I’ve recently been spending a lot of time on Traveling Rings. If you don’t know what these are they are a set of rings suspended in the air and the object is to swing from one to the next. I’ve been on them several times throughout my life but really fell in love with them during my solo missions at Burning Man. Every day I would venture out and play on the rings. Swinging from ring to ring with ease while the crowd looked on and cheered. Now I often go down to the rings in Santa Monica. It’s such a thrilling and calming experience at the same time. Nothing else matters except the very next ring. When you have that ring, you release the previous one, and then the only thing that matters is the next one. Always looking ahead, calculating, feeling, moving, so that as you reach for the next ring it just happens to perfectly be placed in your hand.
Until today I never understood my attraction to the rings and why they felt so important to me. A friend was talking to me about my thoughts on “The Fear of Transformation.” (If you aren’t familiar with what I am talking about I suggest you Google it and give it a quick read.) The idea behind it is life is like a trapeze and we can’t be afraid to let go of the first bar so that we can leap to grasp the second one. My problem with this analogy is it indicates that being on the bars is safe and comfortable. What about those of us who thrive for the space and time in between the bars? The time on the bars is just the tool to carry us to the next leap. I think the last line is most telling “Hurtling through the void, we may just learn how to fly.” Our tribe yearns for our time in the sky.
So that’s a great analogy for making a big change…but it feels lacking. What led us to this point? How did we arrive at this big important decision in the first place? Decisions in life are never independent of one another but rather they “cascade into eternity.” We control the consequences in our life by controlling our decisions that lead to them and it’s never just one big decision. That’s when I thought of the Traveling Rings.
The point of the rings is to swing from ring to ring. It looks easy, and it is, if you know how to do it. Getting from one ring to the next is all about the “pump” from the previous ring and the momentum that you generate. You pump hard with your back arm then let go. That’s it. You’re now sailing through the air to the next ring on the momentum alone of your previous decision. So now you have the momentum, the energy that’s taking you where you want to go, the rest is about timing and accuracy. You still however have to grab the next ring at the right time and right space so keep your eye on the prize. At this point if your momentum was a little off that’s OK because you can deviate a bit as you’re reaching to grab the ring. No one is perfect.
And you know what? If you miss that’s fine. You most likely have enough momentum and energy to swing back and grab it on the second try. If you don’t then you can kip or swing your body to help. If you miss again, or don’t have enough momentum left and kipping isn’t working, then maybe a friend will come along and give you a push. You just have to fucking hang on. It’s easiest to plan ahead, keep your eye on the prize, and make the right decisions in the first place to ensure that ring falls gently in your hand. Sometimes though it just doesn’t work out that way so when it doesn’t you have to do whatever you can to get to the next ring. You just have to fucking hang on.
It’s not always easy. Sometimes your shoulders will burn, your palms will sweat, your hands will tear, and your body will grow tired. Just fucking hang on.
Life is like a set of traveling rings. We swing from ring to ring as we make decisions that impact ourselves and others. When we make the right decisions it’s easy to move forward. If we mess up though it can be hard to get our momentum back and sometimes we have to rely on other methods or other people to help. It’s important to recognize these resources when they are needed and when they are available. Sometimes the decisions will be easy and sometimes they will be hard but we need to always be looking to the next one. Most importantly you must remember that if you mess up…you have to fucking hang on.