Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Merry-go-round Pole

As I drive through the Sierra Nevada Mountain range I notice my automatic transmission downshifts as I make my way uphill. My air conditioner is making it a little too cool for me and so I turn it down a notch. I reach over and munch on a snack bar and take a swig of my bottled water and then turn up the volume on my CD player as a great song is now on. I look off to the snow covered peaks in my protected shell and marvel at the beauty there. Multi-hues of gray and black are mixed in with the snow-white peaks; the white salt flats shimmer in the sun and look as if they are holding up a blue lake a few feet off the ground. Joshua trees extend their arms in praise along the highway seeming to wave at me as I pass by at 80 mph.

I caught a show on the first white conquerors of the American West. Not so much the conquering and killing of the Native Americans and Mexicans as much as the conquering of the land. The things that I now look on as beauty they looked on as another unassailable wall. My truck simply downshifts to make it up and over the mountain passes but they had a much bigger challenge. First they had to find the pass through the mountain, or around it, or the easiest over it. Next they had to blaze the trail, mark it, and memorize it. Then they dealt with bears, dead water, extreme heat and extreme cold. Finally arriving in California they had to make their way all the way back again through the same hostile land. Next came the rails connecting the country; then the roads and finally the expressway that I was driving on.

I never knew the telegraph, my kids will never know rotary phones or party lines, their kids will never know landline phones. I never road a horse and buggy, my kids don’t know regular vs. unleaded and their kids won’t know fossil fuel. To me the Nazi’s are in the history books, my kids studied Viet Nam and the Cold War as history, and their kids will look at the Middle East wars as too long ago to be important. We move at an ever increasing rate of change. It is as if we are on a Merry-go-round going faster and faster as we try to reach for something stationary to hang on to but all we can manage is a touch of memory or a short grip of a flash photo in our minds. I notice even when we put our pictures into albums all nicely dressed up we cut out the background to keep what we think is important. We leave a cutout of us at that time with no context to surround us.

As I hold on tight to the pole of my Merry-go-round I wonder what is next and what I have to look forward to. It is exciting and scary and that is life. Then I open my hands folded around a solid pole in the midst of the chaos of change and I smile. I smile because “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” Do you?

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