Losing The Compass

 

Winter - Ivan Shishkin

 

A rusty nail placed near a faithful compass, will sway it from the truth, and wreck the argosy.
Sir Walter Scott

 

My new year's resolutions have focused on re-ordering the week to make the best use of time. This is a flawed premise to begin with because we can't always make that judgment, only what we think is best. Every day is a tussle between the demands under our noses and the agenda we feel we ought to be pursuing. Henceforward, I shall be seeking to oust material and metaphysical clutter in the firm belief that it consumes energy, eats time, prevents clarity and fosters tunnel-vision. It impedes progress on all fronts.

This is no easy ticket. Never underestimate the power of habit. Its genesis is in our earliest breaths, long before we attain years of 'wisdom' and the freedom to make our own decisions. Which seems to indicate that our underlying patterns of behaviour are laid down by the generation behind us. How often have you seen history repeated in successive generations?

Miranda [name changed] a good friend of mine during the eighties, when we were in the chorus of an opera company together, underwent a crisis of faith about her role in marriage just as she turned forty when Life was supposed to begin. She said the relationship was stagnant. She couldn't feel about her husband the way she had when they were first hitched. Lovemaking was mechanical. It wasn't that she had come to despise Rob, or even dislike him, it was that everything felt flat, perfunctory and unrewarding. Her two early teen children seemed to need a degree of emotional support she couldn't give. She had been a devoted mother, but there were times when she wished she could hand over the responsibility for them to someone else. She was convinced she had come to the end of the road and made it quite clear that she was on the lookout for new horizons and a new partner.

Rob was totally bewildered as to what had gone wrong. In his view, it had been a loving, exciting, and stable marriage which had grown staid at the edges, perhaps, but even that had its comforts. He looked on dismayed and bereft, unable to reach his wife and ready to accommodate any proposition concerning a separation which would bring her to her senses and a realisation of what she was losing.

But if he was bewildered, so was Miranda. You see, when she was fifteen, about the age her children were now, her adored father had died. She had lost her compass. She had no blueprint as to what happened next. She couldn't relate to the (recognised) needs of her son and daughter, nor respond adequately to the emotional and psychological needs of a partner. She was grieving for the vulnerable teenager she was back then.

Separation, with a view to getting back together, seldom closes the rift because, as in this case, it is usually a one-sided recourse. Rob did not want her to go. He wanted for them to work through the phase together. It was finally decided that he should get a posting to another part of the country, while Miranda kept the house so that the children's lives and schooling were disrupted as little as possible.

Not long afterwards, I lost track of Miranda, Rob and their children. He left and she had a sequence of lovers and eventually moved away herself. I don't know the outcome of this story and it may be that they were reunited, having forged a stronger bond through absence and having gained an awareness of what was truly valuable in their lives. But I doubt it. By then, other destinies had become entangled in the mix. There would have been other forces to deal with which regret and remorse could not breach.

No one could blame Miranda for how she felt or how the feeling of isolation had come about. She knew she was acting unreasonably when they had had such a wonderful marriage and were the envy of many, but that did not answer. She had once played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and was sure that gold was not mined from granite seams, but must be found at the end of the rainbow.

As a contrasting footnote, some time ago, I watched a programme about how families coped during WWII with the geographic and emotional upheaval it caused. One woman who married the soldier of her dreams a few days before he returned to his regiment, told how, when the war ended, she was shocked to discover that he had been living with a prostitute for several months before he came home. There and then, she decided to sue for divorce, but her solicitor painted such a grim economic scenario and suggested that she might do better to hang fire for a while. She made up her mind to a change of attitude. She would throw down her arms - and open them! Before long, it had become second nature. When her spouse died, they had been happily married for fifty-six years!

So when the radar malfunctions and the compass goes into a spin, whatever our creed or Golden Rule, it can't hurt to keep in mind the following wisdom, attributed to Mother Teresa, as a road-map.

 

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centred. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

 

Wishing you many blessings in the coming year!

