By Tim Hayes

As Hurricane Isaac tore across southern Louisiana this week, the news reports carried the anticipated results – entire communities under water, innumerable homes evacuated, loss of electricity for hundreds of thousands.

We don’t get many hurricanes in my western Pennsylvania neighborhood, thank goodness, but the power still goes out fairly regularly as thunderstorms or heavy snowfalls barrel through.  The local utility tells us that the power interruptions would be a lot worse if they didn’t maintain their policy of tree trimming to keep the electrical lines clear from falling trees and snapping branches.  Having worked for an electric company somewhere in my hazy past, I know this to be true.

But that truth doesn’t make the effects of the policy any easier on the eyes.

A brisk walk down our cul-de-sac or a brief drive to the store for a quart of milk reveals the aesthetic assault on our arboreal friends.  The power lines are clear, all right, but in the process of clearing them, the trees look like they’ve been wildly hacked and assaulted with little consideration to how they might appear.  Absolute butchery.

And, perhaps more troubling, this policy makes perfect sense because it’s based on a sad reality of human nature.

People don’t look up.

The electric company knows that most people rarely, if ever, raise their eyes above the field of vision they’re most used to living within.  They see the road, their driveway, their front door, maybe even most of their house, and the trunks of any trees that may be living on their property.  But do they look up, to see the tops of the trees?  The blue sky and white clouds above their heads?  A wider horizon?  Usually not.

This makes me sad for a number of reasons.  Most important, I guess, is because this pattern of tunnel vision keeps people from seeing quite a marvelous show – one that’s at our disposal all day and all night, and it’s 100% free.  By taking in the fullness of any given day, with the wonder of nature and the miracle of a fluffy wisp of cloud in view, it offers a gentle sense of grounding.  Of perspective.  Of appreciating life and placing our troubles into context.

During Sunday services, my pastor likes to quote an old saying, “Lord, your ocean is so vast, and my boat is so small.”  He’s right.  We’re not – and we shouldn’t let ourselves become – the center of the universe.  Everything will be okay.  Keep things in the proper perspective.  Rely on a higher power, on your family and friends.  Believe in yourself and keep moving ahead.

There’s so, so much to be grateful for.  Yes, tough times and disappointments and sadnesses come to everybody.  No disputing or making light of that.  But even with all the troubles, to quote Clarence the Angel from one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart movies, it really is a wonderful life.

But you have to look up once in a while to see it, appreciate it, understand it, believe it, and carry it forward.

Copyright 2012 Tim Hayes Consulting