Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Stone Cold

While running the other day I learned it's better for your joints to run on asphalt instead of concrete (ie, the road instead of the sidewalk). It was one of those insights where I kind of went, "duh, that makes sense, why didn't I think of that sooner?" However, due to the slant of the road, it's not always good to run on there either...

Any way, the whole thing got me thinking about the physical attributes of concrete vs. asphalt. I once read a joke about Wisconsin that said it only has three seasons: football season, winter and construction season. I don't remember when, but I learned a long time ago (probably when I was working for the city parks dept) that concrete and asphalt have to laid at a specific time of year and at specific temperatures in order to provide the highest quality and safety.

You see, all objects expand and contract with the weather. It's a physical attribute of matter: when molecules heat up, they move at a faster speed and the substance of which they comprise, expands. When they cool, molecules slow down and compact a little more, causing the object to sort of shrink. This is why I can't make rings pass over my knuckles in the summer that will fall off of my hands in the winter.

Have you ever wondered why there are man-made partitions in sidewalks? It's so they can inhale and exhale with the changing temperatures. If they were one big slab, they'd break apart in the winter or crunch together like teutonic plates in the summer. Asphalt has a little give and take in its composition, so it breathes better throughout the seasons. It also gives a little more underfoot for runs.

God states twice through the prophet Ezekiel that he will remove hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. Usually when I think about a heart of stone, I think about being stubborn, about putting up walls to try to keep things in or out. I never really think about the inflexibility of a heart of stone. A heart of stone can't expand and contract without cresting or cracking. It is unable to "breathe," or more importantly, unable to beat.

When I harden my heart, I'm not just putting up walls, I'm closing off my life lines-- literally. Figuratively I'm cutting off friends, family, God. Literally, a heart of stone can't swell and fall with the pressures and depressions of life. When heat comes, it will crust up and when cooled, it will break open- revealing chambers suffocated by the swell. It has no give and take. It has no respite and requires a consistency found only in death-- a fate all too assured for such a heart. For in the end, all stone can do is fracture, fragment and fail.