Thursday, January 28, 2010


What’s the function and purpose of the common, garden-variety prickle?

As I dropped my daughter off at work recently, watching her disappear into the veterinary practice she works at, I breathed a huge hope-related sigh... three whole hours at my disposal! I could walk, reflect, visit the beach, write, rejuvenate, ponder and plan; some of my favourite activities right there! Voila before me.

I drove to a predetermined location and parked, applied sunscreen and left on my walk. As I ventured along the footpath, beach-bound, I decided in my enthusiasm to take a shortcut between paths, crossing a roadway. When I reached the other side I suddenly realised I’d walked through a ground-stuck thornbush; prickles—about fourteen of them. I spent the next few minutes removing them. The time I’d have saved in taking the shortcut (and then some!) was now taken up removing prickles from my shoes.

The shortcut was an interesting one. It was a time-saver. There was no other reason to take it. It certainly didn’t add to my experience. Who’d want to cut through bush when there’s a perfectly serviceable footpath to use otherwise?

Most shortcuts give us prickles. I find this in safety circles all the time.

People go off the well-worn path of ‘the good way,’ ‘the way of knowledge,’ routinely if they think there’s anything of worth to be gained from it. They’ll even risk illness or injury if they can justify the calculated risk. After all, how often do we get hurt or sick after taking such a risk? Not often enough to stop taking them.

But, there’s another thing about prickles. They warn us that we’re going off the right path. There are all sorts of “prickly” reminders in life: speed cameras, performance appraisals, key performance indicators, fuel and temperature gauges, love handles and bodyweight scales etc.

Our skill, if we should choose it, is to be awake and aware to the prickles and not be so stubbornly headstrong in our insistence that it’s our way or the highway.

In life, lots of prickles mean lots of reminders to ward against its pitfalls. They have a healthy function.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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