On my morning walk I began to ponder potential. I imagined a man dying from exposure on a cold winter night, his back leaning against an abandoned building that would have kept him alive, if only he’d broken in for the night. I thought about a survival tip which tells you not to die of dehydration with water in your canteen. The claim is that it really does happen. This led to my brain imagining the unfortunate instances that befall our everyday lives, the emotional fires that we ourselves fan into huge blazes that burn out of control. Why do we do it? Why do we make ourselves so miserable? In a word, potential.
We envision the perfect outcome. Every time. It just happens. It’s why the majority of piano teachers end up with a list of transient students. It’s why you have art supplies tucked into a box in your closet that you just can’t part with. It’s why I have a scroll saw that I never touch. It’s for sale by the way if you want it.
Imagine a father and son at the park. A beautiful summer day, the slightest hint of a breeze, just enough to dry the perspiration from your brow. You have a surprise for your son, a balsa wood glider. He’s just six years old now, the perfect age to enjoy this magical toy. A toy that artfully marries aerodynamics and wind direction, wing manipulation and launch speed. I can tell you from experience, when the glider leaves your hand and a breeze catches it to carry it 60 yards from where your standing; when it glides straight and true, then lightly touches down on the grass as if piloted by a veteran flyboy – it really is magic.
You help him assemble the fragile parts, answering his questions patiently. What’s this metal tab for? Why does it need this part in the back? How far will it go? You want him to experience the first toss so you show him the proper way to hold the glider from below. Forefinger behind the stabilizer you lightly rock your wrist above your shoulder, explaining that the best glide will happen with just a gentle push. You hand your son the toy and help with the hand position.
He follows every direction faithfully. Just over the shoulder he lightly leans forward and gingerly pushes the glider into the breeze. The toy unceremoniously nose dives into the ground, followed directly by the exact same physical reaction from your son. He’s devastated! He wails and gnashes, practically renting his own clothing in shame and remorse. You flush, trying to quiet his broken spirit and hoping the nearby park patrons are an understanding lot. Why is he taking this so hard? We’ll just try it again! Stop blubbering boy, grab those boot straps and pull!
You know why he flew off the handle. We all do. Potential. In his mind – on this perfect day, with the perfect toy, he and his perfect dad were all going to fly together! He had already seen the flight in his mind, he was already exhilarated by the first flight, even though it had not yet happened. A crushing blow.
Thinking along these lines, I’m amazed any of us ever get out of bed. It is then that I picture the boy and his father, drying the tears, adjusting the wing, and trying again. ~TH~