I’ve loved optical illusions since I was a kid. I remember those pictures that got popular where you had to go cross-eyed to see the image in the middle. I’d make myself dizzy from staring at them on the back of my Wendy’s kid’s meal. Thanks Wendy’s. (And Wendy, if you’re reading this—bring back the 99-cent Doublestack, please.)
Have you ever heard of a Zoetrope? I hadn’t until my friend Jamie told me about them. It’s another optical illusion, but it’s way cooler.
Basically, it’s a 3-D cartoon. It’s several frames of animation spaced out one frame at a time on a spinning wheel. Apparently zoetropes have been around for ages and animators use them to show how animation works. Frame by frame, our eyes and brain piece together what we are seeing, and it gives us the illusion of moving objects. I think that it’s fascinating!
A zoetrope is a great way to explain how cartoons work, but I think it is also a great way to explain how our lives work.
Our lives are billions of frames stretched out over several decades, moment by moment. Looking at a frame of our life by itself can make it look pointless or even confusing. It’s hard to find meaning in those moments.
Are you looking at a frame of your life right now by itself and wondering what exactly it is going on here?
What if your life was not a random string of meaningless moments? Maybe each day you wake up for is another frame on a massive zoetrope that is being put into motion. What if our lives are not billions of frames stuck together randomly, but a storyline playing out right in front of us?
If you look at just one part of a zoetrope, or one frame of a cartoon, you only see a picture. And to give the appearance of movement, you have to put a lot of frames that look almost identical next to each other. Little by little, the picture changes and the movements start to form. Actions start to make sense. Purpose begins to play out.
Life can feel like a lot of frames over and over that look so identical to each other that you start to think you are getting nowhere. Perhaps what you think is repetition may very well be steady, meaningful growth.
And your life changing rapidly is not necessarily an indicator of good, forward progress. Don’t be fooled by those who find success quickly; it might not be success, or worse—it may be their demise.
Donald Miller once said, “I believe a meaningful life is about being uncomfortable for long periods of time to create sudden moments of great meaning.”
I love his quote because it’s well said, and I hate it because it’s probably true.
I believe one day we will see our lives in full-story mode. We will find purpose, meaning and necessary interactions in places we never noticed at the time. Moments you felt like you were completely guessing, you will see as moments of Divine prompting. Moments you thought were meaningless repetition, you will see as God-ordained preparation.
Here is a short video on Pixar’s insanely cool Zoetrope.