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By Blaney Pridgen
My mind is a compendium of worthless knowledge. That is why I love surfing YouTube. The other day I came across “Ten horrible sights captured by a drone.” The number one horrible sight was a writhing nest of rattlesnakes. I have spent a fair amount of time tramping about where one might have a snake encounter, but have only had a few, even one in a laundry room. If I had had something like this one on YouTube, I probably would never go in the woods again. But there are other nests of snakes I have encountered too many times, snakes in the head. They make one wary of the mental journey.
Anyone who has lived more than a half century has had snakes in their head at one time or another or has known friends or family with snakes in their head or both, perhaps many times. These are not actual thoughts of actual snakes. These are fears, depression, grief, suspicions, addictions, jealousy, trauma, and the like. A tangle of brain snakes might beset us in the forms of religious enthusiasm, political obsessions, or the onset of falling in love and other manias common to being human. Probably the most common snakes in the head come from things that happened in our childhood. These snakes can linger well after our fortieth year, when we should have gotten over it or at least gotten expensive therapy.
When the inevitable snakes in the head arrive, two vital qualities will save us: the first is survival and the second is perseverance which follows. I have known many survivors and have been one. There are survivors of abuse, physical and mental. Many survive cancer, disabilities, alcoholism, bankruptcy, suicides, and warfare. Survival is a necessary quality in life and many of us do so with a creative stoicism which imbues a kind of nobility in the eyes of our fellow survivors. The quality of survival is not getting over it. “This too shall pass” is a lamentable bromide. Survival requires that second quality of perseverance. Take for example divorce. One must adjust to and not deny its residue, especially when children are involved. One must put up with a lot. One must not carry the causes into future relationships. One must persevere many occurrences like baptisms, weddings, graduations and funerals, where the ghost shows up. This does not pass. One perseveres with other qualities like common courtesies, reserved silence, and diplomacy.
Contending with head snakes, ours and others, survival may be merely hanging on with pitiful perseverance. I call this being “velcroed to the pity pot.” This is very unattractive condition. Pulling one up and away from this will make an uncomfortable ripping noise and they will most likely just sit down again and begin to question your devotion to them. Perseverance is finally deciding to pick yourself up and get on with life. And we can live with our snakes. By the way, psychologists, psychiatrists, good teachers, intelligent friends, occasionally lawyers, and a few clergy can be your snake handlers, so to speak. Listen to them.
Along with the rattlesnake video, I recently came across this quote attributed to Winston Churchill:
“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal.
It is the courage to continue that counts.”
I am also remembering that William Faulkner (upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize), cited perseverance as the most important quality of being human. This is not worthless knowledge. As my granny said, “Even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then.”