It’s no secret to all those that know me well, I like order. Although spontaneity defines the summer season that I love so much, I am working on being able to appreciate fall and winter too. It’s the “steady ploughing” and the good-feeling that one gets when the garden is in and the fall cleanup is finished that keeps me pushing for that ethereal satisfaction. That’s real contentment and that’s why I like to plan. Plans are the road-map to order but sometimes “the best laid plans” (of mice and men) go astray.
Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse, 1786, tells of how he, while ploughing a field, upturned a mouse's nest. The resulting poem is an apology to the mouse and the paragraph reads:
“But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren't alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy.”
Basically, the phrase confirms that whether you are a man or a mouse, your plans are subject to outside forces and will be subject to change and disruption.
It’s Murphy’s Law that states “anything that can go wrong will go wrong!”
We all face derailed plans and disappointments at one time or another. It’s really not what happens to us that should make the difference but how we deal with it that is the character-building exercise of life; something that most of us are still working on.
That’s probably why, years ago after a huge disappointment over an unfulfilled expectation, my husband told me that I was on a “need to know” basis. It wasn’t that funny then but after the years, I have learned to laugh at the absurd reality of the statement. Sometimes for me not to know may be a good thing…but on the other hand, I do like to make plans…
In John Steinbeck's 1937 novel - Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck explores the reality where dreams, hopes, and plans are the very foundation of what makes life worth living, but they are also double-edged. It seems that the closer we come to fulfilling our dreams, the closer we come to potentially being disappointed.
In the last stanza of Burn’s poem he writes:
“Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!”
That’s the difference between men and mice. As humans, we cast our eyes backward on the past and also to the prospects of the future, which may not always be a good thing.
There may be a blessing in remembering to live for each day like a mouse, but although our dreams and plans as humans are not always realistic ambitions, they constitute a continual hope toward expectation and without hope we are doomed to failure.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.