Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When One Battery Means Two

Immediately after having finished reading The Tao of Pooh for the third, but most complete, time, my stepfather sent me out on a minor errand: go out to the garage and turn the battery charger off by turning the dial to off. I was angry to have to outside in the cold to do something that only interested him, but I went out anyway, ready to put the Taoist practices that Benjamin Hoff and Winnie the Pooh kindly demonstrated to me in motion.

So, upon opening the garage door, I instantly notice a lone, tiny green light. The battery charger, it must be! This will be easy. I turned on the lights and was face-to-face with a smaller battery charger. But no dial for off and on. Only a switch helpfully label "voltage selector." Where was the dial? I turned to the charger round and round, but to no avail. Where is the off switch? Suddenly, I needed to go to the bathroom. I started to panic: WHAT IS GOING ON? I calmed down, remembered what Hoof and Pooh finished telling me, and looked at it again. Same deal. I simply unplugged it and went back inside.

My stepfather asked if I switched off the dial, to which I replied there was none. Equipped with a flashlight, I went back out to the same charger for the same battery, only to find nothing of the kind that he described. Now, having the flashlight, I neglected to turn the garage lights on. Because it was extremely cold and dark, I entertained myself by blowing my breath into the stream of heavy light. It was pretty fun.

After a while, my stepfather came out to see what the hold up was. He instantly went to a second, larger battery charger, partially hidden behind a few cable, I think, and asked what was so hard to understand. He told me that if I had looked carefully, I would have seen that two batteries were being charged, and then common sense would have told me that two battery chargers were at work. He reminded me that once I was out in the real world (I really hate that term, by the way), I would have to use my brain to figure things of this nature out. The pure monotone and logical air of his speech made me furious and sad that I wasn't smart enough to deduct this myself.

Actually, this was a very helpful experience. Not only did it aid me in fully understanding the Empty Mind--not being clouded by Brain and being able to see what's in front of you--but the vagueness of language. I went about achieving my objective on the directive to turn off a battery charger and not the battery chargers. Therefore, I only looked for a battery charger, and upon finding one, I believed that this was the battery charger. However, the description of the on/off switch he gave me didn't fit what I was seeing. Did he make a mistake? Is this a new battery charger than he mistook for the old one? It really did never occur to me that there was another battery charger at work, despite there being two connected batteries on the table. That is precisely when the Empty Mind should have seen two batteries and concluded that two battery chargers were working.

I believe I know what I did wrong. One of the things I am trying to work on is not doing things just to appease others. I believe a part of me still tried too hard--a big no-no according to Taoism--and followed only the core of the instructions: battery charger = turn off. The rest would follow. But it didn't, for this charger had no dial or even an on/off switch. (The back label was not helpful: it told me that before I unplugged the charger, make sure the batteries switches--IF ANY--were turned off.) Immediately, I blamed him and not myself. While technically he did make a mistake (and whether he was testing me or not remains a mystery), two wrongs don't make a right. I failed to see with my own two eyes that two connected batteries meant that two battery chargers were in use.

I still feel a bit like a failure, having realized how I screwed up screwed-up instructions, but this couldn't have happened at a better time. Now I know exactly what I need to work on to get better, and will do what I must to work towards it.

Thank you, stepfather, Benjamin Hoff, and Pooh.

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