 

Journey of The Magi - Joseph Binder

 

  

 Adoration of the Magi (detail) - Domenico Ghirlandaio (He's second from the right in the painting.)

 

Comments 17

 
Michael W Seidel on Saturday, 03 January 2015 16:33

Here's to another year, Rosy, of doing what you can. Cheers

Here's to another year, Rosy, of doing what you can. Cheers
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 04 January 2015 12:35

Cheers, Michael! (Raising my glass! - Champagne, of course...) :)

Cheers, Michael! (Raising my glass! - Champagne, of course...) :)
Katherine Gregor on Saturday, 03 January 2015 17:18

"Never underestimate the power of habit". That is SO true. Habit can be as powerful than an addiction. I sometimes wonder, especially when the habit involves a thought or emotional pattern, if it doesn't somehow change the wiring and chemistry of the brain and the latter then needs it to function because it becomes its comfort zone. That's partly why one of my favourite terms and concepts, a "free thinker" is actually an impossibility.

Thank you for another thought-provoking, incisive yet deeply sympathetic article, Rosy. I wish you a very happy New Year.

"Never underestimate the power of habit". That is SO true. Habit can be as powerful than an addiction. I sometimes wonder, especially when the habit involves a thought or emotional pattern, if it doesn't somehow change the wiring and chemistry of the brain and the latter then needs it to function because it becomes its comfort zone. That's partly why one of my favourite terms and concepts, a "free thinker" is actually an impossibility. Thank you for another thought-provoking, incisive yet deeply sympathetic article, Rosy. I wish you a very happy New Year.
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 04 January 2015 12:34

A very good point, Katia. It is indeed scientific that emotions produce changes in biochemistry. In turn, that fires synapse patterns that are easily repeated given a hair trigger. Some emotional responses can literally be toxic, and if maintained, cause a health breakdown and untimely death. However, interestingly, it seems that while fear in excess destroys 'living', it can actually keep certain people alive, which is probably down to the power of adrenaline. We are both advocates of homeopathy, a discipline based on how the atoms of the universe interact and what this means for humans and animals.

Thanks for reading and contributing. Wishing you health and peace in 2015. x.

A very good point, Katia. It is indeed scientific that emotions produce changes in biochemistry. In turn, that fires synapse patterns that are easily repeated given a hair trigger. Some emotional responses can literally be toxic, and if maintained, cause a health breakdown and untimely death. However, interestingly, it seems that while fear in excess destroys 'living', it can actually keep certain people alive, which is probably down to the power of adrenaline. We are both advocates of homeopathy, a discipline based on how the atoms of the universe interact and what this means for humans and animals. Thanks for reading and contributing. Wishing you health and peace in 2015. x.
Anonymous on Tuesday, 06 January 2015 21:58

Rosy, The author of THE PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS is Kent M. Keith.

Rosy, The author of THE PARADOXICAL COMMANDMENTS is Kent M. Keith.
Anonymous on Tuesday, 06 January 2015 18:10

Intending to comment on the post, Losing The Compass, I got caught up in the comments and as often happens with me I was led in another unintended direction: emotional habits. I see these things as programming. The older I get the more I see the brain as the first computer, one in which nothing ever leaves. As concerns breaking or redirecting old patterns, I've been working on it for 55 (I'm 80) years and I've finally accepted that I've probably gone as far as I'm going to go. There won't be any more radical changes. Some were easy, some were not. Those that were not -- I'm stuck with.

But I think the first part of your essay reinforces a recent post of mine that dealt with societal changes -- mutations as I've seen it. The part about the woman who reconciled with the errant husband brings about more reflection. I don't believe women (or men) who make these adjustments get the credit they deserve. One has to work through enormous pain to continue on that path.

One thing more. The words of wisdom you attributed to Mother Theresa, as I once did, were really the creation of a college student. I have his book close at hand but am too shiftless to go and get it. He was surprised to find it in wide circulation and came forward years ago as its author. The confusion was caused by a visitor to Mother Theresa's room in Calcutta who saw it on her wall and assumed they were her words. For quite a long time I did the same thing. (Broke down, went to find the book, couldn't find it.) Sorry I can't properly attribute the work but it takes nothing away from that or Mother Theresa. It's good stuff. But I'll keep looking. (The Paradoxical Commandments is the title.)

