A carburetor is a strange thing, I mean I couldn’t even spell it correctly on my first go and I’ve been working on them for years. In the day and age of electronic fuel injection (EFI) carbs are only found on small engines, classic cars, and are rapidly being phased out of use in motorcycles. The transition doesn’t really sadden most of the average car owners, EFI removes the need for choking of the air fuel mixture, engine block heaters, and the fervent prayers offered by one who just flooded their engine. Carbs are fickle and wicked hard to understand, I tip my hat to their designers. Despite not being perfect, for over 100 years, they have been more than sufficient.
So why all of this carb talk? I am motorcycle enthusiast that happens to be poor; therefore all the bikes I have ever owned and worked on have come equipped with at least one to as many as four carburetors (one for each piston). In the hours I have spent working them I have come to realize that they are a lot like humans.
First of all a carburetor (and the subsequent engine) is happiest when it is in use and performing, typically at a nice steady state. The most rapid deterioration actually occurs during time spent out of commission. You might be familiar with the difficulty that comes from starting a lawn mower which as sat over the winter, despite having run perfectly right to where it was parked the fall before. In reality what happens is the gasoline gets funny as it ages, it can thicken and clog the tiny pilot pin holes and ruin the rubber gaskets. In some cases a little acetone or toluene can clear this up but in other a complete rebuild might be necessary depending on the length of the dormancy.
As humans our physical, mental, and spiritual health is much the same. We are at our best when we are using our minds and bodies and when we are serving lord, and his children. Stagnation corrodes us, our bodies can falter when they are needed, depression can permeate, and sin can enter our lives. Like a carburetor the amount of intervention required to get back to operation after a dormancy may vary, and furthermore some choices made during that dormancy might inhibit us for the rest of our lives. In the case of spiritual matters the spectrum of improvement is much like a positive function with a horizontal asymptote, always increasing but will never actually reach the value that it approaches.
Which leads me to my next comparison. Even the best performing carburetor could always be a little bit better. At any given time depending on octane level, elevation, air temperature and the performances of the other carbs around it a carbs performance will vary. To be at peak performance there are about 3-5 different variables that must be constantly tuned and maintained to get peak performance and even then, that peak is really only theoretical. In this parallel I am drawing I want to point out that humans are the same way. Even at our peak we must always be fine tuning our lives to the environment around us and constantly be put through our paces. The inputs to a carburetor are always in transition just as the stimuli around us are always in flux. It’s the nature of entropy, we must always be working, learning and correcting to maximize our performance.
I could probably draw this comparison out further but I really just want to end on this note. We, like carburetors have a functional lifetime, there will come a point when we no longer will be able to perform our labors. This functional lifetime might be cut short or extended by how we maintain and how we operate, but one way or another the best and the worst kept lives will come to an end. This is a hard thing to grapple with, and without the perspective of the gospel, it might just seem that I am validating the idea posed in the matrix that we are nothing more than a battery about to be used up.
No my goal here is not to depress or trivialize our lives but rather point out that at any given time we have a choice to make. We can either live our lives like a well-used motorcycle, serving a purpose, putting miles on the odometer so to say living as if every day is our last or we can live our lives like a neglected garaged bike, doing nothing for anybody, rotting until there is nothing left of worth.
As I finish this I realize how depressing, cold and honest this piece might be. I honestly hope that this is a first and last for my writing expose, but sometimes it takes cold sobering realities to motivate. So here is to me taking my life and figuratively pulling the bike out of the garage and getting on it and going for rip. If it is anything like riding a real motorcycle, the moments of thrill will be well worth the effort.
“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” Alma 34:32