Today's missive will be storytime. The story we'll be recounting is the familiar folktale about the poor farmer, who thought his house was too small.
"What should I do?" the farmer whined to the Wise Man of the Village. "My little shack is too small for me, my wife, and all of our children. All day long I hear their playing, fighting, and nagging. All night long I hear coughing, snoring, and sleeptalk. I can't get any peace. I can't get any quiet, I can't take it anymore!"
"Well," commiserated the Wise Man, "this is a big problem, indeed. You deserve your peace and quiet. You need more space. Go home and bring your cow into your house. This will surely solve your problem." The farmer was dubious, but what kind of fool questions the Wise Man? "Ok," he agreed, "I'll do it."
That evening, after a long day of hard work, the farmer brought the cow inside. He was excited at all the new space he would have, as the Wise Man promised. As he drifted off to sleep, amidst the usual night noises of his children coughing and his wife gently snoring, he was suddenly jarred awake by the loud "Moo, MOOOO!!!" coming from the cow. He couldn't sleep a wink all night, and in the morning, the farmer was frustrated as he tried to get up, get dressed, and eat breakfast with the cow knocking into everyone in the one-room home.
By now, the farmer was mad. He stormed back to the Wise Man and demanded, "Why did you tell me to bring in the cow? Now it's even worse!" "What?!" exclaimed the Wise Man. "This should not be. Alright, here's the solution: when you go home, bring your goat in also. Everything will be great."
Again the farmer was confused, but again he did as he was told. Yet that night, with the cow and the goat crowding into everyone, the farmer got even more frustrated. He returned to the Wise Man, who recommended the farmer add his sheep to his household as well. Night after night the farmer was kept awake, day after day he was crowded into an ever tighter space as the Wise Man advised him to move his horse, pig, and chickens in as well.
Finally, the farmer had enough, "Wise Man!" he yelled, "how can you tell me to shove one more animal into my house?! It hasn't gotten one inch bigger and now me, my wife, and my children can't even move! Help us!" "Really?" replied the Wise Man. "That is terrible. Ok, go home and take all the animals out. We will figure out what comes next."
The farmer did as he was told. Cow, goat, sheep, horse, pig, and chickens were all returned to the barnyard. Besides for the people who lived there, the house was empty again. The farmer was about to return to the Wise Man to find out what to do next, when he paused for a moment at his door. He looked around the small room. It was quiet! His children were playing in one corner and his wife hummed to herself as she prepared dinner. There was no squawking or neighing or oinking. The farmer could be at peace with his thoughts. He suddenly noticed how much space there was for his table, his bed, his children's toys. There were no animals or birds competing for a spot to stand. He sat down at his table; he felt like a king. And the farmer started to laugh as he realized he wouldn't be returning to the Wise Man after all. His house was already plenty big enough.
Now it gets deep:
We live in a globalized world. We can get anything we want, anytime we want, and although we've been touting the wonder of e-commerce for years, we do like to go out, it turns out. The gym, the supermarket, the bank. Errands, work, carpools. Dinners out with friends, jaunts into the city. And even farther afield, on road trips, vacations, or international adventures. We want to go everywhere, we want to see everyone, we want to vanquish FOMO by doing everything. The world was getting so small, that some of us were contemplating our next adventure in Outer Space (some of the rich of us, I mean).
But then, in the blink of an eye, the world became pretty huge again. Especially when we are confined to the four walls of our homes, which we may or may not share with spouses, parents, children, siblings, and even the occasional pet (though hopefully not a cow). Now, contemplating a very necessary trip to the grocery store becomes an adventure for the ages. "Should I go? Will I be able to get in? Will there be any good toilet paper left when I get there? What should I wear? It's looking like mesh facial accessories are in this season...should I wear one?" That is the extent of adventure in our lives these days.
So the world became huge, and our lives became small. It's tough, but I think we have to hang tough. Especially when there's a deadly, invisible boogeyman out there, making us afraid of the wide, wonderful world we used to enjoy. That fear is good for now, if it keeps us safe. And if we stay safe in the small, beautiful worlds we've made in our homes, with the people we love (who may be driving us just slightly bonkers these days, but still), then that wide, wonderful world will be there waiting for us on the other side of this. And when we do finally emerge, we may realize that we don't have to go everywhere, see everyone, or do everything in order to feel like we haven't missed out. It may be that our small adventures with the family and friends we haven't been able to see, at the little neighborhood places we always took for granted, are all we need to feel happy and connected. Our world may be plenty big enough.
Until tomorrow, wishing you good night, good luck, and good health!