fable of the woman who tried to see as the man saw

“If you ever tried to see the world from my point-of-view, you’d realize I’m right,” the man told her.

“I wouldn’t want to pollute my eyes,” the woman replied.  “But okay, okay—here’s what I’ll do:

“Just for today, I’ll try to see things as you see things.

“That should be easy enough for me to do.  After all, I’ve heard you spout the same nonsense for years.  Heard all about our dog-eat-dog world.  And those silly conspiracies!  Your words are firmly embedded in my brain.”

So the woman adjusted her mindset and went forth into the world…

…and that world soon began change before her eyes.

The shadows appeared to darken.  Corners and edges sharpened and hardened.  Now the trees seemed somewhat menacing.  Were the smiles of the passersby actually malicious grins?

These changes frightened her, yet the woman continued.

“Maybe it’s smart to look at things this way,” she thought.  “The world could indeed be a darker place, a harder place than I wish to believe.  Maybe I’m a fool to take every smile at face value.  Maybe the trees really do hate us—who could blame them?”

But then the birds in those trees stopped chirping.  Instead, they shouted curses.

“Okay, that’s enough!” the woman yelled to the air.  “Yeah, maybe my view of the world is a little too bright.  Maybe I often reject the darkness of this life…

“But I refuse to live in a world where birds hurl curses.”

And so, with some relief, she stopped trying to think as the man thought, stopped trying to see as he saw.

However…

…after she snapped back, the woman noticed her view of the world wasn’t quite as sunny as before.  Not dismally dark, nor dully gray.  But with more degrees of shade.  She realized her vision had expanded.

“So if I keep trying to see the world through others’ eyes, maybe I’ll have great vision someday,” she told herself.

In case you’re wondering, she still argues with the man…

But not so loudly these days.  And not just because she’s seen the world from his point-of-view…

…but also because she now knows his pain.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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fable of the man who believed life was better

He believed his life had changed for the better…

…because a new king had been crowned.

Maybe so…but…

…his faucet still dripped…

…and his roof still needed mending…

…and he still needed to exercise more and eat less starch…

…and he still hadn’t made peace with his ex-wife…

…or his daughter or his son…

…and his dog still growled at him…

…and he still fought with his employer…

…and his neighbor still got on his nerves.

And yet, this man still said, “Life is better—

“—much better, because we have a much better king.  A much better king who’s promised to make many changes for the better.”

“I know he’s said he will,” his neighbor replied.  “But you can’t always trust what somebody says.

“After all, didn’t you say you would fix your faucet, patch your roof, exercise and eat less starch?

“Didn’t you say you’d make peace with your ex and your daughter and son and your dog?  Didn’t say you say you were going to find a boss who didn’t bark at you?”

The man who hadn’t changed then turned his back and walked away, muttering to himself, “When he starts being nicer to me, I’ll start being nicer to him.

“Anyway, I’m sure life has changed for the better…

“…because, as far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t get any worse.”

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
I’m Responsible: a pessimistic optimist responds to the trouble of his times

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fable of the spider who spun his death

A mosquito, caught on a thread of a spider’s web…

…pleaded with the hairy arachnid:

“I’ll sing for you if you’ll spare my life.  You don’t even have to free me—just let me live.”

This spider had never met a mosquito and was curious about its music.  So he agreed.

At first, he enjoyed the insect’s high-pitched song.  But by the next day, he desired a change.  “Don’t you know any other tunes?”

“Sorry, that’s my complete repertoire.”

So, without further delay, the spider ate the tiny soprano.

And soon discovered the bug had carried a virus.

But as death tightened its grip on his body and limbs, the spider chose to look at his plight from a positive perspective:

“Well, at least I got to listen to some new music and enjoy something different for dinner before I died.”

Some say the spider was merely trying to spin the situation in order to avoid the grief of death.

Maybe so, but according to reports, that spider died with a smile on his hairy lips.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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fable of the tightrope walker who lost his nerve

After years of performing, one night the tightrope walker looked down.

He’d learned from beginning to keep his attention focused forward.  But that evening, as he stood poised on his high perch, ready to step upon the rope…

…for some unknown reason, his concentration shifted for an instant.  With a single downward glance, he took in the circus ring and the stands packed with people—a sea of eyes gazing up at him in expectation.  And in a flash—just like that!—he lost his nerve.  For the first time in his career, he got the jitters.

Perhaps a deep anxiety, long denied, had finally surfaced.  Perhaps.  In any case, the usual butterflies in his stomach had been replaced by agitated bats.

For a long moment, the tightrope walker just stood there, shocked and confused.

Then he took a deep breath and waited for the confidence to flow back into his body and mind.

But oh!—those small tremors kept running through his limbs.

His feet and legs desired solid ground again.  “No, no way,” he said to himself.  “I’d rather fall to my death than climb back down that ladder.”

He could sense the crowd shifting in awkward uncertainty.  Their silence became even more silent.  A big drop of icy-cold sweat slid down his spine.

“Maybe once I feel the rope under my feet, I’ll relax.  Yes, of course I will.”

And so, he finally managed to lift his right foot and step upon the tightrope.

But alas, performing the old routine did not calm him.

Nonetheless, he made it through:

He began by walking to the opposite end and back.  Then again—but this time, juggling bowling pins.

He topped that by going back and forth on a bicycle—pedaling in reverse on the return.  On his second trip, he again juggled the pins.

He continued juggling on the bike, but now, at the end of each go-round, he added a dinner plate to a stack balanced atop his head.

When the stack had reached a dozen, he parked the bike midway across the wire and dismounted…

Throwing the pins high into the air, he did a quick pirouette, then caught the pins as they came down—without shifting a single plate.

