Tipping point

educate-the-heartStraining 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.

keep-readingEach 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.

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19 thoughts on “Tipping point

  1. thewritertracy February 19, 2014 / 11:20 am

    Great post. I LOVE to read. It is my favorite pastime. Love the line, “Absorbed in another time and place, I am unaware of everything that has transpired around me.” Escape- it is the best feeling in the world! Not that I don’t love my reality too. πŸ˜‰

    • davecenker February 19, 2014 / 1:55 pm

      Thank you Tracy, I am happy that you enjoyed this post. Most people feel that they need to physically travel in order to visit new places. And although it is only an imaginary world in our mind, it sometimes feels more real than ever πŸ˜‰ Thanks for your thoughts and best wishes for a moving novel to cross paths with you soon πŸ™‚

  2. lindseysurratt February 19, 2014 / 8:07 pm

    Of course, you know I agree with you. And once again you use your words to capture the exact feeling one gets when reading a book, you are so very talented.

    I have to say I absolutely LOVE that it was To Kill a Mockingbird that enlightened you onto the path of reading. It’s one of my favorite books and I believe that it’s quite possibly one of the best well told stories ever written.

    My tipping point was Treasure Island in third grade. Before that book, reading was always something forced upon me which in turn made me resent it. But Treasure Island captured me and made me see a whole new world. You hit it on the nail, when we read, we embark on a whole new world. Books are an amazing feat, great post. πŸ™‚

    • davecenker February 20, 2014 / 9:08 am

      Thank you Lindsey, I sincerely appreciate your very kind words πŸ˜‰ My wife and son love birding, a hobby/sport that has you searching for and appreciating the bird life that is all around us. There is a term that goes along with this activity called a “spark bird”. It’s that bird which when first seen, created a passion to continue deeper into the activity.

      Perhaps every activity, reading included, has an analogous concept. We all have our own spark book πŸ˜‰ It is so amazing how the combination of wood pulp, ink, and a vivid imagination can open up so many different worlds to explore. Amazing feat, indeed πŸ˜‰

  3. joannesisco February 20, 2014 / 8:03 am

    I love the line – these are not fictional characters … they are real people, alive in your mind. That’s exactly how I feel reading a good book. My husband is firmly entrenched in nonfiction in an neverending search for knowledge but I flipflop back and forward. Nothing beats a really great story.
    Great post – I believe that if you can read, you can do almost anything and you will never be bored. So wonderful that you are passing on the love of books to your son!

    • davecenker February 20, 2014 / 9:02 am

      Thank you Joanne πŸ˜‰ For years, I had been in the dark as far as where a well told story is able to take you from an emotional perspective. And the ironic thing is that many times you uncover nuggets of wisdom that seem to be placed in the story especially for you to discover. If there is one pastime that I would be proud to pass on to my son, it would be the love of reading. It certainly can transport you anywhere your imagination dreams.

  4. Miriam February 20, 2014 / 11:13 am

    I’ve always loved to read, and it has been my greatest joy to share that love with my children. I’ve read some sad statistics lately about the decline of reading, and the large percentage of kids who are never read to 😦 I can’t imagine a world without stories.

    • davecenker February 20, 2014 / 12:45 pm

      I couldn’t agree more Miriam, thank you for sharing your sentiments. There are two ways to come across the magic of reading for enjoyment. Be read to from an early age, or accidentally stumble across the magic at some point in the distant future. Why we leave that decision to chance with our children is beyond me. I am happy to hear that there are like-minded individuals who share in the power of a good story πŸ˜‰

  5. Li-ling February 21, 2014 / 12:27 pm

    The printed word always transported me to another world, and yet it was the magical colours of transition metals that lured me in to the lab. There’s something amazingly exciting about being able to ‘create’ whether in a lab, or with words on a page. I loved the way you weaved the two stories together.

    • davecenker February 21, 2014 / 1:03 pm

      Thank you for your very kind words πŸ˜‰ It is so very true that our soul gets lifted in the most subtle of ways when we are able to create something from our own doing. Sharing that creation with others, whether it is in a lab, a coffee shop, or in the blogosphere makes it all that much better! Thanks for sharing your sentiments and best wishes for an inspired day πŸ˜‰

  6. T. Greenfield February 21, 2014 / 1:10 pm

    Love this! One of my favorite childhood memories was when my Dad read The Yearling to my brother and I. My ten year old is currently reading the book aloud, “The One And Only Ivan.” It is an amazing story and we have both laughed and cried together. We are on the last third of the book and he was going to read aloud to my husband last night as they walked off with the book and I yelled, “STOP!!!!! NOT THAT BOOK YOU DON’T!” Another wonderful post, thank you for sharing.

    • davecenker February 21, 2014 / 1:56 pm

      It’s amazing how entrenched we sometimes become in a story. The deeper we sink, the better it feels πŸ˜‰ I have heard from countless people how some of their most treasured childhood memories involve reading or being read to. If there there is one memory that I would be proud to instill in any child, this would be it. A love of reading can catapult you to so many amazing places. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, now go make sure you don’t miss out on the last third of that book πŸ˜‰

  7. Jack Flacco February 23, 2014 / 3:26 pm

    beautifully written, wonderfully done. I had abandoned reading in my young adult years but picked it up again last year in the throes of change. Boy, did I miss it! Since then I’ve been reading ever since. Currently I’m reading through John Grisham’s bibliography in chronological order, based on publication date. It’s great! I can’t get enough of his world. My next goal, once I’m complete with Grisham, is Hemingway. I can’t wait!

    Thanks for inspiring reading. Nothing quite like an adventure in another world!

    • davecenker February 23, 2014 / 3:56 pm

      Absolutely Jack, thanks for sharing πŸ˜‰ Another one of my early books that really got me hooked was one by Grisham. Well before the theatrical version of the same work was released, I was enamored with the story from ‘The Firm’. It’s funny that although we seem to escape from our world and enter another, we seem to always find a little bit of our world and ourselves in those fictional places. Magical and adventurous indeed!

      • Jack Flacco February 23, 2014 / 4:01 pm

        My absolute favorite of all Grisham novels! I’ve read it so many times. It’s this idea that someone can have everything handed to him on a silver platter then find all of it has a condition attached to it. A condition bigger than life itself. Great, great, great book!!!

  8. apartmentwife February 24, 2014 / 6:35 pm

    your blog needs to be transformed into some sort of ted talk – all the food for the mind you talk about is right here – i always leave wanting to discuss this or that with someone nearby (usually my husband). also.. every time you mention your son on your blog it makes me think what a lucky boy he is to have a dad that cares so much enriching his life πŸ™‚

    • davecenker February 25, 2014 / 8:13 am

      You are so very kind. I could not be paid a higher compliment than being called a caring dad first and providing others with interesting food for thought second. You just made my day, thank you πŸ˜‰

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