Intending to comment on the post, Losing The Compass, I got caught up in the comments and as often happens with me I was led in another unintended direction: emotional habits. I see these things as programming. The older I get the more I see the brain as the first computer, one in which nothing ever leaves. As concerns breaking or redirecting old patterns, I've been working on it for 55 (I'm 80) years and I've finally accepted that I've probably gone as far as I'm going to go. There won't be any more radical changes. Some were easy, some were not. Those that were not -- I'm stuck with. But I think the first part of your essay reinforces a recent post of mine that dealt with societal changes -- mutations as I've seen it. The part about the woman who reconciled with the errant husband brings about more reflection. I don't believe women (or men) who make these adjustments get the credit they deserve. One has to work through enormous pain to continue on that path. One thing more. The words of wisdom you attributed to Mother Theresa, as I once did, were really the creation of a college student. I have his book close at hand but am too shiftless to go and get it. He was surprised to find it in wide circulation and came forward years ago as its author. The confusion was caused by a visitor to Mother Theresa's room in Calcutta who saw it on her wall and assumed they were her words. For quite a long time I did the same thing. (Broke down, went to find the book, couldn't find it.) Sorry I can't properly attribute the work but it takes nothing away from that or Mother Theresa. It's good stuff. But I'll keep looking. (The Paradoxical Commandments is the title.)
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 13:08

Thank you for your interesting comments, Charlie. I feel there can be no progress in any sphere without due pain and agony. The Ancient Greeks likened the Soul (Psyche) to the stages in the life-cycle of the butterfly with all its nascent blindness, constraints and struggle from the chrysalis before its boundless freedom.

As to the quote, it is widely attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I first learned this story some years ago from the official British publishing house to the Vatican. I suspect that if a well-known figure subscribes to a quote in a dynamic and heartfelt way, it becomes as much theirs as the originator's. The book you mention does sound interesting, though, and one which I would enjoy. Oh, for 48 hours in the day!

Thank you for your interesting comments, Charlie. I feel there can be no progress in any sphere without due pain and agony. The Ancient Greeks likened the Soul (Psyche) to the stages in the life-cycle of the butterfly with all its nascent blindness, constraints and struggle from the chrysalis before its boundless freedom. As to the quote, it is widely attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I first learned this story some years ago from the official British publishing house to the Vatican. I suspect that if a well-known figure subscribes to a quote in a dynamic and heartfelt way, it becomes as much theirs as the originator's. The book you mention does sound interesting, though, and one which I would enjoy. Oh, for 48 hours in the day!
Anonymous on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 15:04

Or just 10 wide awake and alert hours. I've only recently realized that what I used to do in two hours now takes ten or at least 6. Typing. This is new. I have to backspace and retype every other word. But the ideas come faster and with more self-assurance than ever. I remember Samuel Beckett saying that "...with the fire that's in me now..." he wouldn't want to by young again. I say, "but what about the typing, Sam, what about the typing?"

I first saw the Paradoxical Commandments on a niece's kitchen wall and asked her about them. She said they were from Mother Theresa. I found a copy in a book store and told others the same thing. Long after that I discovered the book and Kent Keith's claim to authorship. I've wondered how it would feel to find that something I did in college had made its way to Mother Theresa's room in Calcutta. I imagine a long period of speechlessness. A big, "Huh?"

I also wonder about the wisdom and relative civility of the ancient Greeks and why it didn't continue to grow over the centuries. The Greeks and so many others. I guess the wondering, like the struggling with human frailty, goes on and on. Nice post, Rosy.

