by James Paulin
Interplanetary space travel is theoretically very possible due to a concept called “The Slingshot Effect”. The concept is to circle a planet or moon and use the gravitational pull to accelerate a vehicle to speeds capable of reaching another planet to repeat the process without consuming any stored fuel and therefore using each encounter as a means to move onward toward a final destination. This might be considered a free ride or an opportunistic advantage but it wisely uses things that come in the path of the journey as opportunities to surge ahead when it easily could have been a collision course and certain destruction. Every time a joyful or unfortunate circumstance is encountered in life, a personal choice determines how the course of our journey is affected. The influence of these pivot points may dampen progress and depress the spirit or be embraced and leveraged to produce comprehensive adjustments that are essential to a sense of well being and accomplishment.
Change is the only certainty in the Universe. Reminiscing about every time a major event or trial affects a lifestyle, one has the opportunity to decide that there is another, perhaps better way to live out hopes and dreams. Sometimes possibilities are regretfully missed and bemoaned with a “should have or could have, if I only would have”. Accepting change as inevitable would imply that being prepared to adapt is the best attitude. However, a common tendency is to remain comfortable in the status quo by taking an easier road that is well worn and familiar. Twists and turns are handled so easily when youth and health are taken for granted but more difficult as age takes its toll. Nevertheless, every time a curve comes our way, caution can be followed by acceleration just as a racecar takes advantage of a fresh straightaway.
Size matters. The variety of incidents comes in every way, shape and form. A missed appointment, a cold, or a fender bender pales in comparison to the loss of a loved one or conversely, a new baby. In a way they all have a significant role to play in the development of an individuals character. How did the simple beginnings and self-sufficiency’s of a country lawyer form the backbone and morality of Abraham Lincoln? In his most memorable speech, the Gettysburg Address, a priority for social justice motivated his decisions even with the confines of a society beset with a widespread prejudice based culture. Little decisions early in his life led to a cataclysmic confrontation costing a measure of life within the nation that is unbelievable even today. Other issues were involved as well but a beginning of equality for all was certainly a priority.
Life is about choices. There is nothing that one can do to avoid unforeseen circumstances that are encountered in every life but the way one reacts to each situation is always a personal decision. Medal of honor awards are frequently given posthumously as recognition of the ultimate sacrificial choice. Gallantry beyond the call of duty and risk of life are required but the act usually occurs while following orders given by a superior. It would seem totally irrational to choose to put ones life in grave danger and a certain horrible death if it was within a person’s ability to easily control everything that happens. Jesus chose his passion and death as God’s way to say, “Come to me all you who labor and heavy burden, The Father and I are One. I love you and if you believe in me you shall not perish but have life everlasting. Go and love your neighbor as you love yourself”.
We are a community of laymen and laywomen who, with vowed Passionists, seek to share in the charism of St. Paul of the Cross through prayer, ongoing spiritual formation, and proclamation of the message of Christ Crucified.
One thought on “Making Use of the Slingshot Effect”
Jim Paulin’s example of the sling-shot effect is a fine example of turning a potential problem into an invaluable help for advancing and making progress. By thinking through all the possible hazards in one’s way, not only can problems be avoided but opportunities can be discovered, helping one to make progress.