Down the chimney up.
June 6, 2015 § 10 Comments
I liked this riddle as a kid. As an adult prone to metaphor I still like it.
The chimney is narrow and rigid.
The umbrella is flimsy but with its wings folded it can go down the chimney just fine.
Open it and it will break itself in the descent.
There is no hope for that umbrella.
We all face circumstances that are rigid and confining.
How we deal with those times may be a matter of choosing the right metaphor.
A very American metaphor for dealing with adversity is the fight. You’ve got to stand up to cancer, show it what you’re made of, beat it! And if you don’t, well, maybe you didn’t fight hard enough.
But calling something an adversary implies intention and awareness on the part of the enemy. Cancer only knows you as a biological housing unit. The “you” of thought and dream and soul is irrelevant to cancer.
The “fight” metaphor may be okay when the adversary is something like poverty or discrimination, injustices with human intention backing them up, but without intention, there is no adversary.
The rogue cell that metastasizes, the debilitating effects of aging, the indifferent flood that washes your house away. Under these circumstances there is no enemy to impress or defeat when you put up your dukes.
Some things just are.
Perhaps the better metaphor for dealing with problems that have no mind or intention is the riddle of the chimney and the umbrella.
To fight would mean trying to force that open umbrella down the chimney.
You could exert your will, man-up, attempt the maneuver over and over, but the outcome would be failure every time and the chimney would remain unchanged.
When life presents you with a chimney, wisdom resides in recognizing when you are the open umbrella.
In those times fold yourself up small and try to slip through.