Smoke on the water, fire in the sky.
— Deep Purple
The explosion shattered the stillness and nearly knocked me off my feet.
Here’s what I had been worrying about as I ran along the road in the pre-dawn light:
- the exhaust system on my son’s car
- my hip flexors
- the cat
- whether I had returned all my calls
- my office building
- whether the restaurant would be crowded
Then the fire ball shot from the sky; the sound like the blast of a nuclear bomb. A mere 30 feet closer and the outcome… not good.
I had to stop. It was as if all the air had been sucked out of me. I couldn’t breath.
Who would have expected an electrical transformer to blow up at that moment? Right there, right then.
But isn’t that what “they” always say?
“Who would have expected it? What a shock! Wrong place, wrong time. They were such a nice couple.”
My mind drifted back to the beautiful traverse beneath the summit of Illinza Norte. A brilliant crystal clear day; a gentle acclimatization in the Ecuadorian Andes. And then the sudden rockfall, the size of a semi-trailer, a mere 50 yards from where we stood.
Didn’t see that coming.
And then my mind carried me further to the back seat of a crushed Honda Civic on a warm sparking Sunday afternoon in February, the acrid smells of battery acid, anti-freeze and air bag powder permeating the air. I held the limp body of my friend Chris as his life ebbed away. Who would have expected the oncoming car to cross into his lane?
Who would have expected it?
That’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s the things we least expect that get us.
We like to live with the illusion of control. With the fantasy that as long as we obsess about things, worry about people and problems, believe we can manipulate situations and outcomes, we think we will be ok, that those we care about will be safe, that everything will work out just fine.
We do this with our kids, our partners, our businesses, our entire lives.
And it’s not true.
It’s the stuff we can’t imagine that comes to bite us; the stuff we don’t expect, the stuff we can’t even begin to conceive of. (Because to conceive of it would make life untenable?)
The challenge for us: Stop the hand wringing. Stop the kvetching. Know this truth: Worry is a waste.
Let it go. Be here now.
Yes, the gods, they may well be crazy. But they seem to know an incontrovertible fact: We humans seem to need an explosion now and then to jolt us out of our pettiness, our small mindedness, our narcissistic self-absorption; to wake us up and remind us:
- time is short
- treasure what we have
- cherish those we love
- celebrate what is
- find the joy
Suffering and loss are never far away. Indeed, they will come come and find us however much in control we imagine ourselves to be.
The lesson, just this: Live deeply, fully, in this moment. Here. Now.