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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


April 27th, 2018

Picture a village well.

It’s a source of life that is visited daily by everyone.

Picture this village well overflowing. Forget everything about aquifers and how natural springs occur in nature. Forget the village. Just picture a well with nothing but fairly even ground all around it, and this well is overflowing.



What happens to the water? It spills over the edges of the well and goes all over the place in a growing blob. It advances with the small fluctuations in the land around it, racing into a dip and filling. Overflowing again, uncontrolled.



What to do?

Imagine you had a short time before you knew the well was going to overflow. What could you do?

Picture yourself like a kid at the beach, scraping out a path that leads out from the well. Then the water overflows once more. 



But this time, it has somewhere to go, if only for a short distance. Your small canal fills up and leads the water quickly out in the direction you chose. Till it reaches the end and the canal overflows. The chaos of too much water spreads again.



The next time, the remnant of your canal is still there. The edges have rounded, and it’s filled in some. But it’s something compared to nothing. It takes no time to shape it up again, make it a little longer, deeper, give it a turn or two. And then before the well overflows, you have time to start another canal leading off in a different direction. 



This time both your canals carry off the water till it’s too much and everything overflows again.

But you work again, and each time, you deepen your canals, you lengthen them and you add new ones.

Eventually, one day. The well will overflow, and your network of canals will fill like dominos falling. It will flow and glisten like some kind of magnificent maze. A landscape of your own design.



But what are we talking about here?

The well is simply the source of emotion. The water is the emotion. Doesn’t matter what kind, happy or sad. Just raw emotion.

When a child has a temper tantrum, that water is gushing from the well and going everywhere

The canals dug out from that well are our habits, our strategies, our systems. And they are all our own design. We may have built them haphazardly, even unconsciously, and probably poorly. Some may even lead to bad places. Perhaps only a few have been dug, and often overflow, leaving us to look like that little child, deranged by emotion. Rendered incapable, paralyzed and confused.



But each day is an opportunity to dig.

And while it may be constantly discouraging to see your canals flooded and overflowing, rounded and partially filled each time. At least something of them still exists when the waters recede. And you have something to work with. Something to work on. 

Till one day. After so many days of consistent constant work – work too big to be done in a day, work that must be done like dominos, when only one block can be set up in a day. Some kind of black swan comes along. Something unanticipated, perhaps disastrous. And the well overflows.

But now you respond differently. You have planned by practicing. By working and building. You interpret the disaster differently, and instead of simply reacting, now, you can take action. 

Your mandala of water is unfulfilled without emotion. 

And now some disaster has become an opportunity to see it work. 

What a gift.

P.S. Remember, once rivers get deep enough, they start digging on their own. Think of the grand canyon. Think of all your bad habits, and how entrenched them seem, how deep they have dug on their own. What about good habits? Where will you dig next?

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 12: Natural Spring

Tinkered Thinking

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