It was time to upgrade my lab experiment on light, so a friend of mine sent me some ideas— most of which exceeded both my cognitive and competency levels. For example, she sent me this:
” You can do a diffraction demo using a rectangular glass pyrex dish. If you touch the edge of a 12″ ruler to the surface of water with regular frequency, you get a series of waves in lines. If you then add a pin hole with some kind of barrier in the middle of the dish, when the waves reach it they come out the other side in a spherically expanding pattern. It took some trial and error to get the width of the hole and the frequency of the ruler waves to work right, but you can definitely see it happen. I did it on top of an overhead projector and the class could see it on the screen.”
I read the paragraph twice, calculated the amount of time it would take for me to properly set up the experiment, and decided against it. I didn’t think I had that many years of life left.
Next on the list was making periscopes. All right! Now she was talking. I began working on the periscope prototype at lunchtime, gathering materials (cardboard, duct tape and mirrors) from the back of my car and hauling them to the kitchen. After acquiring a cutting board and a box cutter, I was ready to begin. If the youtubers could do it, so could I.
Trial #1: Subject failed to cut thick cardboard in straight lines. Tube is lopsided. Do it again.
Trial #2: Subject attempted to bend the thick cardboard in straight lines. Epic fail. Do it again.
Trial #3: Subject cut the 45° angles the wrong way. Do it again.
Trial#4: Subject throws thick cardboard in the trash and empties two half gallons of milk, modifying the cartons to make a periscope. Woohoo! It worked! Subject is euphoric on being able to view the chandelier through the periscope. She only needs 20 more containers of milk—and another plan.
Trial#5: Subject photocopies a periscope template from Google images. Mirrors don’t fit. Do it again.
Trial #6: Subject photocopies another template. Mirrors do fit. Hallelujah!
Elapsed time: 3.5 hours.
After spending a whole afternoon cutting cardboard and snipping off duct tape, I finally “succeeded” in producing three working periscopes (four, actually, but we won’t include the Barbie- sized one made from the first tiny template). The first was sturdy but lopsided; the second was fat and waxy; and the third was flimsy, but kid-friendly. I surveyed the mess and the three rookie periscopes and not being a fan of mediocrity, was discouraged.
Some say that it’s all about the journey and not about the destination. I doubt it. I want my tomatoes to grow and my lessons to be clear. I want stitches to hold and umbrellas to keep off the rain. In that sense, it is just about the destination—about making it work. But if meaning only resides in successes, I shall have lived a fairly futile life. It would be foolish to ignore that there is also something powerful about the process itself.
Endeavor can create a conduit to the Creator, and failure is better at doing that than success. Imperfection makes me look beyond myself. It humbles me and reminds me of the truth: I am not “only” human; I am “merely” human, and everything I say or think or do— even constructing flimsy periscopes — should be an act of worship. And worship is about relationship not results.
Why then, should I strive for the perfect periscope? Because it’s fun. Because it’s important. Because striving is one of the things I was designed to do. I just have to remember that I was not designed to do it alone!
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men. . . ” (Galatians 3:23)