any given moment. It certainly seems the most appropriate. The presumption that we really know what is going on is most often only just that, a presumption. Clung to, it can be patently presumptuous.
And even that's being a bit charitable.
My first boss, Charlie Winchester, foreman of the maintenance department at a small factory in a small town north of Chicago, had a decidedly less delicate way of making the point.
I started working at Clayton Mark and Company as a high school sophomore. Dutifully eschewing summer days splashing in the local lake to save for the obligatory college education (neither of my parents were college graduates), I was going to have to "work my way through." As good fortune would have it, I ended up in the maintenance department where my tasks ranged from mowing the extensive grounds to learning how to fix things. Charlie was a kind and able mentor.
One particular lesson on the nature of reality began as Charlie came around the corner one afternoon to find me standing in front of a machine gone amuck. Lurching erratically and making tortuous noises after my attempt at repair, it threatened to self-destruct in a cloud of smoke. The afternoon's production quota now in question, I quickly (and sheepishly) explained what I had done and why. With the ever present cigar stub in his mouth, Charlie quickly shut the machine down as he listened, then took a ballpoint pen and small spiral notebook from his shirt pocket. Letter by letter he printed the word "ASSUME" and held the page up right in front of my nose.
"You know what happens when you assume?" he asked.