Sunday, July 18, 2010

An Hour Of Industrial Shalom

Shalom is a word from the vast realm of foreign vocabularies from languages we don't speak. And yet it's still one that we know about, thanks to a lot of repetition over the years both welcome and unwelcome. Somehow, probably because of the inspiration it gives people as a concept, this word was plucked from the obscurity that other words know, then thrust before our attention, commanding notice.

I've personally heard this word used numerous times, usually from the pastors who wear black robes and sometimes robes of other colors. They'll be going on about something, things they know a lot about through constant introspection, then they'll lay the word Shalom on us as a revelation all by itself. A few words of explanation are given, invariably, and we take the warm and fuzzy concept with us to think about while we're cutting people off in traffic.

So here come my words of explanation, for the one idiot out there who's somehow remained ignorant of this whole subject. Shalom is roughly translated "peace;" roughly translated because there's various qualifiers as to the sort of peace implied and its many dimensions. The people who spoke this word in its original context liked to pack a big punch in their words, keeping it very economical as to their actual words yet being very profligate in their meaning. Sometimes I do that too.

What is this Shalom peace? How may we have it and show it? These are the questions that are asked and answered. At this point in the discussion, I drift off. So I'm not 100% on what the answers are. I just know that if it's so complicated and obscure that it has to be explained a million times, then others aren't getting it either. But my guess would be: It's some kind of concept of peace that is like a reclaiming of an essential part of our being, whereas the turmoil and conflict we know is foreign to that, born out of our less essential desires, less essential but more prevalent because of our wayward focus. That's probably true, but who knows? That's why it has to be explained all the time. But it sounds good.

My own thought on this is that they're all missing the boat. And that the essential part of man has one true drive, which is often thwarted. And that of course is to be involved in industrial activity. Whether he is hammering together a small birdhouse or putting the finishing touches on a hospital bed, he needs to do something with his mind and his hands

Industry is the true Shalom, where you can celebrate the true peace that man is meant to possess. You step out into your backyard and there's a factory stretching from one edge of your property to the other. You step in the door and flip the switch. A dozen different conveyor belts lurch into action, running in perfect harmony. Big metal panels, depending on what you're making, shake at the ceiling, then come down the track just as they must, awaiting a quick paint job and maybe a screw.

The true Shalom is hearing that everlasting hum of the machines, feeling the vibration in the levers you push and pull, and watching the raw materials go in one end of the building and the finished product coming out the other. Then you see one of your cousins come around the building with his forklift to carry it to the warehouse. That's when you know the true peace, and you're filled with hope, the hope that he's sober and won't drop it on the way.

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