Every morning when I awake I ask myself whether I should write, or blow up a dam. I tell myself I should keep writing, though I’m not sure that’s right.
~ Derrick Jensen (b. 1960), eco-activist and writer, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” (1998), and A Language Older Than Words (2000).
I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
~ E. B. White (1899-1985)
Old Sufi Dervish desert proverb:
You may spend your life in an effort to cover the whole world’s thorny surface with thick leather, or you can make yourself a pair of sandals and move on. . .
From a 2004 radio interview with G.G. , Scottsdale, AZ:
GG: Our most memorable encounter on our expedition into the Himalayan rainforest of southern Tibet was with one lama who suddenly appeared and started hiking with us. We nicknamed him the Jolly Lama because he was always smiling. Kind of a portly guy. Always in a good mood. It would be pouring down rain and you’d look over and it’d be raining on everybody’s tent but his! I am not kidding you, it was the weirdest thing. We just got the biggest kick out of this guy.
Well, one time it had been raining for about seven days. I was miserable and covered with leeches. I’ll never forget what happened next. Sloshing along the muddy trail in the pounding rain I came upon a large, slimy log that had fallen chest high across our brush-choked path. In my agitated state I viewed the log as a menacing obstacle. With no way under or around it, I jumped, stomach-first, and slid over the top. Regaining my balance on the other side, I was infuriated at the mud and decaying mush that seemed to have covered the entire front of my body. Rubbing off the crud I cursed the log and the rain.
My brother Todd then suggested that we wait and see how the Lama would handle this formidable impediment. Surely this test would break him. Hiding off the trail we peeked through the undergrowth just in time to see him trudge up to the log. Ever smiling, he took a couple of steps back and tried his jump with a running start. With not enough momentum, coupled with a portly belly, he slid back down on the same side of the log and landed on his back in a large puddle. Shaking his rain drenched head he burst into spasms of uproarious laughter. Staggering to his feet, he repeated the same maneuver with the same results three more times.
With each collapse back into the puddle his laughter grew stronger and louder. On his fourth attempt he made it over the top and slid headlong into the muddy puddle on the other side. Again, the laughter. Continuing to chuckle, he wiped himself off as best he could and lovingly patted the log as though it were a dear friend. He then proceeded up the trail, still smiling. Todd and I just stared at each other in amazement.
At that moment it became experientially obvious to me that it wasn’t the external or natural world that was my problem. Rather it was how I chose to perceive it. The Jolly Lama’s rainy, leech-infested day wasn’t bad quite simply because he chose not to conceptualize it that way. It was blatantly evident that there was a choice, and that choice was mine alone. The Jolly Lama chose to experience his encounter with the log as a happy thing, therefore he had joy. I chose to perceive my experience as miserable, and therefore I felt miserable.