Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Black Hole Principle, or "Tar Baby" Revisited

My acrylic painting, "Mad as Hell" (see two posts previous) sold in January 2010. I never did get around to making giclee prints of it. I realized that the Black Hole Principle was at work here as in many other places in life: it would have taken me so much time, effort, energy, and money to learn how to get giclee prints made, to make several at a time (since making only one wouldn't be cost-effective), and then to try to sell all of them in a different market than I'm used to dealing with as a potter, that I would not recoup my efforts in a financial way for a long time, if ever.

The Black Hole Principle in short: SOME THINGS AREN'T WORTH THE EFFORT. If you step over the Event Horizon, you'll just get sucked in. Do you recognize an Event Horizon for what it is? Can you just stop short, and enjoy the view AT the Event Horizon, instead of stepping over it?

My parents told me this long ago, but it has taken me a long time to understand the idea. I have a history of diving into various projects, relationships, and side trips that, in retrospect, gave me little to show for the amount of effort I put in. I am not against learning for the sake of learning! I am a big fan of it. However, there are areas where the proportion of one's life energy spent to value gained is too high. Maybe this fact is only seen well through experience--the older, the wiser.

I have recently read "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin along with my husband, and we liked the book a lot. Much of it contains stuff we already knew and were practicing, but it's a good, concentrated book on one swell idea. The Black Hole Principle follows from its teachings: you really can spend way too much of your life on things of no value--that's when you've stepped beyond the Event Horizon and you wind up fighting uselessly to get back your life (or your money).

People take a job because they think they need it, but so much time is spent shopping for clothing for the job, spending money on clothing for the job, buying (and maintaining) a car to get them to & from the job, spending time in the car going to & from the job, then there's lunch, etc. not to mention taxes taken out of the money they get for the job--when they count the money in their hand at the end of the pay period, they sure ain't got much to show for it! Plus they gave away a third or more of their waking time to get it. BLACK HOLE ALERT! Maybe it's cheaper to skip the job and enjoy the forty hours doing something else.

Here's another example of the Black Hole Principle (one of many examples our government supplies us with): from Fox news April 14, 2010 we read that "Almost half the nation won't owe income taxes Thursday, thanks to the Bush tax cuts and thousands of dollars in refundable tax credits from President Obama. That's why America's income tax burden looks the way it does. The top one percent of tax payers -- those earning over $390,000 -- pay the same amount in income taxes as the lowest 95 percent of Americans combined. That group comprises anyone making under $150,000, according to the tax foundation." Does anybody notice that 95%--95%, mind you--of all the hassle, effort, and anguish that Americans go through at tax time every year trying to figure out their taxes (which is NOT easy) produces only the SAME amount of labor that a very few people at the top go through? What a waste of time! If taxes were straight 10% across the board, EVERYONE would spend the same amount of time on their taxes, and that amount of time would be a heck of a lot less than it is now.

But no, job security for the millions of CPAs would be endangered. Uh, oh, I'm starting to rant...

So what's a Tar Baby? Uncle Remus didn't know about black holes, but he knew about traps. I guess if you wanted to trap rabbits (pre-Havahart-era), you made up some weird-looking ball of tar that looked like a small person (today that ball of tar would have too much dioxin in it for anyone's safety, including the rabbit's). Curious animals would check it out and get stuck to it. In one of Uncle Remus' stories, Brer Rabbit did just that--getting madder and madder at the tar baby, hitting and kicking it, and of course, getting more stuck to it than ever--and ol' Brer Fox, who had made the Tar Baby, came along grinning and caught Brer Rabbit at the end. The moral of the story ran something like this about a Tar Baby: "de more you truck wit' it, de more you's stuck wit' it."

Fast forward and you have a Black Hole, pure and simple. Folks in Uncle Remus' day understood the same principle of wasting your time and energy and spiraling into despair because of these stinkin' traps. Do you recognize a Tar Baby for what it is? Can you stop short of messing with it?

Still, for people who "love a crisis," who don't feel that they're really alive unless they're struggling against something, there is no despair in Black Holes--that's their home territory, really. You know who they are if you spend YOUR time pulling them out of one Black Hole and they thank you but dive immediately into another one. If you do that, by the way, you are a "rescuer" but pretty much live in Black Holes yourself. However, you despair in them. Get a life.

But that would be a topic for another day.