Hi-Float: A Rather Long Balloon Analogy

So the other day at work, as I curled the ribbon for a balloon for one of our small-person customers, I had a thought. And the thought stuck. So I’m sharing it. Here we go.

Balloons are the epitome of what the world of man has to offer.

Warm fuzzies. You know how happy you get when you’re a kid and you’re handed that bright, shiny, magically floating thing? Yeah. It’s awesome. Every kid loves balloons. There’s just something about them that’s fantastic. It makes you inexplicably happy. Sometimes, it makes you so happy that it can stop your tears in their tracks. If anyone is upset about something, hand them a balloon and it’s bound to coax at least the tiniest of smiles. So, there’s a high.

Gimme My Stuff. I don’t know if it’s because of the conditioning we’ve received just from being in our culture, or if it all started with associating happiness with receiving a stupid balloon in the first place, but we definitely associate happiness with material stuff. Even if we go no further than talking balloons as our pet metaphors, we have our proof right there—an adult will brighten if you give an adult a balloon. A kid will be ecstatic. Teenagers are gleefully reminiscent of their younger ballooning days (as they suck out the helium), et cetera.

But balloons are man-made, and as a brilliant, enlightened young man once told me,everything created by man means temptation. He was so right. And not only that, butnothing created by man is eternal. Take our balloons, for instance. The helium will seep out of that latex in four to five hours, tops. Then where will your happiness go? If your parents are lucky, you won’t throw a screaming fit now that it’s not floating. Maybe it’ll keep you amused for a little while longer while you play with the pathetic puckering ball of air and the limp ribbon tied onto it. But you won’t die with it. You won’t take it to school with you the next day. It won’t save your life, your friendships, or your marriages. It’s ephemeral. Sometimes, having the thing in the first place will do you more harm with good. It probably won’t help you reach your goals in life. It could temporarily slap a band-aid on the gaping wound of a relationship: like an engagement ring when it’s getting tough to work through your struggles as a couple, like sex when you’re desperate to feel one with one another or when you feel like you need a solid reason to justify staying together.

This leads me to the next point in my grand balloon metaphor: The fruits of temptation willalways bring you suffering.

Disappointment is only the result of unfair expectation. My aunt Lezlie told me that once, and it stuck with me.
Placing your faith and your happiness in something temporary only sets yourself up for a fall of some kind, because if your joy isn’t founded in something that will never, ever run out, then you’re going to try to keep looking for that joy elsewhere. And yeah, you’ll find what you think is joy. You’ll be positively elated for a while. It’s what they call the honeymoon stage in a relationship. It’s the thing that makes your jaw drop when you get cast as the lead, or get a 1 at Solo & Ensemble. It’s the tingle that coursed up and down your entire self when you were dancing to the throb of the Nightclub Friday night.

But the honeymoon stage only lasts so long before you start realizing the fatal imperfections in what you’ve so adoringly cast your gaze on. Maybe your “perfect” boyfriend who’s been telling you all this time that he quit smoking has been sucking joints this whole time. The morning after you went clubbing, you were sore and stiff and your head hurt like none other, and for some reason you can’t explain, you feel empty. Sure, you got a 1 at Solo & Ensemble, but your best friend is going to a National contest—how does that make you feel? If your only joy comes in writing music, what happens when the crushing realization hits that everything you’ve been working towards is nothing? That no matter what you do, there’s always someone else who’s better, faster, smarter, prettier, more talented, or just has it more together than you? There are some dangerously deep lows waiting for you when that time comes.

Here are three of the ways faith in man (or balloons) will fail you.

Balloons pop. No kid has escaped the devastation and depression of a balloon popping. You get your balloon, you’re super happy, you’re running around with it, and suddenly–unexpectedly–the thing pops with this hideous noise, scaring the crap out of you. You’re shaken. You maybe cry a little bit. But one thing is for sure–for the rest of your balloon-loving life, you are terrified of that balloon popping again. Sometimes, you’re so scared of it happening again that you don’t even want to accept another balloon when it’s offered.

