The world does funny things to us all. Things that give substance to the ever present question, 'why me?', and the phrases, 'it's not fair' and 'the grass is always greener'. Many believe there's a reason for everything and others just think the world sucks. We can look at the world through glasses of rose or smokey colours and the glass is always at the half way point of volume. All these things make us question ourselves and the need for positivity when we are (understandably and indirectly) led to believe bad things are bound to happen to us. All these worrisome predicaments seem to have been justified to some degree this festive season; a time we associate with such glee. But, with half the country on fire and the world, in some way, at war with each other, let us reflect on some perspective for just a moment.
I heard this tale in 2019 which enlightened me and, it's only now, when times look dour, that I can truly take salvation in the message it brings. It goes like this:
So there's this university professor who, with his laid back manner yet high academic standards, has this uncanny ability to get the best out of his students, through only relationships and his kooky teaching practice. He often creates practice so abstract, it's almost too obvious to think it is uniquely his.
A theatre of pupils under his tutelage sit and wait one spring day. They are somewhat baffled at his tardiness, for this professor is never late. But today, true to his quirks, will play out a familiar though strange chapter in the book of this exemplary professor.
After some minutes, he finally presents himself, in silence, briefcase in tow.
From the front of the theatre, he peers from atop his designer glasses and, almost sporadically, jolts his head from side to side, checking out his pupils, bordering suspicious, but certainly odd behaviour. But hey, it's him, he's the man. It is all too familiar for his students. Finally, after what seems an eternity, he speaks. Pointing this his brown briefcase (not a usual acquaintance). "Today, my friends, we are to have a test. For most it will be easy. for others; not so. Either way, it will not take any longer than you wish, but I will be allocating fifteen minutes all the same". The students, in chorus, breathe in as if about to dive beneath the deep blue and, furrowing brows, accept this. Contradictory to this acceptance is the consciousness that there has been no time to prepare, nor any explanation as to why a test, but, to be totally honest, this professor could arrive in a clown suit, walking in on his hands and no one would bat an eyelid.
A 'click' opens this mysterious briefcase and attentively prompts a very swift explanation. He trawls around the room, quietly placing a blank sheet of paper on each desk space before the students as he speaks. "You are to write a piece on what you see on the back of this page. This is to be completed in silence and is yours and only yours." And with that, the test begins. He returns to his space at the front of the room and the students, although slightly confused, turn their pages and begin. The only problem is, the page has nothing but a little black dot. It takes up enough space to be present though not nearly enough to have any significance. None the less, the timer is on and there is only fourteen and a half minutes remaining.
As the minutes pass by, one by one, the students finish and sit in a cloud of confusion. For some, it took two to three minutes, and others, the full fifteen. The results were the same: mind boggling confusion. Even for our expert practitioner, this seemed odd. Extraordinary even. The professor quickly collects the students' work and returns, sits atop his desk space and smiles at his cohort. "Life is strange, isn't it?" His students' shoulders relax and many even start to laugh. The silence is broken by the familiar kookiness. "Hands up if you thought this was going to happen when you rolled in today?" Obviously, zero pupils raised their hands. "You've outdone yourself this time, Sir!" a keen punter calls out, to the laughter of the others. The air is fresh and the atmosphere is again warm. "I'm going to read each of your pieces now, although what we have all written about will no doubt be the same". The professor, too smart and wise for his own good, announces. He continues, "I'll wager you all, you'll walk away at the culmination a better person than when you arrived...strangely baffled." He looks up, the pupils enjoying this now, full-well knowing the whole session, even his tardiness, was thoroughly planned. "And these are the lessons in life we yearn for. You'll see".
As he read through each of the texts, a pattern started to form, and everyone was onto it. Finally, the professor finished and placed the last one on the stack beside him.
"Every single one of these, with no exception, have found a way to write a description, explanation or other about the little block dot in the centre of the paper; the size, shape or other". Everyone sat in embarrassment, though not knowing why. They could just tell by their professor's tone, it was a silly thing to do. "Don't you see, my friends? Everyone focused on the black dot. The same thing happens in our lives. We insist on focusing on only the black dots; the health issues, the lack of money, the complicated relationship that bothers us. Even the small time emotional upsets that our travel inhabits". The pupils seem to all shuffle in their seats and start to fidget, there is substance to this process. The professor takes breath and finally adds, "not one of you noted the entire white space which inundates this otherwise meaningless black dot. I bet many of you didn't even notice the sheer size of the white's presence".
You see in life, we continue to let the minor black dots pollute our minds, but as we sit back and enjoy the cup of tea we are able to enjoy whilst reading this, in the comfort of our lounge chair, in the comfort of our unscathed homes, keep perspective on many of our compatriots. Those who are struggling to come to terms with their massive, sweltering black dots which are smothering their white sheets at the minute. Compassion is underrated but, if not for anything else; donations, support and resource allocation, please do one thing. Try practise taking your mind off your black dots for a while, just a while. Instead, focus your energy on what is on the white part of the paper, what might you find?
Thoughts and prayers with those doing it tough in Australia right now, those with the burnt paper, I hope there's still some white left. Hang in there.