Part 54: The path least travelled (Part 31)
2007-12-13 15:55:24 -

 Metro Eireann presents the latest weekly column by the entrepreneur coach and business growth specialist, designed to help you overcome any obstacles and reach your dreams 

Previously: As night draws in on the third day of the adventure, our three friends have al-ready had many revelations and anecdotes, more than most would encounter in a lifetime

Understanding that we have a choice in how we think, and that indeed our thoughts do lead to actions which lead to results, has had important consequences in how Preteritus views the world, as he realises that the past has deep lessons and not just the warnings that have restricted his life up to now.

Dreams are important to all of us, and we must pursue them if we are to lead fulfilled lives. Yet that philosophy was somewhat knocked off course by the story of the cow who ended up drowning trying to follow her dream to reach the moon. We were left wondering how that story could positively impact us…

“The moral of the story,” said Preteritus, “is to be careful for what you dream of or wish for, or you might just get it!”

“In other words, are you saying that we should only pursue things that are realistic?” asked Electra.
“Okay, I think I will let Nunco take over,” Preteritus replied. “Please excuse the pun, but I feel I am getting out of my depth here and could end up drowning!”

Nunco, who had been staring into the fire in one of his meditative trances, looked up. A slow small smile creased around his slow, all-knowing languid eyes. Taking a deep breath, looking at the four people around the fire, the shadows thrown by the last flickerings of flame dancing across their faces, he said: “I suppose it depends on your definition of what is realistic.”

“So are you saying the cow was being realistic?” asked Prostremo.
“How much more realistic was Copernicus being when he went against the perceived view and said that the earth actually revolved around the sun?” posed Nunco, quizzically.
“What the thinker thinks, the prover proves!” interjected Mike.

“Let’s put it another way,” continued Nunco. “There is really no such thing as total failure. Instead, we could view failure as a short-term setback, and as long as we learn some lessons from trying, we will surely be in a better position to succeed next time.”

“Try telling that to Daisy,” retorted Preteritus. “She drowned!”

“Of course she did,” said Nunco confidently. “Because she didn’t actually chase the moon – she chased its reflection! And that is what so many humans continually do; they have a dream, and then they follow the path of least resistance, they take short cuts and end up settling for short momentary bursts of pleasure.

“Okay, who reckons it’s time to settle down for the night?” asked Electra as she reached over to the fire to stir up the dying embers. She spotted a half-burnt log, which she attempted to turn over so that the other side would catch alight. As she did so, she brushed her knuckle against a glowing ember. Wincing with sudden pain, Electra pulled her hand sharply out of the fire, scattering the remainder of the almost faded heat source with the half-charred log.

A concerned Prostremo reached out to Electra. “Are you okay, dear? That looked sore.”
Electra noisily sucked on her knuckle and jumped up, shrugging off Prostremo’s attempts at comfort, and ran to the edge of the lake. She sighed deeply as she plunged her hand into the brackish water lapping gently against the shore. “Ah, what a relief,” she exclaimed, “that was sore!”

“Lucky you have nerves, then!” said Nunco rather provocatively.
“Yes, it’s great,” said Electra sarcastically. “My knuckle is now really throbbing; I am delighted to feel that pain.”
“But what if you didn’t have any nerves,” asked Nunco. “What could have happened to your now recovering hand?”

“I get your point,” she replied. “So nerves are really a physical safety valve, so that our reflexes can react and take positive action.”

“But if that’s the case, how come our mental nervous system does not have the same reflexes?” asked Nunco.
“I wasn’t aware we had mental nerves!” said Prostremo, throwing a concerned glance in Electra’s direction.
Mike caught onto Nunco’s drift. “So what else could you call emotions?”

“Bloody annoying things!” quipped Preteritus. “I am always trying to figure them out, and trying to understand exactly what triggers them off and then how my reaction to them will have consequences.”

Nunco casually picked up the log that Electra had knocked off the fire and replaced it, in the middle of the burnt tinder. The embers sparked up, like thousands of little fireflies, and ever so slowly, gradually growing flames licked hungrily at the edge of the charred wood.

He then turned to the others: “And if I were to apply what you say, Preteritus, to what just happened to Electra, I see the following scenario.

“Electra puts her hand into the fire and feels some pain. Now rather than just doing what she did and pulling it out again so that she could relieve the pain and speed up the healing process, imagine if she did the following.

“As she feels the sharp pain, she pauses and starts wondering why she had put her hand into the fire at exactly the angle she did, so that her knuckle could connect precisely with the burning cinder. She then starts to imagine the consequences of what could actually happen to her hand as she ponders whether or not to take her hand out of the fire.

“When she finally removes her now seriously burnt hand, she then starts to think that her nerves are not really that great, and that it is important to stop and feel the pain, because it is only through immersing oneself in pain that we can truly start to plot the correct course.”

“That doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Prostremo.
“Of course, but have you ever done that with your emotions or feeling, Prostremo?” asked Nunco.
“I certainly have,” said Preteritus. “I get it! I don’t know how many times I have tried to work out why I have been a clutz. In fact, I spend hours doing that and never seem to get anywhere. Yet for some strange reason I convince myself that even though I couldn’t work out exactly why I did things, I sort of feel better because I tried.”

“How much more powerful do you believe it might be to ask yourself what you can do to improve the situation when things go wrong?” asked Nunco. “Like getting your hand out of the fire as quickly as possible because it feels sore?”

“So in effect, what you’re saying, if I have grasped it correctly,” asked Electra, “is that when we feel an emotion we should do something positive about it, rather than wallowing in the pain and distorted thinking that we humans seem all too capable of?”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Nun-co. “And that really means that our emotions or feelings are actually like a mental nervous system. Yes, we certainly should listen to them, but we should react in such a way as to create a positive outcome for ourselves…”

“…Because wallowing in self pity does not do any one any good at all!” interjected Prostremo, as the clarity of what Nunco had just said hit him like a lightning bolt or revelation.

“Well my mental nerves are telling me that I am tired,” said Electra, stifling a yawn, “and I would like to take appropriate action by getting ready to have a good night’s kip!”

She looked at the as yet unpacked backpacks, where their tents lay wrapped up along with their sleeping bags. She then looked over at Mike’s small bag, and asked: “Do you actually have a tent in there?”

“I don’t actually carry one,” he replied, “because on nights like tonight I like to look up at the stars. A bit like poor drowned Daisy, I want to be there some day, and I feel that by looking up at them, we are actually getting closer.”

They all looked up at the mostly clear night, at the stars happily winking from their eons-old expanse of creation. Generations upon generations of mankind had looked up at the exact same mantle, gradually woven by time, its intricate web reaching to unfathomable distances across the universe – a place so vast and seemingly infinite, that has witnessed and given life to so many of mankind’s great triumphs and disasters, which are yet all so small and insignificant in the great scheme of things.

To be continued next week
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