I was recently thinking of the purpose of a pendulum. You know … a pendulum; that constantly swaying thing that hangs down from cuckoo and grandfather clocks, or clocks belonging to ‘coo-coo’ grandfathers, and from metronomes. Actually, the things on metronomes aren’t pendulums, or maybe they are ‘inverted’ pendulums that swing back and forth sort of upside down. I’m not sure. Anyway, you get the idea.
I was thinking of those pendulums as I looked through an assortment of clocks for sale online. I have always wanted a ‘real’ cuckoo clock, (you know, one that didn’t come from a cheap gift catalog, so, one that actually, probably, worked; one that even had a non-electronic bird that would come out and ‘cuckoo’ for you). I’d like it to be a big cuckoo clock, while I’m wishing. The slow tic-toc of such a clock would sound nice echoing through this old house of ours. At least I think it would.
After my brief ‘cuckoo’ search I began wondering about the more abstract pendulums or pendulum effects in our lives. “How strange,” you might note. “Does this old writer have a substance abuse problem or something?” Well, the answer is no, unless the substance is coffee, or maybe potato chips. This old writer just has old thoughts that have always swayed back and forth a bit, like a… yes, you guessed it.
To be honest, which is something I always strive to be, I find that there are many things in life that are dictated, or at least nudged along by a pendulum effect, and I have always wondered what came first, the cuckoo or that long wooden part that keeps it, and us, straight and true. Did we invent the pendulum to measure time, or did we adapt something to time that had always affected us for the purpose of measuring almost everything else? Here are some for-instances. (You knew those were coming.)
For instance, I think there is a balance between healthy living and comfort food. At least there seems to be for me. Those aforementioned potato chips are a delicious example. Also, on a cold winter’s evening, what beats mouth-watering meatloaf and a big baked potato for dinner? You can’t just eat vegetables and fruit all the time (you … meaning … me) but you can swing the other way and go back to them tomorrow.
Then there is the big, theoretical political pendulum that I happen to think is more real than theoretical. Our ‘coo-coo’ political leaders are ceaselessly batted back and forth between the polls and voting booths of elections. The extreme right conservatives will never agree with the extreme left liberals, but the pendulum still swings between them, as citizens and their votes drag everything one way or the other, eventually pulling it all back toward the middle of the road once again.
Life and its many pendulums keep old clocks correct, and keep those old politicians dancing, tic-toc, left to right and back, around each other, even commanding the rhythm of the music they dance to.
The gas gauge in my car reminds me of a pendulum, too, as it slowly moves from an emptying tank to the refueling of it, always displaying that old pessimistic/optimistic ‘half empty’ or ‘half full’ conundrum when precisely in the middle.
Other things around us measure periods of cold and warmth, of light and dark, of loud and quiet, our minds doing the same in feelings of happiness and sadness, of love and hate, of the brave and timid moments of life. Life itself being measured, always and forever, with one sweeping moment following another.
Still, I think that the truest definition of a pendulum is something that not only commands and counts the existence and extremes of whatever it measures, but also pulls the experiencer back to the middle, keeping him centered on what is important.