Don’t Panic

by Martin B. Copenhaver

The wonderful church consultant, Susan Beaumont, wrote a blog post that I commend to you. She opens with a quote from Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar Animation Studios:

There is a sweet spot between the known and the unknown where originality happens; the key is to be able to linger there without panicking.


But, in my experience, people usually wait to express appreciation for a liminal time — the time between what is and what is not yet — when they have successfully crossed the threshold. It is in looking back that one can describe such a time as a “sweet spot.” When one is in the midst of a liminal time, it can be far from sweet. Try unnerving. Terrifying, even.

So I appreciate Catmull’s observation that, “the key is to be able to linger there without panicking.” Notice that the key is not to avoid, say, stress, because that is not possible in a time of transition. It is not necessary to avoid fear, either — and that’s a good thing, because fear is almost inevitable, too.
In fact, stress and fear, at least in small doses, can be positive responses.
Without some stress, we can become apathetic or lethargic; in the right measure, stress can give energy and focus.

Fear can be a helpful motivation, as well. Were it not for fear, we might poke a bear to see how he will respond or jump from a second story window to save time. One of the reasons small children require such diligent supervision is that they have not yet developed a strong sense of fear.

But “panic” is altogether different. Panic carries no positive properties. Panic does not energize or motivate. Panic is the enemy of wisdom and careful discernment; it is the mother of reckless decisions. Unlike stress and fear, which can be positive in small doses, panic is never found in small doses. It tends to crowd out everything else.

To be sure, there is stress in such a time in the life of our beloved School — and no small amount of fear, either. That’s okay. Those responses go with the territory and can even carry benefits. But panic is not inevitable and, gratefully, we can do without it. Avoiding panic may be the best way to enable us to receive the blessings that a time like this can bestow. Eventually, we might even declare it a “sweet spot.”

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