Taoist and Stoic philosophers maintain that one should not get attached to material things. Both teach (and I’ll paraphrase liberally here) that, for example, if you have a favorite cup, and it breaks, do not be vexed. After all, it’s only a cup. You can find/make/buy/craft another.
Yeah, right. Easy for philosophers to say.
My 21st century existence collided with ancient wisdom this week. My Bride and I just returned from a week-long holiday with two of our children and all four of our grandchildren. We had rented a cabin in the Smokies for six days (and yes, it rained the entire time, but that’s for another blog!); families drove from Decatur and northern Indiana to meet up near Pigeon Forge. Since we rarely have the opportunity for long, leisurely time together, we wanted to make the most of the experience.
Enter the waffle iron.
One of the weekly rituals at our house is Friday Waffle Day. When I retired (with my Bride still in the workforce), our agreement was that I’d get up with her every day, make breakfast, organize the daily schedule, etc. While steel-cut oatmeal is a staple, Fridays became special as Waffle Day – a little "zip" to begin the weekend (…and now you know how exciting our lives have become!). But I digress … a little.
We took our industrial-strength, heirloom quality, hideously expensive, impressively constructed Friday Waffle Iron to the cabin in the Smokies, the better to share the Friday Waffle Ritual with our progeny. It was a big hit, I must say. Waffles were breakfast for three out of the six days we were together. Add in some genuine maple syrup and we are talking the elixir of the gods, people. And after literally years of practice, I think I have perfected the Belgian waffle, right in our own Decatur kitchen. At least using this particular waffle iron.
It’s a wonderful appliance. Gleaming forged aluminum. A seven-position browning switch, to bake waffles to your own specifications. A delightful chirping audio “Waffle Tone,” that is so special it’s actually trademarked. Weighty in hand, foldable to enable vertical storage (a must in our cozy kitchen), and with an attractive fluted Art Deco casing – what can I say…it’s Da Bomb of Waffle Irons. This thing is almost objet d’art material. At the very least, it’s an old, trusted friend. You’d think that someone like me, who has an obvious affection (maybe even an affectation) for this device would be very mindful of its well-being.
And so what did I do? Well, folks, in the hubbub of getting ready to clear out of the rental cabin, and in the crush of things to do, clean, pack, load and dispose of, I left the damned thing in a kitchen cabinet in a rental cabin in Tennessee. Worse, I didn’t even discover its absence until the following Tuesday. I feel like I’ve disappointed a lifelong companion.
Now, to say that I am distraught is a gross understatement. Hysterical might be hyperbole, but not by much. Sure, Epictetus the Stoic would say, “Chris, just go buy another. Don’t be so attached.” Lao Tzu would say something like “When material things cause you stress, they are owning you, not you, them.” Yup, I get it. But my precious Waffle Iron is old and discontinued. I can’t find a replica. No “new and improved” model exists. I’d almost trade one of my grandchildren to get it back. Almost. And I won’t say which one…
Panicked, I went down to my local kitchen store and bought the best waffle iron they had. Rushed home, plugged it in…disappointment. These waffles are unevenly cooked and kind of mushy on the inside. The waffle tone is too industrial. The stainless steel cladding is too thin.
This won’t do.
So…I’ve contacted the management company for the cabin rental. Would they mind so awfully much to go to that particular cabin and retrieve my waffle maker and ship it to me here in Decatur, at my expense, of course?
They’ve said they would see what they can do. They said they’d email me with more details once they were able to locate it, pack it, ship it. Meanwhile, I am glued to my email Inbox, hoping for just a waft of information about progress in the search and rescue.
I know it’s ridiculous and I know that my behavior is borderline psychotic, or OCD, at the very least. I recognize that this might be a signal that my world is ossifying ever so slightly in my advancing years. I know that I should be able to move on, forget about it, chalk it up to experience. I need to Get Over It, already.
At minimum, I could exhibit more maturity, be Taoist, be Stoic, entertain the wisdom of Lao Tzu and Epictetus, of Confucius and Marcus Aurelius.
But I’ll say just one more thing about that…
These philosophers might be wise – but they never had Friday Waffle Day at our house.
If they had, they might have arrived at an alternative estimation of Wisdom.