The Mature Student

I rummage around the bottom of my purse and come up empty-handed.  With growing alarm, I move my rummaging to the other compartment. No, there is no pen. How then can I scratch items off my grocery list?

It isn’t the first time I’ve ended up pen-less at the store, and I fear it won’t be the last. Even if I remember to check my purse before I launch, its narrow compartments make a visual inspection next to useless. I would have to pre-rummage to establish the presence of a pen, and dump everything out to confirm the absence of same.

This day, however, my annoyance (with my wandering pens, my forgetful self, and my unhelpful purse) lasts until I get home. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I think, “if the purse had an obvious place to stow a pen?” I stare balefully at its insides.

Just a minute. What’s this? And this?

My purse has not one, but two, pen holders. Pen holders I have not noticed for oh, a few years, until this precise moment in which I identify my need in words while staring at the purse. I am both pleased and irritated: pleased that I have my solution, irritated that I could have had it all along.

When the student is ready,
the teacher will appear.

This aphorism was not written by Lao Tzu as often claimed, but other possible attributions include Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni and the Theosophists. (When the writer is ready, the internet reference will appear.) I expect these are as unlikely as Lao Tzu. Pith does not drop effortlessly from the lips of even great historical figures: It takes time. But whoever said it or refined it, it’s what comes to mind as I stow my pen in full view for the first time.

Maybe the universe is ready to meet all my needs. Maybe I have only to ask. Or maybe everything I need is already here, and I just haven’t noticed.


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10 Responses to The Mature Student

  1. Tom Watson says:

    I love the aphorism:
    When the student is ready,
    the teacher will appear.

    So, this is the analogy:
    When Isabel is ready to see the pen holders, they will appear.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – 🙂 It’s true. Mind you, sometimes I *think* I’m ready, but the universe thinks it knows better.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    Profound observations — both from you and from Lao Tau, or whoever. Ancient maxims have a staying power for two reasons. First, and most obviously, because they express an obvious truth. But second, because they have been honed to a fine edge by countless repetitions. The ones that sharpen the insight last; the ones that muddy it fade away.

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Thanks! And that successive sharpening is why it can be so hard to find the original quote – it takes a community to make an aphorism. I understand that the same process molded the psalms. Someone started something and then folks made it better in the oral tradition.

  3. Eric J Hrycyk says:

    This is right in line with the way I shop for unique items. When I see on opportunity to create a devise to make my like easier and make the world a better place I follow the following logic.
    If I can imagine this object, it is very likely that someone else has imagined the same thing, and then equally likely that they have manufactured it.
    Then I go to Amazon and purchase my “invention”.

  4. Ha Ha Ha! Been there. Been taught by the universe. Looking forward to more lessons regarding things that irritate me and probably needn’t. The real old school trait, which I share, is having your list on paper.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – I know, right? I think the next-generation down uses shared apps, so that any family member can update the list. I’m happy with paper, at least when I can find the dagnabbed pen.

  5. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – now the question is, “Do you have a pen or pens that are the correct size to be properly retained by the holders in your purse?”

    I have a letter carrier with a pen loop like your purse. The only problem is, it only works with somewhat thicker pens. Smaller mass produced pens always end up falling to the ground when I undo the zipper.

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