In his work, Human Destiny, French scientist Lecomte du Nouy, wrote in 1947, “Certain of our mental illusions are due to the fact that we consider a phenomenon, as we observe it, in the frame of our current life… In other words, one can say that from the standpoint of man it is the scale of observation which creates the phenomenon. Every time we change the scale of observation we encounter new phenomena.”

Lately I’ve been fretting (maybe I am a fretter) over buying a car. My consternation has been over just how much luxury I can afford. For the past month or so, I’ve been swinging on the rings of mental gymnastics with the relative pros and cons (and car payments) of Acura TL, BMW 3 Series, and Infiniti G35. In the last week, a new Lexus ES 350 has been tossed onto the mat, although it introduces financial uneven bars to the all around competition.

Last night as I drove to meet friends for dinner, I observed all potential suitors as I cruised the highway listening to Neil Young’s Harvest. As I manuvered along Rt. 3A in Billerica approaching the restaurant, I passed a grocery store and slowed to a stop so I could let a man cross the road. He was carrying about six bags of groceries. I wondered if the man had a car, if he had children and how many? I thought about the relative smallness of my current worries compared to most.

After a nice dinner with Tom, Alan, George and Pete, we headed to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Lowell, MA for a “going away party” for a guy I’ve worked with and known for almost 20 years. During the night I walked around the Spartan hall and read some of the plaques of the veterans that sacrificed much for those of us who didn’t. I thought about how lucky I was to have been too young for Vietnam and too old for Iraq. I can’t even imagine living one day in a foxhole or a rice pattie wondering if some sniper would make it my last.

Our pal Bob is only “going away” from work after a couple years of serious health problems that just won’t quit. Due to his condition, he’s suffered brain hemorrhaging and there have been times when his vision just leaves him. Since suddenly losing sight while at the helm of a moving vehicle is very detrimental to ones insurance rating, he no longer drives. He’s much closer to worrying about the sniper than the Lexus.

The events of last night changed the scale of my observation, but will it last? Last night there were friends and laughs and hugs and tears that were born from human relationships, none of which come with a new car.