Thursday, May 21, 2009

Relatives are great

Once, when going for a walk in New Jersey, something interesting happened -- the leaves of some trees I had been admiring changed color! To be truthful, they only kind of changed color. (And I'm pretty sure no one else noticed.) Maybe that's confusing, so let me explain:

For a considerable portion of my walk, these leaves made up the only green within my field of vision. Though the thought hadn't crossed my mind at the time, nothing struck me as out of the ordinary about the leaves' color. But then, as I continued, a field spread out before me. A green field. Suddenly, after comparison, the "perfectly normal" leaves from before stopped being "green" and became "blue green".

Yes, yes, I know. The physical color of the leaves did not actually change. But how I viewed the color did. When my only point of reference was the "odd" shade of green, I didn't have anything to compare it against to realize it was not actually plain Jane ol' green.


In college my freshman year, I made the acquaintance of a tall, surfer-dude kind of guy who never went anywhere without his roller blades. Needless to say, I was shocked to later learn he donated his wheels to the Hare Krishnas and was going to join them. I don't think I'll ever forget how he explained why this was the right thing for him.
"It's like you've spent your entire life in the rain and didn't even realize it until someone handed you an umbrella."

This reminds me of two stories.

The first is about a community where everybody constantly complained about their troubles. The local rabbi comes up with a great plan: everyone should put their troubles in a sack, hang them on a branch of the town's biggest tree, and then, after looking through everyone elses' collection of sorrows, decide which one to take home. In the end, everyone goes home with the same bag they showed up. Not only were all the other bags just as full (if not fuller), the troubles they were full of were completely unfamiliar.

The second story is one of my favorites. It's about a guy who goes to his rabbi for advice about his family -- they are so noisy he can't even think. Week after week, the rabbi tries remedy after remedy, each requiring that the guy bring an additional source of chaos into his house -- the family cow, the chickens, a goat, his in-laws... you name it. Just when the poor guy is at his wit's end, the rabbi instructs him to take everything out, leaving just him and his family. The following week the guy returns to the rabbi, elated. It turns out that a house, occupied by only his immediate family, is a quiet, serene, and peaceful place relative to a house packed full with farm animals and bickering parents.


Isn't it cool how just viewing one situation in relation to another can change how you feel about one or both situations?

If you're in the mood for some change, I recommend inviting some "relatives" over.


AlwaysJoy said...

Elsa -
As always! You rock!

Who Elsa? said...

Thank you, Joy. That's very kind of you :)


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