Or just 10 wide awake and alert hours. I've only recently realized that what I used to do in two hours now takes ten or at least 6. Typing. This is new. I have to backspace and retype every other word. But the ideas come faster and with more self-assurance than ever. I remember Samuel Beckett saying that "...with the fire that's in me now..." he wouldn't want to by young again. I say, "but what about the typing, Sam, what about the typing?" I first saw the Paradoxical Commandments on a niece's kitchen wall and asked her about them. She said they were from Mother Theresa. I found a copy in a book store and told others the same thing. Long after that I discovered the book and Kent Keith's claim to authorship. I've wondered how it would feel to find that something I did in college had made its way to Mother Theresa's room in Calcutta. I imagine a long period of speechlessness. A big, "Huh?" I also wonder about the wisdom and relative civility of the ancient Greeks and why it didn't continue to grow over the centuries. The Greeks and so many others. I guess the wondering, like the struggling with human frailty, goes on and on. Nice post, Rosy.
Rosy Cole on Friday, 09 January 2015 14:07

Charlie, if that student was heartfelt about what he had written, he would surely have been overjoyed to find it endorsed by such a figure as Mother Teresa. It would be its own fulfilment, not just because she was revered, or 'famous', but because the sentiments themselves were being shared through an open channel.

It is the pattern of great civilisations to trust in their own sense of rightness and foster belief in their own power and might. Any ideology, philosophy, culture, systems of Government, pursued fanatically, and in order to impose control on peoples, will defeat its own purpose and come to grief, no matter how supposedly 'good', creative, insightful, wise, astute, it is in its day. Hubris overtakes. Only homage to God brings out the best in us and grants us our truly functional place and the grace to do things out of love in its broadest sense.

Thanks so much for your appreciation. Keep seeking! :)

Charlie, if that student was heartfelt about what he had written, he would surely have been overjoyed to find it endorsed by such a figure as Mother Teresa. It would be its own fulfilment, not just because she was revered, or 'famous', but because the sentiments themselves were being shared through an open channel. It is the pattern of great civilisations to trust in their own sense of rightness and foster belief in their own power and might. Any ideology, philosophy, culture, systems of Government, pursued fanatically, and in order to impose control on peoples, will defeat its own purpose and come to grief, no matter how supposedly 'good', creative, insightful, wise, astute, it is in its day. Hubris overtakes. Only homage to God brings out the best in us and grants us our truly functional place and the grace to do things out of love in its broadest sense. Thanks so much for your appreciation. Keep seeking! :)
Anonymous on Friday, 09 January 2015 16:33

Agreement all the way, Rosy. I tried to imagine finding that one of my earnest little utterings was on somebody's wall in -- Calcutta? Anybody's wall. But Mother Theresa's? A nice thing that came out of this exchange is that I became reacquainted with those lines. Brings me back to the first time I saw them. Thanks for the reminder.

Agreement all the way, Rosy. I tried to imagine finding that one of my earnest little utterings was on somebody's wall in -- Calcutta? Anybody's wall. But Mother Theresa's? A nice thing that came out of this exchange is that I became reacquainted with those lines. Brings me back to the first time I saw them. Thanks for the reminder.
Jane Phillipson Wilson on Sunday, 03 January 2016 15:24

Thank you, Rosy.

Thank you, Rosy.
Ken Hartke on Sunday, 03 January 2016 20:24

Excellent post, Rosy, and may you have only the best in the new year.
Speaking as one who once lost his compass, we sometimes find that we are too scared or befuddled to move one way or another. The map has spiraled out of sight. But when we find it again, and we usually do, we march on. Some things that were impediments or boundaries in the past carry less weight...that's when we start to do things ...anyway.

Excellent post, Rosy, and may you have only the best in the new year. Speaking as one who once lost his compass, we sometimes find that we are too scared or befuddled to move one way or another. The map has spiraled out of sight. But when we find it again, and we usually do, we march on. Some things that were impediments or boundaries in the past carry less weight...that's when we start to do things ...anyway.
Rosy Cole on Monday, 04 January 2016 17:01

Ken, thank you so much for your good wishes. And for your reassurance. Speaking quite aside from personal life, I have found your wisdom so true in respect of writing and publishing!

