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Everybody panic! There’s nothing we can do!

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At this very moment, no-one can control the weather, or the passing of time, or an asteroid that’s heading straight for us that our telescopes haven’t seen yet. No-one can control a shoe in mid-air that’s flying towards our head. Not me, you, us, them or we. No-one.

There’s a massive list of stuff that none of us can do anything about.

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Here’s a fruity metaphor. In 1915, in the jungle that was no-mans land between Honduras and Guatemala, there was a guy called “Sam the Banana Man”. What a nickname. He was there attempting to start a fruit business.

The established fruit corporations of the time didn’t like this much, especially a huge company called United Fruits. They weren’t worried though, because, after all, they were a corporation. This guy, this Banana Man, he was just a person. One person surely couldn’t threaten an entire corporation.

United sent their lawyers to the jungle but in the end, instead of some fancy legal techniques, they decided to just bribe the local government and make building bridges across the river illegal. What good are a whole bunch of bananas if you can’t get them across the river?

So that was it. No more concerns for United because they had paid enough money to make sure Banana Man couldn’t build a bridge to flog his bananas. [Yes, yes, I’m not mentioning the horrible parts of the story about local exploitation, eventual hyper-capitalism etc – we’re in metaphor mode remember?]

Bridges. No bridges.

“OK, that’s fine. Let’s figure this out”, thought Sam the Banana Man. “I can’t build a bridge but no-one said anything about building two very long piers at either side of the river.” So he did. He got a team to build two massive piers, and then whenever he wanted to take the fruit across the river, he used some fancy rope-based contraption to join the piers and provide safe passage over the water for all the bananas.

When the bribed government saw the fruit and questioned him, he smiled and said, “Why, that’s no bridge. It’s just a couple of little old wharfs”, and carried on with his life.

We might not be able to control a government being paid-off to make bridge-building illegal, but we sure as hell can control our reaction.

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So,

  • George can’t control the weather, but he can wear a raincoat, go to the fields, and realise that all this rainfall is helping the crops grow.
  • Shannon can’t control the passing of time but she can make sure that she remembers to prioritise the things she views as the most important way to spend that time.
  • Wynona can’t even see the asteroid, let alone stop it, but she can go to the lab and keep tinkering away on her new invention, Wynona’s Anti-Asteroid Gun, because that’s what makes her excited.
  • Pete can’t stop someone throwing a shoe on stage whilst he’s doing a new standup routine, but he can duck and avoid it like a ninja, then make a joke out of it, and leave feeling the buzz of an impromptu, unscripted joke that went down well, and then do another gig tomorrow.   

There’s countless things that are uncontrollable. Thankfully, how we respond to those things and frame them internally is not on that list, and never will be. That’s something I always forget and need to remember. 



Vague Direction: A 12,000 mile bicycle ride, and the meaning of life.
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2 comments on this post

  1. Greg says:

    I’m confused….. do these metaphors mean I need a new raincoat???

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