Listen to my Friend Fred.
Take a deep breath and take the long view.
Let me introduce you to my friend Fred. Fred is a member of the metamorphic rock family known for their exquisite degree of patience. He claims to be almost two billion years old, but he is prone to exaggeration.
As you can imagine, our conversations are somewhat long-winded. His thoughts are very slow, to say the least. But he has shared some of his wisdom with me, which I now pass along to you.
Fred’s sole purpose in life is to fall, to go to ground. He is not troubled that I plucked him from a spot in my backyard and placed him on the railing of your front porch. He is patient, for he knows that eventually, he will find a lower place. Perhaps in a hundred years when my house falls apart. Perhaps in a few thousand years when a massive flood sweeps him downstream. Or maybe in a few million years when tectonic forces drive the continents apart again. He takes the long view.
Fred is not upset by changes in governments, by who won the Super Bowl, or the rising cost of college. He is not concerned about the plague, the Black Death, or Covid-19. He never worries about money, prestige, or girlfriends. He is complete in himself.
If something upsetting does occur, he takes a long breath, maybe a few hundred years, and continues his uninterrupted waiting. He is happy with his place in the universe and not burdened by a belief in fear.
“Don’t worry about the small things,” he told me, “like what you humans call Global Extinction Events. The world will continue despite all your efforts. I refuse to worry about the future; worry will not put a single wrinkle on my beautiful face. The baggage of my past holds no power over me. The Cretaceous and the Pleistocene were all so long ago.”
“For me, it’s not difficult to stay focused on the truly important things in life. Distractions, confusion, and stress are not allowed to interfere with my serenity. I don’t wish I was basalt, granite, or sandstone. I know my purpose in life.”
“I’ve discovered over the eons that jealousy, arrogance, and low self-esteem are not useful. Greed, quarrels, and hatred never helped me. Holding grudges, judging others, and allowing negative thoughts to live in my head only slow me down. I hold fast to what I know is my part in life.”
I didn’t quite understand what he meant by “slow me down,” but I took him at his word. He never gets upset if I forget his birthday or our anniversary. He is kind that way.
Back in the 1300’s, Fred was friends with the theologian Meister Eckart. Eckart, known as a Christian mystic, wrote a small meditation about Fred and the wisdom he represents.
Be yourself. And if what this means is unclear to you,
look around at the things of this earth.
Study the stone which always does what it was made to do,
it doesn’t always fall in the same way, sometimes resting in high places
and at other times finding its rest where the earth allows it to lie,
but its purpose is to move downward,
and in this, the stone loves God in the way it can,
singing the new song which God gives each creature and thing
and also you who read this
and at times wonder what to do and how to be.
So, when life seems too much for me, I try to follow Fred’s suggestions. I step back, take a deep breath, and sing the song God gave me.
Quotation from Jon M. Sweeney and Mark S. Burrows, Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart, Hampton Roads Publishing, Charlottesville, VA, 2017, page 26.