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To Build a FireIt’s -19 degrees in Billings, MT, today.  I went outside to shovel a small patch of frozen ground out of the ice and snow for my long-hair dachshund to potty.  As soon as I stepped outside and I breathed the ice-crystal-saturated air, my nose hairs bristled and my eyes stung.

It.  Is.  Cold.

And my imagination shot immediately to the Jack London short story “To Build a Fire”.   Yukon.  -50 degrees.  Man.  Pride.  Huskey.  Instinct.  Matches.  Sleep.  Frozen.

And I think how often we ignore the wisdom of others.  I’m not talking about the whinings of those who speak from veiled interest or those who have done and experienced everything in life, so they must know it all.  You know the type….

I mean the wisdom of those in our lives whom we trust.  Those who have proven their love for and interest in us.  We ignore them.  We scoff at their words.  We stare at them with affected interest, nodding in “knowing” understanding, commenting with emotionally laden “ah” and “uh huh”, all the while thinking, planning, plotting, organizing, hatching our own plan.  Those words of wisdom “going in one ear and out the other.”

Our plan, our path, will be different.  We won’t fall into the same situation that they did.  No way.  Can’t and won’t happen.  We’re different.  Unique.  Bold.  Smart.  Creative.  Mentally / Physically / Emotionally agile.

Is it lack of humility that keeps us from allowing those wise words from sinking in?  Is it arrogance that builds that wall of imperviousness?

Sometimes our own path is a success, and we are vindicated for taking the road less traveled (there’s another blog post on that poem for sure…).

And then there are those times when we fall flat on our faces.  Angry.  Humiliated.  Gutted.  Hopefully, we aren’t like the nameless man in London’s story who has no hope of redemption.  Hopefully, we have a chance for a “do over.”  Or at least to sort out the rubble from our exploded plans and eventually move ahead.  We might need to eat a bit of crow.  Or, perhaps, a bit more than just a bit.  But at some point we move ahead and onward.

And then we gain perspective.  And more people come into our lives.  And one person in particular has a choice in front of them much like we did at one point in our past.  And we speak those words of personally-gained and painfully-acquired wisdom to them.

And we see the oddly familiar stare of affected interest in their eyes.  The slow nods of comprehension.  The emotionally-laden “ah” and “uh huh”.

We shake our heads.  We denied wisdom those years ago.  Wisdom is denied from us now.

And we trot off, like London’s husky, towards the camp filled with warmth and shelter and food and security.

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