We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it -- and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lide again -- and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.
I read it several times. And after I got over being offended about the fact that he was identified as an "American humorist", as if his brilliant quote should be dismissed as a simple joke, I was amazed by the simplicity and profoundness of the idea.
We always talk about experiences, and what we learn from them. But what we "learn" from them is merely what happened. The cat sat on a lid and got burnt. Period. That cat will never sit down on any lid again. Period. And as he says, it's good that the cat won't get burnt again by sitting on a hot stove lid; but what about that unbearably hot summer day, when a cold stove lid will do the trick pretty well? The cat will never sit there.
How many times have we taken from an experience only that which happened - and never more?
Honey laughs at me quite often, because I won't eat Dönner. It's a very common Turkish meal in Germany, like a wrap. But the first time I ate a Dönner, I wound up in the hospital, having my gall bladder removed. Now I have three holes in my tummy, and a horrible scar down my belly button. Dönner = colicistectomy.
And that's ridiculous. And I know it. But I can't disassociate the idea, the smell of this meal with the idea and the smell of the hospital. And the pain.
During Thailand, my most traumatic experience, I think, I sat down and carefully evaluated what was that which was so traumatic. I had no idea I was following Mr. Twain's advice, but I was. I had a job that I liked (most of the time). I had super nice colleagues. I was very, very well paid. I had friends and acquaintances. I had sun, I had warm weather, I had amazing beaches and awesome landscapes. I had enough busy time to keep me thinking, and enough free time to keep me rested. I had internet access. I had my own place. I had almost everything a person needs to be content. Satisfied, at least.
I could have simply said, I will never go back to Thailand, because Thailand = unhappiness. But I realized what it was that made me unhappy.
I was alone.
If something happened to me, assuming my parents even found out, it would take them three days to get to me. When I saw something worth sharing, I could not call my family right away due to the 12 hour difference. I could not turn around and look at my sister and laugh without saying a word, because we'd both be thinking the exact same thing. I could not walk hand in hand with my loved one, while enjoying a sunset at the beach.
I was alone.
So I made a promise. A promise that I kept. Like, the only New Years' Resolution I have ever and actually kept.
I promised I would never be alone again.
Traveling is amazing. Living in new places is amazing. Getting to know the world is amazing. I've discussed this with Isa many times--Isa, who is know living in her, what, 7th country?
But doing it alone is just sad. And boring.
I learned from my experience, not like the cat. I now know not to sit on the hot stove lid, but I also know how to recognize and enjoy the cold one.
And a stove lid, with Honey, is the best kind of lid there is. Anywhere in the world.