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Life’s Event Horizons

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An event horizon, in its traditional definition, is that physical location where a particle of matter having come close enough to a stellar black hole has a totally certain future, it will fall into the black hole and will not emerge again. The event horizon is the point of no return, the point at which the particle cannot escape the enormous gravitational pull of the black hole. A black hole is a former star, now collapsed into a singularity, a single point whose gravitational field is so strong that not even light can escape.

Fairly exotic stuff, but I recently read a description (Science News, 12/18/2010) that brings the notion of event horizons down to earth. Supposed you were a fish, blissfully approaching a waterfall, unaware that if you approach too closely you will be swept over the falls to your doom. As you approach the falls the river is moving faster and faster and you begin to yell out for help as you struggle against the current. Ok, ok, I have never heard a fish yell for help either, but work with me here. As you yell for help, the noise of the water rushing over the edge becomes louder and louder as it picks up speed. At some point, if the speed of the water you are trapped within breaks the sound barrier, your yells will be unable to escape, traveling along but not emerging from the water itself, until the water slows once again. That point, where your yells will not be heard, and where the rushing water has broken the sound barrier, is a terrestrial event horizon. No matter how loudly you scream you will not be heard, as the sound waves from your voice will not be able to travel fast enough to emerge from the water rushing faster than sound.

That description got me thinking. Are there other kinds of event horizons that may exist, perhaps in our daily or organizational lives? I started to build a list:

  • The overdone toast event horizon: that precise moment during breakfast preparation when you realize that no matter how much you scrape the toast is going to taste burnt.
  • The school homework event horizon: the moment when no matter how many times you tell your child to get started, you know she/he will be up too late finishing their homework.
  • The you can have anything you want event horizon: the moment when your child climbs onto your lap and places her/his head on your shoulder before asking for a new bike. You can’t escape, the die is cast. I wonder if that will still work when she/he wants the car keys.
  • The speeding car event horizon: the location and instant, when you realize that no matter how quickly or hard you press on the brakes, you will be getting a ticket (likely deserved) from that police car you flew by.
  • The throw the stick on more time event horizon: when the dog approaches you, drops its retrieved stick at your feet, and looks at you with imploring eyes – throw the stick one more time. It is inescapable you must throw the stick.
  • The organizational culture change event horizon: the precise moment when an organization has a majority of people who feel strongly positive about efforts the organization is making to become (choose one): customer focused, more effective, highly engaging, best place to work, best place for working mothers, highly communicative, accountable, flexible, innovative, risk taking, emotionally intelligent, or results oriented.
  • The organizational reality event horizon: The precise moment when an organization realizes that magic bullet solutions belong with other forms of magic – in a children’s fantasy dream world.
  • Life’s event horizons: Any moment in your life when you come to the realization that what you have is pretty good, you have no desire to turn the clock back to the way it was, and you are looking forward to what will be.

© 2010 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.

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Written by Jeffrey M. Saltzman

December 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Humor

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