When bitterness becomes us

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Library Loop

Library Loop

There is a well-known tale about two monks – a senior monk and a junior monk – that are traveling together.  They approach a river and, on the bank of the river, is a beautiful young woman in all her finery.  She has no way to cross the river without ruining her clothing.  She demands that the monks help her across.

Without a word, the senior monk picks up the woman, carries her across the river, places her gently on the other side, and carries on with his journey.  The young woman says nothing in reply and walks off in the other direction.  The junior monk catches up to the senior monk but doesn’t say anything for the rest of the day.

That night, unable to contain himself any further, the junior monk finally speaks his mind.  “The woman was so rude,” he says.  “You were kind enough to carry her across the river and she didn’t even thank you.”

“I put that woman down hours ago,” replied the senior monk.  “Why are you still carrying her?”

Letting go is difficult, and this year the heavy grey skies of our long winter haven’t helped.  As we wait for spring to finally arrive, negative emotions have festered inside many of us and we have become melancholic and bitter.  As I write this, I can see opaque purple clouds stretched across the sky, sitting low on the mountains, and I know there’s a good chance that the brilliant blue will conquer the heavy grey – at least for one day.  I hope this promise of sunshine will provide some release before a new onslaught of wind and rain and snow.

In the deep recesses of my brain, I know that I’m okay and that my family is healthy and happy.  I get to wake up each morning and make myself a delicious cup of black coffee and sit at my desk and write, and later I get to have a glass of red wine with those that support me and laugh with me.  But, like many of us, I am often weighed down by negativity.  I should be like the senior monk and let it go, but I admit I more like the junior monk.  I am affected by those that I carry across the river – those that desperately cling to power at the expense of others or those that engorge their ego with bully tactics.

I believe that we are slowly making our way towards a greater good.  Although we slip sometimes, we recognize that we are more alike than we are different – that there is something inherently good in everyone and that we all prefer to help one other than harm one another.  We know that, despite everything, kindness can be found everywhere.  And yet bitterness, fear and jealousy will always be a part of human nature.  There will always be people that do terrible things to good people so they can feel better about themselves.  It is easy to drag others down to our level; it is far more difficult to take ownership of our mistakes and shortcomings, and be willing to learn from those that are more talented and passionate.  We criticize our heroes until they fall; we feel threatened if others are more creative, or innovative, or lead others to do great things.

I often think about the two monks, and I wonder if I too can let go as the senior monk did.  I wonder if I can continue my journey without worrying about those who have entangled themselves in bitterness.

In order to clear my head, I laced up my boots the last time it was sunny and went for a walk along the trail that runs behind Extra Foods and towards the Creston Library.  I passed a mother with her three young children.

“Excuse me,” she said.  “Do you have the time?”

“No, I don’t,” I said.  “Maybe it’s three o’clock or three-thirty.  I think I saw a school bus drive down the road.”

“We were enjoying the sunshine, and completely lost track of time,” she said.  “But I suppose it doesn’t matter, does it?”

“No,” I agreed.  “It really doesn’t.”

Time: 3:00-3:30 p.m.

Place: Library Loop