Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cog In the Machine

Part One: Cog In the Machine

Despite their negative effect on the environment, automobiles are really quite beautiful machines. They are constructed of dozens of different systems, all working in tandem, all contributing something to keep the greater machine operating at peak efficiency. Each system can further be broken into hundreds of various belts, liquid injection systems, crankshafts and flywheels. Each of these, in turn, can be broken down into their base components- the rods, nuts and bolts that keep each individual system in prime working condition.

If so much as a single bolt fails, the entire machine is jeopardized, yet if every piece of the vehicle is working perfectly, there is no limit to where the vehicle may go. In a way, automobiles are the toughest, most durable invention of mankind... And also the most fragile and flawed. So much can go wrong with the inner workings of a vehicle- a loose belt here, a clogged fuel pump there- yet when every piece is working in tandem, at their fullest potential, the sky is quite literally the limit.

You may be wondering where I'm going with this. After all, this is supposed to be a site dedicated to self-improvement, not vehicle maintenance... And I sincerely hope anyone reading this is wise enough to not take maintenance advice from me. Although this is a topic that has been covered extensively on this site, I feel it is time to throw my own hat into the ring, so to speak, and share my own opinions on this particular subject.

In a way, we're all the basic nuts and bolts of a cosmic machine, a great and unfathomable universal vehicle taking us to who-knows-where. Like the basic components of a car, we work in tandem with those closest to us, and form even greater systems, all spurring the vehicle on to its ultimate destination, wherever that may be. However, unlike the various bits and pieces of a car, we alone can determine how much effort we put into our operation, and how efficiently we apply ourselves.

This, I think, is the greatest lesson we can learn, for the more 'bolts' working together, the greater the potential for the cosmic vehicle as a whole. After all, a car missing a wheel isn't going to go nearly as far- or as fast- as one in peak operating condition! To tie this into my previous blog, you must make sure you yourself are decent shape, both mentally and physically, before you help anyone realize their own potential. After all, a broken belt can't contribute to the operation of the transmission system, and the more strain placed on that belt, the more damage done, until it ultimately snaps and possibly takes more components down with it.

Just because one bolt contributes to the engine, another helps drive the transmission system and a third operates the brakes, no single bolt is greater than the other. Without even one of these tiny, seemingly insignificant bits of metal, the entire system would fail. Without a single bolt, the vehicle will go nowhere. This may all seem rather obtuse and cryptic, but I hope I'm making my point here.

To put it simply, we're in this together. Every piece must be working in harmony, both doing its job to the fullest and assisting other various pieces in their job. A vehicle is the sum of its parts, only as powerful and capable as each individual component, and without even one of those components, the vehicle rolls to a stop, all its endless potential wasted.

Part Two: Potential and the Puzzle

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the term Messiah Complex. While it's a topic covered extensively elsewhere on this site, I'll give you my own definition. To put it simply, a person with a Messiah complex sees their words, their outlook on life, and their idealogies as the be all and end all. They see themselves not as a small part of a greater whole, but above and beyond everyone else. Whether they believe they are highly enlightened beings, simply 'smarter than the average peon' or even believe they aren't human at all, to put it simply, it's their way or the highway.

Of course, there are a number of issues with this outlook on life. For one, no matter how perfect a religious outlook or philosophy may seem, there is no single path that can apply to everyone. Second, despite what these so-called 'Messiahs' may believe, we all possess the same, limitless potential.

Let me illustrate the first point with a pair of examples, both taken from people I'm familiar with. Of course, the names have been omitted.

My first example concerns a man who fell in with a 'bad crowd' at an early age. For most of his youth, this man lived for drugs, theft and a general life of crime. Everything he wanted, he took, without regard for who he harmed in the process. He alienated his friends and family, and it seemed like he would just be another statistic, another victim of the streets. However, not long after his 20th birthday, this man had a life-changing experience. To this day, he won't tell me exactly what it was, only that he was 'called' to a life of service. After this experience, he dedicated his life to religion and improving the lives of anyone he met. He went from a drug-addled street punk to one of the most respected and wise men I've met.

While the second man is every bit of a great man, he came about his path in life in an entirely different way. He grew up a victim of merciless bullying, an experience I'm sure most of the people reading this are familiar with. As a matter of fact, it's an experience I'm familiar with as well, but that is a story for another time. Nothing this man did could appease the people who despised him, just because he looked and acted different. At the age of 21, he entered into the United States Marine Corps, and found the order and structure that had been sorely lacking in his life. More importantly, he met a woman- the same woman who would eventually become his wife- and slowly, his bitterness and anger towards the world faded. Many years later, he still has a bit of that old bitter anger, but he would die to protect those he cares about. In much the same way as the first man, he has dedicated his life to serving others.

Both men are around the same age. Both men have lived completely different lives, but they have walked different paths. The second man would have given in to the life of drugs and crime, while the first man likely wouldn't have been able to survive in the overly ordered Military lifestyle. Please notice, though, that both paths have led roughly to the same destination. The first man is a respected preacher, while the second man cares for the mentally ill, but both have one thing in common: they have dedicated themselves to caring for others.

This brings us to our second point, and one I have only just recently realized. As the old quote goes, no single person is greater than all people. While I may have slightly mangled that quote, the point stands. We all possess the same potential to change the world, only in a much more subtle way than the so-called 'Messiahs' will have us believe. Each of us is here to piece together a puzzle of sorts, and life is simply the constant attempt to piece it together. We have all the puzzle pieces at hand, we only need to figure out how each piece fits together. Some of us look to religion for the answers, some turn inward, and some aren't even aware that they are putting together a puzzle at all. In the end, though, the pieces will fall into place, and the puzzle will be revealed. While the shape of each piece may be different for all involved, the end result- the final picture- is the same.

Nobody has all the answers, nobody even has most of the answers. Although every person in this world has walked a different path, there is something you can learn from them all. Through working together or simply being aware of the fact that everyone we meet has a lesson to be taught, the 'human machine' operates at peak efficiency, the puzzle pieces slowly fall into place, and the picture is eventually revealed.

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