Posted on September 14th, 2011
There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking.
— Yamamoto Tsunetomo in the Hagakure
Most people, in general, have an aversion to getting caught in the rain for an extended period of time. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you are one of these people.
Because you don’t like getting caught in the rain, you plan ahead by buying an umbrella. One of those nice long classic umbrellas with the large canopy and strong frame. An umbrella that will last a lifetime if properly cared for. It’s great. It’s not the sort of thing you want to carry around all the time but, if the forecast calls for rain, you are ready for it.
One day, you leave the house on a nice sunny day. Certainly not a day you will need an umbrella. Not a cloud in the sky. Then, by noon, the sky begins to darken. By late afternoon, a torrential rainfall begins just before you need to leave work. Your car is parked far across the parking lot. You don’t have an umbrella. You dash to your car and get soaking wet. You pull into the driveway of home and dash to the house and get wet again. Twice, having to dash through the rain, you now resemble a wet kitten. An angry wet kitten.
The next day, you go out and buy one of those cheap yet compact umbrellas you can get at any discount store. It’s small and packable. Not the sort of thing you want to have in your bag all the time but certainly something you can keep in the glovebox of your car. That way, the next time it rains, you will have an umbrella close at hand.
A few days later, you are in a restaurant having a nice long chat with an old friend. Yet again, while you are there, it begins to rain. Oh shoot! Your traveling umbrella is the the car. What are you going to do? Either stay in the restaurant and wait for the rain to pass or run to the car and get soaking wet. You have to get home. The kids are waiting. You choose to run. You get soaking wet again but at least, this time, you will only have to get wet once. When you get home, you can use the umbrella in the car to shelter you from car door to house door. You still look like a drenched kitten, only slightly less angry.
The compact umbrella was a great idea, was close at hand but not right where you needed it, when you needed it. That said, even with its compact size, it is still too large to have with you everywhere. So…
The next day, you go back to the discount store. There you purchase a packable rain poncho. One of those clever jobs that packs into its own little pocket and can be carried everywhere with you. Of course, this means that even on sunny days you will be running around carrying a rain poncho with you “just in case.”
At which of these points, to you, would it have been OK to get a little wet? Would it have been OK to know that, if the forecast called for rain, then and only then would you take an umbrella and know that, when not expected, you might get a bit wet? Could you have done a bit of research and situational planning to realize that what you really needed all along was the rain poncho and saved money by not buying two umbrellas to find that out? Is the aversion to getting wet greater than the cost and hassle of having to carry something you don’t always need around with you everywhere just in case you may need it?
There is no right answer here, of course. If you are the sort of person who really, really, really can’t stand getting caught in the rain then carrying around spare ponchos and umbrellas everywhere you go might be the right answer. For those who absolutely positively hate carrying stuff around, getting wet is the right answer.
The only thing I challenge each to do is to really think about what you care about before wasting a lot of money and time buying things for “just in case” reasons. This is not only about umbrellas, it is about everything.
Life happens. We can’t possibly be prepared for it all. Decide to be adequately prepared for the things that matter to you, balanced with practicality and the realization that sometimes you are going to get a little wet no matter how many umbrellas you own.
Who knows? You might even have a little fun. Especially if instead of getting angry, you sing.