An Hilarious Skit that Changed the Way I look at Things
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
I once saw a great “skit” of the fuhrer (Hitler) at a barbershop getting a trim and shave. When the barber was shaving his neck and around his ears, he almost had a nervous breakdown worrying that he might “nick” the fuhrer. It was classically performed and hilarious, everyone watching, of course, wishing the barber would slit the fuhrer’s throat.
I have never forgotten that skit; it was hilarious, yes, but more than that it had a meaning that, though more than likely unintentional, that carried me through many a difficult time. Can you guess what it is?
We don’t expect a barber to deliberately nick his client, let alone slash his throat. But, would the rule apply to someone extinguishing the lives of millions of people, separating families from loved ones, and enslaving, torturing, and starving those who were not exterminated outright? If there were an exception to the code of barbers’ conduct, I think we would agree that the fuhrer meets the requirement for any ethical or moral breach. But, how does this apply in everyday life, and what use have I put it to?
One of my closest friends was a monk who lived with me in a monastery for many years. After some years of celibate, secluded, monks’ life he left, and I remained a monk some years more. During his absence he went to Harvard and graduated with a law degree and started working on Wall Street. I remained a monk ten years and went to Nepal where I finally renounced my robes to raise a family. I lost contact with my friend for two decades.
Upon returning to the US, I decided to look up my friend. He was living in New York, married a child psychologist, and was developing environmental games for children, one of which was purchased by the State of New York to teach environmental responsibility to children. He was successful, but earning a fraction of what he was earning as a powerful Wall Street litigator. I asked him about his big turnaround and this summarizes what he said: (loosely quoted) “ I found myself lying in a hospital dying of internal bleeding which began as ulcers. I knew I hadn’t long to live, and I reflected on my life. I always felt bad representing corporations and winning the courts favor anyway I could, but it took being on my deathbed before I realized the “whole picture was wrong.”” I never should have been litigating for big companies to begin with, especially with my background, and I resolved that if I lived I would quit the “Street” and do something else. He was alive and well when I saw him.
His story probably sounds like a familiar one to many of my readers, his is a place I have been before, and more than once. My friend worked the courts, bending every ethical and moral rule to the breaking point, for corporations whose selfish ambitions was, as he put it, to “win” regardless, not of only how many toes he stepped upon, but heads, as well. Is this analogous to the barber who fret so terribly about a slip of his hand that might nick the precious fuhrer? I think so.
Wealth and sex and greed lead us into many of life’s promising “Jackpots” that not only don’t pan out but burn us terribly. The quicker we can realize that the “whole picture is wrong” the quicker we can get out of “repair mode” and into “abandon ship” mode. Is it not the case that if we find ourselves panning for gold in a stream without glistening little flecks making it worth our while, that we should head off to another stream, rather than hang around. If things aren’t panning out, the quicker we realize it the better. Some stream don’t have any gold, no matter how long we sit there.
Often it is tempting to go through our “Jackpot” with a needle trying to find a glimmer of hope somewhere, when what we should be doing is getting out our shovel and throwing the whole damn thing over our shoulder and walking away. This is what my friend did and he never regretted it. As he told me his story, he also told me of his difficulty making his decision to quit the “Street.”
Long before ending up in the hospital, he said, he knew he was being poisoned by his job, but couldn’t get the strength to get out. It took nearly dying to say,” enough” and cast his lot with the unknown. He only saw a career going up in ashes, but no light on the other side. Is this not why we often put up with terrible situations?
Faith plays a big role in “seeing the whole picture is wrong” and actually doing something about it. We need to have faith that there is light on the other side, even if we can’t see it. My friend’s light came in the form of a child psychologist who became his wife and encouraged him to develop a new career, which, combining their energy, they successfully accomplished. Now they are bringing positive change to our planet. Who would of guessed?