Austin, United States

I have spent most of my career as a French professor and a research librarian, and have been reinventing myself as a writer. I’m...

Mirage, Mind, and Strength

I was looking at artwork today, some very beautiful work, which at the same time made me think of an old poem/song. So I looked up the lyrics and found some interesting information. Here is what I found in Wikipedia:

“Antigonish” is an 1899 poem by American educator and poet Hughes Mearns. It is also known as “The Little Man Who Wasn’t There”, and was a hit song under that title.

Inspired by reports of a ghost of a man roaming the stairs of a haunted house in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada,1 the poem was originally part of a play called The Psyco-ed which Mearns had written for an English class at Harvard University about 1899.2 In 1910, Mearns put on the play with the Plays and Players, an amateur theatrical group and, on 27 March 1922, newspaper columnist FPA printed the poem in “The Conning Tower”, his column in the New York World.23"

And here is the poem/song:

“Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…"

I thought about this, because sometimes we are certain we see something that really isn’t there, and it can have an effect on our lives. That’s a part of what OCD is often about. We go round and round in the same circle, trying to solve the same thing in the same way every time.. But it never works. And it never works because we’re reading it all wrong, or there’s enough missing from the frame or the story that we eventually realize that we have it all wrong. We attributed this or that to someone, but we had the wrong ideas about them, or about the situation. We can go on this way for years. I know this, because I have had this happen to me. It took me some time to pull myself out of it. If we don’t have accurate information, we cannot create a whole. It’s like having a small bite of an apple, and it lures us on to try to grasp the whole thing, but it always eludes us. Maybe it’s years down the road that we finally find some lost parts of the apple, and we figure we have a clear view. But pieces are still missing, pieces which could change everything. If we ever grasped the whole of the thing, it turns out that it’s not an apple at all. It’s a mirage. Perhaps it was created by someone to lure us into thinking something, but still a mirage nonetheless.

We are living in times of some difficulty. Many people have lost their homes. I also lost mine. Many people have lost other people dear to them. So have I. There are many people from New Orleans who lost their homes to flooding and were never able to rebuild. There are people in the midwest who lost their homes to flooding. It seems like so much of this is happening. There are fires in the West destroying homes. Economic disasters. I can hardly watch these things in the news, I find it so hurtful. But we can overcome and adjust to what is now with God’s help. Sometimes these trials draw us closer to God. I know that there is a great spiritual adventure there if we begin looking toward heaven, and so much to discover.

It’s good to have stability and a home. Don’t get me wrong. The world is changing. We don’t know if the things we endure now will turn out to be a blessing in the end. Maybe where we were before will become a place we’re glad we left. Who knows? It’s helpful if we can look forward and see the positives. I’ve been thinking about that.

Edgar Cayce wrote, “Thoughts are things, and can become crimes or miracles in their application.” I have used this in the past to overcome things, and thinking about it today, I was realizing it is always useful to remember. We are not perfect now, and we are constantly working to be better…well, I guess most of us. Sometimes we chase the wrong ideas, and we can become lost in their application…as it were. I know that happened to me once or twice in my life. I liked the fact that it popped back into my mind today, because I can still use it. I can always use it. This must have been the stimulus for the positive imaging craze.

The spiritual writer, Garigou-Lagrange, wrote that what we entertain in our minds, we’re on our way to actualizing it. Well, I have entertained things in my mind I have never actualized. Nor would I want to, like a moment of aggravation with something or someone. We don’t hold on to those things 24/7. They evaporate. What I found was that when the thoughts of a certain fault entered my mind, if I just changed what I was thinking, and focused on something else, I would forget about the other thoughts. Soon, I did not have those thoughts at all. I’m not talking about any insane thing, or any abnormality. I’m talking about simple faults. We all have them. I know I need to employ the technique again for new things. And that’s how life is. It’s a matter of the exercise of will over our inclinations. I’m glad I remembered this.

I don’t know if it’s useful to anyone else or not, but if we lose some material thing, it’s good to redirect our thoughts to the future, to something positive, to get busy and DO something, even if it’s the simplest things. My sympathies to anyone who has lost their home. I know how that feels. I know these things are happening in so many places right now. Our parents went through their difficult times. Some people think everyone else has it easy, but most of us don’t. Just join the crowd and keep on going. We forge our characters when we’re tested in these ways. Just forge the strength you want to have. BE the change, as they say….

It may not be much consolation to those who have found themselves without a home, but you are not the only one. You are not alone.

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