One of the everyday oracles the Greeks valued most highly was the kledon. A kledon is sound or speech coming out of silence or undifferentiated noise. On a gritty city street, I received a kledon that gave me exact guidance on how to handle a conflictive situation.
My kledon that day was inspired by my little dog Oskar.
Oskar is a miniature Schnauzer who weighs about twenty pounds. Walking my little dog towards the park, I was debating with myself whether I could manage to take on two big new projects. Each would demand a great amount of time, energy and focus. Worse, it was possible that they could prove to be mutually competing.
I had this theme on my mind when a stranger got out of his truck. As he approached me, he pointed his chin at my dog and said, "He can't kill us both at the same time, can he?"
I felt that behind the joke, a joker of a larger kind was in play.
I had been asking myself: Can I handle two new projects at the same time? The kledon I received was “He can't kill us both at the same time, can he?” It did not cause brain damage to figure out the connection. I had been told I could not tackle more than one project at a time.
I would have to “kill” one of the new projects. I made an instant choice, but now had to find a way to break the news to the project manager I was about to disappoint.
When I made the call, he was not happy at all. The conversation was strained until I told him my dog story. When I repeated the line, “He can't kill both of us at the same time,” the manager roared with laughter. He shouted, "I get it!"
I thanked him, and gave a nod to the joker I sensed behind the joke on the street that day.
Adapted from SidewalkOracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.