The Point of Suspension

Image result for pendulum

I’m always cheered when I come across a collection of words that can have multiple interpretations. Shades of meaning, nuance, literal versus figurative attribution–all of these make the navigation through language an adventure-filled discovery.

Over the last many years–though primarily since I’ve been writing in the past two–I’ve come to know myself better. Spending the amount of time I have expounding about the conflicts and flaws of my characters has been therapeutic. If writer’s write “what they know,” then it’s not outrageous to conclude that I know a lot about loyalties and betrayals.

In every story, I have characters assessing whether the choices they made were right and whether they ought to, in any given moment, choose X over Y, or do nothing at all.

Near paralysis borne of fear and worry. That pretty much sums up the challenges they face. This comes as no surprise as this is how I live through most of my days.

The point of suspension is the point from which the pendulum hangs. In a “perfect” pendulum, the point of suspension is frictionless thereby preserving the energy that initially put “the bob,” i.e., the weight on the end of the string, into endless motion.

Loyalty and betrayal are on opposite swings of the pendulum.

In my writing and in my daily experience, nothing interesting happens “in the middle.” During the swing time, as the kinetic energy builds up, the tension increases. At the top of the swing, the bob stops, albeit only for a split second. It is in that micro second when something happens, something breaks, loyalties are tested, fear is exposed, walls crumble, betrayals reach their ripest state.

In that fraction of a moment and at the extremity, wonder and terror are equally balanced.

This is where my mind dwells and where I live: at the top of the pendulum’s swing. When everything slows for long enough to feel a clamping of anxiety around my heart and a flooding of thoughts rush through my brain.

Many people like the in the “in between” of the pendulum because they can witness something “happening.” Not me, it’s at the extremes where I see the greatest opportunities for either success or failure. And it is as black and white as that: either success or failure. There is no “in between.”

Living on the swing of a pendulum is no easy task. A tremendous amount of cerebral energy goes into constantly apprising one’s life and wondering how it could be better–in whatever random and arbitrary way one might choose to assign parameters and merit to “better.”

Because what if “better” never happens? What if, in relative or existential terms, I never attain that success? Could it be that I’ll look back and say, “Well, that was a waste of a life:  Your life, you foolish person with nothing to show.”

This sort of fatalistic thinking might sound like a midlife crisis. It might be. But if it is, it’s been going on for years, though I’ll admit has intensified through my habit of writing.

And this brings us back to that “point of suspension.”

Not only is it from where the pendulum hangs but also these words perfectly reflect a nuanced meaning. “The point of suspension” also defines the rationale behind not knowing all the answers. “The point of suspension” is the reason why we continue to try new things and risk failure in the hopes of succeeding.”

The point of suspension” allows us to let go of the edge of the boat and swim out to the deepest part of the lake with the fear of sharp-toothed fish and giant water snakes coursing through our thoughts as we take the next breath and confident stroke. The middle ground of the pendulum’s swing is akin to staying in the boat. While there is safety in that, there is no extreme.

To my mind, that’s where life happens: at the top of the swing when the bob stops long enough to permit fear and doubt to surface.

The “point of suspension” keeps the pendulum in motion; the “point of suspension” keeps me going as well. Because when the “swinging” ends, all that’s left is a motionless bob hovering dead center. And as I see it, that sort of entropy is just like death.

 

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