I grew up watching old black and white reruns of the Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. A lot of the plot was always an analogy of the cold war but there was often the idea of an alternate reality. A world that almost identical to our own only with a few key differences. Tonight I’m wondering “what if I had chosen to do X instead of Y”? Our lives are a collection of the small choices that we make on a regular basis. So what if A gateway opened in front of you? On the other side of the reality you could see all the maybes that were the options that you didn’t choose. Would you step through? Would you really want to know what you missed? And what if by choosing to do things differently you changed the here and now? Would you have the life you really wanted? And what if I told you that every grain of sand that slips through the hour glass of our lives was it’s own little gateway to change? What if you discovered you didn’t have to change everything all at once in order to effect the outcome? What if by changing where and how the next grain of sand falls just a little we could effect the overall impact on our lives and that those changes compound into a big difference?
What does it take to make these changes? I guess it’s going to depend on what you want to change. For most of us the goal is to enhance the life we have instead of trying to replace it all together. We want to learn a new skill but don’t want to pay for a class until we see if we enjoy it. So the answer is look online and I’ll bet you can find someone on YouTube or other platforms teaching for free. If the goal is to get in shape or improve overall health the answer could be a pleasant stroll at some point in day. The hard one is a change in attitude. You have to consciously decide to alter your reactions over and over throughout the whole day. But eventually something happens and the change gets easier until you’re a new person.
We don’t need Rod Sterling to open up a magical vortex into the brave new world in order change our reality. All we need to take the opportunity as it arises and commit to the action.
It’s said that photographers work with two main elements. Light and Time. I suppose that’s why so many of my writings emphasizes the observation of time. Tonight I’m looking at another version of my favorite old barn and I began to think about how quickly all of our tomorrows become yesterdays. It seems that I was just blogging about how much I was looking forward to Springtime and this morning I saw the leaves falling on my lawn. When I was a kid summer seemed to last a lifetime and today I blink my eyes and it’s almost gone. Sure we’ve had some unseasonably warm weather but the light is fading fast. A few years ago I was in a gym and one of the other men in the locker room made the same observation about how fast the summer went by. His friend answered that when they were only six years old summer was 1/6 of their lives. Now they’re sixty years old and summer was only 1/60 of their lives. The passage of time was relative to the age of the observer.
We live in the moment but moments pass so quickly and we are left with a collection of yesterdays. We can plan what we want tomorrow to become but we only have now to bend time and forge the now into a yesterday worth collecting. Mistakes will be made. It’s inevitable. Many of us are trying so hard to go back and fix the errors that we are losing the now and the opportunity for a new and better yesterday. You see, the old cliche about building a better tomorrow is just that. A cliche. All we can really do is use our now in the best way possible and hope that when we are finished with it that it matures into a better yesterday. A yesterday that is captured by the lens of memory and added to a fine collection which can be shared with those we love.
Nobody is born being an expert. We might all have different aptitudes for various skills but it’s practice that makes perfect. Even if we achieve the skill level of “expert” that doesn’t mean that we are free from simple human error. Suddenly being faced with the undeniable truth that you’ve made a royal screwup is God’s way of keeping us humble. In other words, oopsies are the great leveling force of the universe. Remember, it was experts that built the Titanic and amateurs that built the Ark.
When I saw the collection of lost fishing tackle snagged in the overhead power lines my first thought was that someone’s kids had been on their first fishing trip. This inspired the meme below.
But after some thought I began to consider the phenomenon of “muscle memory”. If you are trained to cast a line with a high arc you might not think to adjust your cast while standing under the power lines. Your reflexes would kick in and your body would react out of pure instinct. You would do the right thing but at the wrong time. This kind of mistake happens to all of us and it happens more often than we care to admit. It also happens during the thought process and when reacting to something that someone else has said or done. I think that’s why it’s important to be quick to forgive. Jesus said to let he who is without sin cast the first stone. While there’s different interpretations of what was being implied in this statement I believe that at least in part Jesus was pointing out that errors in actions often include errors in judgment and nobody is immune from this. The experts in the law were reacting out of reflex without examining the circumstances. It’s the same kind of mistake we all make every day.
