For years I’ve enjoyed the short stories of Katherine Mansfield, partly because in many of them the protagonists are able to step back, observe their lives from a distance, and then laugh – something I need to do on a more regular basis. I often get way too involved in the drama of ‘my life’. I regularly get lost in the plot that involves Ham, the brave hero who wages valiant war against the many adversaries that threaten to impede the progress of his life. It’s easy, I find, to actually believe the story line – to actually be convinced that I am the main character in this drama called ‘My Life’, and that it’s up to me to make it an overall success. What I need to do more often is what Mansfield’s protagonists often do – step back and get the big picture. If I can do that – if I can imagine myself looking down from far away upon this tiny bald-headed ‘person’ named Ham in the middle of this boundless, everlasting universe – I would see my life in its true perspective. I would see that what I’m doing at any moment is no more or less important than what the wind is doing, or what trash haulers are doing as they drive to the transfer station. The wind, the trash haulers, and I are all part of a grand extravaganza that has no heroes and no adversaries – just on-going present moments that are each uniquely perfect. If I could occasionally step back from my life in that way, I would feel more relaxed about it, more confident that each of life’s ‘performances’ –- each and every moment — will, in one way or another, be beautiful. I might even, like the characters in Mansfield’s stories, have a good laugh over the whole thing.


When’s he sad or stressed,
he settles himself down
and listens for laughter.
He knows it’s all around him --
in houses across the street,
in countless towns and cities,
in tall forests where friends
at this very moment
are making merry.
He sees in his mind
a world where one-third of the people 
are probably laughing
with light hearts
right at this moment,
this serious moment in his life
when he’s so worried
about one thing
or another.

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