Straining my eyes to focus through the scratches of my protective eye gear, I meticulously rotate the knob on the Bunsen burner, watching the color transition from a warm orange to a cooler shade of blue that is anything but cool. As the tip of the flame approaches the base of the test tube, my fingers delicately pull away and wait. Given the proper ratio of elements, the correct external stimuli, and the necessary atmospheric conditions, a transformation takes place. A chemical reaction that occurs at the intersection of these circles of influence. The tipping point. It is a term that holds a unique meaning in the world of chemistry, but also applies to many other facets of the world around us.
In sociology, it describes a previously rare phenomenon becoming dramatically more common. In the areas of physics and climatology, it refers to the change in a system from one stable state to a different stable state. In between, chaos may ensue.
For the majority of my life to date, I have been a reader. Given my fondness for the written word, this is most likely not a surprising revelation. What may be unexpected, however, is the reading material that occupied my attention.
The eye gear that protected me from imminent danger in the chemistry lab also served as blinders to the world of literary fiction for too many years to count. For all of my childhood and well into my adult years, the words which passed through my eyes and into my brain always veered in the same direction at the fork in the road, headed for the left-brain and the pursuit of knowledge. The path to the right-brain, overgrown with weeds, had never been ventured through, the adventurous possibilities never explored.
Over the summer months through each of my high school years, the mandatory reading list carried with it titles such as David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, and Greek Mythology. Although comprehending the words in each of these tomes, they were never felt. They were merely words to be read, pages to be turned, in order to compile a report as proof of completion. The emptiness of the words in my report reflected the emptiness of the feeling in my heart. It was all I could muster to work through these necessities and get back to my physics textbook so I could digest the real educational material found in the likes of principles such as the Schrodinger Wave Equation.
The energy of the mind is the essence of life. ~Aristotle
And then. It struck like a bolt of lightning out of the clear blue sky. To Kill A Mockingbird. With the intensity of a flame magnitudes stronger than any I had ever seen in a laboratory, that overgrown path of weeds leading to the right-brain was burned and cleared, providing an invitation to enter the world of enchantment. And enter it, I did. My own personal tipping point had been reached. All sense of time was lost. Pages began to turn themselves, sometimes what seemed like fifty at a time until the back cover was reached.
Since that epic revelation, I have embarked on adventurous journeys through the arid deserts of Africa. I have discovered treasures from the depths of the deepest ocean. I have inhabited an island off the western coast of Australia. I have shared in the joy, felt the pain, and experienced the sorrow of countless people. These are not fictional characters as suggested by the thoughts postulated in some book review. No, these are real people, alive in your mind, walking alongside you as you share every intimate detail of their story. The two dimensional words on a page are magically transformed into a wave of multidimensional images and emotions in the mind.
As my eyes blur, they transition from the world behind the page into the earthly world I inhabit. Although, for just a moment, I question which world is real. As the picturesque landscape in my mind fades to the subconscious, I become aware of the three cats on the bed around me that were not there before. Absorbed in another time and place, I am unaware of everything that has transpired around me. The alarm clock sitting next to me reads two o’clock in the morning. I am exhausted. Not from physical fatigue, but rather from the emotional roller coaster that has been endured over the last hundred pages. And the feeling is perfectly beautiful.
Each evening since my son was an infant, we lay by the dim light of his bedside lamp for story time. Beginning first with picture books, we have now traveled on many adventures through The Hundred Acre Wood. We have experienced how a fine balance of tenacity and love can facilitate an unbreakable bond between dragon and boy. And more recently, we have trudged across the frozen tundra of the Arctic alongside Buck, Jack London’s iconic canine in The Call Of The Wild. Then it occurs to me. This is education for the heart. As I reach the end of a chapter and prepare to close the book, a plea for just a few more pages accompanies a grin on his face. Another tipping point has been crossed. As I turn the page to continue on, the smile on my face reflects his own.