Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Tipping Point

     Everything has a tipping point, Company, did you know that?  It's true.  If you really think about, if you can wrap your head around it, if you are high as a kite sitting in Forman's basement, then you will realize that every event in history has a tipping point.  Part of the reason a lot of people don't realize this is because we all live through thousands of tipping points in our lives.  Sometimes we understand that we are at that moment that, that point, that one solitary action that will irrevocably change the course of history, and sometimes we just sort of bumble our way into it.  But they are there: these little tipping points, because every historical event is like an ice cream cone.  No matter how big and wide they are as one goes back they all eventually narrow back to the one tiny moment or action that set them into motion.  Let me give you some examples if you are still confused, Company.
     Think about this scenerio: You go to the sink to get a glass of water.  You turn on the faucet and suddenly there is water spraying everywhere, and because you are not mechanically inclined and can't find the flashlight you call a plumber to fix the problem.  When the plumber comes and sticks his nose down under your sink he notes that something seems a little amiss with the pipes.  The copper pipes are rusting through and falling apart at all the joints and he knows that is not right.  Something is very wrong with your plumbing.  With a little further investigation he discovers that all throughout your home the plumbing is substandard.  He calls around to the proper authorities and soon they are discovering substandard plumbing, and electrical, and other construction material deficiencies in many, many houses in your subdivisions.  Soon it comes out that the general contractor who built the subdivision was deeply corrupt and was getting inferior materials and pocketing the difference, then paying off the inspectors to give the houses a clean bill of health.  Soon the legislature is enacting comprehensive building inspection reform and sweeping changes in the home building industry take place.  That's a pretty broad change affecting every house built in your state for ever into eternity.  Wow.  Notice how that worked: it all began with your drink of water and it expanded and expanded and expanded until it had blown up into full-fledged housing reform.  That's how it works.  Everything has to start with some act by some person, even if that wasn't the intended consequence of the act.  Sometimes, however, the act was very much intentional.
     Let us take a look now at World War II, more specifically D-Day.  That was a pretty big historical event, wouldn't you agree, Company?  Thousands of Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and established a toehold in Europe from which to liberate the continent.  That was a huge coordinated movement of man and machine.  But it had to start somewhere.  I like to think of the captain of that very first ship who called for full steam ahead and turned out into the English Channel.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  And look what that simple action turned into.  Saving Private Ryan, that's what it turned into.  The cool thing is that when you doing something intentional like that, when you are ordering full steam ahead, when you are striking the first key on the typewriter to write the Watergate article, when you are preparing the first slide for the microscope to map the human genome, you don't realize what you are starting in motion.  You don't think of the big ramifications of making that order, of striking that key, of putting that slide into the microscope tray because you are so busy making sure the boat doesn't run aground, or typing word after word, or marking what you see through the lens.  It's only when you have a moment to digest and think, perhaps at lunch with a friend, or maybe when you are winding down at night with a glass of wine, if that's the kind of thing you do.
      See how it works?  Everything has to have something to set it in motion.  The slinky can't go down the stairs unless it starts at the top.  That's deal with EVERYTHING.  It has to start somewhere.  So just remember that as you get the glass of water, or as you blow that stop sign, or as you jump the fence at that Styx concert, that you never know what you are starting.  Are you thirsty still?

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