Friday, May 31, 2013

Split-Second Timing

Portland cement is made when you combine heated limestone mixed with clay, ground up and mixed with gypsum. They sell the stuff in bags at Home Depot where you can buy it, mix it up with sand and water to make all kinds of wonderful things. Add some stone and other aggregates and you have sidewalks, concrete pads for houses and bridge supports.

I once worked for McClanahan Construction where Brock, me and Mike would go around building things like houses and commercial buildings. Working for Brock you had to know how to do everything, from pouring the concrete pad, framing the building, setting trusses, roofing, drywall, siding, painting, trimming and cleaning up after you're all done.

One cold September day we poured four concrete pads in anticipation of building four duplex houses. We had worked like dogs all day, though most dogs I've met don't know the meaning of the word, and night had come. My job was to continue using a power trowel, a gas-powered machine with slowly rotating blades you run on top of the setting concrete to smooth and finish it while it dries.

I had to work by the light of a floodlight and street lamps. The temperature was getting down right chilly. Fall was setting in and we were under pressure to get the homes framed and closed in before winter set in. I was wishing I had brought a jacket, and thought briefly how nice a little heat would feel. My hands were getting numb, but when you worked for Brock you didn't whine. You just got the job done.

Halfway through my project I saw the darkness was flickering around me. Mystified, I turned around to face the lumber company behind me to see the thing was up in flames.

Moments later the local Fire Department arrived to rescue the place. Lumber companies are dry as tinder and can turn into a raging fireball without timely rescue. Turns out one of the trucks parked inside the place shorted ignition that caused the blaze to start.

But the timing of me wanting heat and the consequent fire was unnerving.

Timing is everything in life. Music cannot survive one beat without it. Meeting that fated person at the deli counter over pastrami wouldn't have gone on to a life-long love affair were timing absent from the Universe. The timing of sperm meeting egg, the rotation of the solar system, the firing of all six cylinders at precisely the right second under the car hood, the landing of a loaded passenger plane at the precise point on earth is was meant to land, along with quadrillions of interactions throughout any given day rely on precise timing.

I often inwardly groan when I approach an intersection just as the light turns red, which seems to happen all the time for me. Or when I pull onto a highway just as a lumbering truck does and am forced to travel his weary path until I can break free to pass safely. It's uncanny sometimes how my life is forced into abeyance by the timing of other people.

I have to remind myself that control over our lives is only an illusion. When you think about it, there is very little in life we actually DO control. You can't dictate where your next freckle appears, never mind  the millions of other events that will affect you today.

Comes right down to it, the only real thing we CAN control is our reaction.

When you can react with equanimity to all things...when you can allow all things to pass through you as if you are'll have found peace.

I'm working on it, believe me. I'll have a gastric ulcer and bald from having ripped out all my hair in frustration if I don't.

It's about time.


  1. When everything in my path seems to be slowing me down, I realize that I'm trying to force time along and take it as a wake up call to breathe and get present. Traffic must be the greatest teacher of presence in the world. :)