On the Corner
By Robert Docter –
I once saw a sound stage full of standing dominos race through a runa-way ripple of self-destruction that took close to 10 minutes. Each little black rectangle stood at attention about an inch behind the one in front. Thousands of them. Took ’em days to set it up.
Then–with cameras and drums rolling, the guy tipped the first domino, and from that point on it was unstoppable–around corners, over bridges, through tunnels, splitting and coming together in series after series of intricate designs until it collapsed in a gigantic domino mess–completely useless. They probably needed a skip-loader and a dump truck to clean it up.
Where clear cause and effect relationships occur, I believe strongly that a domino theory impacts the human condition–both for good and for bad. People argue this point. Usually, they attack the validity of the relationship. That, of course, is where the domino theory breaks down. If the little black rectangle isn’t standing in the path of its falling predecessor, there’s no relationship. But if it is, watch out when someone accidentally touches any one of them.
Yes, I agree with Meredith Willson’s Music Man, Harold Hill, when he described for the citizens of River City how their children would slide down the slippery slope of degradation:
“Well, you’ve got trouble my friends –right here — say trouble right here in River City –and that starts with ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for POOL.
Friends, the idle brain is the devil’s playground–we’ve got to figure out a way to keep the young ones moral after school.
Mothers of River City–heed that warning before it’s too late.
Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption.
The minute your son leaves the house–does he re-buckle his knickerbockers below the knee?
Is there a dime novel hidden in the corn crib?
Is he starting to memorize jokes from Captain Billy’s Whizbang?
Are certain words creeping into his conversation–words like… ‘SWELL’?
Why so, my friends … we got trouble –right here in River City–and that starts with ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for POOL.
Now, our good friend, Harold Hill had his own motives. He knew a lot about domino effects because he had his own little domino effect working at the time. It’s a great show, and love– along with 76 trombones–redeems Harold in the end.
It’s true, my friends. Each of us goes through life constructing our own “pool halls.” In our thoughts, our feelings, our behaviors, we move along the pathway of our existence, on the edge of a slope guided either by some strong, positive, inner moral compass or by the demands of our own bodies for selfish pleasure and gain.
Two options. One leads to hope–and the other to the only real heresy–despair.
A domino effect is present in each. According to the apostle Paul, the road to hope begins with suffering. That’s a hard one for us to accept. I have discovered that the acquisition of goals without effort seems to diminish the value of the goal. I’ve also noticed that striving to minimize all suffering for our children does not necessarily yield great respect from them.
Well, if suffering comes first on the road to hope, then seeking only after personal comfort must be the first step to despair. Life is not always comfortable, and making that a primary goal looks to me like the first domino in a chain of events leading down hill. Harold Hill called it sloth.
Paul says perseverance is the next domino on the road to hope. Hanging in there in the face of difficulty creates a tremendous learning environment. Sticking it through–going to the end–using feedback intelligently, and maintaining a determined focus on the goal–these lead to character –one of my favorite words. Character leads to a vital necessity for human growth–hope.
Some among us get tired very easily. They have never suffered, so they have never learned to persevere. They give up too soon. Often, they almost make it, but they fail to hold on. (There it is again–almost–the saddest word in the English language.) They move through life having first experiences over and over again. They don’t get anywhere, and their slide is getting faster. They are without character. They have no integrity. They are incomplete, and after awhile, they start to dislike themselves even in the face of what might be monetary success. They feel empty, hopeless, and they despair.
So we’re all engaged in a domino effect–the only question is the direction we’re moving –and just remember: we’ve got to figure out a way to keep the young ones moral after school.