(Original post-date: June 23, 2010)
Several months ago, I had an appointment on the west side of Los Angeles. While I know that general area quite well, the address I had been given included the name of a street I’d never heard of. So: two hours or so prior to my appointment, I logged onto Mapquest. I typed in the address and immediately was presented with a small, neighborhood map. Within that map, a red star indicated my destination. Helpful, but… the map was still a little too small. I needed to see the names of some major thoroughfares. I needed a sense of orientation.
I chose the Zoom Out option.
I guess I was a bit overzealous when I clicked my mouse on a line closer to the (-) sign. The next map that appeared – the Zoom-Out map – included Brazil.
When I saw it, I laughed at the screen.
“Thanks, Mapquest,” I said. “That’s really helpful! So, the place I’m going is north of... Brazil.”
Ah yes, zooming in and out. What handy functions. For folks with fancy cameras and other image-capturing instruments, the opportunities to virtually move forward or step back are familiar. But for me, these are options I never consciously entertained. At least, not until I started using the internet and its maps.
More recently, I’ve come to appreciate the metaphoric value...
Zoom out: the BP spill in the Gulf
Zoom in: the kitty litter box in the middle hallway closet
Zoom out: the national unemployment statistics
Zoom in: my need for two or three more consulting clients
Zoom out: the situation in the Middle East
Zoom in: the gangbangers who keep tagging the cement wall at the corner intersection
Zoom out: the crisis on Wall Street
Zoom in: my bank account balance
There’s a lesson in the zoom option, I think. A lesson about perspective.
If you find yourself, as I do, listening to way too much NPR, then maybe you just need to turn it off for a bit. Clean out the kitty litter, take a walk around the neighborhood, balance your checkbook, and be glad you don’t have to worry about stepping on any landmines as you walk from your car to the grocery store.
If, on the other hand, you are engaged in too much self-involvement, then I suggest you get away from yourself and whatever concerns you might be entertaining about your latest pedicure. Turn on the real news. Read a reliable paper. Remember that the world outside of you is dealing with issues that may never, ever be resolved.
Thinking about this stuff leads my mind to the adage attributed to Dale Carnegie: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
In the case of that adage, I think of the lemons as the Zoom In; the lemonade, the Zoom Out.
A lovely thought, but Carnegie was living in a different time.
These days, I wonder if the sentiment he expressed is possible to achieve. Are there enough good lemons left?
I consider myself a decent person, and I am fortunate to know a lot of other good people. People who are kind and generous. People who were lucky to be born with a healthy intelligence. But does that make us lemons? I don’t know. It seems that without huge handfuls of cash or an abundance of tangible possessions, our status is inconsequential.
As for the existing lemonade, it is beyond toxic. There’s an oil slick covering its surface, and everything below it is about to go into some kind of foreclosure.
So I sit at my computer, mouse in hand, zooming in and out.
Hoping to find that happy place in the middle.
A happy place in the middle… somewhere between the dreams I’ve always entertained and the realities of the day.