On a stunning morning in early June, thousands of dominoes stood back to back in a narrow line. They weren't touching, mind you, but they were close. Very close. It was a beautiful sight. One jet-black line of loops and swirls, sinuous as a sleeping snake, with no end in sight.
Although dominoes delight in togetherness, they're forbidden from touching; physical contact between dominoes generally means that one of them has become unsteady and in danger of falling. Just like their human counterparts, some dominoes are unbalanced, others pretty shaky, and a few, frankly unstable.
Even so, every domino is aware that if one of them loses its balance, all the others would have trouble keeping theirs. There's always the possibility that something might happen to cause all the dominoes to tremble -- maybe one of them shimmies just a tiny bit -- or another one quivers ever so gently. That simple motion might cause the entire line to collapse. The dominoes are usually able to rebalance themselves, and the dreaded chain reaction, which each domino fears it would be powerless to reverse, never begins.
Most of the time, dominoes simply stand at attention, straight and tall, without so much as the faintest wobble. Even a slight shift of position can cause the downfall of all of them. Every single domino recognizes that soon or later the day might come when the unthinkable could happen. Thousands and thousands of dominoes lying belly-up -- you get the picture, don't you?
And, on that exquisite morning in early June, happen it did.
Domino 551, a rectangular trouble maker, perhaps a bit more shaky and insecure than the others, teetered forward and back, stumbled ever so barely, pivoted on a corner, righted itself and, straining hard as it could to remain upright, fell flat against its neighbor.
The neighbor, Domino 552, was so thoroughly unprepared and dizzy with shock that it couldn't think clearly, and immediately fell against its neighbor, too. The neighboring domino prayed it would be strong enough to stop the whole line from floundering once and for all.
But the sequence repeated itself again, and Domino 553, swaying precariously, tried desperately to stay calm and focus on remaining vertical, but it, too, finally gave in to the frightening series of developments and keeled over.
And so it went. The pattern duplicated itself many times over before all the dominoes realized the
uncertain state of their existence. The endless pitch-black turns and twists were destined to crumple.
As the unfortunate processcontinued, some of the dominoes gave in with a valiant fight. They held on the best they could, trying to remain strong and positive, but, most of all, erect. Others pretended it wasn't happening. They put on their blinders and feigned obliviousness to their eventual fate. There were a few dominoes who became so anxious, panicky, and confused that they were unable to contain themselves, and fell over before their time.
A sizable number of dominoes courageously tried to hold up or push back their falling neighbor. But the increasing force of the blackout became too much for each domino's weight and size. Caught off guard and with the weight of the world on their backs, most of the dominoes eventually gave up the fight and became resigned to certain doom.
And then, as suddenly as things had started, they stopped.
This occurred so quickly on the heels of imminent disaster that not one domino had time to consider what had happened or why. As if under a magical spell,all the dominoes were standing erect once again, slightly wobbly here and there, but basically stable. They breathed a collective sigh of relief.
All at once, each of them began to speak excitedly to one another.
"What just happened?"
"How did the process start?"
"Which domino began to swoon and which stemmed the process and how had it done so?"
They were all jabbering at once.
At the point where things began to turn around and the breakdown stopped, all that could be seen was a single solitary domino, Domino 3,064, standing tall and proud, no different in size, shape, weight, or color than any of the others. Slowly, each domino began to realize what it owed this one particular domino.
"How did you do it?
"What formula did you use?"
"What did you know that the rest of us didn't?"
They were gathered around Domino 3,064, all of them talking at once.
"While the rest of us were catatonic with fear, thinking about how to support our neighbor, and pushing back against those who were about to fall, what did you do?"
"All I can say," said Domino 3,064 who hadn't been domino-ed, "is that while each of you kept trying to hold your neighbor up or stop the runaway train, my only concern was that I not go down. I needed to steady myself, maintain my balance, and remain upright."
"I recalled how I had been domino-ed years ago. It was an enormously stressful event. I decided to start training myself for the possibility of a similar situation," said Domino 3,064. "In order to prevent being domino-ed again, I knew I needed to remain stable and control myself. I had to really concentrate so I wouldn't panic. I was terrified, but convinced that I must stay calm. Most of all, I had to focus on me and not worry about what was happening to my neighbors. It was a difficult and exhausting task."
Perhaps we humans can learn something from the experiences of Domino 3,064. I've been domino-ed more times than I care to remember. What about you?
Following the advice of Domino 3,064 by not placing myself in potentially stressful situations, pacing myself so I don't assume more responsibilities than I can comfortably handle, and refusing to take on the emotional burdens of other people's problems, may prevent me from being domino-ed again.
It makes perfect sense, doesn't it?