I got to observe an interesting geometric experiment recently. It involved a variety of humans and some tennis balls. It made me change the way I look at love, community, and fellowship.
When I saw that the topic for a recent Sunday at the East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington was “The Geometry of Love”, I was intrigued. It’s a rare day when I get to attend church. Usually I’m at work. But I had this particular day off, so I went.
The chairs were set up rather differently that day. There was a large empty space in front. At first, one volunteer stood alone. She had one arm stretched out from her side, and she was holding a tennis ball. She spun in a circle, to demonstrate that she was her own focal point, and her realm of influence was a circle all around her. (A friend of mine calls this a “love bubble”. Fortunately that cheesy term didn’t come up on this particular day.)
But no man is an island, as the saying goes. Next, two people stood side by side, at arm’s length. One had a tennis ball, the other did not. They both spun in a circle, and as their hands met, they would pass the tennis ball back and forth. They formed an ellipse, with two focal points. The love of two people has an even larger realm of influence than one person acting alone. And I truly believe that. Functional, loving couples can make a huge difference in this world.
But life is even more complex than that. We cross paths with many people in our day to day lives. Friends. Neighbors. Coworkers. Members of our community. And we all impact one other. At this point, about 40 volunteers stood up, and about 15 of them had tennis balls. They walked among each other in random ways, and as those with tennis balls encountered those without, they’d make eye contact and pass the tennis balls on. It was chaotic, but it was also beautiful.
If we walk in the world in a loving way, we are capable of creating many unique realms of influence. Ellipses with multiple foci may not have a pleasing, regular shapes, they might even be confusing at times. But as we encounter others, of different ages, genders, ethnicities, and points of view, and we mix and mingle and intertwine, we can motivate, inspire, and guide each other in many unexpected ways.
So, as you read this, I’m handing you a tennis ball of love, dear reader. I hope that’s not too “crunchy granola” for you, and I also hope you’ll pass it on!