“A bitter cucumber? Throw it away. Brambles on the path? Walk around them. That is sufficient. Do not go on to say: Why do such things exist in the world? or you will be laughed at by a student of nature just as you would be laughed at by a carpenter or a cobbler if you criticized them because you see shavings and scrapings in their workshop from things they are making.” —Marcus Aurelius in The Meditations
Our van needs a new muffler—an unforeseen expense. I need to make an adjustment to our income tax, which I filed months ago with a happy brush of the hands saying, “There, that’s done.” (Not so fast!) Our plans for the weekend have been on-again/off-again because of erratic weather forecasts, so today we’re scrambling to prepare for a last-minute change in plans. I want to take a picture of a cucumber for this post, but I ate the last one yesterday.
At every turn, I come across brambles in my path. “Why can’t things just be easy?” I wonder. “Why is there always something?”
I turn to Marcus Aurelius to stem my irritation. After all, I don’t want students of nature to laugh at me. All of the brambles I walk around are (a) not really any big deal, and (b) shavings and scrapings from things we are making. We have a van (Hallelujah!), so we need to maintain it. We live happily and comfortably on our income and pay some of it to a stable government that helps to maintain our society (Hallelujah!), so we need to steward it responsibly. My son participates in a sport he loves (Hallelujah!), so we need to flexibly make that work for him. And I really enjoyed that cucumber.
Thinking of the events of my life in this way make it easier to navigate those brambles.
Do you have any brambles on your path today? Are you feeling a little frustrated by them? Do you want to ask: “Why do such things exist in the world?”
It’s probably because there’s something really wonderful growing right beside them.