23. Have you noticed things come in threes?

Life, generally, must be an engaging experience — of course. Quite apart from the fact that while we’re here we can’t help but be involved, the experience of having a life is naturally a fascinating actuality. It must be. People seem to be so wrapped up in their lives and captivated by what’s going on — and yes, that might seem like an obvious conclusion. But it’s not like there are always grand adventures or the stuff of storytelling — this existence is usually not made up of the kind of happenings that has come to be expected from a TV screen or what you read. But there is still obviously a fascination, and it does not really depend on there being exploits or headline moments or the interweaving of personal contingencies.

The adventure, as I think Benny has found out, can be how the ordinary is dealt with. And how even the quite ordinary can turn into a story to tell, depending on the turn of events. On this, he thought of the time when the cat got into the rubbish bin and ate a piece of string that had been used to tie up a roast. This fact only became evident the next day when she was seen in the backyard, squatting while doing a kind of hesitating crab walk, trying to poo something out and obviously not having much success at it.

Benny went to see what the problem was, and that’s when the string was revealed as the constipation culprit. A couple of centimetres of it were protruding from the cat, and was the obvious cause of her awkward rear-end manouvring.

Benny felt that he couldn’t leave the poor thing like that and went to get some pliers, wondering if he might be able to help a little. She let him steady her between his left hand and leg and he managed to grab the end of the string with the pliers, but as he gave a tender tug she must have felt the pull and made a break for it. The problem was that Benny still held on with the pliers. In the end the zipped-out length of string was only around half a metre long, but thinking of the probable ‘rope burn’ that would have happened down there made him clench his own backside for quite a while after. Later on it became a good story to tell.

So yes things can just happen, but they are usually not just an empty string of nothing events with nothing relevant between them. Really there is nothing inconsequential; it’s all consequential. It all has ramifications, and meanings, and is personally involving. But how people deal with the ordinary, or the side stories that can spring out of the ordinary, can make it all simultaneously extraordinary; and that’s also a part of the fascination, and meshes with the conclusion Benny had come to — that dealing with a situation, usual or otherwise, can either be superficially done or attended to with some thoughtfulness.

And this is the viewpoint for which I can be a help, this other or principal observer. For the moment, any such guidance would rest in the realm of ‘inklings’, and ‘second guesses’ and ‘gut feelings’ — like Benny finding at times an insight that comes to his mind much like a ripple that starts in here. It’s a focus that’s always running in the background, to keep this mind engaged with his on-going efforts to improve, apply, ponder and conclude.

I remember from last time that there are three basic principles that are better kept in play — or at least within reach. First there’s a need to stick with it, and to get to the point where Benny is able to switch on a tenacity to keep that focus. It can be easy for him to identify or colour this promise to maintain commitment with the ‘I should do some exercise this week’ or ‘I’ve got to cut back on sugar’ sort of self-reprimand. But this basic principle is bigger than these, even though it may seem easier to honour because it’s internal and doesn’t take any physical effort. But there is still effort, just a different kind, and it’s still easy for him to drift off course, which is why his keeping these ideals on the front burner is necessary.

Another basic for him to keep in mind may seem a strange one, but believe me it’s important, and central in view of that previous effort, to keep on keeping on. And this is to not get too smug about himself. In particular, not to lean towards any kind of pretentiousness or show-off or make a point of letting everyone know in some way that he is making efforts based on thoughtfulness. This would be acting on an intention to garner some sort of praise, even if done silently or sneakily (because the motive — to draw attention to himself — would still be there), and that’s dangerous and unnecessary.

And lastly there’s the basic principle of just being patient about it all. Nothing of this sort is going to magically kick-in and be an everyday reality, just like that. Somehow, like a lot of people, Benny would find himself (maybe only I saw this) secretly hoping that the cartoon gag of a light bulb switching on above someone’s head could be a real thing. Well, no, as much as that would be a powerful motivator, the comic contrivance is not going to be there. Staying steady and straightforward, and willing to come back to steadiness and straightforwardness if he loses traction, will pay off in the end. It’s not some short-term game.

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Chapter index and link to slogans