Do you ever say or do things that comes back to bite you? Maybe a flippant promise, an idle threat or a careless commitment. You shoot yourself in the foot with your own words, and set yourself up for a lose/ lose. You either break your word or compromise your integrity. We all do it at times, and it creates a lot of suffering.
There is a way out of this, but it takes a lot of courage and sometimes a little humble pie as well.
In writing, there is a technique called Chekhov’s Gun. If you say in the first chapter that there’s a rifle hanging on the wall, it must be used later in the story. If it’s not going to be used, it shouldn’t be hung there to begin with. You see where I’m heading with this!
The TV series Breaking Bad is a story that goes from bad to worse as Walter makes one decision after another that he then has to live with. Each plot point sets him up for the next crisis. Chekhov’s Gun is used in the opening scenes of Breaking Bad where a box cutter sits suspiciously on a table. It makes you wonder, and it’s only much later in the series that sure enough it’s used to slit someone’s throat.
The famous Chekhov quote says, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story.”
There are two powerful, almost opposite, personal applications of Chekhov’s Gun theory in real life.
Be Careful What You Commit To
Don’t commit to things unless they’re relevant, ie essential, to the story you choose for your life. While there are all sorts of situations out of your control, the space between your ears is where your life story is plotted and written and rewritten and this is always in your control. This is who you want to be, how you want to show up in the world, the essence of who you are. Words and actions taken now affect your story later, so be careful what you say and do. Say and do things that are essential to who you are, so you will be happy to make them part of your story in each successive chapter.
Author Sarah Addison Allen said,
People always say life is too short for regrets. But the truth is, it’s too long.
Be Prepared to Change Your Mind
We all do and say things we later regret, or else sometimes we have little idea what we’re committing ourselves to at the time. So be prepared to change your mind. We put far too much shame on people for changing their minds. We should give each other a lot of space to change. Your life is a script in constant production, so you have the freedom to change direction even if you have to unravel some complex plot developments.
As Eric Smith, author of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, said
I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.
So you can see some of the personal applications of Chekhov’s Gun, and apply them to your life. There are also some global applications.
I won’t go into much detail, but here are a few examples that relate to Chekhov and Syria.
Accidents Waiting to Happen
It’s not illegal to stockpile chemical weapons. It’s only illegal to use them. Many countries have chemical weapons. I believe the United States has the largest stockpile of all.
In my opinion, keeping a stockpile of chemical weapons is an accident waiting to happen. They are too easy to use later on and for all the wrong reasons, like starting your novel with a gun hanging on the wall but having no idea of its purpose. Eventually it needs to be used to justify its relevance.
Threats Come Back To Haunt
In August President Obama warned Syria that if they used chemical weapons, they would have crossed a red line and action would be taken. Some say that he misspoke and said this flippantly. Now he’s in a bit of a bind. It seems clear that chemical weapons were used in Syria, but it’s not clear who used them. And it’s not clear that there is any international consensus on how best to respond.
We’re all a little gun-shy after the Iraq and Afghanistan experiences. Limited strikes turn into all-out offensives so easily.
Is bombing Syria going to restore peace, or create a new plot line that will take years or even decades to unravel?
This issue has been politicized in America for sure, and unraveling the political system in America is just as complex as the situation in Syria.
Give Peace a Chance
There ARE some things we can ALL agree on. Using chemical weapons is totally unacceptable. Someone committed an atrocity in Syria, and innocent people suffered. Something has to be done, but whatever is done has to improve the situation somehow and not just focus on rage and vengeance.
A response is definitely needed. The aim should be more peace and greater safety for the most vulnerable.
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said recently about Syria
Give peace a chance. Give diplomacy a chance. Stop acting and start talking.
I hope that we have the courage to admit when we’ve spoken or acted out of turn and find the most peaceful ways possible to restore awful situations. Peace begins in your own head. Its part of the story you’re creating all the time. Lets work on creating individual and global stories based in peace and not vengeance.