“What’s the function of the fulcrum?” It has been thirty years, but that question can still cause hysterical laughter within a certain group of friends I know, even when asked out of the blue, with no apparent context at all. In a moment, we’re all transported back to the early 1980’s. The scene is a campsite by a lake a few miles outside of our little town. The event is a camping trip taken collectively by a bunch of young adults from our church. The Lovely Lady and I didn’t participate in the overnight part of the trip, me being partial to a comfortable bed that doesn’t have a “Vacancy” sign beckoning to every creepy crawly within wriggling distance. We did, however make the trip out to enjoy the company at a memorable cookout in the evening.
Inquiring minds want to know, or so I’ve been led to believe, but some things are just best left to the imagination. I’m as curious as the next person about how things work and have spent countless hours taking apart various nonfunctioning mechanisms, confident that if I can see how they are supposed to operate, I can soon have them ticking along again. That said, I am usually content to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak, and not interfere in a situation where the job is getting done just fine, thank you.
There was a couple on that fateful campout, a little older than the average for the group, with IQ’s significantly higher than the average for said group. These wonderful folks were, like the Lovely Lady and I, not entirely comfortable with the camping experience, but they were game to try. In due time, they laid out the individual pieces of their tent on the ground and he began construction. She was trying, bless her heart, but got caught up in the design features of the various pieces. As he struggled gamely, she kept turning a certain piece around and querying, to no one in particular, “What’s the function of the fulcrum?” As they are wont to do in such situations, frustration levels rose in proportion to the lack of progress and work finally ceased altogether with the tent still somewhat incomplete. We didn’t stay the night, but I think I remember being told that the couple slept in their Volkswagon bus.
Every once in awhile, I find myself voicing that question, like our friend, to no one in particular. It happens when I can’t understand why something won’t work. All the pieces are in place, but the result is not as expected. At times like that, the nonsense question (well, to me it was nonsense; to her advanced brain it made perfect sense) is just a verbal shrug, something to illustrate my confusion and surrender.
On the other side of the coin, I will also assure you that when something is working flawlessly, I will not take it apart to find out what makes it tick. This, I’ve learned by long and painful experience. There was the new starter for my old Chevy truck which I disassembled to find out how the brushes contacted the armature. Not a wise move for a man with less than three hands. That’s how many you need to reassemble such a motor without hours of frustrating, repetitive toil. We also don’t want to discuss the old music box, for which a replacement main spring was never located. No…it was fine before I took it apart; it’s just that you can’t stuff that thing back in there after it uncoils all over the table.
I understand what that wisest of counselors Gandalf the Grey (or is the White? I never know.) meant when he said, “He who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom.” Actually, it was just as clear when I heard the old mechanic express it briefly when I was a child, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
I know I’m a frustration to the folks around me who have analytical brains. These folks are put together in such a way that they can’t abide things that are put together. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. It is fair to say that they want to know both why things work and why they don’t work. Facts and figures, please. Keep a journal, do a study, have a discussion group. I’m not such a person. I can’t tell you why it works; I’m just excited when it does. And, please don’t stop it while it’s running. This applies to inanimate objects, to business operations, and to relationships. I don’t need to know “the function of the fulcrum”, just as long as it actually functions.
Obviously, one doesn’t get to be my age without some analytical skills. When things are broken, I work hard to figure out why and they get the adjustments and new parts necessary. For today, I just want my loved ones, my friends, to know that I’m happy you’re there. Whatever it is you’re doing right, don’t change it. Let somebody else work out the blueprints and the schematics. I refuse to let tomorrow’s “what ifs” steal the joy from today’s blessings.
For today, the fulcrum functions and that’s enough for me.
“…For I have learned, whatever state I am in, therewith to be content.”