Pass the Cheese, Please....

What do you do when you get in a rut? The Sole Proprietor falls easily into such behavior.

He was once told a story about a rat in a maze. The maze consisted of a number of paths, each leading to a dead end. The experimenter puts a piece of cheese at the end of one of the paths and lets the rat explore the maze. After much trying, the rat finds the path with the cheese and has lunch.

Later, the experimenter places more cheese at the end of the same path and this time, the rat doesn't mess around, he goes right down that path, finds the cheese and has dinner. Very efficient, no wasted effort over cheeseless dead ends.

Now, finally, the experimenter places the cheese at the end of a different path. The rat goes down the old path and finds nothing. No breakfast. The experimenter places the rat at the beginning of the maze and the rat goes down the path again. Again, no breakfast.

Eventually, however, the rat figures out there's no cheese at the end of the path and starts exploring the other paths as he'd done at the beginning of his adventure and again, after some effort, he finds cheese. Brunch!

What's the difference between the rat and a human being? The human being, after finding the cheese down that same path a number of times and then finding no cheese at all, will never try another path and will travel down that same old cheeseless path forever.

The Sole Proprietor seems to recall the parable was given as an example of emotional paths that lead to emotional fulfillment. Activity that once brought happiness-satisfaction-love-feelings of fulfillment to a human being and now bring nothing, even pain and danger, are still pursued day after day after week after year without an emotional payoff. Ever met the man who always marries the same impossible woman? The woman who always marries the same impossible man?

The Sole Proprietor isn't thinking about suddenly quitting his job and moving to Pittsburgh or joining a monastery because he's just discovered his life has become hollow-upset-meaningless while he wasn't looking. Been there. Done that. It's just he's found it a good idea to step back every now and then and look at things to see if the pieces are in place. He's learned this is a usefull thing as it causes him to make changes when they're needed. Little changes. No need to reinvent the world.

Remember, the Sole Proprietor said he tends to get into ruts. Starting things with amazing enthusiasm and then running out of gas going 400 miles an hour doing (fill in the blank) when he should have stopped some time before and put his feet up, had a beer, said hello to the lady next door, called his sister, taken a sea cruise, taken a shower, bought another computer and then gotten back up on the horse and restarted his engine.

So today, this first day of November, the Sole Proprietor is taking stock. This fourth day of writing a journal. At 400 miles an hour. He's just kind of looking up over his embankment like a prairie dog checking out the neighborhood to see if maybe he's missed something important. You know, missed some boat or bus or airplane or something.

He does this examination thing as a routine, keeping an eye on his progress and procrastination, his aimless wanderings. Wanderings and procrastination, aimless or otherwise he's found, are OK as long as that's what the heart requires (along with two or three pills every day to keep it pumping). He remembers his past. His transgressions. His bodily harms. His karma. And that trip he took where all the people chased him out of town and tacked his picture up on their post office wall.

So be careful, Sole Proprietor.

Why that I will, Mr. Natural. Pass the cheese, please.


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