Friday, May 6, 2011

be prepared

"Be prepared" -- that's the motto of the Boy Scouts of America.

"Be prepared" -- that's the effort of anyone looking into an uncertain future.

And it makes sense. The unprepared are likely to make a muddle of things, to fail in a stated endeavor, and to suffer for their carelessness.

But the cozy reassurance that can come from the invocation of discipline meets its match and more in another revelation ... the prepared, like the unprepared, are likely to make a muddle of things because as much as anyone might prepare for the future, still the future cannot be known. This experience can lead anyone to bluster and backtrack: "Well, you make the best plans you can because not making plans is marginally dumber than making them."

As the saying goes in spiritual endeavor, "Understanding is knowing to get out of the way of an on-coming bus. Practice is for the bus you didn't see coming." And surely the future qualifies by its nature as one of those buses. Robbie Burns was not just whistling Dixie when he wrote, "the best laid plans of mice and men do oft times go awry."

I guess the subject came to mind today when reading a story about a project at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., that hopes to prepare soldiers for battle by creating an enormous sound arena -- a place in which the overwhelming nature of sound comes alive. At 25% louder than a rock concert, it is unspeakable, petrifying, disorienting. The $840,000 project hopes to ready service men and women ... for the future.

"Be prepared" has such a sensible sound to it. But I think there is another shoe waiting to be dropped in the admonition, which, of itself, suggests that success rests on being prepared and failure can be traced to an inability or unwillingness to plan. The other shoe is this: Being prepared is as sensible as salt. But an attachment to success or fear of failure must be set aside. This takes practice -- or maybe it just takes getting your nose rubbed in dirt often enough.

It's a delicate matter, but important. No one plans to fail. An intention is formed and the gathering of relevant data begins. And finally, there is action -- whole-hearted, sweaty action. But there is a difference between succeeding and simply seeing what happens. Anyone who has practiced meditation can attest to this outcome -- seeing what happens. It's may be delicious to succeed and bitter to fail, but bitter and sweet are extra. You can plan for enlightenment or peace or joy all you like, but it's what happens that tells the tale.

Be thoroughly prepared to be unprepared ... that strikes me as a lesson worth learning.

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