Monday, 5 October 2009

Worry-men and inspirational talk

There's an old parable about the 'worry-man.' From place to place, village to village, shtetl to shtetl, he goes around with his long wooden stick. In each village they come out to greet him and he shows them the stick and asks them to tie their worry to it. After half an hour it's emblazoned with worries. 'Take one!' he tells the people. 'Take any one. Any one that doesn't belong to you!' The villagers look at one another. Can this be true, they ask one another. Can we take someone else's problems, anxieties, worries?

One villager steps forward and pulls off a piece of paper and the string attached from the stick. Another one follows suit. Then another and another. Each person takes a new worry. Something that they hadn't had, something that they didn't want. They look at the writing. They look at each other then, after some seconds, stealthily they tread towards the worry-man, while he regards them with a short smile around his lips, his eyes beady with intelligence.

'I'm not sure that I want this one,' a tubby woman tells him. 'I've enough worries of my own...' She reaches up to where she had initially tied her problem. 'I think I'll keep it. If you don't mind.' On and on the villagers untie their problems. Half an hour later, they walk back to their houses, crushing the paper between their fingers, throwing it into the fires that burn in the blackened grates. The worry-man continues onwards, towards another village, another shtetl. Who needs someone else's tsuris, or worries, when you know your own?

I watched a short video yesterday about a man who was born with no arms and no legs, apart from a fin attached to what must have been a stump. A torso with a head. A young, handsome man who goes around to schools and colleges, talking about his particular tsuris, making the point - not necessarily elegantly - about things being far worse than you think they are. You wonder how on earth he manages to pee or scratch his nose, shave, eat, move from school to school. He's supposed to be inspirational. Your weight gain or your insecurities or your cancer or insanity are nothing compared to me! Yes, they are inconsequential if it means that the alternative is to have no arms or legs and to be reliant on a host of people to do the basic, basic things.

So I guess that I'll stick to the insanity on my doorstep that permeates my existence. I don't want someone else's problems. The worry-man can sleep peacefully knowing that I won't tie my problems to his wooden stick. Although sometimes I do dream differently.


olivia said...

perhaps the point that the young man in the video was trying to make was that sometimes one cannot do much to alter the stark reality of one's predicament, but you do have control over how you react to your circumstances - you can choose to let it rule you or you can accept it and try to look for the positives.....

Ros Morris said...

Thanks, Olivia. I quite understand that. But the positives...?!