Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Learning From a Bolt of Lightning
LEARNING FROM A BOLT OF LIGHTNING
THE VALUE OF 1/100th OF A SECOND
This past week saw a truly amazing world record being made. Not for nothing is the man who made it known as "Lightning Bolt". Usain Bolt – a Jamaican athlete ran the 100 metre sprint in less than 10 seconds – 9.58 to be exact! For those wondering just how fast this is, take a 1 Metre ruler, and lay it out 10 times. Look at the distance, and then consider traversing this distance in… less than 1 second! Perhaps only the speed of a lightning bolt can make it.
Man is a wonder. While one person can barely manage to get out of bed in the morning spending hours on end making themselves up in preparation for the day, another can move so fast that even to imagine the rate as feasible within the imagination of the mind, is a difficult task to consider!
But what can we learn from this? Torah and life are not simply about getting from A to B as fast as one can. And a simple run of 100 metres accomplishes very little in life. It accomplishes no good for anyone in the world at all! There is no act of kindness, and neither the runner nor anybody watching him gain much to change the world into a better place. In fact, were the average person to sprint 100 metres and tell all his friends about it, it is highly unlikely anyone would praise him for it (let alone be interested in his "daily activities.") Were he to do this all day, he probably wouldn't receive much more of a compliment than something like "Why don't you do something constructive with your day, instead of just running nowhere and expecting praise for it?!"
I have no doubt than Mr. Lightning Bolt would tell us nothing less than the fact that every second counts. But he's the best of the best. And when it comes to the best of the best, it's not every second that counts… but every tenth of a second. In fact, every hundredth of a second is worth something. Bolt's second competitor came in at just 9.71 seconds, just one thirteenth of a second slower than he did – and for that lost all the honour due to any normal person capable of running at such a lightning speed!
Indeed, we are given a certain amount of time every day, every week, every month, and every year of our lives – right up until our last millisecond of life. Every moment is precious. Every moment must be guarded. Achievement must be made every hundredth of a second. The "race" is on. We could choose to be the tortoise if we wish to – though still make it through the finish line, or we could even choose to be the second best. But real honour is accorded only to one so dedicated to what he has to do, that nothing else interests him than his achieving the goal he needs to. To him, there are no second places. There is a goal that must be achieved as fast as possible.
There is no opportunity to look around and see who else is in the race. The slightest turn-around to see who's following us, may well lose us the entire race. Do we really care what the Jones' have? Imagine Mr. Bolt regularly turning around during his sprint to check up on his competitor? He does a quick scan to check out the competitors shoes… "My, what expensive shoes he managed to purchase for this race," he thinks to himself! "What a pity I could not afford *that* pair." And then he looks at his shirt… his pants… even his hair cut – just to check if he managed to get a better one than he has! As he runs, he gives a quick glance over his shoulder to see if maybe – by luck – his competitor has fallen! (What a help and a win this would be for him!) Or alternatively he looks around at all the spectators cheering him on, as he waves to them all, pointing to his $10 000 sneakers that he recently bought… brand new, never been used!
Let's imagine Mr Bolt regularly checking in with the referee just to see that he's watching to see that everyone else is behaving as they should. Or perhaps making sure that everyone else is keeping to their lane. Let's imagine Mr Bolt staring at the bodies of all the other athletes, thinking to himself how lucky some are to be taller than 6 foot 5 inches… who weigh a little more than he does (or less!) – and who seem to have worked out better during the year. Imagine Mr Bolt deciding – 5 seconds into the race – that he'd like to let his competitors in on some "tasty" nuggets of news of the happenings of others? Just 5 seconds into the race, he turns to his competitor to share the juicy news of what happened to so-and-so, his failures, his arrogance, his….
Of course, all these points are ludicrous. But then this is what makes Mr. Bolt the hero! He values his time. He knows that what counts is *his* achievement. He's not really interested at all whether the other competitors did manage to purchase more expensive shoes than he did – or whether the referee is watching closely to see that everyone is keeping to the rules of the race! In fact, he takes all these things for granted. He must… because he wants to win!
He knows one thing – he's got to get the finish line as fast as he can. He doesn't care whether the audience watching are cheering him on personally – or whether they're just shouting for joy. His mind is made up. He sees a goal – one that he is ready for having trained himself and prepared well in advance. He's got his act together and about to win – no matter what.
Instead of bickering about travelling 100 metres in a hurry, he realises that this is the goal. He must get there. What others do – and the time it takes them, is of no interest to him. He must do what he must – and they must do what they must.
When it comes to our lives, it's not surprising, but the same laws of the "race" apply. We too have our own personal goals. We must be the best we can to achieve them, realising that every single millisecond counts. Every single millisecond will make the difference in making us win this race, or marginally coming in to second place. We can look around us and hope that everyone is cheering us on – but it will probably distract us from our main goal. We can check out what everyone else is wearing, what everyone else is driving, and what everyone else owns in general, but we should well realise that it will only aid in allowing the more focused amongst us to get far ahead of ourselves. Hoping that the competitor has fallen (YAY!) and looking around, won't in fact help us one bit! On the contrary while we think out our negative thoughts about others and keep looking around hoping and praying they'll be fulfilled, we're doing nothing more than slowing ourselves down. What a waste!
When we're finished our goal, having attained our own world records, we too will be able to jump up and down for joy as the crowds see our achievements. Indeed, the crowd will still be there cheering us on – but now finally, we'll be able to enjoy the respect we've earned. We can then even look back to see what everyone else has/had (but will we actually care?!) We can be proud at having made the right decisions for what we wanted to accomplish. BOOM! We can be like lightning, focused on our goal, aiming for it, shooting for it, and achieving it, only to receive the most amazing rewards for having attained it.
Alternatively we can check out everyone else, quarrel with the "Referee", complain about everyone else's good things – all of course while running the "race". We're welcome to, because this is what free choice is all about. It would be quite wise to remember though, that while we may do this, we may find ourselves – even if just milliseconds in second place – having actually lost the race we so much wanted to win!
I recall a poem I read many years ago, though do not recall the author (if the author was known). It's something we can all appreciate and take with us throughout our lives, appreciating every moment we have:
Tiny drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty oceans
And the great big land.
So the tiny minutes
Humble though they be
Make the mighty oceans