The Flywheel

In Blog by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

Car mechanics are quite well acquainted with the flywheel. In automotive applications, the flywheel sits between the engine and the transmission. It works to convert the up and down energy of the engine pistons into the circular energy of the transmission and the wheels.

There are other uses of the flywheel, i.e. the ancient trebuchet which hurled large boulders and other objects of war at an enemy.

I got to witness a carnival ride based on the flywheel on a 1984 family trip through the Smoky Mountains. We were at a very small version of a theme park, which had a “ride” that would only hold 2-4 people at a time. It was a long steel beam, rotating at its center on an axle supported by two triangular legs. At one end of the beam was a counterweight, and at the other end was a cage which held the 2-4 “riders.”

The object of the ride was to get the cage to go in a full circle. Riders caused the cage to move back-and-forth by their own motion. Eventually, the little group of people, moving back and forth caused the cage to move from 6:00 (straight down) to 3:00 and 9:00 (45 degrees). The goal was to go to 12:00 at the top of the arc. From that point it required less work from the riders to get the cage to go to 12:00 and then tilt over that to 12:01 at which point the cage would plummet downward toward 6:00.

If the riders kept up their back-and-forth motion, the cage would continue to spin in a circle. Now the riders only had to supply what you might call “maintenance” motion to keep the ride going in a constant circle. The individual supervising the ride would actually have to apply a brake to stop the contraption, much to the disappointment of the riders.

The flywheel ride at the theme park is the perfect description of life lived in a fruitful way. The beginning of a project or a relationship or a career always requires more work at the beginning. The ‘moving back and forth’ in the theme park ride is like hyper-consciousness, going the extra mile, staying late, and being more intentional in learning new skills and insights.

The flywheel ride also teaches the importance of everybody’s contribution. If anyone sits down in the flywheel, either those remaining have to work harder or the flywheel comes to rest at 6:00. No more energy, no more motion.

Everything that is worth doing in this life works better and more efficiently when everyone involved joins in the work. This includes the local church.

Leave a Comment