Rats, Bananas and Life Lessons
I was toying between different themes for the next blog. Everything conspired towards one of them:
- A homily at morning service
- Opening Paulo Coelho’s book of reflections, ‘Like a flowing river’ at random. The message was the same.
- The rat story as narrated by a client that kept coming to mind constantly.
So, this theme won. You will discover it by and by.
Many years ago, a gentleman who brought his child for career guidance told me this story. A rat had been troubling the family — creating merry hell not only in the kitchen, but all over the house. The family decided that Mr. Rat had to be annihilated. Instruments of death were strategically kept ready — a broom, a cricket bat and a heavy frying pan. One fine day, Mr. Rat got over confident and wham bam — a perfect shot and Rat breathed his last. Here’s the interesting part of the story — after Rat had been given a suitable funeral by throwing him out by the roadside, the humans decided to clear up Rat’s home. To their shock and surprise Rat had stored a Rat’s mountain of grain. And then, wham bam it hit the humans. Here was Rat wealth stored for the future but Rat was dead. To what use was the Rat wealth? Who would
If only Rat was able to talk, we could have asked him a few questions:
- Why did you store so much Rat wealth?
- Were you worried about your future?
- Did you regret anything in your past that made you worry about your future?
- Did you enjoy your life in the present time?
I am sure Rat’s answers would have been interesting to hear, however I think it is time to take this to a personal level and answer the questions for oneself and the family.
Let’s do a small activity. Take your thumb and middle finger and snap them
together nice and loud, now do it again.
Oops — that’s two moments gone into the past — never to be retrieved and possibly soon to turn into a regret.
All of us have regrets of various kinds — for example:
- I wish I had paid more attention in class!
- If only I had listened to my parents!
- I feel so guilty and angry that I did not keep in touch!
- I should have been more responsible at my job!
- Indifference to my God and Prayer!
And the list of regrets can increase every day; thus forcing one to more or less live in the past.
Today, I regret having lost my temper with ‘L’ the five year old I am teaching. She can drive me up the wall with her behaviour and difficulties in learning.
I am regretting my past behaviour in the present, thus pushing every moment of the present into the past, thus becoming a distraction.
However, I see an opportunity here and that is to transform the regret into learning. So what did I learn?
- ‘L’ has her own unique way of learning.
- Teach her in the way she learns.
- Appreciate her and then watch her face light up with a charming smile.
- She responds much better when I am fully in the present with her.
- So that’s the answer. ‘Be in the present’ and enjoy every moment of the teaching-learning process.
Was there another reason for losing my temper?
There was a worry about how she would cope with the next class when academically she is still in the previous class.
So, was I in the present?
I was in the past and future, thus destroying the present.
Now, what do I do about the future — worrying about it does not make what I want to happen.
The answer is to chalk out a plan with a clear purpose and work the plan in the present.
So — ‘learning to read’ is the purpose for ‘L’. Spelling is incidental.
Now that there is a purpose — a plan is easy to create. The plan has to be worked at today to make the work effective and joyous for both of us.
Let me now share the story from Paulo Coelho’s book — from the reflection
‘Rome: Isabella Returns from Nepal’
Monk: ‘Did you know that bananas can teach you the meaning of life?’
He took out a rotten banana from the bag and threw it away. ‘That is the life that has been and gone, and which was not used to the full and for which it is now too late.’
This is only partially true. I should learn lessons from the past to make my present better or else the past will continue to haunt me.
He took out a green banana and put it back in the bag. ‘This is the life that has yet to happen, and for which we need to wait until the moment is right.’
Yes indeed! However with no purpose for the future and with no plan I could worry and that would be another distraction coming in the way of what needs to be done now.
He then took out a ripe banana, peeled it and shared it. ‘This is the present moment. Learn how to gobble it up without fear or guilt.’
Let’s change the word ‘gobble’ to ‘savour’ the present — living fully and consciously in the moment, enjoying every bit of whatever we are doing:
- Having a conversation
- Anything really
Let’s focus on the NOW.
For it is a gift given by God.