The float of fortune

I’ve been thinking of a way to comfort someone I know who is going through a hard time, with a very simple analogy. The wheel thing was on my mind: for every down, there is inevitably an up, until the wheel stops. It occurred to me that this can then be equally applied when you’re happy: for every up, there’s a down. While this is to a degree true, the wheel thing just doesn’t work as a picture of reality.

A wheel is round, the highest point is always an exact distance from the axis, as is the lowest point. In life, very high highs may be replaced by low points which aren’t really low, they’re just lower than the high was. Likewise, your most horrible trials are sometimes followed by no more than normality. Yet I’ve found life has a way of returning to equilibrium. There’s a kind of default state that we tend to return to, though in fairness, that level can change over time.

It’s much more like a float, the kind you attach to a fishing line, bobbing in a small pond, being played with by a curious child. Sometimes, your state of mind gets pushed down, sometimes it gets pulled right above the water. Yet it will always tend to return to the surface, bobbing along in contentment. Factors beyond your control can cause your default state of mind to rise or fall, as when the sun evaporates some of the water in your little pond, or rain adds to it. Yet you have at least a measure of control over the flow of your life. You can fill the pond, raising your default state of mind, coaxing ‘neutral’ higher on the scale of happiness. You can also drain the pond, lowering neutral.

The comparison doesn’t have quite the ring of Wheel of Fortune, but it does a better job.


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