We are going low tech today.  Where I’m more comfortable.  🙂

So with that title we’re not talking about our ubiquitous mobile phones, but rather that old-fashioned contraption that was hanging over your bassinet when you were a baby.


Wikipedia reminds us that a mobile is a type of sculpture consisting of a number of rods, from which weighted objects or further rods hang.  The objects hanging from the rods balance each other, so that the rods remain more or less horizontal.  And with each rod hanging from only one string, it can rotate. The objects can move, yet they sustain the delicate balance.

They are an ensemble of balanced parts, utilizing the force of gravity and the principle of equilibrium.

Elegant in their exquisite engineering, mobiles captivate; they are able to transfix a gaze for an extended period of time.  Which probably explains why they are a stable accessory in nurseries, presumably giving caregivers a few more moments of R&R…

But when a change of some sort or another disrupts the equilibrium, there is no longer elegance.  And there is no longer fascination; the captivation shifts to an unsettling feeling akin to watching an impending crash…

And returning to the balanced state is anything but simple.

I see the mobile as a terrific metaphor for life; in the office, in our family rooms, and in the everyday ebb and flow of our living.

Let’s imagine that the objects hanging in the mobile are people.

When the mobile is in equilibrium, everyone has their place, and as people move, others move, to maintain the balance.  A peer’s workload surges, and teammates help out where they can; a husband/dad takes the kids to preschool, so wife/mom can sleep in and recuperate; a teenager learns to drive…  Everyone is hanging together.  Life, we can imagine, is in the main good; satisfying; comfortable.

And then something changes.

Life happens.

It could be a relatively minor change, like one team member picking up a special project, requiring a longer term shift in responsibilities of the other members of the team.  Everyone adjusts, as everyone must, to keep in balance, to get the work done.  During the adjustment, there’s an uneasy feeling, with everyone trying to keep in sync.  But with everyone making the slight shifts, the steady state is again reached.

Other relatively minor changes might be when a wife/mom decides to go back to school; or when a husband/dad takes on a part time job to pay the bills, or when a teenager falls in love… Everyone adjusts, as everyone must.  There’s a momentary unstableness; and then, once again, the mobile moves, rebalancing.

And then there are more significant changes.  Budgets are tightened, and staffing is cut.  An aging parent moves in to live with the family.  Your teenager-in-love moves in with her beloved…

Imagine the mobile now!  Whole pieces are missing!  New pieces are added!  People are precariously hanging!  Adjustments are more significant now; it takes time to figure out what adjustments to make; there is heightened discomfort in making them, and they take longer to take effect.  There is prolonged disequilibrium, as everyone shifts…

And then there are graver changes — job loss; a divorce; a death in the family.  Everything gets thrown out of whack.  What was once synchronized living, is now unreality.  There is palpable doubt that that comfortable state of equilibrium called normal will ever be experienced again.  And even if it is, it just won’t be the same.  It will never be the same…

The mobile as metaphor helps us appreciate that life is a balancing act.  And while change will always disrupt the balance, it’s our transitioning that’s the real challenge.

But we do transition.  We do adjust.  We find our place.  We hang in there.

We do move.

Life hangs in the balance.

We are mobile.