by Beth Fiedler
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Pencils by Beth Ann Fiedler ©2006 Beth Ann Fiedler 3/64. All Rights Reserved.
I like to write with regular, No. 2 wooden pencils. Though, curiously, I have opted to use a mechanical pencil to scratch out this piece.
Of the many times I attended college for various reasons including to increase my learning, there have been several people who have stood out. Today, I pick ‘Craig’ and what I like to call the “Amazing Pencil Incident”.
I do not remember Craig’s last name but I believe it started with an ‘H’. He loved planes like I love planes and that was enough to begin a friendship. He was from Aurora, or was it Peoria, IL? Again, I don’t recall. But, one thing that I do recall is the day we were sitting in class and he dropped his pencil to the floor. Upon stooping to retrieve it, he said, “Gravity works.” Is it cliché to say that we were in the middle of an Aerodynamics class at the time? (It actually may have been Physics or Design but the story sounds a lot better to me if I remember it as the Aero class.)
Anyway, that was the beginning of my understanding of life at a completely different level. Easy now, I didn’t say that I understood all of life, the operative word here is “beginning”. It was simple and concise. It did, “work”. We could count on things falling to the ground if we let them go. It was law—Newton said so. But we were in an aerodynamics class! So, I knew that we could fly—thereby overcoming the fundamental law with a greater one. We could even prevent the falling or make the falling a part of the plan. How profound. There were ‘higher’ laws—no pun intended. Laws had truth but could be overcome. After all, I had been more directly exposed to the ‘legal’ community later in my life where I became even more aware of the fact that there is law, and then there is ‘legality’. You can be guided by the principles of one but use the “it works” principle of the other to overcome the first. I won’t say what came first and note that I didn’t say ‘ethical’ at all. I said legal or the law. But I will leave that to you to decide while I dig up my wooden pencils. There, that is much better.
Back to the falling pencil and the meaning of life in aerodynamics class. So many things passed through my head when he said, “Gravity works”. I think I mustered up a giggle and something like, “Indeed.” (I never said that I was profound, mind you.) I seem to vaguely recall someone saying, “If a pencil falls in a classroom, can you hear it fall in the forest?” It may have even been me. Infinitely more profound than the giggle and the commentary, “Indeed”. But, now I was faced with an interesting dilemma. If there were levels of law based on our level of understanding where we could overcome the fundamental with the higher, is it possible that this also applied to other matters in life such as the pursuit of happiness and spiritual beliefs?
How many times have I read the Bible or a passage in it but did not ‘get it’ until some “magical” light bulb clicked on. I mean, loving thy neighbor is hard when they are blaring stereos at 3 AM or their dog is pooping on your lawn. Being angry at your neighbor because t(he)y are (is) being (a) jackass(es) and inconsiderate does not negate the command to love thy neighbor. Fundamental truths like love thy neighbor and gravity works, are true whether we understand them or not. By the way, they are true whether our other emotions or the expediency of the moment try to drown them out, too.
Truth is not dependent on every one of us understanding. The interesting and lasting thing about truth is that it is still truth regardless of whether or not you believe it, ‘get it’ completely right, or currently understand it at all. It may not yet be revealed to you, the light may not yet be turned on. And that is how I came to understand a little more about life. Today, I may see a pencil drop from the sky and in a year, learn to make that pencil stay in the air for hours. Intriguing. My level of understanding the fundamental ‘laws’ inherently propels me to greater levels of understanding. Just like loving your neighbor would allow you to love your self, your maker, AND your neighbor, too. You may also understand your neighbor better because you can recognize that not every one is at the same level at the same time. I finally got the phrase, “It’s all good”. Better late than never.
As a child, we know that when our parents pick us up and twirl us around that they will not drop us. After all, they want us to fly, not drop to the ground! When we get older, we understand that mommy can’t support our weight any more to do that and we find that we must look for other means to fly-swing sets, slides and the like. Is it hard for us to learn that we have to fly on our own? Or is it just because at some point we need to learn to fly on our own? The eagle makes its’ nest high above. When the baby eagles are ready to fly, the mother eagle literally pushes them out of the nest. Cruel? Well, may-be except for one thing. The mother eagle continues to fly below the falling baby. Just in case the baby eagle is not quite yet ready to fly, she will be there to catch baby in her wings. Yet, though it pains us, we have to kick the baby out of the nest. They don’t need to know that we will be circling to catch them. But sometimes, we just can’t. In human terms, there are limits to everyone’s ability to carry someone else through to the next level. In terms of love, we have to learn to love beyond those who love us because if we only love those who love us, then it isn’t really love at all.
Do we forget the simple in order to allow the complex? No room for both? I mean, can’t we remember the wooden pencils even though we have mechanical ones available to us? I did, right. It can’t be that hard. Can’t we relish the simplicity of loving your neighbor while we insist that they also make arrangements to clean up the poop? Can this be our foundation to propel us beyond our little ‘laws’ into an even greater understanding?
I don’t know, but the answer to the questions of, “If a pencil falls in a classroom, can you hear it fall in the forest?” becomes interesting. After all, it had to fall in the forest first to become a pencil—at least the wooden kind. Therefore, you should hear it but may-be not in the order of events that you thought since if it never fell in the forest, it could not be heard falling in the classroom. One must happen before the next can in the great order of things. And, we must understand the first before the next level can be achieved. It becomes overly simple. Perhaps that is why it is so perplexing and complex.
I remind you that I was at the ‘beginning’ of understanding life and may-be I still am. But one thing is for certain, I will stop writing now because, “I have already said more that I know”. –Locate the author of that witticism, he knew more about life than me.*
Perhaps that is the answer to all of our questions—knowing when to stop pondering and just live, regardless of whether we use the mechanical pencil or the wooden one.
*(To keep you from struggling too much, the author of the unknown witticism is Wolf Logan whose musings can be found online at http://www.laughingwolf.net/).
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