Today we have machinery that does most of the work. But there was a time when each spike was driven by hands of a worker. Each beam was placed on a platform that was also laid down by human hands. The heavy iron rails had to be moved into place and precisely positioned. The land wasn’t joined by steel as much as it was the blood, sweat and tears of men who placed it there. Today, I was reminded of one such person who’s very name brings to mind myth and legend. The real John Henry. I understand that some of my international friends may not be familiar with the story of John Henry, so here are the basics. John Henry was a railroad worker and possibly a former slave who was working on the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia. At the time when the industrial revolution was bringing about new technologies. Namely, the steam hammer. A machine that drives steel without rest. A machine that threatened the livelihood of every worker building the rail system. In an effort to save the jobs of himself and his coworkers John Henry challenged the steam hammer to a race and he won! The power and strength of a man who could out work a machine must have been an awesome sight. However, the story ends in tragedy. John Henry dies of exhaustion that very night. The steam hammer gets the contract to complete the railroad. Why would I write about such a sad story on my normally upbeat blog? Because, it’s happening again. Our world is changing. More and more I see and hear about automation. Robot cars are replacing Uber drivers, self checkout is replacing cashiers and software applications are set to take over other jobs. This not a race people can win by brute force. This is a thinking game. ( using the word game metaphorically). At the time of the steam hammer a man of John Henry’s strength and power could have done very well by shoveling coal that powered the machine instead of trying to out work it. He could have adapted to work with the technology and become an invaluable part of that team. As we move into the future of automaton I want to encourage you to think differently about how to adapt to the new work environments. The robot car can never be as romantic as a horse and buggy ride in the country. There will be those older folks who would rather pay someone to do their shopping for them rather than face the self check out. Jobs won’t go away completely. Instead, new niches will form and with them will be new opportunities.
I see the railway in the feature image and I see a man, a machine and the new opportunities that lay unseen just beyond the next bend in the tracks.
Life is a lot like music. The musical scale contains only twelve basic notes. And yet, those twelve notes have spawned every song known to mankind. Life also has its basic elements and rhythm. While I’m not a musician myself my understand is that it’s the bridge that ties it all together. As life changes from one phase to the next we look for a bridge to facilitate the transition. Some bridges are shorter than others but all of them are temporary. How bad would your favorite song be if it was all bridge? We’d miss the best part of the song. Life’s bridges may not be the best part of life but they do take us to those places. We just need keep moving forward.
It’s only right that the skies should turn grey and the rain fall softly.
It’s only right that tears fall into the pooling rain.
The ripples that form on the water are a metaphor for our lives.
The ripple emanates on long after the individual droplet has disappeared.
So it is with ourselves and the lives we touch. The effect lives well past the event.
From where you now stand you see so much more than I can.
You fully understand the true nature of it all from beginning to end.
We mourn the loss of your presence in the echo of the ripples you left behind.
Save me a seat near the throne brother. I’ll see you again one day.
I have often said that my highway to heaven is a dirt road. Dirt roads take us to places unknown and seldom seen. We enter another world where a good ATV ( commonly referred to as a 4 wheeler in my part of Appalachia) or your own feet are the best travel options. When I was a kid we would head out on an old dirt road like the one in the feature image ever chance we got. These roads often contain mud holes that more akin to ponds than potholes. In the spring and summer they’re normally full of tadpoles and newts. My brother and I would escape the heat of the mobile home by finding one of the largest holes we could back under the canopy of the trees to play in. We’d come home covered in mud after riding our bicycles through the mud as hard as we could. We were pretending to be motocross racers. We’d slam the brakes in mud and throw it out as hard as we could. Whoever could make the biggest splash was the winner. We’d play Evil Knievel too. (For those too young to remember he was the most famous stuntman of my youth. You can read about him here). My poor mother would have two boys who looked like mud monsters by the time we were done.
Later in life I would walk these dirt roads at a slower pace while stalking deer or just out exploring. Walking a road like the one in the feature image is kinda like being on a treadmill with people throwing mud, rocks and tree stumps at your feet. The mud settles in low spots and it’s a perfect way for a beginner to find animal tracks and learn about tracking.
Today necessity keeps me on the nice pavement. I walk through a world of concrete and asphalt. But I still long for an abandoned dirt road with a huge mud hole and a good off road bicycle.