I‘m currently staying at a friend’s house in Kampala. The other evening, after dark, I crept into the darkness of the bathroom, reached under the sink, and pulled out a can of bug spray. I then went to my bedroom (also dark) and sprayed the heck out of it, and then closed the door and went to the sitting room. I don’t normally like to use spray, but during the previous night, mosquitoes had eaten me alive. I knew from experience that if I sprayed early enough, the scent would dissipate to a tolerable level before bedtime.
About 20 minutes later, I returned to the bedroom to collect a book from the nightstand. I didn’t turn on the light, again not wanting to attract bugs, knowing I could navigate the space in the dark. As I waived my hand in front of me, I felt an enormous cobweb. I was shocked, knowing it hadn’t been there 20 minutes before. I then waived my hand in the other direction, and encountered several more webs.
I then screamed like a girl. All I could think was, “What the heck kind of spider can do this much work in 20 minutes–and in a room filled with poison!”
I then found the light and quickly turned it on. By then, my friends had also reached the room, summoned by my shrieking. In the light, I was able to see what had happened, and my cries were replaced by laughter.
You see, from under the sink I had retrieved the wrong can. Instead of bug spray, I had picked a can of silly string. (Who keeps silly string under the bathroom sink?!) So what I thought were webs draping across the room were really yards of silly string, hanging from the ceiling fan and bed posts! We had a good laugh, and have revisited the scene daily since.
While you use this experience to plot your next practical joke, I’ll highlight some obvious, but important metaphors.
- It’s not wise to make a choice in the dark, especially when light is available. A familiar refrain with my team–when presented with a decision to make–is the simple question: “How have we handled similar issues in the past?” It seems to be human nature to focus on the present when, in fact, history often holds the answer, either in the form of a good outcome from a right decision, or the lesson learned from a wrong decision. Turn on the light of the past the next time you’re faced with a choice.
- Don’t jump to panic-inducing conclusions. When I assumed that I was in the middle of a giant spider web, I screamed, and awoke a houseful of people. Had I employed more than one of my senses, I would have avoided the panic and the disturbance.
- Learn and laugh. When possible, access laughter–that special intersection between humanity and spirituality–as you process life’s teachable moments. Chances are that, what you thought was a spider, was actually just plain silly.