The cool stone floor of the playroom always made my knees chilly, but it didn't deter me - dedicated domino train builder that I was as a kid. Domino by domino, I'd line them up, creating an elaborate, twisting, turning chain of upended ivory playing pieces.
There were always tense moments during the setup process. A careless ankle occasionally took down a section of my meticulously fashioned train. A single misstep meant half an hour of reconstruction. But it was worth it to see those dominoes snaking their way through the room, and then to watch as, after a careful tap, I witnessed the wonders of the domino effect - the skeleton of some felled ivory giant spreading across the playroom floor.
Later, when I first heard the words "domino effect" used to describe the consequence of one event setting off a chain of similar events, I had quite a vivid mental image to accompany the expression. It was a chilling concept - that one small mistake has the power to spark a whole series of problems.
I used to believe in the domino effect. It was hard not to, particularly in the publishing world, where one missed deadline can wreak havoc within the entire magazine I work on. The domino effect seemed legitimate - and legitimately feared.
Until one day when, right at the point of an especially gruesome deadline crisis, it occurred to me that I didn't have to buy into this "one thing leads to another" law anymore.
We were in the middle of a massive approval process. Everything was getting held up. As one party after another extended the time frame we'd given them by "just an hour more," it was hard not to think about that train of falling dominoes. How would we make our deadlines if other people weren't sticking to theirs?
Before panic could set in, though, a single thought stopped me: Resist the domino effect.
In spite of the dozens of pieces on the brink of toppling all around me, the thought, surprisingly, made perfect sense. More sense, in fact, than buying into the domino effect would, because my resistance would be grounded in something bigger, something omnipotent, actually. That something was God.
One of the concepts of God that's come to mean a lot to me recently is the idea of God as Principle. Principle orders, arranges. Principle shapes, defines, and designs. And because this divine Principle is synonymous with Love, Principle's ordering must be done with care and grace - in a way that lovingly keeps things aligned with what God has outlined.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, explained it this way: "The relations of God and man, divine Principle and idea, are indestructible in Science," she wrote, "and Science knows no lapse from nor return to harmony, but holds the divine order or spiritual law, in which God and all that He creates are perfect and eternal, to have remained unchanged in its eternal history" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pages 470-471).
I began to see the two-fold necessity of standing up to the domino effect. First, I was being called upon to resist because the concept of a law that could somehow negate the continuous, benevolent, and orderly functioning of divine Principle was simply ridiculous. Where in a universe governed by God could there be room for such a thing?
Second, and perhaps more significant, I needed to resist because it was only in this way that I would see what was really going on.
If not the domino effect, then what? Mrs. Eddy laid it out specifically when she said, "Science knows no lapse from nor return to harmony, but holds the divine order ... to have remained unchanged...." Starting from Principle would reveal that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand," as Jesus promised - and proved - to the people. That in spite of all appearances, Principle was caring for and coordinating every detail - deadlines especially.
As it turned out, everything fell into place. Some lesser deadlines were missed, but we met our big one. Yet what meant the most was the calm, poise, and yes, even humor, that permeated our production that day.
In the end, I was grateful, but not surprised. As I'd learned, that's the result of seeing Principle in operation. Because when you do, the domino effect has nowhere to go but back to the land of innocent childhood games.