“Apples left on trees make me crazy,” said a woman in my town, not kidding in the slightest. Since language shapes our thinking just as thinking shapes our language––and this part of Vermont has no shortage of apple trees––her sanity must get a real workout every year after picking season.
But what was really going on? What prompted her to express herself in language that implies she’s not responsible for her mental health, that she is a victim of forces outside her control, that a fruit “makes” her do or feel something?
I’m pretty sure she doesn’t live in a Stephen King world where, say, the apples themselves, in retaliation for being left to wither, conspire to infect the brains of unsuspecting passersby? Nor do I bet she’s oblivious to the fact that creatures of every wing, paw and hoof consider “left over” apples the equivalent of Christmas dinner.
My guess is, if she could have articulated her true feelings, my neighbor’s words might have been something like these: “The pain of those who are hungry while there is food available to feed them is excruciating to me. And I don’t know how to let go of that pain, or even whether it’s possible to do so.”
Why not just say that?
It’s not that we consider ourselves mindless puppets whose reactions are dictated by the strings circumstance. It’s that we’re afraid of pain. And because we’re not all that skilled at freeing either fear or pain, we do everything we can to deny them––and among the easiest ways to do that is to blame our misery on something outside us.
“Why, if it weren’t for those darned apples (or my boss, the government, or the fact that it’s raining today), I’d be happy.”
Imagine X number of incarnations down the road (or maybe tomorrow) when we’ve grown up enough to perceive pain not as a tormentor, but as a teacher, a loving teacher reminding us where our work is as we grow toward experiencing our true identity: beings of unconditional love.
Imagine how much we’re going to laugh at ourselves.