Monday, December 14, 2009

Damping the Pendulum

Tire swings play in my memory like a soap bubble too tender to touch or be real but yet you know it's there. I remember one on a huge tree in our yard on the farm. I remember the fear of it coming too close to the ground and the limb looking too fragile for my growing body. Yet I got it swinging: higher and higher. To get it going you must "lean into" the swing at the right time to build momentum upon momentum. I got it going to the point I was level with limb and found the rope going a bit slack as I changed direction. On the extreme end the pressure on the rope became too much and it broke. In slow motion I saw my world come crashing down, I hit the ground and felt my lungs expel all their air. I gulped it all back in short gasps and found my legs still through the hole of the tire.

I remember my kids learning to swing by simply moving their lower legs back and forth and getting frustrated at the low amount of moving. Lean into it: legs, body and all! But don't go too far!

Our life is full of pendulum swings. The most visible now is the political pendulum. It swings every few years from conservative to liberal, from Democrat to Republican and back again. Ever searching for the elusive "swing" vote.

Our love life seems full of pendulum swings from passionate love to passionate hate, from "I don't want you by me" to "I can't get enough of you"; from never leaving the bed to sleeping on the couch. We search for that "balance."

In our work life we love it, we hate it. We get a new boss we love but if we wait around another will come that drives us crazy. We are close to coworkers and then they, or we, move on. The pendulum swings back and forth as we seek balance.

How do we stop it? Do we want to stop it? I find myself playing the role of damper quite often. Dampers are used in tall buildings and in radio towers as a counter weight to cut down on the swing of the towers from high winds. As the tower goes one way, the damper will go the other to counter balance. Maybe because I can see the benefits of both sides and the destructiveness of the extremes of both sides. Maybe it is my middle child syndrome: seeking peace and not conflict. Maybe it is just because of a life lived sensing, seeing, and touching extremes both by mistake and by choice. Maybe it is simply because I enjoy playing "devil's advocate" and taking the opposing view to whoever is in the discussion.

Winds of change will cause the pendulum to swing back and forth. We may be able to put the brakes on it for a while like a child grinding a swing to a halt with worn out tennis shoes but it cannot last. The best we can do is to lean against the crazy to keep BOTH sides from going extreme. Because it is at the EXTREME ends that our world will come crashing down.

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