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The Milky Way and the Tiny Piece of Grass

by Peter Himmelman

October 12, 2012 | 4:54 pm

Imagine that our boundless joy, the kind we get when we’re walking around with the sense that our lives are full of endless possibilities is a gigantic Milky Way bar. I don’t care if you don’t like candy or even if you don’t like Milky Way bars -just for the moment imagine that you do. Picture that sucker. It’s huge, maybe twelve feet long, three feet wide and two feet tall. It’s laid out on some enormous picnic table and it represents the kind of joy I just described, all chocolate, caramel and pure unfettered creativity. That’s what you get immediately after you start taking the kind of small actions towards fulfilling your dreams. Not sitting around dreaming: I want to be a baseball star, but - I’m going to the ballpark to practice my swing for forty minutes.

Imagine that beside that enormous Milky Way bar is a tiny blade of grass. It’s dried up and skinny. Now take that blade of grass, which is around an inch long and cut it into ten pieces with an exacto knife. You should have ten pieces of skinny dry grass that are about a tenth of an inch long. Take nine of them and throw them away. In the palm of your hand you’ve got one tiny bit of grass. That represents the amount of pleasure you get from keeping your dream safe inside your head. It’s not a lot. In fact it’s hardly any at all but the complicating factor is that the dream-in-hiding does provide a modicum of… well, I wouldn’t, couldn’t call it joy. That would be way overstating it. It’s more like some wan, pathetic, vaguely pleasant sensation about which Marv (the nagging internal critic) says:

“Hey why risk the benefits of this great piece of grass. I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying to yourself there must be more but in fact, for you, there really isn’t more and why risk losing this? Besides, this grass is yours, no one can criticize it or take it from you. You can accomplish anything you want but just not today ok? Oh, and here’s a good thing… there’s no way you’ll ever run the potentially tragic chance of failing. Forget about the Milky Way bar alright? It’s not for you, it’s for someone else. Someone you know… better than you. You’re a grass person right? Yeah, now you’re talking!”

And that’s where most of us stay. Safe and sound with a piece of dry grass no bigger then a tenth of an inch in the palm of our hands. No possibilities, no joy, just a vague sensation that barely passes for pleasant. Oh, and here’s another thing you can do with that blade of grass:

Take the piece you have and divide it again by ten. Throw the nine other pieces away and you can do this wonderful thing that people with a nearly microscopic piece of dry grass always do- you can sit around and criticize the people who are eating the Milky Way bars. You can comment on how, if you had a chance to write a song, or act in a movie, or start a business, or get up and dance- how much better you’d be at it then them. Now it would be a lie to say that this kind of thing yields no joy at all. The truth is that it does. It gives the person a pleasure that is perfectly commensurate with a piece of thin dry grass that is exactly one twentieth of an inch long. Not a Milky Way bar, but something right?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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In addition to being a Grammy and Emmy nominated songwriter and composer, Peter Himmelman is a visual artist, writer and founder of Big Muse—an organization dedicated to...

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