Tipping Points and Angry Birds

Tipping Points
Last night a tremendous storm, complete with hail, thunder, and lightning, came through my garden.

I like my garden. When I’m away from home, I look forward to seeing my plants again. I even enjoy weeding. It’s very satisfying to spend an hour or two rooting out the evildoers and making space for the good guys.

Today, though, I awoke to find several plants decimated, the flowers in my deck boxes are all gone, the birds’ nests are gone from between the deck beams, and my paths are covered with debris and bark mulch. I was dismayed. I don’t love it any more. I’ve survived storms before, but this morning I became dispirited. I will tidy up, but now the struggle seems like a pointless vanity. I will take the plant boxes off my deck rail, but I don’t think I’ll put them back up.

All of this makes me think about selling the house and moving. I’ve thought about it before, but this is adding to the reasons for actually going ahead with it. Next year it will be a real possibility.

Not far away from where I live, people in other parts of Alberta are having to decide whether or not to repair their homes or move completely after a devastating flood. My concerns are miniscule compared to theirs. Theirs is a no-win situation with choices that must be made immediately.

It seems petty to wail about my plants when other people are homeless, but tipping points are not always monumental and they aren’t always logical. Sometimes a relatively small thing can tip the emotional balance and lead to a life-changing new direction.

I recently read an article about people in Japan who become agoraphobic (hikikomori), and in the comments people noted that sometimes even seemingly minor things could trigger it. One person isolated himself after losing a tooth while playing hockey, another left it too late to sign up for an art class. The emotional significance was far greater than would seem to be warranted by the event. It was a tipping point.

I know all about tipping points because I play Angry Birds. In that game you have to catapult the angry bird at exactly the right angle and velocity to hit the board (or brick or stone) in exactly the right way to make a weight tumble down and crush whatever is below. If you get it right, you get three stars. Pointless, yes. Frustrating, oh yes. Time-wasting, oh-my-goodness yes. But satisfying when you get it right? You’d better believe it!

The trick, of course, is to be in control of the tipping. When the tipping goes wrong, it just mucks things up a bit. It doesn’t completely change the landscape. A good tipping changes everything.

Image source: http://www.cargolaw.com/images/disaster2007.Ital.Florida7.GIF