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breaking point

Cool Hand Luke


Hitting the breaking point is easier than you think.

You just might not know it for what it is the first time: a learning lesson.

The key is learning you can take it and keep going.

Slow learners might not make the leap the first time, might think they’ve only got one breaking point, so they could use a little help.

For example, take Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke.

Best looking movie star of all time? He’s in the top ten.

You know he’s going to get uglied up in a prison movie.

The surprise was the way he broke and got over it.

No spoilers on this 1967 movie, but the way he broke and recovered is a continuing inspiration.

Add a little Luke to your breaking point when needed.

Imagine yourself as the kid who gets bullied.

You live on the same street all your life, played with the kids in the neighborhood for years, and one day you’re the target.

Little kids do this.

One of them does something mean to another kid and if their friends see it they take note.

Maybe the mean kid had been mean to his friends. Now they all do mean things to keep him off them.

Everyone’s a bully.

So find someone to pick on? It works until the target hits their breaking point and chases everyone with a shovel.

When the dust settles you can all be friends again.

Now you’re a college student near the breaking point.

A biology class is all that stands between you and graduation.

You can smell it, taste it. The diploma, not the biology class, though they always have a certain funk.

Like the aroma of a wrestling tournament, or chess players convention, certain subjects attract stank.

Biology is a big one because fans and students morph into their biology, shedding those silly modern frivolities like showers and deodorant.

We’re all animals, right?

The class featured a famous guest professor from India. The in-house teacher introduced him at the beginning of the term and watched from the front row.

This was before call centers went off shore. Today the guest professor’s voice and command of English would make him a perfect candidate for the job of making you hang up in frustration.

Needless to say, you struggle in your last science class.

Then one day near the end you meet the original teacher at a coffee stand and explain how much you enjoy his class.

You love the professor from India. It’s so wonderful getting a world perspective on common subjects.

Milking it hard, you add in your academic dreams and aspirations, leaving out the part about dying to graduate and get the hell away from this fifth rate diploma mill where tenured professors get paid to introduce barely intelligible intellectuals.

Even at the breaking point of sucking up, you write you name on a slip of paper and give it to the teacher when you shake hands.

And buy his coffee.

Your kid gets bullied and you go straight to the breaking point.

It’s a grade school get on the bus morning.

You walk your second grader out with the other kids and say hello to the other parents.

One of the bigger kids could walk to school with the other big kids, but he rides the bus.

On the way to school the big kid punches your kid in the guts.

You hear about it after school and see your kid made it through the day.

Bullies push your buttons, and you know where the big kid lives.

So you walk over for a parent to parent talk.

After you ring their door bell a six foot five, four hundred pound form fills the door frame. In a moo moo.

They could have been a man or woman, but it’s their toenails that empty your brain.

Long, yellow, spirals of toenail hung off the front of the biggest feet you’ve ever seen.

“Can I help you?” they ask in a perfect Pat voice.

“I’m, uh, I’m doing an, uh, a neighborhood survey, and uh,” you say looking at those sleds.


You catch yourself, with their help.

“Trees. Planting trees in the neighborhood. With roots.”

You’re looking down again.

“We love tall things with roots,” Pat says.

“Right. Well thank you for your time.”


A breaking point comes with every encounter, every association.

It’s one of those built ins.

Your job? Understanding a breaking point as a starting line, not the end.

And be a good healer.

About David Gillaspie
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