Confusion

Monday, March 23, 2020

            I’ve come to see, as my 78 years have passed, that confusion can be good for me – that it can give me more gifts than problems. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, since the word “confuse” derives from the Latin word for “mingle together”, and aren’t all things in this world mingled together, in some way or other, and isn’t mingling usually a constructive activity? Grass blades make fine-looking lawns by growing in a confused way, all mingled together, and the stars above us show the beautiful confusion of togetherness and endlessness. Cars on roads mingle in a seemingly confused manner, and yet the chaos of the traffic – what we might call the resourceful confusion of it – usually produces a steady and smooth movement of vehicles. My days, too, so often seem composed of haphazard things and thoughts, and yet from that confusion has come, and still comes, the blessings given by this good life. It’s a similar confusion, I guess, to that of oceans that bring beauty out of swirling waves and organisms, or of fields of wildflowers that show splendor in the midst of seeming disarray. It’s a lucky kind of confusion, and I’m lucky to usually be feeling it. 

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We passed this scene on our walk this morning in Noank (CT), and instantly the word ‘sad’ came to mind, due to the shelter-skelter appearance of everything – the ragged, rambling weeds, the wild-looking house, the tattered trees. But then I thought, how strange, to instantly label the scene with a single word, as though that word thoroughly captures the substance of it. Why wasn’t I able to just quietly look at the scene, welcome it into my mind, notice the countless shapes and shades of color? Why couldn’t I see how all the parts of the scene were fused together in an undisturbed partnership? Why must I so often miss the miracles of life by applying my easy-to-use but essentially meaningless labels?

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And here’s a scene, again in Noank, with what might seem like a confusion of clouds in the sky and waves in the sea, but the confusion is, in its own special way, utterly beautiful. This helps me remember that, when I feel like my life is falling into total confusion, perhaps I can think of the loveliness of these confused clouds and waves, and perhaps smile, and even praise, my confusion.

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I’m not confused, I’m just well mixed. – Robert Frost      

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