It’s hard to explain why we love the Slinky, isn’t it? My own preference is for the classic version in its standard size – perfect for the feel in your palms, its soothing rhythm as the weight shifts from one hand to the other, as you listen to its tinny sound and find yourself as lulled and fascinated as any child.
If you’re at all like me, you also hope you don’t get carried away – tossing it and twisting it, and risking that it ends up in knots.
One of my sons was discussing the physics of the Slinky recently, and more than a little gleefully, he stood in front of me and illustrated the way it creates waves of various sorts. There were mentions of oscillation and harmonic motion, and stored energy moving through the spring. I listened politely, and was mesmerized by seeing the dusty-colored coil put through its paces as it danced and shuddered.
I can’t reproduce the proper explanation, but certainly the jaunty flexibility of this toy is part of its appeal. Yet I am drawn to it for another reason – for the hopefulness of the spiral form when the spring itself is stretched, reminiscent of the circle but escaping the end game of infinite enclosure.
These days, I am relieved to find anything to combat the sensation of being trapped in my own infinite enclosure. Back to Square One. In terms of fatigue. In terms of finances.
Back to chasing my tail, running in place, and finding myself where I stood two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago – but with less to sustain me and less to offer. Of course I know that isn’t the case (or so I tell myself when I can), but it feels like it is and I’m fighting the feeling. I’m facing it down by visualizing the suppleness of the spiral, attempting to re-frame my orientation in light of another sort of movement – my personal variation on harmonic motion – my extensions and wobbling, my waves and flutters, my oscillating body.
Spinning Your Wheels
Who isn’t trapped by some aspect of birth, biology, psychology, or circumstance? Who doesn’t dream of finding their way off the treadmill – by hook or by crook? Haven’t you had weeks and months – maybe even years – when you’re certain you’re the tiny creature in the cage? You’re scrambling, scurrying, spinning your wheels… and getting absolutely nowhere.
I recall periods on the corporate merry-go-round where inefficiencies were obvious, opportunities were bypassed, promotion seemed impossible, and I found no means to marshal resources to change the course of events. I would try, and try again differently, and still find myself stuck. Naturally, there were exceptions, but the freedom to do what was necessary to create those exceptions is lessened when we take on “family life.” Or so it has been for me.
And speaking of my family life, there were wretched months that dragged into even more wretched years, when I was caught in the legal spin cycle or its residual echo chamber. There was eventual acceptance of being beaten – defeated by the family court system.
There have been years of parenting routines, concession to tedium, and all of this no different than the necessary work that every mother or father deals with to some degree. And yes, those years have been punctuated by great joy; these are the moments we cherish, the moments that uplift us, the moments that strengthen us.
I have always written; I am a writer.
I have written to promote products and services. I have written to promote people. I have written as a process of self-discovery.
I have written to advance my ideas and take exception to others. I have written to open doors – to inform, to teach, at times (I hope) to inspire.
I have made my living by writing at various points, and even when I haven’t, I’ve continued to keep up the exercise of it, to honor the beauty of the written word, to recognize language as our ultimate tool – to be used playfully, smartly, and respectfully – because language moves us and stills us, it tangles us up and it releases us. It negotiates with inertia; it advances our causes.
And speaking of “advancement,” the term itself is defined as an act of forward movement. Its synonyms include improvement, progression, progress, and betterment.
Related words include:
promotion, forward movement, onward movement.
Progression. Improvement. Onward movement.
Thoughtful concepts reside in these open-ended and non-linear terms. I especially like the notion of onward movement – upward, downward, curving or meandering. Like life with its roller coaster ride, with our periods of speeding and slowing, soaring and spiraling.
If we are lucid, if we are attentive, then all experience equates to forward movement. And if we are weary, performing by rote, and seemingly spinning our wheels, then couldn’t we accept this, too, as onward movement?
I realize that I must envision the spiral and not the circle, the spring with its stored energy and surprising sustainability. The Slinky with its flexibility, its good humor – my model for movement, for fluid advancement, for betterment, for embracing life that is less than perfect and no less mesmerizing.
I imagine the spring as I reform my inner dialogue: Keep going.
I know that this, too, is advancement – as time marches on, as I take more chances, as I open windows with hellos, as I keep to the practice of writing, as my children grow, as I have steered them closer to being launched. I may be dizzied by the sensation of returning to Square One when in fact, I have spiraled onward – like the coquettish coil, the science of which I may never comprehend but the meaning becomes a beacon: life is always about forward movement, about advancing, about expanding our stores of knowledge, the oscillations of the body.
There are moments when we look up and say “I’ve been here before. I haven’t learned. I haven’t progressed. What happened?” But we aren’t in the same place at all. We’re older, sillier, happier, sadder, angrier, calmer, wiser. And yes, we’re likely more tired. But we retain some stored energy, our awareness of agility, our capacity for movement in multiple directions. There is no standing still, no perpetual Square One.
© D A Wolf