Have a great 2016 and happy travelling! (Which I hope you'll share here.) :-)

Ken, thank you so much for your good wishes. And for your reassurance. Speaking quite aside from personal life, I have found your wisdom so true in respect of writing and publishing! Have a great 2016 and happy travelling! (Which I hope you'll share here.) :-)
Katherine Gregor on Monday, 04 January 2016 12:03

Dearest Rosy, I read this piece when you first published it, last year, and I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to read it again. A year has brought new experiences and, consequently, new insights. As a divorcée who considers her first marriage and divorce as one of the most valuable lessons in her life, I would never advocate that separation is never a good thing – it is of ten the making of the individuals involved. However, there is something to be said about sometimes being too quick in attributing the cause of one's unhappiness and rut to the other partner, while it can be caused by unhappiness within ourselves. We live in a Society where, sadly, we are trained to look for too many answers outside ourselves and because of that, perhaps paradoxically, we lose sight of the Whole.

Dearest Rosy, I read this piece when you first published it, last year, and I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to read it again. A year has brought new experiences and, consequently, new insights. As a divorcée who considers her first marriage and divorce as one of the most valuable lessons in her life, I would never advocate that separation is never a good thing – it is of ten the making of the individuals involved. However, there is something to be said about sometimes being too quick in attributing the cause of one's unhappiness and rut to the other partner, while it can be caused by unhappiness within ourselves. We live in a Society where, sadly, we are trained to look for too many answers outside ourselves and because of that, perhaps paradoxically, we lose sight of the Whole.
Rosy Cole on Monday, 04 January 2016 17:39

I agree with all you say here, Katia. The trouble is, false expectations and the modern drive to pursue 'dreams' at all costs often means that we lose sight of the plot. The history of marriage, as we understand it in western culture, is relatively short but necessary for an ordered society and the survival of the race, as well as the well-being of individuals. It is about good citizenship. While it is hopefully ventured in love and goodwill, it is principally an economic structure, whichever class you belong to. The harsh reality of this holds many a marriage together when the alternatives are contemplated. I have cited two extremes in the article to illustrate the attitudes of different generations, but I'm not necessarily saying perseverance will work in every case. The story of 'Miranda' is particularly frustrating because she really did have everything that marriage could afford, but blew it all on the assumption that it should bind up all her wounds and answer all her needs.

I don't believe marriage is about two people gazing into one another's eyes. It's about outward focus on the world, side by side. Ideally, comfortably yoked.

Thanks kindly for reading again and commenting. Historians are well-known for recycling posts. They do a great deal of it! :-)

I agree with all you say here, Katia. The trouble is, false expectations and the modern drive to pursue 'dreams' at all costs often means that we lose sight of the plot. The history of marriage, as we understand it in western culture, is relatively short but necessary for an ordered society and the survival of the race, as well as the well-being of individuals. It is about good citizenship. While it is hopefully ventured in love and goodwill, it is principally an economic structure, whichever class you belong to. The harsh reality of this holds many a marriage together when the alternatives are contemplated. I have cited two extremes in the article to illustrate the attitudes of different generations, but I'm not necessarily saying perseverance will work in every case. The story of 'Miranda' is particularly frustrating because she really did have everything that marriage could afford, but blew it all on the assumption that it should bind up all her wounds and answer all her needs. I don't believe marriage is about two people gazing into one another's eyes. It's about outward focus on the world, side by side. Ideally, comfortably yoked. Thanks kindly for reading again and commenting. Historians are well-known for recycling posts. They do a great deal of it! :-)
Monika Schott on Monday, 13 January 2020 15:21

Beautifully said, Rosy. Cheers to you. X

Beautifully said, Rosy. Cheers to you. X
Rosy Cole on Saturday, 25 January 2020 15:59

Thanks, Moni. God bless. Hope 2020 is a great year for you. Stay safe. X

Thanks, Moni. God bless. Hope 2020 is a great year for you. Stay safe. X
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