Sunday, July 18, 2010

A (Non) Rolling Stone: An Allegory

Once upon a time, there was a man who, while on a certain part of his journey, found his path blocked by a large stone.

The man first tried around the stone, but the stone lay against a high cliff on one side and a steep cliff on the other. He also found that climbing over the stone was impossible.

So, the man dedicated himself to pushing the stone off his path. But, try as he might, he wasn't strong enough. Day after day, he pushed against the stone with no movement. Every few days, he was able to summon a little extra strength and move the stone a fraction of an inch, but when he exhausted himself and had to let go, the stone rolled back to its original position.

The man became deeply discouraged. He had known others who had been strong enough to push similar stones out of their way. He had known those who, though no stronger than he, had been able to push more consistently and been successful. He had also known people who never seemed to run into stones or who just didn't seem to mind when they did. He was sad that he couldn't be like these other persons.

But this man cared. As he either pushed or dropped in fatigue, there was rain, and snow, and (worst of all) presidential elections. His friends and family told him that he should push harder or that he must not really want to move the stone badly enough. (In truth, they rarely told him these things - he just thought they did, because that's what he told himself.) Eventually, he came to feel completely trapped, and divided his time between occasional pushes and trying to change his thoughts so as to be able to push harder or longer.

After many years, our friend wearied of feeling bad all the time, and came to somewhat accept his situation. He wasn't a bad person, he reasoned, he was just a man behind a rock. He still pushed from time to time, but he also built himself a shelter from the weather, and planted some basil, and subscribed to digital cable. He was still sad about his situation, but slowly changed how he thought about it.

One day as he was writing idle thoughts in the dirt, he discovered that he had written these words:

"Personal change is more about strategy than psychology."

For several days, he often thought about those words. He thought about them while cooking ratatouille, and while washing his dish, and after "Monty Python's Flying Circus" reruns.

Finally, he got up, and went and looked at the rock and the surrounding areas, really looked at them, for the first time in many years. He noticed a few fist-sized stones around the base of the stone. After he thought about these things, he went and pushed against the stone with all has strength. As he had before, he moved the stone about half an inch. This time, however, he used his foot to move one of the smaller stones to wedge against the big one to prevent it from rolling back to its original position. A few days later, he did this again.

That's the situation now. The man is hopeful that his new strategy will enable him to move the stone out of the way. But he has glimmers of a couple of other ideas if that doesn't work.

At least the stone is moving.


  1. Beautifully written. I SO relate to this. Thank you for sharing!!! ((hugs))

  2. I love this! I too totally relate.


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T Minus Two by Bob Pedersen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.