Discombobulated – 13th Oct 2021

No! Sorry! These glasses aren’t mine, because mine are still lost! (Photo by Alizee Marchand on Pexels.com)

The sage has sun and moon by his side.

He grasps the universe under his arm.

He blends everything into a harmonious whole,

casts aside whatever is confused or obscured,

and regards the humble as honourable.”

Chuang Tzu Zhuangzi, Chuang Tzu, ch 2 (286BC)


I lost my glasses. I don’t know where, or how, or when, but walking with my pals to a Scotland football match, I realised my glasses weren’t where they should have been – on my face. They weren’t on the ground. They weren’t left in the pub. They weren’t handed in after the game. They were well and truly lost. And me? I was completely discombobulated!

The word “discombobulated” is a made-up word which appeared in the US in the mid-19th century. It’s a rootless coinage of a word that looks as though it has some meaningful basis, but doesn’t. The Latin suffix “com” gives it some substance – as in “discomfit” or “discompose”. But it’s made-up, a fun word, that has no significant origin. But, made-up or not, it more than adequately described my state of mind after the disappearance of my glasses. I was confused, disorientated, troubled, ill-at-ease. My eyes were sore. I got a headache. I couldn’t read my mobile phone. I had to ask someone to read the display-board at the station to make sure I was on the right train. I didn’t know what time it was. I struggled to get my key in the front-door-lock when I got home. Yes, I was well and truly discombobulated.

I would like to have been Chuang Tzu’s sage, grasping things correctly, blending them into harmony and casting aside whatever is confused or obscured. But I wasn’t. I was very much discombobulated.

Eventually, I unearthed an old pair of glasses and some sense of normality returned, not quite a “harmonious whole”, but close. But being discombobulated was a learning point for me. I could certainly have handled it better. Perhaps if I’d read more of Chuang Tzu’s philosophical thinking, I’d have coped in a more sage-like fashion – provided, of course, I knew where my glasses were so I could read Chuang Tzu in the first place!


A prayer for today

Lord, bless me with wisdom when I am discombobulated,

and, inwardly, at least, help me to see you and know you better. Amen


An original reflection by © Tom Gordon        

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