If you have any different insights on these topics, please share them. Maybe some day some of these ideas will make it to the big leagues and become pro-verbs. I also have a blog for technical computery stuff - zachstechnotes.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

absorb the bumps

Here are two very loosely related ideas:

1. Coming from the South is my favorite way to enter Colorado.

Two days ago I drove from Albuquerque, where I have been working, back home to Longmont. I can't clearly remember another time when I have come in from the South, but this time the beauty really surprised me. You cross the border from New Mexico at the top of a pass and immediately drop down into evergreen-wooded hills and mesas. The greenness of the trees alone is enough to inspire you, thanks to the unusual amount of moisture that the Centennial State has been blessed with this year. If you take your eyes off the curving, descending highway for a few moments and look west, you can see the Culebra Range of the Sangre de Cristo ("Blood of Christ") Mountains.

A mountain without a snow cap is like a lion without his mane or a ship without her flag. The snow cap is the glory of a mountain. The greatest mountains always have their snow, but most only have the privilege for a few seasons. When a mountain is bare, I imagine that it feels insecure. "What if I am really merely a hill?" it asks itself. It has little distinction from the surrounding plains and foothills. But when a mountain wears it's icy crown, it becomes a mighty sovereign over the whole region. What can challenge a mountain that reaches far enough into the frigid heights of the atmosphere to keep it's snow during all of the seasons? The satisfyingly rugged-looking Culebras wear their snow with striking regality. It's as if they are there to say "Now you're in a real mountain state."

The Culebra Range - Image Credit

For my soundtrack to entering my favorite place on Earth, I chose Colorado's own Five Iron Frenzy. I played the last three songs on the recording of their final concert - "A New Hope", "World Without End", and "Every New Day". This music is weird. If you told me that it is bad music, I don't think I would argue with you. But whatever it is, it is awesome and I love it. It seems like the people in the band experienced the gospel and then responded by playing their horns and guitars as hard as they could without worrying about much else. Maybe that's what we need to do more often: react to the gospel by doing what we are passionate about, and doing it with as much fervor as we can in a way that glorifies our Savior. This sort of brings me to my next idea.

2. Life is like skiing moguls

There is a right way and a wrong way to ski moguls. The wrong way to do it is to go slow and allow the moguls to take you across the slope and down paths that you don't want to follow. This way is miserable. In this mode, the skier is entirely focused on maintaining static stability. He wants to make sure that he can stop at any instant, and to do this, he is constantly wrestling against gravity. Every time a mogul drops off to the next, there is fear of going out of control.

The right way to ski moguls is to point your shoulders down the fall line* and go, without worrying too much about where the moguls are. You will reach a speed at which you can't stop on the next mogul. You are not stable in the sense that if you didn't have your speed, you would fall over. But you can stay in control by transferring energy each time you bounce off of a bump. Your shoulders and torso don't change direction and don't move up and down much; your legs simply absorb the bumps.

The right way - note the bent knees absorbing the bumps
In the first mode, you are letting the moguls define your path; they own you. In the second, you are picking the best route, and using the moguls to follow it. I think that this is how we should approach living our lives too. We shouldn't let the little obstacles (the moguls) define where we are heading. Instead we should focus on the big, important goals and absorb the bumps along the way.

Some people might say that this is the same as the maxim "Don't sweat the small stuff", but I think that there is something more than just that. Don't let the small problems in life control you, but DO focus on the long-term things that matter, and DO try to use the small events to guide you down the path that you ultimately want to follow. Sacrifice some immediate security to achieve what you ultimately want.

I am not yet old and wise enough to be certain of this, but this is what I think: In your career, you will be successful if you focus on long term goals and are not thrown off course by immediate circumstances. In your life, you will find happiness if you focus on relationships and love, with other people and with your Creator, and are not consumed with your own selfish petty concerns of the moment and the details of living.

*The fall line is the direction that you would roll if you were rolling down the mountain, or the negative gradient of the surface of the mountain with respect to height for all you engineers