Running from Trouble

There was a man who made a fortune in the early part of the 20th century. He was called up for service during World War I, and when he came home after the war his business was in shambles. His fortune was gone. He set out to rebuild and regain what he had lost. He was very successful, but he lost it all again in the Great Depression. He went back to work in the 30's and soon he was once again a wealthy man.

You have to admire that kind of resilience. By 1940 he saw war clouds on the horizon. He called his family together and told them he did not believe he could stand to lose his fortune again. He announced his intentions to sell all his assets and get as far from this so-called ‘civilized' world as possible. He invited any family member who wished to go with him.

The man sold his assets, bought a large yacht and a map of the South Pacific. He was determined to get away from it all. He picked out a remote South Pacific island with a musical name - a place where he was sure he would escape from the madness of the civilized world - and he set sail.

The name of the island was Guadalcanal. (One of the most intense battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II was fought there between the Allies and Japan August 7, 1942 to February 9, 1943. 7,100 Allied and 31,000 Japanese soldiers were killed.)

Running from reality is an exercise in futility. Those who who do not physically run sometimes use psychological blinders to keep from seeing what they do not want to see.

When I was growing up in rural South Alabama during the Great Depression, we used mules to pull the plows with which we planted and tilled our crops. The bridles on the mules had flaps on both sides at eye level to the mule. These flaps were called blinders. They were put there to restrict the vision of the mules to a narrow corridor so they could not see things that might frighten them or things they might be tempted to eat.

Just like the mules, many of us wear blinders. We wear blinders to avoid responsibility. We wear them to shield us from scenes that disturb and trouble us. We find it difficult to look in the eyes of the homeless, dispossessed and desperately ill. Speaking at a Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. a few years ago, U2's lead singer, Bono, adroitly reminded us of the spiritual dangers of looking away from human suffering. He said: "God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and wasted lives. God is with us, if we are with them." How about those blinders?!?!

There are many ways of running from reality, and we have all done some running. Perhaps we will do some more. There are some aspects of reality too difficult to face without back-pedaling. T.S. Elliot said: "Humankind cannot bear very much reality."

Wear blinders, even run, if you must, but do it on a limited scale. Be insightful enough to understand that running is what you are doing. Stay within sight of reality even if you cannot abide its presence. But, remember, however far you run, that is how far you will have to come back before you will at last achieve a manageable grasp of life. What a maze our frightened footprints make in our attempts to escape reality!

A quote from Uncle Remus comes to mind: "You can't run from trouble. There ain't no place that far."

Staying in touch with reality, even when it spells "trouble" may not be easy, but it is not as complicated as we are sometimes led to believe. With intentional effort, the help of friends, and a glance ‘above' now and then, it can be done.