I recently added like 400 ebooks to my Kobo touch ereader. I have over two thousand ebooks downloaded, but I decided to choose the best of the bunch and add em on. So today on the train to Toronto for my monthly doctors appointment, I started reading ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance’. It’s a great book, and although I’m only 50 pages in, I think its going to be a favourite.
There a section early on where the author talks about his friends disdain for technology. Although I thought he was going to go a broader, more profound route, he tended towards a specific goal; and that’s great, but I had hoped for a different conclusion. Anyway, at that point he gives an example of how when he was at this friends house recently he noticed that their tap was dripping. He thought back and remembered that it was dripping the last time, and the time before that, and the time before. So he approached this friend (we’ll call them Sue and Tom – because I forget their names). He asks Tom why he hasn’t had the faucet fixed. Tom replies that he had tried to fix it but couldn’t so he just gave up. He thinks on this; so after failing to repair the dripping faucet, Tom accepts that it is now his station in life to live with a broken faucet.
A little while later while sitting with Sue in the living room, the faucet dripping noisily in the background, Tom and Sue’s daughter comes in the room and proceeds to ask her a question. Sue can’t hear the question properly because of the faucet dripping in the background, and after having asked her daughter to repeat the question a few times, becomes angry and hostile and briefly but potently erupts in a verbose explosion of words. The faucet dripping in the background was the fire-starter, but she’d never admit it.
If Tom had fixed the Faucet instead of giving up, Sue would not have been angry and upset; she wouldn’t have yelled at her daughter. The daughter wouldn’t have become angry and upset, and wouldn’t have taken that out on someone else. And that person who received the daughters anger… you get the picture.
I have always felt that there is a tremendous value in doing things the right way (even though I so often failed to do so) . I remember growing up my father quite often used to half-ass jobs around the house; total Tim Taylor style of repair. He would put a new shower door on, but it wouldn’t be totally right. He would say it’s not so big of a deal – he was probably upset because his wrench set wasn’t in the right order… which at the time probably wasn’t a big deal either. The door of the shower eventually broke right off.
My point is this: when we ignore things because its easier to do so, especially when those things we are ignoring are broken or otherwise dysfunctional, we are in a way setting up little snares in our lives; when we don’t mow the lawn properly, or fix a faucet, or properly assemble a door. We are the direct cause of a great deal of our own suffering and sorrow.
There’s a quote from the Tibetan Book of the Dead that I keep written on a folded piece of paper in my wallet; ‘how needing of compassion are those who engage in actions conducive to suffering’.
When we half ass a fix around the house, or fail to get to the root of an interpersonal conflict with a loved one, because ignoring them is easier than fixing them, we are setting ourselves up for more suffering and more conflict. This becomes an even larger problem when our inaction produces suffering in the lives of others; we have a responsibility to do no direct harm to others.
Everyone complains when they’re sad or when something bad happens in their lives. I ask you this: how much of that suffering do you think is preventable? How much of it is caused by a failure on your part, or someone you love, to complete something properly.
I find that we are often just getting unstuck from one trap, when the next moment we’ve fallen into another. And quite ironically, what we often think to be a small frustration in a moment of weakness, down the road snowballs into a massive future conflict.
Don’t be irresponsible and lazy; be farsighted. If there’s a problem with a loved one, dig deep and find the root cause; don’t just slap on a band-aid. If your faucet drips loudly, or there’s any other impeding force in your environment that threatens your tranquility, fix it. Small things quickly become big problems.