flowing motion

5 poetic steps for exiting a Catch 22

Posted on: April 27, 2008

Пробка на Космодомианской набережной в Москве.

Catch 22! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Have you ever been caught in a situation where you cannot move forwards and you cannot move backwards? It is like getting caught in a traffic jam. If you barge forward, you won’t be popular, and you won’t succeed. If you do nothing, nothing will change.

Chill?

Now sometimes, we do have to ‘sit tight’. The police are on their way and they will clear the jam bit by bit. It is best to chill.

Or change one thing at a time ~ strategically?

But sometimes that isn’t the choice. Sometimes if we sit and do nothing, that is where we will stay.

But what if there are cars to the left of us and cars to the right of us; cars ahead and cars behind. What can we do?

Obviously, we have to start just like the police will: with one car at a time. And we have to be strategic.

Remember those kids games?

Did you have one of those games when you were a kid ~ they had 8 squares in a 9 square space and you had to move them around? And at first it looked as if there was no solution?

That is what we have to do: unravel the situation like those games.  Move one square at a time. Patiently, and strategically.

This is easier said than done though, particularly when our emotions are involved.

Kids’ games prepared us for life

Corporate poet, David Whyte writes about a cyclical pattern in our lives where we come periodically to a place which is ‘a traffic jam’. Our task, in such times, is to find the smallest possible thing to ease, not just ourselves, but everyone around us, out of the impasse.

I have picked FIVE quotations from David Whyte’s poems to illustrate the process.

1. The beginning. “anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you” (Sweet Darkness)


2. The call. “You are not a troubled guest on this earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents, you were invited . . .” (What To Remember When Wakening)


3. Reawakening. “When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also. When your vision is gone, no part of the world can find you” (Sweet Darkness)

4. The departure. “Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don’t want to take” (Start Close In)


5. Begin the conversation. “”Your great mistake is to act the dream as it you were alone . . . Everybody is waiting for you.” (Everybody Is Waiting For You)

How long will we delay the first step – recognizing that there is a situation to be dealt with?


In more prosaic terms, our first step is always to notice we are in a jam, and rather than bluster and curse, consider the best thing to do about it. It is amazing how often we delay this simple first step.

How long will we take to recognize that the situation is not going away just because we don’t like it?

Our second step is equally as hard. We chose after all to be on the road at that time. We didn’t want this result, but after all, we chose to be here, and when think about it, the jam chose to happen when we were there. The jam is an integral part of us and we are integral part of it. We are part of its story, and it is part of ours.

How long will we take to signal to people around us that we would like the situation resolved?

And it doesn’t get any easier. Are we communicating? Or have we taken it for granted that everyone knows that we want the traffic to flow again? Do they think we are just trying to push in? Are we alert to other people who want the traffic to flow again. And can they recognize us? What is it that we do, or notice, that alerts them to our sense of what is possible?

How long before we imagine in our minds what the resolution would look like?

And are we holding back because it all seems too big? If the traffic were to flow again, what would we all be doing in unison, and what would be our part?

How long before we realize that nothing is moving because everyone is waiting for us?

And who is really holding everything up? Is it us? Is everyone waiting for us, to pay attention?

Is everyone waiting for us, to start the conversation?

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