Tuesday, May 06, 2008

broken car

For reasons known only to the mysterious guild of car mechanics, this week my car decided not to no longer back up. I can drive it forward just fine. All my "forward" gears work perfectly. I just can't reverse. Sure, the car geniuses would tell you that it is probably that the reverse gear has broken down or that there is a larger transmission issue. But I do not know the world of "under the hood" inspections. I deal in the metaphysical and therefore choose to believe that my car is trying to communicate a deeper message to me.

What I believe is happening is that my 12 year old car is performing the equivalent of a "sit-in." This tactic of civil disobedience is best known from the civil rights movement of the 60's. Essentially, my car has decided that he will no longer go backward. And by this act of defiance my car is teaching me an important truth.

In order to move forward, one needs to be able to move backward in short and strategic bursts.

I don't know why my car is trying to teach me this lesson this week. But it is an important lesson for all of us. You try driving a car that only moves forward and see how you do. If you can only move forward, you can't park in most spots. Without the ability to reverse, you can't make any mistakes going forward. If you find the nose of your car sticking too far out into the perpendicular street at the intersection, tough luck. If you need to turn around using a three-point turn, too bad.

Most of our driving and our lives are done by moving forward. However, the ability to back up, take a second look and re-think decisions is essential. We often don't notice our need to back up until the day that we are not able to do it.

Reverse is an important gear both for our cars and for our lives. We don't need to spend a lot of time backing up. This particular gear wasn't meant for quantity. Backing up tends to be more about quality and timing. There are times in driving and in life when the only way to move forward is to first move backward.


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