Thursday, August 30, 2007

Flying In a Straight Line

If we imagine running a track race as a metaphor for our lives, what could we learn from the picture on the left? A casual examination shows men between the ages of 55 and 59 trying with some willful might to arrive at a finish line before the other. Ironic isn’t it that in life we so often hope to reaches our life’s finish line later than sooner?

A closer examination reveals a finer point to me. On the left is the eventual winner of this race, my aforementioned friend Bill Collins. He hasn’t been beaten in many years, still the rest of us manage to imagine that someday, if the wind blows right and God has a sense of humor………….

Notice Bill’s face. He is focused on the track in front of him. There is no distraction from his immediate mission. This is a cardinal rule of the sprinter and the advice of sprint coaches everywhere. There is no one to beat in the race. There is only the lane in front of you. You can do nothing about another person’s race. You control your lane, your effort and the mission is to find yourself at the finish as expeditiously as…well, as fast as you can deliver you.

Look now at my face. I am on the far right in the black sleeveless shirt, shaved head. My eyes are drifting across the field of runners in mid-race. It is a sprinter technical mistake. I am attempting to diagnose my present position, mid race, based on the positioning of others.

If we can transport this track lesson to a larger picture, that is to make it into a wide screen, high definition lesson for all of life, what we conclude?

Isn’t it all so easy to be distracted by what others might own that we do not own. How many of us dwell on the money earned per year by our friends and colleagues, wondering why we are not earning the same? Maybe we think our friends are far more talented and skillful. Maybe we think they are much prettier or more articulate and generous.

This is the life lesson equivalent of mistakenly viewing life outside the lane we are given to run in. Can we really control the person alongside us? Do we wish to do so for the wrong reasons?

If I could find a way to wake each morning and see my life as having a lane that belongs to me and to no one else; and that what I do in that lane of my own accord and initiative is all that matters when the finish line is at hand, would I draw nearer to being complete?

My mother used to say in exasperation that I should ‘straighten up and fly right”, I am officially revising it to “Straighten up and fly straight, and do it in your own lane, eyes ahead on the mission in front.” It's more wordy I suppose, but it will make me a better friend to all, and I think it will make a more complete Seven as well.

I’m going to Italy for the “World Championships of older men racing one another” this Monday. I’m dreading the 9 hour portion of the flight a little, but maybe the flight will be conducted from Houston to Paris in a straight line, just for me?

Reporting from my lane, your friend,