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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


January 16th, 2019

Any neighborhood kid knows that sometimes, in order to spring forward as fast as possible, you’ve got to move backward.


Now it’s one thing to simply take a step back in life.  But if that step back is one that is difficult, one charged with resistance, one requiring a confrontation with fear, then it might be the sort of rocket fuel needed to get us moving forward much faster than we’ve ever gone before.


Our culture is primed with talk about forward motion.  Perpetually forward is the name of the game.  But just like the unwise explorer blindly follows a compass without looking around, sometimes the most efficient way forward requires a completely counter-intuitive step in a direction that seems completely arbitrary, even at odds with our aims.


Few individuals haven’t fooled around with some kind of slingshot at some point in their lives and despite how little time may have been spent with this boy toy, it’s fairly intuitive that pulling back on the sling isn’t just a factor for how fast our projectile will shoot forward.  It’s also a function of aim.  With a slingshot, we are in a sense aiming backwards.  By pulling the projectile and sling backwards, we aim by pointing the sling exactly away from our target.  How fast and sure we are to hit our mark depends on how much we charge our shot by pulling back.


All this might seem fairly unavailable outside of the world of slings and bows, however the analogy can be a powerful one if we remember that it hinges on the connection between tension in the sling and the tension we feel emotionally – most commonly in the form of some kind of fear.  For example, how many people are totally devoid of passion for their job, and yet keep at it?  Quitting somehow seems or feels like a step backward in life.  It’s a loss of security and comfort about where the next paycheck is coming from, and in tandem: the next meal, the next rent check, and so on and so forth.  And yet, for someone who is generally attached to this kind of security, what would be more motivating than to be without such a source of income, regardless of how crummy the job is?  Such a person is charged with a kind of fear, perhaps even a desperation to move forward.  This is how the slingshot carries into our daily life. 


We can see this in a more positive way, such as with a person who is looking forward to a particularly splendid meal.  Such an individual might abstain from breakfast and lunch in order to build up an appetite for a meal that promises to be a particular treat.  Doing so is in some regard uncomfortable, just as quitting a crap job in order to motivate one’s self to find a better circumstance is uncomfortable, albeit in a different way.


Just as the pitcher charges a throw by bringing the arm far behind, and likewise with the batter, we would do well to keep in mind that sometimes, in order to move forward – to spring forward – we must move backwards.


Perhaps the best time to hold this image in mind is when we find that we are already moving backwards, by circumstance, by the vicissitudes of life or even by the planned stratagem of an opponent.  Instead of resisting and perpetually trying to move forward, we might wonder how such a direction can be leveraged in orders of magnitude for our benefit.  Resisting the flow of events, instead of trying to see them with manipulative and strategic clarity is like trying to shot a slingshot while pulling the sling back less and less.  With a slingshot it’s intuitive that we have a less powerful shot the less we pull the sling back, and this is the core of what makes it a good analogy for circumstance.


wrong direction with as much force as possible.


If in whatever circumstance, or with which ever goal, the current seems against us, our efforts seem to move us backwards, it might be of enormous benefit toa class="internal-link" href=""> pause for a moment and wonder if the way to our goal becomes more efficient by moving away from that goal in some way.


It’s one thing to grind one’s way through an obstacle, or to go around that obstacle, but it’s quite another to let that obstacle push you back into a circumstance that eventually rockets you towards a goal.


This episode references Episode 238: A Lucilius Parable: The Bounce and Episode 23: Pause.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 276: Slingshot

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