Grabbing Opportunity

I don’t think my father ever aspired to become renowned or wildly recognized as a leading light for his own and future generations. No, he was way too realistic for that, it was the well-being of his family that always held the nº1 position in the chart of his personal aspirations. This is one of the things that I admire most in him, although it took me quite some time to start seeing these traits, since he has a tendency to subdue them. They would actually be much more favorable to him, if he found pride, esteem and confidence to express them more openly, and despite my many efforts in the past to bring this to his mind and heart, he decided just not to do it. I came to realize over the last few years, that I’m quite similar to him in that respect.

Over the last 4 decades of back-breaking work, and to the vexation of my mother, I witnessed him favoring   Toyota over Mercedes, confected C&A over mink furry coats and, as a pleasing gesture, wore one or more Thai Rolexes, showing his own punctuality ánd dedication to his wife at the same time. Just to say, he likes things to be and stay simple, average, casual, modest and regular, and I found peace with that.

But somehow and quite some time ago,  I discovered a curious, subtle aspect of his, something I would rather allocate to the virtues of native-American chiefs, like Sitting Bull or Spotted Elk for instance, not that I’m a connaisseur. I’m talking about some ethereal, spiritual wisdom, something that far exceeds the rather unimaginative, rational consciousness that seems to be the benchmark trait for success today. Not that his speech is persistently interlaced with mystique riddle, but at regular, unexpected intervals he came up with some stroke of wisdom, sparking a deeper reflection in my then-young soul. Not the most exciting one as of contemporary standards, but one that always stuck with me, was: ‘If a train passes by, you can choose to jump on it.’

I honestly have no clue on how many people are doing OK in these pandemic times, how many of us are in psychological, physical or material need or how much people are actually flourishing because of these anxiety-driven circumstances. How many of us don’t dare to speak out to the world or show their personal worry, fatigue or reduced health, to avoid being head-marked as ‘weak’? And how much of us are stunned, wallowed in silence and partial ignorance, because this multi-dimensional troublemaker is revealing contradictions in one’s outspoken or private convictions, possibly cultivated since childhood? And would there be people who scrupulously try to benefit from these demoralizing and confusing times, to hoard and herd on people or things like toilet paper, pharmacy shares, gold, or something else that is taking care of your health?

Ah, agitation. It’s time to take a sip of my tea, the yellow ‘Himalaya’ Ayurvedic variety with ginger, fennel and cinnamon. Mmmmm, how delicious is that and how good for my immune system! I’m not going to convey to you though, the message Yogi Bhajan, master of the Kundalini-yoga, came up with and that got printed on the tiny, red label of my today’s tea bag, manufactured by the German Yogi Tea GMBH, based in Hamburg. But I can assure you that it clearly signaled support for my writings here, so I’m probably not done here and you better know it.

But, for not drifting out and coming back to my father’s train analogy, I decided to get myself engaged into a mental visualization of an old steam train, one of those you have most probably seen in one of those 70s cult spaghetti Westerns, like Once Upon a Time In The West, which happens to have one of the best opening scenes in all of my personal, and preferably your, cinematic history. Nobody jumped on that desert-crossing train that day, it was only cowboy Charles Bronson that jumped off of it… What that means as a metaphor, I don’t know, but for him it meant coming to odds with a bunch of black-eyed criminals and resolving a childhood trauma by gunfighting them down. I’m quite sure Sitting Bull and Spotted Elk would have approved his deeds.

Currently it feels like I’m just looking at such a train of industrious opportunity, but I’m not willing to grab it. I do not trust it. Instead I want to back down, with a reversed, accelerating walk, turn my head, run until it’s out of sight and start building my own train and tracks. While it feels there’s no village nearby to build a station yet, it seems to attract some attention of passers-by, who ask how much my ticket would be. I pause, look up from my shovel, straight into their silent eye, and mention with a reduced, but firm voice: ‘That’s for us to decide.’

Ken Christiaens


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