By JR on Sunday, May 15, 2016
The importance of attitude
It's amazing how much difference your attitude can make. The same event can be viewed either as a disaster or as a positive on some occasions -- and which it is can entirely be a matter of attitude.
One story I have often told is about Joe G., who used to do all my carpentry for me before he his health let him down. Joe came from London and was in most ways a typical Cockney -- a cheerful chatterbox. And one day he was telling me about a job he had been on recently. He was manoeuvering a heavy beam into place when it slipped out of his hands and fell down across his saw stools, smashing both of them. He told that as a great joke and said: "I needed new stools anyway". Most admirable.
And then there is Ken. Ken was always a cheerful optimist. Some time in his '40s when he realized that lots of his dreams were not going to be fulfilled, he went through a slough of despond
but he eventually got past that. And he seems to have lots of friends. He constantly says things that irritate his family but he has perfectly amicable relationships with everyone else: George, Joe and myself for instance.
So something Ken once said struck me. I said how I limit my driving to avoid traffic jams. I hate sitting in traffic jams. Ken however replied that he didn't mind them at all. He said they were just a welcome quiet time for him. You could just relax and take it easy with no pressure on you to do things. I greatly wish I could have that attitude but I still don't.
And Anne has some good attitudes too. I was saying how I hate the long flights one has to take in order to get almost anywhere from Australia. I remember a Maersk flight that I once took to travel from Sydney to London via Copenhagen. I was in that plane for about 30 hours and loathed it.
Anne said however that she likes those long flights. She just settles down in a comfortable chair with a good book, gets up once an hour to stretch her legs and people keep coming to her seat bringing food and drinks. She thought it an ideal setting to read a book -- something she does a lot of. I would like to adopt that attitude but don't think I could.
Why did I say "slough of despond" above? Did anybody recognize the allusion? It is one of the more notable situations in "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. I read it about 50 years ago but I liked that phrase and have used it occasionally ever since. I liked "the full armour of God" too but that is actually from Ephesians
And I suppose that brings me to something in my own life. Most people who exit from Puritanical religions seem to have at least some anger towards the religion concerned. But I went through a very fundamentalist, Puritanical phase in my teens and have no anger about it at all. I view that time in my life with warm affection, in fact. I was as happy than as I have ever been and I have had a very happy life in general. And I still enjoy reading my Bible. I find it full of wisdom. And I also still think that the lessons I learned then from a Protestant interpretation of the Bible put my feet on the right path through life. So that's a different attitude from an atheist.