Thinking like a push broom—or a leaf blower
Jane and I are not engaged in conversation at the moment. We spoke some twenty minutes ago, before I came into the backyard, went to the garden shed, and got the black-moustached push broom that I now push.
We are mellow, intimately connected—enjoying our crisp autumn straightening-up task.
Clearing leaves, like the warm shower that follows, is a soul-settling activity.
Her 40-volt, rechargeable leaf blower and my manually-operated push broom work in parallel on this, phase two of preparing the yard for wintertime. (Phase one was removing the expired and expiring annuals.)
We work to dispose of the leaves and hundreds upon hundreds of ping-pong-ball-sized, lemon-colored acorns that the gigantic bay tree pelts down in this season.
Jane moves the foliage towards the side gate by waving the bright green tool’s black nozzle in wide arcs.
I clear straight ahead, slower, more meticulously.
Our different approaches are functions of our different tools.
Which leads me to think about our brains.
Our brains are a 40-volt leaf blower and a push broom—tools that work differently but towards the same goal.
We think differently. Each, at times, thinking the other’s thinking is substandard. My push broom can’t fathom that the rechargeable thing—what even is a battery?—even makes any sense at all—arcing like that to clean up a path? Are you serious?
But, the truth is, it’s just different.
When her thinking doesn’t pan out as she had planned—and it happens to be a situation where broom logic would have been advantageous to use—I must refrain from commenting: “What were you thinking?” or “How could you think that?”
Deriding someone’s thinking is poisonous to maintaining a healthy relationship with them.
My plans, with my best thinking, also often go awry.
We both make forward progress towards removing the accumulation of the 20-50 nuts a day that have been falling in the past two to three weeks.
Different methods. The same goal.
The same is true for our homesteading and our parenting.
And for most people with whom we disagree.
It helps to remember we are all human, facing the same direction, each making strides forward, each with good intentions.
My thoughts wander as I switch arms for a while, right over left on the broomstick.
I calculate an approximate rate of nuts I push to the gate per minute and begin to calculate the approximate rate of nuts to the gate per minute of Jane’s blower.
But I stop.
That line of thinking can lead to nowhere good.
In about ten minutes or so we will continue with phase three: Set up outdoor furniture to rest for the winter.
Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box rotb.org, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.