Friday, September 2, 2016

When Things Work

This morning my alarm rang and I woke up. Water came out of the faucet and showerhead and the gas stove lit and boiled water for my oatmeal. The water faithfully cooked the oatmeal, the juice from the refrigerator was cold and my key turned the lock as I left the house. My car started, traffic lights kept me from being sideswiped by marauding cars, the gate to the school parking lot opened when I pressed the clicker. Things were working well!

At school, kids showed up in my class according to schedule and actually followed all my directions to create some expressive movement, play some coherent rhythms and sing songs relatively on key. The 8th graders rotated through all the parts of the 12-bar blues—bass, drums, chords and melody—with impressive mastery on xylophones, piano, drum set, stand-up bass. And this only their second class! Lunch was on the counter in the kitchen and it was still hot when I arrived. During the break, I checked e-mail and lo and behold, the wireless server opened the world to me and allowed me to arrange some things that needed attention. I even was able (with some help) to update my Website. My planning book that I ordered arrived and the printer worked when I printed out some photos to consider for the cover.

And so the day went on. A thousand ways to prove that we are indeed interconnected and necessary to each other, that we depend upon people doing their job and doing it well, that we hope for the whole system to work—the mail to get delivered, the food trucked to the grocery store, the hospital available if needed. And when they don’t, we expect them to get fixed and sometimes they do and sometimes even with an apology.

If you stop to think about it, this is extraordinary. How much actually does work day-to-day and how difficult our lives would be if it didn’t. There are people behind it all and whole systems of work and workers. A single stalk of celery bought at the store is connected to so much—the farmer, the watering system, the tractor-maker, the trucker transporting it, the store selling it, the architects who designed the store, the construction workers who built it, the city-planners who approved it, the electricians who wired it and plumbers who plumbed it, the factories that made the pipes and the lumber mills and the grocery bag-makers and the folks who made your car or bike and the streets you drive on and…well, you get the idea. An extraordinary system of interconnectedness designed to make human cohabitation possible and workable and pleasant and sometimes beautiful.

I suspect most people don’t feel the full measure of how much they’re contributing, just go through the motions of the job that allows them to pay the mortgage or rent, buy the groceries and send the kids to school. Too much to think about in the daily round. But I suggest a moment once in a while to step back and marvel at how much does work that allows us to live the lives we are living, to feel proud at what we’re contributing (not you, arms-dealers and drug-pushers and crooked politicians and greedy Wall St. folks), feel the full measure of how necessary we are to each other. And thank all those unseen hands that bring the celery stalk into your hand.

So that’s what I did today. Thank you.

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