A giant boulder in Colorado offers a philosophical lesson for all of us

When life gives you boulders, make landmarks.
When life gives you boulders, make landmarks.
Image: Colorado Department of Transportation
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Over Memorial Day weekend, a mountain highway in Colorado was just minding its own business, being a nice, normal road and facilitating the transportation of automobiles and trucks hither and yon. Then, with a crash and a mighty roar, two giant boulders hurled themselves off a cliff and onto Highway 145, shutting down traffic, trapping people in towns they did not wish to be in, and ruining one restaurant’s plans for a fun holiday motorcycle parade.

Clearly, the boulders—much like most problems that we face in life—were being very inconsiderate of everyone else’s plans and desires and goals for the future. But Colorado found an ingenious way to deal with the rude rocks and, in the process, offered a useful philosophical lesson for humanity.

The smaller boulder, which weighed 2.3 million lbs, Colorado simply blew up, which must have been very satisfying. Bwahahaha! Take that, rock. Sometimes, when you have a problem, you must explode it, whether that means ending your relationship, breaking your lease, or quitting your job on ethical grounds even if you don’t have a backup plan.

But the Colorado Department of Transportation still had to face the matter of the even bigger and more terrible boulder, which weighed in at a whopping 8.5 million pounds and would have cost taxpayers $200,000 to get rid of, according to United Press International. Some problems are like this: Very big. Very heavy. Nearly sublime in their stony grandeur, and so overwhelming that attempting to eradicate the problem in its entirety is actually not the wisest move.

And so Colorado came to a delightful conclusion. Rather than destroying the boulder, governor Jared Polis has announced that the state will instead turn it into a landmark, drawing on emergency funds from the Federal Highway Administration to widen the road so that passersby can marvel at the stone to be known as “Memorial Rock.”

What a beautiful decision Colorado has made! What pleasure Memorial Rock will bestow on what Polis predicts will be “generations to come!” For it will stand as a geological reminder to travelers on the road of life, and also on this particular route through southwestern Colorado, that there are inevitably times when we must throw up our hands, admit that we cannot make our problem go away, and find a creative way to work with it.

Some of us may always deal with mental illness, for example. While we cannot permanently cure ourselves of depression or anxiety or the lingering effects of childhood trauma, we can discover ways that therapy, medication, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, strong support systems, or some combinations thereof can help us live well with mental illness instead. Some of us may find ourselves continuously underestimated because of race, gender, or other factors, but while we cannot single-handedly stamp out racism and sexism, we can outsmart the people who have internalized prejudices by turning their stereotypes to our own advantage.

Consider country legend Dolly Parton, who has famously traded on her image as a curvy, big-haired blonde to upend other people’s expectations. “Nobody can trick me, nobody can fool me,” she once told a 60 Minutes interviewer. “I can sit in a room with the biggest businessmen in the world, working on some of the biggest business deals, and I don’t feel a bit inadequate. In fact, I always feel like I got a little something on most of them.” And she does, because, like Colorado, she knows the secret to navigating life’s troubles: There are some problems, and some boulders, that you just can’t solve. But you can use your wits to adapt, and make the problem your own.