Here in Ithaca, we’ve got a pleasant little outdoor concourse of restaurants and merchant establishments running beside pavilions and statues and trees: The Ithaca Commons. Lately, it’s had everything ripped out for rennovation, but… Still.
Whenever I’m on the Commons, I go to a toy store on State street and buy a bouncy ball for 50 cents. As I walk, I bounce it on the ground and against walls. It’s a benign, calming activity. I’ve thrown them against buildings, bounced them high in the air, and naturally lost all of them.
I’ve accidentally flung them out into the streets, at windows, down drains, and even into other people. I keep buying them and losing them every time. I don’t mind. It adds an element of chaos to a life I spend so much time structuring. Those superballs are utterly unpredictable.
For a while, I can control them. Though it’s inevitable that they hit a pebble and bounce far off, leading me into a stumbling chase to recapture them. It keeps happening, and I never know when. All I can do is run clumsily and make attempts at snatching them, thinking the whole time that there’s a good chance I never see that ball again.
Chaos is necessary. It shatters my perception that I have anything more than a suggestive input on my life. In reality, I control very little. Somehow the universe keeps working fairly predictably, but it’s easy to forget that I can lose control in an instant to a roll of the metaphoric dice.
So those little bouncy rubber balls serve not only as a fun distraction, but a reminder that the gears of these ephemeral probability engines are always grinding; they are constantly on the verge of engaging with potentially life-changing force. Part of me hopes that when I lose one of those balls it rolls into another life and adds some intrigue. They forcibly put predictability on hold and seed chaotic activity.
In a time when fifty cents doesn’t buy a whole lot of trouble, I consider that a triumph.