Murmonic Mind Meld
-The Philosophical Discussion Project
The Elephant and the See-Saw
(The Theory of Balance.)
Posted: Feb 25, 2007
One universal truth that we all learned in elementary school is the theory of equilibrium. Later we may have learned how this theory applies to biology, chemistry, economics and physics, but it doesn't seem that anyone really told us how this theory applies to life.
The easiest way to explain how the theory of equilibrium applies to life is to take a closer look at the patterns of weight loss in an individual. A person may diet for a week and lose between one and five pounds. That is a result that leads to immediate gratification and the individual is inspired to keep going with their changes. The next week, however, the person may have kept to their changes exactly, yet they are disappointed that they only lose one pound, or even do not lose any weight at all. This frustrates them, the immediate gratification is not evident, and many of them lose all hope.
To visualize the theory of equilibrium at work in the above example, think about an anal-retentive, perfectionist kitchen gnome maintaining the kitchen cupboards. Think about it as if you were to go into the kitchen, open the cupboard and take out five cans of soup from the middle of the stack on the top shelf and two cans of vegetables from one of the ends. As soon as you leave the kitchen gnome would run right in, probably curse at you, shake his head, and say something like "Oh dear, why can't these people learn to keep things organized!" Then this gnome would proceed to re-stack the cans so that they are all in rows of exactly the same height, labels facing forward, and move things around so that they are alphabetized by category –yet again.
I always say to my friends who are trying to lose weight when they are actively dieting and exercising to keep track of their progress both by the scale and by tape measurements. When they find themselves on a week where they have lost no weight they can then measure themselves and find that there still is progress. They can visually see that the little kitchen gnome is re-organizing the cans in the pantry, so to speak, and they will find that they have lost inches instead of pounds.
The same theory also applies in achieving any goal in life. You may be a video game programmer, a writer, a musician, an inventor, and you send your product around to any place you can think of for the first two weeks. You will find that you may get some immediate gratification, but then after a week or two of doing the same thing, you start to see no results. It is at that time that the little kitchen gnome is re-organizing the cans in the pantry. So keep doing what you are doing. You have sent a snowball rolling down a hill. You will start to see the results of your labor again real soon, and the second wave of results is always bigger than the first!
Finally, this same theory also applies to emotions. Let's say you have a weekend where things are really going great for you. If you are sending out your "product" you find that are getting positive responses. If you are trying to lose weight, you can see that things are successful. Perhaps you went out and socialized all weekend. You are on an emotional high. Then what happens? Some balance-obsessed perfectionist gnome comes along and sees that things are out of balance. He throws an elephant on your see-saw just to make sure that there is balance. When your positive emotions diffuse one by one, you find that all that is left is a gigantic elephant on your see-saw. Hang in there for a day or two. The balance gnome will come along and lead the elephant away with some peanuts.
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