Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the commander

The front page of the newspaper announces the weather for the day: "Unsettled" was the word chosen for the little box that added references to sun, clouds and perhaps a thunder storm. "Unsettled." I guess in one sense, readers would understand "unsettled" -- it would contrast with days when there was nothing but sun or rain or snow. And yet in another sense it was ridiculous ... is there a time when the weather is actually settled somehow, when it won't, as in the past, change into some other configuration?

In Buddhism, there was a line that seemed appropriate to me: "If you want to know about Buddhism, watch the clouds." It's probably too simple and too open and too direct a line ... so there are weather forecasts and holy books to encourage and explain what it means to "watch the clouds" or what it means when something is "unsettled."

In a war novel I read once, a general is told by a subordinate that he cannot take a particular action, that it would be against regulations. And the general explodes with an icy fury, saying, approximately, "Regulations are for the guidance of the commander. I command this unit ... which is a hell of a lot different from shuffling papers."

What effort in life does not have its rules and regs -- its directions and imperatives; its exercises and learning curves? Math, psychology, love, buying and selling stocks, NASCAR driving, carpentry, religion, origami ... the list is endless. Learning takes practice and practice is based on the suggestions and observations and rules set down by those who practiced before you. Only a fool does not learn the rules, the skill sets of a chosen line of endeavor. No need to make things more difficult than they have to be.

But a lifetime dependent on regulations is not the same as a living and skillful commander. It is stale and fearful and bound. So at some point -- and the point is simply the point anyone chooses -- the rules become a guidance for a commander and are no longer the touchstones of a life. Leave the rules too soon ... and screw up. Never leave at all ... and screw up. It's a command decision, one made only by commanders, not by paper pushers.

And who, in the end, is not the commander?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it might be true?
    Will it work?
    I wonder.