Monday Musings: Who Knew I was Good at Physics?
It’s football season! The power in that pigskin is fueled by force and speed. It is one of the best matches of mental and physical prowess of any sport. Because I personally enjoy observing that kind of strength battle in humans, football movies are among some of my favourites. Seeing those who thought they couldn’t pull off the victory rise to the challenge, and intensely fight for that glory, energizes me.
In "Any Given Sunday", Al Pacino uses everything in his coaching arsenal to push his players, as he says, out of hell and into the light. In his famous locker room speech, with 3 minutes to go on the clock, he inspires his team: “In either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean one half a step too late or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game. Every minute. Every second. On this team, we fight for that inch.”
Life, then, is a huge Physics lesson. It’s about distance and time for sure, but there’s one more critical factor - speed. And for me personally, I am all about speed. Whether it’s climbing a hill on my bike, slugging through a household chore (especially one I hate to do), or driving a NASCAR (which, by the way, I have done!), I have to push through that challenge as accurately and as quickly as possible. The harder the push on the pedal, the sooner the victory! At least, that’s how my headspace works. The traffic control officers may have a different opinion.
For me to remember something, I have to relate it to what I know, so this is how I understand the formula: speed is calculated by how far we have to go in life divided by how long it takes to get us there. It's about every inch we travel and every second it takes. So it got me thinking: how many things happen to us in life where one more inch, or one more second, could have had a HUGE impact? Hmmm...
Well, this week, my team of College students and myself began our nine stop tour of the local high schools, delivering a power packed message of hope and resiliency to grade 12’s. In these Assemblies, students learn and practice the value of inches and seconds as they think about their future.
We travel in a convoy to our destinations, all knowing the distance we need to go and the time we must arrive for set-up and delivery. As fate would have it, I was travelling by myself with the equipment and was at the back of the pack. Remembering my grade 11 physics class, I knew that in order to decrease the time factor, I could increase my speed which would directly affect my distance. And so, I moved up in the pack and nestled nicely behind the first driver of my team. I had moved more than a few inches and had decreased my time by a few seconds.
And then it happened. As if we were all spectators in a stop-action movie, we saw in the right corner of our visual fields, a mid-size dog running and jumping on the sidewalk. Though we were all in separate vehicles, and obviously not communicating, we all thought the same thing: that dog’s going to run out into the traffic. And sure enough he did! Right between the lead vehicle and mine. I pushed that brake pedal to the metal and froze in my tracks waiting to hear that familiar thud. All I could think of was the margin for error is so small. Did my speed create a fatal mistake? I remained in the vehicle for a few more seconds and waited to hear or see any sign of the dog.
I mean one half a step too early, and that dog would make instant contact. One step too late and he might be alive. One half second faster and his body is going to catch my car. One half second slower he might not catch it at all. Distance. Time. The critical factor is speed.
Think of it this way. Distance and time, I have no control over, right? They are fixed. We all long for a shorter route to the goal. We keep watching that clock where seconds either seem like forever or more often that there’s not enough time. I’m bound by these forces outside of me. BUT, man I’ve got wheels! And so do you! It’s up to us, friends. What are we going to do? Are we going to fight for that inch, that second? It’s you, only you, who is holding that ball, or like me, driving that car on that fateful day. And none of us wants to blow it, make a mistake, and be done.
The vehicle jolted to a halt. I felt what I thought was a slight bump, and the clock stopped….and then restarted, as the dog rose from underneath my car, and ran away unscathed. One second faster and one inch closer, and he would have died. I fought for that inch and for the dog’s safety. In that second, I was instantly relieved for the dog, but also for my students in the cars ahead of and behind me, who may not have mastered physics yet. Overcoming that challenge, the team travelled on to the school, whose mascot, coincidently, was the Wolfpack. And it was there, that we went on to score yet another victory promoting mental health!
Post script: My high school physics teacher, nun other than Sister Celia, wrote this in my high school year book: “So ya think you’re gonna pass, eh?” I believe that she would be proud of me now. After 30 years, not only did I pass, I finally got out of Hell, learned how to tackle the subject, and found the Light.
This week's song is: Little Wonders by Rob Thomas.