Letters of Life

Symmetry, or The Elegance of the See-Saw

There’s something about a see-saw that makes a child race towards an empty one.

It’s inert, tilted at rest, promising a fun ride of ups and downs. But you can’t be alone to ride one. And if you’re small, it’s not much fun sharing a see-saw with a big person.

Like you, I’ve always liked see-saws. I love that your legs can push off—like jumping in a sitting position—when your bottom hits the ground and you rush skyward, still sitting. The bonus is watching whoever’s opposite plummet because of the law of the lever.

It was always most fun with someone who’s about the same as you, thanks to the law of torque, or the lack thereof. Because after tiring of pushing up and plunging down (painlessly), both can decide to find equilibrium and enjoy zero torque on the see-saw and well, talk. Or just giggle and look at each other. Which, when I was a lot younger, was more often the case.

I liked the fact that the other person was a distance from you, yet any significant move I made affected the balance of the other, because we were seated on the same plank of wood which hinged on a pivot.

And when I think about it, it’s amazing how the pivot points of life shift to bring one up and the other down, especially if the plank is made of affinities and likenesses; one might not know if one is going upward or downward.

In the playground of life, there are planks, built of similarities and differences I can’t detach myself from, resting on unseen pivots. I’m sitting, unaware I haven’t gotten off, unable to, alternating between balance, tension, harmony.

Like the picture above, there is a gentle symmetry: ever swinging upward, then downward, in stillness, in tandem.

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