My friend told me a story recently of how Hemingway’s wife, on her way to visit him in Switzerland, packed all of his precious manuscripts into a suitcase, only to have them stolen at the train station in Paris. Of course, my friend’s rendition was much more extensive and evocative, but what intrigued me was this notion of well-intentioned acts having catastrophic, or even just not so good, effects. I’m still not sure which side of the debacle I’d rather be on; both feel equally devastating, stirring feelings of guilt, disappointment, and loss. Hemingway and his wife, being subject to elements beyond their control, shared in the responsibility leading to the unfortunate events. But beyond the intellectual breakdown of causes and effects, I think what’s most interesting is how we react when faced with reality’s shocking answers to our “altruistic” acts. It forces us to examine our attachments – in the meaning of the projected outcome as well as the actual one - and recognize the limits of our control. Also, seeing how the original intention is not changed by its effect, exposes the ineffectiveness of judging acts by their results rather than causal nature.
Coincidentally, I read an article on CNN where a women, well-intentioned, generously bought her elderly mother a new mattress to replace her ratty old one. The information she was missing was that her mother had stashed her life savings, nearly $1 million dollars, inside that mattress. I believe the most accurate terminology these days would be: fail! Read the article though, I found her mother’s reaction to be most inspiring.
ps. backed up your hard drive lately? just sayin’.