The Obstacle Is The Way
April 20, 2020
My younger son had an intense online session with his Music teacher this evening. After his class, we got chatting. He was feeling a little overwhelmed- ” I don’t know if I am going back on my skills. In a normal class, I struggle about 30% of the time but still manage to hold my own with my teacher for the balance. But, in the last two classes, I am just not able to keep pace. I don’t know if the lessons he is teaching me right now are harder or if I am just not good enough. I am wondering what I have been learning so far?”
All I could do was empathize and listen to what my son had to say. He is a great kid who is meticulous in his daily practice. I felt that if he is struggling, it would only be because the lessons are harder.
I told my son this story.
A King in a bygone era once had his soldiers place a big Boulder bang in the middle of an arterial road leading into the town square. He then hid himself and wanted to see what people would do. Would they take the effort to move the Boulder, or would they just leave it there and take a more arduous and difficult route through the jungle to get into the town square. People, wealthy and poor alike, came by saw the Boulder obstructing the passage, simply retraced their path, and went through the jungle. Many even cursed the King for not keeping the pathway clear.
After a while, a peasant carrying a load of vegetables came along. Seeing the Boulder, he laid the vegetable basket down and tried to move the obstruction. The Boulder was huge and not easy to move. Foraging some logs from the forest, the peasant created a fulcrum and pushed the Boulder to the side of the road. As he turned around to pick his vegetables, he noticed a purse lying on the road right where the Boulder had been. The purse contained 100 gold coins and a note of appreciation from the King.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” These were the powerful words written by a Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius during the period 160 AD to 180 AD in his book on stoic philosophy- Meditations.
In facing and dealing with more difficult challenges, we are able to become strong ourselves. In working hard to deal with the more difficult lessons that his teacher is putting across, my son will undoubtedly become more skilled and more proficient in the art.
The Boulder in the story metaphorically could be an external impediment i.e., a challenging goal or a difficult situation or it could be an internal limitation i.e., a fear of taking some action, or ego of some sort.
In clearing that obstacle lies the path to personal progress.
My son was able to anticipate how the story would end, and he knew the real intent in my narrating the story to him.
” Don’t worry, dad. I know what I have to do to get better. I have to work double hard. I have a plan……..” Kids nowadays are so smart 🙂 !!