…Eagle and Skunk retired to their beds after eating.
Before long Skunk began to laugh out loud.
“You are very annoying,” said Eagle, “what is so funny that it is worth keeping me awake?”
“We have mice,” said Skunk, “and one of them keeps running across my belly. It is so very ticklish.”
But the Frog sisters emerged from under Eagle’s pillow and whispered in his ear, “Nephew let us tell you something, Skunk has the Plover sisters with him in his bed, only, they wanted to marry you and we were destined for him but Skunk would not allow it. That is what tickles him so much, he lied to you about the fire.”
“It is well that you have told me this,” said Eagle to the Frog sisters.
The next morning Eagle arose early whilst Skunk was still sound asleep.
He packed the Frog sisters back off home with as much venison as they could carry and scolded Skunk to wake up.
“Why are you sleeping so late!”
“I must have fallen into a deep sleep,” explained Skunk. “That mouse kept me awake such a long time before I got off.”
So, Eagle went out to hunt again and Skunk spent the day with the Plover sisters.
Eagle was deeply worried, “Whatever it is that Skunk is up to,” he thought to himself, “tomorrow I will get my revenge.”…
… “In later Assyrian Mythology, Anzu becomes Pazuzu.”
“Am I missing something, here?”
“Pazuzu is a ‘wind demon’ responsible for bringing plague and pestilence, and whatever else we may think about the notions of a demon, in that region of the world, a wind that brings both pestilence, usually locusts, and plague, does indeed exist.”
“Am I still missing something here?”
“Pazuzu is reputed to be the brother of Humwawa!”
“Ah, The Spirit of the Cedar Forest from Gilgamesh, I think I’m starting to see… But are you sure?”
“Well, there has been a certain amount of degeneration in the iconography, which is only natural, given the time span’s involved, but we can, I think, clearly see the resmemblance…”
“We can, particularly in the positioning of the arms…”
“Both ‘demons’ are described by the authorities as having a skull-like ‘canine’ or ‘lionine’ head.”
“I can go along with skull-like, but I would not like to be drawn into the dog or cat debate.”
“Ugly looking spud, though, isn’t he?”
“He is, although, almost incredibly, back in the day, his figure was made into amulets, worn, usually around the neck, and used to ward off other, more malevolent, forces.”
“The ancients’ attitude to what we might regard as ‘good’ and ‘evil’ was, to say the least, somewhat ambivalent.”
“It is at least possible, then, that the actions of the heroes in Gilgamesh were directly responsible for the creation of this ‘environmental bane’.”
“But if a good wind can be turned bad, surely a bad wind can be turned good?”
“That, my dearest Wendlebury, is what still remains to be seen.”
When I was small and faced with a plate piled with the over-boiled cabbage I detested, my grandmother always told me to eat it first… get rid of it… so I could enjoy the rest of the meal… and to save my favourite bits till last. Like many of the things she told me, I never forgot that advice. She was right too; doing it that way means there is always something left to look forward to… even when life gives you cabbage.
When there is something we really don’t want to do there are, on the whole, two ways of handling it… other than simply getting on with it! We either dive in head first or put it off as long as we can. I prefer to dive in. It isn’t always pleasant but it has its moments and at least the worst is out of the way.
But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I put things off, whether through distaste for the job in hand or fear of the possible unfolding of a train of events I cannot predict… or through the fear that I can foresee all too well the consequences of initiating action. Yet the consequences of action are seldom half as bad as our imaginings, and even the worst task will eventually be over, leaving, hopefully, a sense of satisfaction as we stand back and regard our handiwork.
The trouble is that procrastination of this kind can be contagious, spreading, once begun, like a virus to other areas of our lives. Speaking for myself I know this happens sometimes. I avoid one action, finding, to begin with, perfectly legitimate reasons why I ‘can’t deal with it right now’. There is a letter I have to write, another job to prioritise… I’ll do it later… tomorrow perhaps… And maybe I will. Or maybe I will find yet another reason for ‘later’, reasons that quickly degenerate into excuses. And that is bad enough, but next I may find that my avoidance of the main task has spilled over into a kind of lethargy that infects the rest of the day, or I may manage to remain hugely busy, or so it seems, and yet still achieve nothing of what I know I need to do. I doubt I am alone in that. I hope not anyway…
When I realise what I am doing, I have to stop and think. I need to know why I am allowing the situation to continue without dealing with it. I may simply be feeling lazy or tired and that is okay. But there are a number of other things that can cause us to avoid a task.
What is it that can make us put things off when we know that getting them done and out of the way will lighten the load and make life easier? The longer we delay these things that worry us, the more they snowball, adding pressure to whatever it is that is making us avoid them in the first place, setting up a vicious circle that eventually harries us into anxiety.
Sometimes there are valid reasons; pain, depression, illness, fatigue to name but a few. But often it is simply our imagination that holds us back. We paint a mental picture of the horrors of the job ahead, whether it is cleaning the oven or making that awkward phone call, and then add to it multiple scenarios of what might go wrong or what the possible consequences might be and then fear comes into play, freezing us like rabbits in its headlights of our own imaginings, even if we choose not to call it by that name.
We can, however, use that same faculty to break the stasis and get moving. By imagining the clean oven, for example, quietly sparkling away while we put our feet up… or the relief of having made that phone call we’ve been worrying about that is no longer hanging over us like the fabled sword of Damocles. By doing so we acknowledge the presence of whatever is holding us back, and quietly take the control from its grasp.
With every step we take in our lives, we have the opportunity for growth and change. Change will happen whether we take conscious control, or are blown like a feather on the breeze. How we embrace those changes is always within our control. These days, I am rather fond of cabbage. I think of my grandmother and smile… I still eat the cabbage first, but only so it won’t go cold…