Nuala McCann: A problem free philosophy? Huh, ask Beckett about that one
Challenges... We've all had a few. I still wonder why nobody thought to tell me that you don't jack up a car on a hill. It was a steep learning curve
SOMETIMES life presents difficulties. Optimists might call them opportunities. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade, they cry.
Huh! If life gives you lemons, reach for the gin bottle.
Challenges... We’ve all had a few. They range from the easy ones like changing a car wheel at the side of a city-centre road as the traffic whizzes past. I still wonder why nobody thought to tell me that you don’t jack up a car on a hill. It was a steep learning curve.
Then there are the difficult ones, like sitting listening to an earnest far-too-young doctor tell you things you’d really rather not hear. But it’s no use blocking your ears.
The trick is not to get hung up on the small, run-of-the-mill crises. Who cares if there’s no milk for the krispies? Who cares if the airline’s on strike and you can’t get home? Who cares if you turn up at a wedding in an identical dress to the bride’s mother? Who cares?
There are folks about here who can be heard humming Hakuna Matata in the shower. It’s a song from the Lion King – I made our boy watch it in his toddlerhood because I loved it – and the lyrics go: “It means no worries, for the rest of your days, it’s our problem free philosophy, hakuna matata.”
And all this is because I had a minor meltdown in work the other night. It took me three goes to do something very techy.
Try. Fail. Try again, fail again... as Beckett advised.
So I did. But the thing is, in the midst of the hell, I found a new way.
“I found out a new trick,” I boasted to our son who’s the technology wizard around here. “I found out how to do a thing twice as fast – I found out an easier way, so there!” I said.
It felt like that moment in Primary 4 when the secret of long multiplication suddenly dropped into my lap and it felt like the heavens should open and a voice should thunder about this being My daughter, the beloved, listen to her.
Our boy congratulated me on my wonderful discovery with never a hint of irony.
“You know what Bill Gates said,” he told me.
I didn’t but it is widely reported that Bill, the millionaire software magnate, said: “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
It’s hard to know whether to be insulted or not.
The easy way reminds me of a story my cousins used to tell about a tyrannical teacher at their old school who went by the nickname the birdman.
He taught maths and he was teaching a class in a room on a high-up floor of the school when one of his pupils had the temerity to raise his hand and say: “Sir, I know a faster way to do that.”
“Show me,” said the teacher.
And indeed, the pupil did.
“I see you are too clever for this class so you may gather your books and go,” said the teacher.
The boy, surprised, lifted his books and headed for the door.
“Not that way, I know a faster way,” said the teacher with a demonic gleam in his eye.
He directed the boy to an open window and ordered him out.
The story goes that the pupil spent the rest of the class crouching outside on the window ledge and the teacher was forever after known as the birdman.
Health and safety wasn’t a priority back then.
My husband wants to know what I’m writing about. Failing and finding easy ways, I tell him.
My mother maintains that my problem is I never failed. But she wasn’t there when the driving examiner had to slam on the brakes in my first driving test. Thank the Lord for dual controls.
I went back and did the test again and have been living life in the fast lane ever since.
The secret is getting back up on the horse and following the Samuel Beckett philosophy of life: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fall again. Fail better.
After all, we are all born astride the grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.
Or if that is too truly miserable for you, find that song from the Lion King... it’s a trouble-free, philosophy. All together now: Hakuna Matata.