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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Emery

the smiling lake



Humanity is drowning in a sea of debt. In the last 5 weeks alone (July 2023), the debt of the U.S. government has increased by one trillion dollars to over US$31 trillion. The national debt for America now stands at just under $100,000 per person – that is for every man, woman and child. In the last 50 years, America has gone from the richest nation on Earth to the most indebted and impoverished. Australia’s national debt has increased from AUD 52 billion in 2007 to AUD 897 as at May 2023. World debt stands at $72 trillion.


This is a vivid illustration of the necessity of living within one’s means and of the necessity of setting correct limits on everything we do. This is the backbone of morality and wisdom.


Water is probably the simplest and best example of limitation, for any vessel whether that be a thimble, a glass, a reservoir or even a lake can only contain a certain amount of water. If more water flows in, it merely overflows illustrating the need for limits.


Moreover, life depends on water. Yet if we drink too much, we drown. Thus once again, water demonstrates the correct measure. We all love a water view but too much residential development, too close to the water’s edge will end in disaster as tides ebb and flow.


Limitations are troublesome but necessary for an effective and successful life. Thrift sets correct limitation upon expenditure. If we are frugal and prudent in times of plenty, we will be prepared for times of scarcity.



In our own moral code, we need the limits of loyalty and duty for it is only by determining what is right for us that we achieve significance as a free spirit. Just as we cannot consume an infinite amount of water, we cannot assume infinite potential in our daily lives.


In nature we see limits everywhere: the rhythm of the seasons, the cycle of day and night, the wheel of life. The smiling lake is the epitome of correct limitation as its elegance and grandeur come from its holding just the right amount of water.


The beginning of wisdom is the learning of discrimination in that we know what is right for us. To know right from wrong not according to some external and artificial moral code but according to our own innate sense of rightness. What is correct and appropriate for us. No one else can tell us this inner truth. You must determine this for yourself by honing that sense of correct limitation within one’s inner psyche.


As an individual it is essential to clearly define your own standards, your own personal code of conduct and thus to build your own character. To become strong, you must negotiate your own limits. You must determine your own destiny by knowing where your duty lies. Duty is not something imposed from without but comes from an inner necessity of doing the right thing by recognising and acknowledging the limits that are right for you and you alone.


To know and accept this limitation graciously and voluntarily is the essence of contentment. One becomes the smiling lake – happy within oneself as one’s life takes shape and meaning by taking on only those things ordained by one’s duty and letting the rest go. Far too much angst, anxiety and exhaustion are brought about by an inner restlessness that pursues too much that is not necessary.



Human life is not infinite. You cannot be all things to all people. And you most definitely cannot be a force for good if you are emotionally exhausted. If all the water has run out of the lake, it can no longer be a source of nourishment.


Determine for yourself what your destiny is and accept those limitations set for you willingly and joyously. You will become the smiling lake bringing peace, joy and nourishment to others.




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