Recently I read a blog that retold an old Zen story. The story goes that an old farmer had a series of incidents in his life, each one seeming either very bad, or very good. After each one, his friends either commiserated with him or congratulated him, and each time his response was the same… ‘maybe’. In other words, he wasn’t buying into the outcome, one way or the other, because after each seemingly good outcome, some catastrophe would develop and after each disappointing outcome, something good would come. The story wasn’t over until Life said it was.
When I was 17 and in my last year of high school, we were required to take entrance exams for certain Universities that we wished to attend. I had not realised results could be withheld until it was known the score. My results were sent directly to the one and only University I had chosen to attend. They had a rather high standard for admittance, and I had a lower than expected score on the entrance exam. I was sick the day I took it. Even though my grades were well above average, this exam was crucial. I missed out.
For a while I convinced myself I didn’t care and that I didn’t even want to attend University. And then came a letter. The University had a ‘quota program’ for students who were in the exact position as myself. I would need to bring a portfolio of my work and be interviewed by a staff member of the Fine Art Department, to which I had applied. The drive was several hours away and my dear, supportive Mother delivered me at the appointed time. To say I was nervous might be the understatement of my life to that point. Petrified might be closer to the mark. The interview seemed to go fine but the Professor who interviewed me showed me some of the other portfolios and I could see the competition was of a high standard. Many students had had four years of art in high school and their skills were far beyond mine. Our little school had not even had an art teacher until my final year. To try and get a portfolio together, I had taken two classes at once most of the year, using a free period as extra art time.
After weeks of waiting, the news was good. I was accepted. Years later the professor with whom I had interviewed, told me, often the students who are admitted under the quota program achieved better results than those admitted under normal circumstances. He felt it was because the quota students ‘wanted it more’. Maybe.
On our return trip from a short break in Sydney, Don and I were seated in our respective window and aisle seats in economy, with a seat between us. Because we are very frequent flyers, Qantas will often leave a seat vacant between us, for more comfort. Just after the door had closed and I had fastened my seat belt, I heard the head attendant saying to an elderly woman, you can have either seat 20B or seat 5B. Don and I were in row 5, and yes, you guess correctly, she chose 5B. She was a large woman, not so much overweight, as just tall and wide. She was also not nimble, and the seats are narrow. Seemingly inexperienced with flying, she attempted to climb over me as I was trying to get out of my seat and give her easier access. She didn’t grasp what was happening. Awkward. The attendant, gently took the woman by the arm and pulled her aside to allow me to get out and then for her to get into the middle seat. It was crowded. I adjusted myself, leaning toward the aisle side of my seat, and continued reading. After we took off, an attendant came to assist the woman to the toilet. While she was away, another attendant quickly whisked us out of our seats and into Business Class seats for the duration. Life, as well as the attendant, had seen a different vision for us.
Countless experiences of this nature fill my life. Life knows what it is doing, even if we sometimes don’t. It’s never over, til it’s over.