I like this Wallace Stevens quote a lot.
I think that many times in our lives, a walk around a lake, or a moment of reflection before reaction, can be exceedingly helpful.
Whether it’s time to modulate or temper your reaction to something that has upset you, or it’s the understanding that calculation, patience, and planning will be a more effective means of enacting revenge, contemplation is a gift that we should afford ourselves whenever possible.
Years ago, one of my colleagues sent an email to all of the teachers in our school. It was the kind of email that would’ve made me immediately want to throttle my colleague had I seen it. But before I could open the email and read it, my principal, Plato Karafelis, arrived in my classroom just as my students were headed to recess and asked me to follow him.
He took me out the front door of the school, across the driveway, and onto the field of grass and trees in front of our school. Once we were standing beneath a tree in the shadow of the flagpole, he explained that we had come to this place so he could tell me about an email that a colleague had sent to the school and give me time to calm down.
I thought he was being ridiculous. I told him so.
Then he described the contents of the email.
I said, “I’m going to kill him!”
“That’s why we’re standing here,” Plato said. He afforded me the time to calm down. He explained that he would be taking care of the situation, and that I should not involve myself. He gave me the gift of time and contemplation.
Had there been a lake adjacent to our school, he might’ve taken me for a walk around it.
There are moments in life when a rapid response and a quick wit are absolutely appropriate, but over the years, I have learned that time is a beautiful thing. It affords you the perspective to see things more clearly and avoid unnecessary confrontation.
And sometimes it provides you with the opportunity to marshal your forces before going to war.
At the moment, there are two people in the world for whom I am marshaling forces and preparing for war. I’ve been preparing for both of these encounters for well over a year, and I will continue to remain patient, waiting for my opportunity to strike.
I’m not sure if Wallace Stevens had this kind of calculating, vengeful truth in mind when he wrote about walking around a lake, but his advice works well either way.