Archive for March, 2012

(The Rat Poison Peddler-Rembrandt, 1632)

I began this day in a tither, because I thought a good friend of mine had insulted me in a group email. I had checked my email from bed, because, of course, my cell phone is conveniently located within arms length of my pillow. That’s where the charger is. I got up and walked the dog to clear my mind, and I saw a woodpecker scouting out termites on the neighborhood trump (tree-stump), which was cool, but not cool enough to stop me from stewing.

I recently told another good friend, not the friend who’d electronically disappointed me so abhorrently, that I’m beginning to hate my cell phone, because I can’t stop checking it. Checking, checking, checking. He told me about a story he’d heard on NPR, about a scientist and some rats. The scientist put a few rats in a cage with a lever that dispensed food consistently when the rat pressed it. He put a few other rats in a cage with a lever that dispensed food occasionally when the rat pressed it. The rats is the consistent cage pushed the lever when they were hungry. The rats in the cage with the inconsistent food dispensation became obsessive lever pushers, whether they’d just gotten a pellet or not, they pushed the lever every time they were near it. The scientist likened this behavior to checking email. You never know when you’re going to get that pellet…

Anyway, I got home from my walk and started a witty and sarcastic email response. Having the attention span of a…geez, I can’t even think of a thing that has the same shortness of attention as me. I started to say a gnat, but then I thought, gnats are pretty damn persistent, which is why everybody finds them so annoying. Then I thought about a gerbil, but again, they pretty much do the same thing all day long: wiggling around in bark. So, pretty much, I have the attention span of myself, and so I checked facebook halfway through finishing said sarcastic email. There I saw a banner of a quote from Lao Tzu that said this:

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

Hm. I always respond to insults with witty, sarcastic group email responses, I thought to myself. Perhaps today I should do something different.

So I did. I copied and pasted the offensive material onto an email directly to to offender and asked her if she meant it the way I was reading it. Then I checked my email obsessively, waiting for her response. Strangely enough, she just called me, rather than responding electronically. Well, I guess calling is electronic these days too. Probably has been since the days of Pony Express, but whatever. I called her back. She told me that she isn’t a sarcastic person and of course, she didn’t mean to be insulting to me. She said that her feelings were hurt that I would assume that she was capable of that. Email always makes people sound more blunt than it actually is. I apologized. I believed her. I felt better. I don’t know if she felt better, but I hope she did.

I’m sarcastic. I assume that others are too. I’m metaphoric in my language. I assume that others are too. I jump to conclusions. Sometimes I’m right.

I lost an hour today, but I gained something else. Thanks Lao Tzu (and whoever posted him on Facebook. I can’t remember who you are, but maybe sometime I’ll check back and see…well, I’ll be honest, I probably won’t because I’ve already moved on. But thanks anyway…you rock!)

And thanks, friend, who I now know wouldn’t insult me via email. I think I’ll move my phone charger to a different outlet.

(Confucius Lao-tzu and Buddhist Arhat, Ming Dynasty, painting is located in the Palace Museum, Beijing.)


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