Let’s say you’ve devoted yourself to someone for four months. Or a year. Or a year and a half. Or six years. Or thirteen years. You’ve been together for a while. You’re both committed long-term. You know without a doubt that you love this person. Then they dump you. BANG! Or you say something irreversible and stupid and there’s no fixing it—BANG! The relationship is over. Or maybe you’ve been married thirteen years, and all of a sudden, what you thought was love rushes out of the room with a whoosh that leaves your core empty and cold. BANG! Your husband has turned out to be mean, abusive, and distant. There’s no recovering him from that abyss. And you can’t leave him, because you have no savings and two young kids. BANG!

In a freak accident, you, the musician, just went deaf. BANG! You, the painter, just went blind. BANG! You, the athlete, are now paralyzed. BANG! BANG! BANG!

Having sex sure felt nice, but now you’re pregnant? Oops! BANG!

You’re crushed because you can’t find a trace of what used to make you so happy. Your salvation from all the crap in your life just turned into a manifestation of what it was rescuing you from. What’s worse, you have to live with the consequences. It’s a burden you carry around with you everywhere. It’s a weight, and it’s a scar. You’re drowning in the emptiness that used to be your joy, your hope—your everything.

You know what else sucks about balloons?

When that tiny, slippery ribbon slides through the spaces in your fingers and soars, out of reach and out of sight, into the sky. Now that’s depressing. You can’t blame it on anyone else. You can’t retrieve it. You can’t earn it back. Once it’s gone, ladies and gentlemen, it is gone. Sure, you can watch it till its tiny departing speck finally leaves your sight, but what good will that do?
I guess this effect is similar to the balloon popping, but without the added trauma. There’s more sadness than shock, and you get to watch it fly away into that mass balloon graveyard in the sky. You wonder if the balloon will ever make it to the man who lives on the moon, and then you get more upset because then the man on the moon gets to have your balloon, and you don’t. You cry. Or you suck it up, because that’s what your daddy told you to do.

In real life, it’s like the helplessness you feel when you have to stand there and watch something you love leave. Like when you know that your best friend of almost three years is drifting away from you at warp speed. You wonder where you went wrong. Could you have tied the string a little tighter around your wrist? Maybe you should have just tied it to your belt loop. Or maybe it was your own stupid fault for ever getting the thing in the first place. You should have known better! This is all your fault! The thoughts stream through your mind rapid-fire, and, once again, you feel empty.

Here’s the last tragedy of the free Mega Foods latex balloon.

When you take care of it and nurture it and cling to it for dear life…and then it deflates. Four-foot-fall you is jubilant to have this balloon. It is so special and precious, and you eagerly hold it in the car ride home, and then you run to your room and tie the ribbon around your bedpost. You realize about halfway through the day that the ribbon is sagging a little bit instead of pulled taught like it was earlier, but this doesn’t appear to be any cause for alarm. So you go to sleep. And the next morning, the balloon is shriveled up on the floor, a little nub filled with dead helium. Now you’re left with trash.

And trash is what you get when you cling to the things the world has to offer you.They may last for a while, stay nice and pretty and inflated. They might bring you joy for a few years, tops. But there’s gonna come a time when you realize that it’s not real. You’re entertaining yourself with things that aren’t helping you. They were really only serving as distractions the entire time.

I know I’m long-winded, and I’m almost done, but there was something else to this epiphany that I have to share.

Every place that has a balloon department also has this enormous bottle of something calledHi-Float. It’s this nifty little semi-liquid solution that you squirt inside a latex balloon before inflating it with helium. It coats the inside of the balloon to trap the helium inside. Where the balloon normally stays afloat for a few hours, now it floats for days.

Jesus = Hi-Float.

With all this balloon-bashing, I should mention that it’s not wrong to enjoy the things on this earth. God didn’t put us here to make us miserable. He didn’t put us here so we couldn’t take pleasure on what he also put here. We can enjoy the things that are man-made, but there has to be some Jesus-coating as your foundation. You have to have faith in something greater before you take what the world has to offer. “In the world, but not of it.”

There we go. I’m done. Thank you, Jesus. 🙂


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