A few years ago a work colleague asked me if I had a particular model of iPod. As luck would have it, I had. Apple was recalling them, and I was eligible for a replacement. I followed the instructions provided on its website, and, a few weeks later, a new iPod arrived.
Unlike my older model, this iPod had a clock ‘App’. It featured a timer to switch off the device after a selected time.
Soon after this, though unrelated to my new iPod, I suffered from a prolonged period of sleeplessness. You will understand the symtoms: not falling asleep for hours and hours; waking up after only an hour or so in bed; mind racing the minute one wakes up; unable to get back to sleep; waking again at 4.00am and remaining wide awake until getting up time and going to work barely able to stay awake. At some time in our life, it will happen to most of us.
My iPod became an invaluable tool. Loaded with audiobooks, it became a means to help empty my mind and, consequently, help me ease into my night’s rest. The spoken work provided the same kind of comfort that a young child often needs in order to go to sleep. The bedtime story that I needed was not to dispel the fear of the bogey-man under the bed, but to slow my thoughts, make me relax and strip my mind of the high speed, random ideas that were keeping me awake.
One of the books I listened to, over and over again, was Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat, read by Hugh Laurie. The iPod would turn off after 20 minutes, but I was often asleep before then. I had, by chance, found a solution to my insomnia, at least by dealing with the symtoms, if not the cause.
Over the months, I unconsciously learned the story and the words of Jerome’s work off-by-heart. “There were four of us: George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency…” and so on.
But, it was a piece further into the book that struck a chord, that gnawed away at me, and, given its strong use of metaphor, appealed to the sailor within me. In short, it made me sit up and re-think.
Having spent thirty years working hard and acquiring the trappings that go with prosperity: the clothes, the cars, the boat, the watches, the pens, the you-name-its and the been-there-seen-it-done-its, Jerome K. Jerome abrubtly taught me that life’s cargo can, quickly and unwittingly, become life’s cross.
I was privileged to have been asked to read at my goddaughter’s wedding last year, and I have been asked to read at my niece’s wedding this weekend. I will be reading the same piece.
These are Jerome’s words, not mine. He must take the credit. But, imagine the scene: three friends sitting together, planning on what to take on holiday
“George said, “You know, we are on the wrong track altogether. We must not think of the things we can do with, but only of the things that we cannot do without.”
George comes out quite sensible at times. You’d be surprised. I call that downright wisdom, not merely as regards a boat trip, but with reference to our trip up the river of life generally.
How many people on that voyage load up the boat till it is ever in danger of swamping, with a store of foolish things, which they think essential to the pleasure and comfort of the trip, but which are really only useless lumber.
How they pile the poor little craft mast-high with fine clothes and big houses; with useless servants; and a host of swell friends that do not care tuppence for them; with expensive entertainments that nobody enjoys; with formalities and fashions; with pretence and ostentation …. and the heaviest maddest lumber of all – the dread of what my neighbour will think.
It is all lumber man, all lumber. Throw it overboard.
It makes the boat so heavy to pull , you nearly faint at the oars. It makes it so cumbersome and dangerous to manage, you never know a moment’s freedom from anxiety and care, never gain a moment’s rest for dreamy laziness.
Throw the lumber over
Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat or dog, enough to eat, enough to wear and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing.
You will find the boat easier to pull then and it will not be so liable to upset, and it will not matter so much if it does upset; good plain simple things will stand water.
You will have time to think and time to work. Time to drink in life’s sunshine and time to listen to the music that the wind draws from human heart strings.”
Who would have thought that the acquistion of a new iPod would lead to a life-changing mantra and a re-appraisal of what is, and what is not, important. But, it did for me, and it could for us all.
Let your boat of life be light.