The Sandbox Writing Challenge #59 — The Problem With Tigers

On Oct 11th, Calen presented us with the final questions from Learning to Fall: Recording the Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Philip Simmons. But before she gave the questions, she posted a story, which unless I list it here, the title of this post won’t make much sense. So here is the story:


There’s a well-known Zen parable about the man who was crossing a field when he saw a tiger charging at him. The man ran, but the tiger gained on him, chasing him toward the edge of a cliff. When he reached the edge, the man had no choice but to leap. He had one chance to save himself: a scrubby branch growing out of the side of the cliff about half way down. He grabbed the branch and hung on. Looking down, what did he see on the ground below? Another tiger!

Then the man saw that a few feet off to his left a small plant grew out of the cliff, and from it there hung one ripe strawberry. Letting go with one hand he found that he could stretch his arm out just far enough to pluck the berry with his fingertips and bring it to his lips. How sweet it tasted!

* * * * *

We’re used to getting nuggets of conventional advice:
• Don’t wait for a tragedy to start appreciating the little things in life.
• Stop and smell the honeysuckle. (Or pumpkin muffins if they’re more you’re thing!)
• Count your blessings. Appreciate what you have instead of complaining about what you don’t.

But I prefer to offer these mystery points:
• If spiritual growth is what you seek, don’ ask for more strawberries, ask for more tigers.
• The threat of the tigers, the leap from the cliff, are what give the strawberry its savor — no tigers, no sweetness.
• In falling we somehow gain what means most. In falling we are given back our lives even as we lose them.

–Philip Simmons, Learning to Fall: Recording the Blessings of an Imperfect Life

Now on to Calen’s questions:


Does seeing problems as mysteries
change your perspective about life?

What problems in your life
are you ready to give up trying to solve?

I admit, I love a good mystery. Nothing perks me up more than trying to solve a good Whodunit, but I am still not sure I can view problems as mysteries to be solved. They don’t seem nearly as much fun, but I guess that’s what it comes down to by the time I am making my lists. It does change my perspective a bit. Since I have a good imagination, I can always turn myself into Sherlock or Miss Marple and solve my problems. It might even be exciting that way.

I don’t really have many problems these days. I stress a bit over finances. Struggle now and again with my writing. But the only things that plague me routinely are my mental illnesses. While they are constant problems and quite mysterious, I am not sure I can give them up. It would be like cutting off a hand or poking out my eyes. They are a part of who I am. I can maintain them, but not rid myself of them completely.