He did that pirouette stunt two more times to conclude his performance.

Competent as usual.  However, on this night, the instant he stepped from the ladder and back onto solid ground, a sigh of relief went through his whole body and being.

Later, alone in his hotel room, he looked at his darkly vacant eyes in the mirror and said, “A one-time aberration, what happened tonight.  Nothing to worry about.  Just don’t ever look down again.”

However, the next evening, though he kept his eyes pointed forward, he experienced the same pervasive weakness…

By the time he stepped down from the ladder, he felt totally drained.  The earth-shaking applause did not lift him, as it had in the past.

The crowd never noticed his shakiness—not on that night nor on the many that followed.  Yes, for the reminder of his long career, though he tried various mental techniques and psychological therapies, the tightrope walker never regained his nerve.

Every night, cold sweat slid down his spine as he stood on his perch.  Every night, his legs trembled as he parked the bike midway across.  Every night, he had to force himself to breathe breathe breathe, until his feet again touched ground.

Extreme concentration was required to maintain a balance that had once seemed so natural.

For awhile, he bolstered himself by saying: “I know my confidence will return.  Perhaps during the next performance.  And if not the next, then the one after that.”

However, after a couple of years, he finally admitted: his sense of mental and physical strength—which had once seemed indomitable—was likely gone forever.

Nonetheless, he continued on the wire until he reached an acceptable age for retirement…

He continued because, even with the strain, life as tightrope walker seemed better than life as a regular guy who walked the ground.

And so, when he finally shelved the soft-sole shoes, he felt a twinge of regret.  But also: totally exhausted in spirit.

Those who knew him could see he needed a break from the grind…

…but none realized the ordeal he’d endured for years.

They believed walking the rope had become second-nature to him long ago.  In fact, some thought his fatigue was due to boredom.

Even after he retired, the high-wire artist hid the reality.  He told himself: “People still idolize me—I don’t want to disappoint them.”  Tightrope walkers are known to have sizeable egos.

Nonetheless, the man did confide in a stranger once, during a ride atop a double-decker bus.  He ended his story by saying, “The odd thing is—I now feel this sense of accomplishment…

“After I lost my nerve, I felt like such a phony.  Every night when I raised my arms to their applause, I felt so small.

“Then suddenly, near the end, I realized my truth: it had taken so much strength to continue when I felt so weak.  My failure of nerve gave me the opportunity for greater achievement.”

This story means a lot to me, because I’m well-acquainted with feelings of weakness and uncertainty.  When struggling with self-doubt, if I can remember what that man said…

…I’ll stop being so critical of myself.  His story tells me: it takes much strength to be a nervous fool.  So give yourself some credit!

But this question lingers:

All things considered, is it actually good that tightrope walker never regained his nerve?

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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grieve for the horse, grieve for ourselves

On the eve of an anniversary to be grieved, I return to this blog post published last August:

I say: take the general, but leave the horse.

I’m referring to the horse beneath Robert E. Lee on the controversial statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

I believe Lee himself would agree to having his likeness removed.  In the years following the Civil War, he wrote against creating such monuments to honor leaders of the Confederacy.  He said the South needed to move forward.

Over one hundred-fifty years later, we’re still trying to move on.  Still trying to heal.  Lee was right: putting men like him on high pedestals hasn’t helped us in this struggle.  But I believe honoring his horse might.

No, the horse isn’t a hero.  But neither is it guilty.  The horse was only doing what horses do.  Or rather, what we force them to do. T he horse didn’t choose that war.  The horse didn’t divide the nation.  The horse is innocent.

Many innocent horses died in our Civil War battles.  They endured hunger and the thirst of long marches.  They charged into the line of fire, though their good horse sense told them: stop!

So I say, leave the Civil War horse on its pedestal.  Not only does it deserve some respect…

…but seeing it could remind us of the painful ugly truth of that war.

Perhaps then, we’ll grieve a great tragedy—and its long aftermath—instead of celebrating a false nobility.  We’ll grieve for what the entire nation lost.  A loss continuing.

It’s been said that removing the statue of Lee “would merely be a symbolic gesture.”  In other words: it doesn’t change much in our society.  However, we’ve seen how powerful symbols can be.  Maybe the horse statue could be a potent symbol.  Maybe it could actually help us heal.  I don’t know.  But of this, I’m sure: you won’t heal if you don’t grieve.  So let’s keep the horse.

© 2017, Michael R. Patton
I’m Responsible: a pessimistic optimist responds to the trouble of his times

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fable of the man who preferred to fight a fly

A man sitting on his front porch steps kept swatting at a fly with a rolled-up newspaper.

He missed again and again and again and again.

Finally, a pest exterminator, parked at the house next door, offer to help.

“No, get away!” the man exclaimed.  “This little problem distracts me from all my bigger problems.”

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
dream steps blog

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the fable of the brighter man who’s still kinda dim

While grazing through some old photographs today…

…I took a long look at a young man sitting and grinning under a wispy willow tree.

I peered at him from a great distance—across a gulf many years wide.

He seemed like such a stranger.  That’s not me and yet it is.

Another irony: I can see him better from this distance…

I can see how dim he was.

Yes, he was dim, but not so dim as to be completely blind to his dimness.

Because he could see he was dim, he felt quite frustrated at his dimness…

But as a result, he worked to become brighter.  Hard work, but the brighter he became, the brighter he wanted to be.  Thus, he kept struggling to turn up the light.

And indeed!—when I compare his picture to the photo I took today…

…I can see I’m a much brighter person now.

Bright enough to see I’m still pretty dim.

So I’m still struggling to turn up the light.

© 2018, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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