June 27 • 05:07 AM

Does the torch come with instructions?

July 23, 2008
Every single work day since November 27, 2003, I've glanced at the following message that rests on my desk in an attempt to figure it out:

"The torch of doubt and chaos, this is what the sage steers by."—Chuang-Tzo.

I long for that 'lightbulb moment'; to feel the switch of deep understanding flip in my sometimes overworked and often undernourished brain.

But obviously, I'm no Oprah. Rather than finally gasping 'Aha,' I find myself continually muttering a silent What??? Am I supposed to get that???

I strive to be wise in my travels along the road of life, aspirations of sagehood dancing in my head. Not wildly, mind you, but in a profoundly intelligent, wise and remote sort of sagely dancing way, but chaos??? Doubt??? To steer by???

There goes my chance to don a flowing brown sage robe, or flowing white whiskers...(oh yeah, whiskers are out until after menopause)...whatever.

It's very disappointing. I've always fancied those rope belts that most sages seem to wear. And walking through life with a knotty wooden staff has always been very appealing to me.

But alas, sage I am not. I definitely have an adventuresome spirit. And I've even made a wise choice or two over the past few years. Still, if life came with a sturdy extruded plastic steering wheel, I'd be hanging onto it, thank you very much. Heck, I'd even settle for a reliable set of handlebars (though the last time I rode my ten speed down the street no-handed I rammed into a parked car. That was pretty chaotic, indeed. Still, sagehood eluded me.)

Doubt is a naggy old party pooper. And chaos is what you generally get after too wild a party. Both are unwelcome guests in the undersized living room of my life. They don't even knock first, they just show up like a couple of pushy insurance salesmen waving their discounted insecurity policies in my face. Why in the heck would I want to grab them by the hand and let them lead the way???

I'm getting more and more depressed by the moment. My shot at sagehood is looking ever increasingly remote each day. After all, I've been staring at the same doggone message for four years, four months and 18 days and I just don't get it.

Perhaps there's something about plunging into the unknown, the great morass that is everyday living, with no compass, no steering device, no instruction manual that makes one wise. Perhaps it's not about wading through the doubt and chaos, but about going with the flow, so to speak, and letting it take you where it will and not give a rip in the process.

Perhaps that's really it, the not giving a rip part. Maybe it's about grabbing the old doubtful, chaotic torch by and lighting...ah heck, I don't know. Striving for sagehood is pretty darn tough.

Doubt. Chaos. Divide and conquer. Grab the lead and steer the ship? Perhaps. Probably. Really, what choice do we have? Nothing is cast in stone. The only constant is change and everything is constantly changing—including myself.

Maybe I am already holding the torch and just have to figure out which end is up so I don't constantly get burned.

And maybe, just maybe, this sage thing isn't as hard as I thought. Maybe it's all about listening to your gut (though mine usually tells me it's hungry). If I'm honest, it tells me a lot of other things, too. If I'm honest, I must say I always, always get the answers I need. Even in the middle of doubt. Even in the middle of chaos. This is the truth and I must not just accept it but embrace it and pay attention.

Ha! Maybe I do get it after all.

Sage robe, size 7, please. Rope belt, size...uh, never mind.

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Castle Creek
Napco Pipe
06 - 27 - 19
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