Thursday, June 6, 2013

Focus on Common Sense Rather than Cleverness


 Helpful Hints From Harmony

Life is Good When You Live in Harmony

Life Lessons from a simpler place and a slower pace.

Hint #5:  Focus on Common Sense Rather than Cleverness

 “Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."

"And he has Brain."

"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything.” A. A. Milne
* * *
This is wild blackberry season here in Harmony.  I love the challenge of gathering them, and I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Last year about this time, we hosted a reception for 100 people to celebrate my son Paul’s leaving for a church mission to Chile.  My wife thought it would be a great idea to serve them wild blackberry cobbler.
What was she thinking?
Do you have any idea how many wild blackberries you have to pick to serve cobbler to 100 people?

A lot!
An awful lot!
So many, in fact, that I attended the reception with a purple index finger and a purple thumb.
I looked like I had just voted in a third-world election.
People asked me, “Why do you go to all the trouble?  It sure seems like a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for a small reward.”
Sometimes I ask myself the same question.  Here are my top four reasons:

1.      They taste good.

2.      They’re free; you don’t even have to grow them.

3.      I love the challenge.

4.      I get back to common sense when I’m out there in the blackberry patch.
I may have the numbers out of order.  Number 4 may be the most important.
Picking blackberries is slow, tedious work.  You can’t rush.  If you try to hurry, you end up hurting yourself. Slowing down, I have learned, does something wondrous for the soul — and the brain.  It takes you back to common sense.
There’s a lot to be said for common sense. In a world of iPhones and Blackberries, Twitter and Facebook, we are awash in information.  We are drowning in data. This can be dangerous.  “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. They listen so much that they forget to be natural.”  Gertrude Stein.
Information overload can produce the result described by the Apostle Paul: "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  2 Timothy 3:7. 
There’s an old Persian proverb that says, “One pound of learning requires ten pounds of common sense to apply it.”  Those long, hot hours in the blackberry patch allow me to review all the learning in my head, connect all the disparate pieces, and turn them into something useful. 
Years ago, someone asked a college professor I admired how she created such wise and masterful lectures.  I’ve long treasured her answer:  “I read myself full and then I think myself straight.”
I suspect she wasn’t a blackberry picker, but I’m certain she had a quiet place where all the ideas and information she had gathered could be sifted, sorted, and straightened.  I’m sure she took the time to ponder, explore new possibilities, and ask herself incisive questions.  And then listen to her own answers.  It takes slow time in a quiet place for that to happen.
It has been my experience that without time in the blackberry patch or on a wooded trail, I get stuck in the immediate and the trivial, and I can’t see the big picture and the grand possibilities. 
However, when I step away from my computer and slow down for a while, I experience breakthrough thinking.  Common sense kicks in and things shift just the way Madeleine d’Engle described it:  "Things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along." 
It happened like that yesterday, right in the middle of a thicket of blackberry bushes.  Riddles I have been wrestling with for weeks were solved and all the pieces of a difficult puzzle fell into place.  The answers had been obvious all along but I couldn’t see them. 
Here’s to common sense.
And blackberries.