Friday, July 6, 2012

Snap-On Wrench

Through the practice of yoga, we can become friends with the impermanent nature of things. We can look in the mirror and, rather than seeing a collection of faults, can see a living, breathing tapestry that describes the life we’ve lived.

Most mechanics consider Snap-On tools to be the very finest. While some mechanics may claim to prefer other brands (Matco, Mac, etc), it’s virtually inevitable that price versus value enters the equation. Without regard to price, it’s hard to beat the finish, quality, and durability of Snap-On tools.

I clearly remember my first Snap-On wrench– a 10mm combination. This Snap-On wrench was the crown jewel of my toolbox for many years, and offered me some valuable lessons about fidelity, aging, and impermanence.

I’ve long enjoyed an interest in the mechanical world. As a boy I dissembled and reassembled my bicycle at the slightest provocation. In my early teens, I graduated to a Honda moped, which almost ran better after my various modifications.

As I inched toward my sixteenth year, I felt a gravitational attraction to work on cars. While I’d subscribed to the mythology of German-car-reliability, the reality quickly caught up with me. It seemed like every evening and weekend was spent repairing the various systems that went awry: suspension, brakes, interior, engine, ignition, electrical, etc.

As the complexity of the systems escalated, so did my need for tools. I started by purchasing tools at the Pamida store (the rural-Iowa precursor to Wal-Mart), but quickly found that the tools’ hardness should exceed the hardness of the fasteners. From Pamida, I moved along to Sears Craftsman tools. The Craftsman tools were of infinitely better quality and, as a result, were less likely than the Pamida tools to wilt at the mere threat of a difficult job. The Craftsman tools also introduced me to the ineffable quality of a tool feeling good in your hands.

Every so often I’d find myself in over my head, and at the doorstep of one of my various mechanic friends. Every time, the problem that initially seemed impossible or dire simply required a tool that I did not have. Through borrowing their tools, which were inevitably Snap-On, I was first introduced to the deadly sin known as Tool Envy.

The Snap-On tools gleamed like jewels in my friends’ toolboxes, and even the 30+ year old tools still looked new. Unfortunately, they weren’t 10% more expensive than the Craftsman tools – at the time, they were 200-300% more expensive. For several years, my Tool Envy simply festered in the generalized morass of other Deadly Sins.

By the time I was ready to graduate from high school, I had decided that the tool I used the most – my 10mm combination wrench – should be a Snap-On. After spending the majority of my lifeguard’s paycheck on this one wrench, I was the proud owner of a genuine Snap-On tool. As promised, it glinted, gleamed, and even removed stubborn nuts and bolts. It was everything I’d hoped for.

The summer before I started college, I found myself removing the battery from yet another VW Bus. As I reached deeply into its engine compartment, my cherished Snap-On wrench contacted both the battery’s positive terminal and the Bus’ chassis. In one flash, the wrench was blown out of my hand and I developed a somatic understanding of the principles underlying arc welding. Once I got my bearings, I was horrified to find a hole in the finish of my sole Snap-On wrench.

For a short while I flirted with infidelity. The presence of the wounded wrench in my toolbox gave me a pit in my stomach, and I seriously considered replacing it. I even resorted to using my Craftsman 10mm combination wrench for a few months. Thankfully, I was able to reconnect to the depth of our relationship, and restore the Snap-On wrench to its rightful place in my toolbox.

Twenty-five years later, I now smile every time I see that gouge in my wrench. Its minor blemish reminds me of our time together, and I’m grateful that it’s no longer perfect. If it weren’t for this blemish, would I remember driving my Bus across the Utah desert? Would I remember running 50-weight oil and driving by moonlight? Would I remember how I discovered the power of electricity?

Like the Snap-On wrench, our bodies are a daily reminder of impermanence. I meet many people who come to yoga so that they don’t end up aging like their parents and grandparents. To a certain degree, good diet and healthy activity can help smooth the aging process, but there’s no practice that I’ve encountered that stops, or even slows, the process of aging.

Through the practice of yoga, we can become friends with the impermanent nature of things. We can watch how the most perfect inhale ultimately becomes an exhale, and how a moment of quiescence can become agitation in the next breath. We can look in the mirror and, rather than seeing a collection of faults, can see a living, breathing tapestry that describes the life we’ve lived.

Like the Snap-On wrench, nothing lasts forever. Becoming friends with the changeable nature of bodies, circumstances, interests, relationships, and objects can significantly enhance our quality of life.

1 comment:

Donna said...

This is a truly nice metaphor. We all age and our bodies become weaker and more worn out. But that doesn't mean that we are becoming 'worse' people. Every change needs to be embraced. Especially the inevitable ones.