Monday, October 19, 2015

Building

As someone who has been given a certain mechanical aptitude along with the accompanying joy of building things, living in this neighborhood can sometimes be a virtual playground for my imagination.  In the midst of the expected annoyance of noise, dust, and traffic diversions rises a sense of wonder and amazement of watching buildings from 7 to 40 stories high rise on nearly every corner of my neighborhood ... many at the same time.  Living here and daily walking these streets I have had the privilege of watching these steel and glass giants rise from deep holes formed by concrete and rebar.  Like a time-lapse video, this process spans the course of months until, before you realize what you're really seeing, the finishing touches are being put on and those who have crawled over, under, and inside these structures pack their lunch and tool boxes and move on to another corner and another reclamation of abandoned space.  In recent days, as I've paused at the various intersections to take in the various phases of this neighborhood rising, I was reminded that we live in a part of the world that is waiting for "the big one".  The earthquake of all earthquakes.  They say it's not a matter of if, its a matter of when.  It occurred to me that in a matter of minutes, all this that has been literally years in the making will be, at the very least, structurally compromised if not destroyed.  It's a sobering thought, and one that I'm sure the steel workers 14 stories above me would choose not to think about.  I have also been in enough meetings with the developers of some of these projects to know that, structurally speaking, these buildings have been designed to withstand some tremendous shaking.   They may sustain significant cosmetic damage, but their basic foundational structure has been designed and built to hold up under unthinkable stress. 
I know enough about structural design to know that this is because the engineers and architects have invested an incredible amount of time, effort, and resources to insure that the foundation will stand under pressure.  It's not that the cosmetics of the building are not important.  It's just that they are not life and death.  Think about it ... How tragic that, if it were the other way around, where all the time effort and resources went into how cool and put together the building appeared, at the expense of structural integrity, a big stiff wind could reduce the effort into a pile of rubble. 
The tragedy in all of it is just this;  we understand this in a construction sense yet we don't seem to get it in a personal sense.  I spend enough time living and breathing here in the city to realize that what would be unthinkable in creating a structure is not even given a second thought when it comes to creating a life.  We, and I'll use it in the collective sense, are quick to invest ourselves in that which doesn't have any real significance and certainly wouldn't sustain us in the midst of a personal 9.0 shaking.  At the same time we find a whole folder full of excuses when it comes to building our inner core.  When it comes to the activity and investment required to develop our spiritual foundations, our inner well being, our opportunity to build community and do good, we suddenly don't have time, have more urgent demands, or better things to do with our money.  Is it any wonder that so many have little to no ability to withstand even the small storms much less "the big one" or why the smallest shaking sends us off the deep end.  The storms and the shaking will come, we all know this.  It's not a matter of if, its a matter of when.
Jesus has a parable that addresses this ... the one where he talks about how wise is the one who builds upon rock (read "firm foundation"). The one where he says the rains come and the streams rise and the winds blow.  The pastoral artist part of me finds this tragically ironic that the builders in my neighborhood understand this far more than the rest of us.

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