Friday, March 21, 2014

Horse Latitudes

            “Alfred,” said Mother, “I am in the dumps, in the doldrums, and I just can’t shake off this feeling of lethargy.”

            “Horse Latitudes,” Mother, “Horse Latitudes,” said Alfred. “I was feeling much the same thing.”

            “What are Horse Latitudes, Alfred,” asked Mother?

             “The old tales,” said Alfred, “tell us that when sailing ships got in the subtropical zone where winds were weak and sails would hang limp, the ships would just sit becalmed waiting for a breeze. As water and food began to be depleted they would throw their horses and cattle overboard to save on supplies.”

            “Oh, Alfred,” said Mother, “say it isn’t so.”

            “Well,” said Alfred, “In any event the word ‘doldrums’ is another nautical term for getting stuck in the subtropical zone.  I remember a poem by Coleridge that describes it pretty well:

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.”[i]

            “That,” said Mother, emphatically, “is exactly how I feel, stuck! What can we do, Alfred, what can we do?”

            “In a way Mother, it’s the Mid-Lent Blues, and it’s a long way to Easter.” said Alfred, “I’m in a bit a funk myself, and I surely wish I hadn’t given up smoking for Lent. It’s dashed hard.  I’ve been thinking about it, and I have an idea. I learned a long time ago in business that if I wanted to succeed I had to just keep putting one foot in front of the other no matter how I felt. It is sort of like Cricket, “Don’t worry about the ball hitting the wicket, just keep running between the wickets if you want to rack up a score.”

            “We need to do something, Alfred,” said Mother. How do you get out of the doldrums?”

            “First,” said Alfred, “I remind myself not to poke around at my feelings to take my temperature.  If I did that in business I wouldn’t get anywhere. Then in business I pay special attention to keeping a regular discipline about the things I needed to do. So I thought that if I did the same thing spiritually it would turn out just fine.”

            “Alfred,” said Mother, “Don’t beat around the bush. Get to it! What did you do?”

            “Well, Mother,” said Alfred it was actually very simple. I decided to do Morning Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer. When things got busy last month I slacked off, but I have a suggestion. Why don’t we do Morning Prayer together at the breakfast table every morning?”

            “Really, Alfred?” said Mother, “But I like to do the Sudoku in the paper every morning.”

            “That’s perfectly alright Mother,” said Alfred. “I like to do the Crossword. How about having a second cup of coffee, doing the crossword and Sudoku, and then doing Morning Prayer?”

            “Alfred,” said Mother, “that sounds just fine.  Let’s try it?”

“Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward” [Isaiah 50:4-5]. 

[i]Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Samuel 

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