In the mid 90’s, when I was living off the grid in Kentucky, I had an experience that I still remember and which still serves as powerful object lesson.
I was working on my Ford Bronco, a big, red machine with monster tires and a monstrous 351-modified engine. It was a perfect earth-stomper that served me well while living off the grid in the Appalachian hills of Eastern Kentucky.
I had the hood up and the engine running which not only broke the peaceful silence of my natural surroundings with its industrial gurgle and roar, it added to the already-hot summer morning.
As I’m tinkering under the hood I notice a Daddy Long Legs crawling around in the engine area. It was making its way toward the rotating fan – a sure death for Daddy. I quickly grabbed the insect and flung it a few feet away onto the green earth. Daddy would live for another day. Go Daddy! (I know, I know!)
Reflection immediately followed the act. Daddy had no idea what it was headed for and had even less of an idea of why its world got twisted and inverted into a whole new reality, albeit a more desirous one, when I snatched it off the hood and tossed it to its salvation. Actually, what I did could be described as a violent act when perceived from a certain angle.
However, there was a bigger picture, a higher intention behind the act of upending the Daddy and its world that the Daddy could not have known in the moment it happened. That intention was to preserve that life. Nothing more or less. I wonder if Daddy ever thought about it afterward?
I once read a story of a family going to a camping trip in Utah. They were part of a larger group gathering at a campground for a weekend of leisure and recreation. On the way to the campground their vehicle broke down and they were still several hours from their destination. Their excitement turned to utter frustration and disappointment, especially for the children.
They tinkered, they prayed, and, ultimately, they were stuck (this was before the internet, GPS, and cellphones). They never made it to the campground. They found out later on that a flash flood swept through the campground and a number of people drowned in the flood.
There is the account of the man who had never been late to work in his 11 years at a financial company. One morning he heads to work and is running late, over a half-hour late. On the subway, in NYC, anxiety and fear had his stomach tied in knots. His perfect punctuality record would come to an end. He was filled with shame over it, his pride brought down low. So ashamed was he about being late for the first time, he did not call in to the office to give notice.
It was the morning of September 11, 2001 and the man worked at the World Trade Center. Had he arrived to work on time, as he had done for 11 years, well…..you know the rest.
Context. It’s all about context, isn’t it.
A sudden, violent change of circumstance, a bitter disappointment, a perceived failure in performance. Seen through the altered lens of a shifting context, what appears to the eyes as a severe breakdown emerges as a significant breakthrough. Guide yourself, train yourself, to recognize your opportunities in the midst of breakdowns, turmoils, even chaos. Learn how to shift the context.
To perceive ‘failure’ in the circumstances is something anyone can do. It requires almost no effort at all to condition the mind to see at the surface of life. However, to recognize the opportunity, or even just to expect the opportunity to present itself, often an act of a certain kind of faith and knowing, also a result of conditioning, requires the exercise of a certain muscle of the Soul. It is more than being an optimist – it’s more like being an OPTI-MYSTIC – one who can see the unseen in what is seen and beyond.
To see with a higher Seeing. This is what we are called to do. To see the clouds covering the sky is easy, too obvious. To see that the sun still shines requires imagination, a higher Seeing, an elevated vision.