Likening your life to different types of light might strike you as dumb. But who knows?
The post Are You A Flashlight Or A Laser Beam? appeared first on Above the Law.

First, let me save a few of you a little time. I Googled my prospective title of this column before writing it to see if anything similar had been used lately by someone writing about this subject. I came up clean there, but if you’re looking for the firearm accessory forums, I’m going to save you a whole lot of indecision. Get the flashlight and learn to use the sights.

For the rest of you, I’m not talking guns, and I’ll be getting a bit more esoteric than usual. I’m talking about people. You, me, all of us.

They say there are two kinds of people: the sort who divide the world into two kinds of people, and everyone else. Although I’m not sure who is right, today I’m going to indulge the former.

A laser produces a very narrow beam of light. Laser beams stay focused — they do not spread out much at all. Laser light can travel extremely long distances. Lasers are capable of concentrating a tremendous amount of energy in a very small area.

Flashlights, on the other hand, well, you know what a flashlight is. You probably have one sitting under your kitchen sink from back before we all had one in our pockets on our phones. A flashlight, sure, not so many fancy scientific applications compared to a laser. But if the power goes out after dark, we all know which one you’d prefer to have.

I’ve been thinking lately that people are either flashlights or lasers. This is about more than just multitasking versus focusing on a single task at a time.

It’s life. I’m 37 and am only starting to realize that I barely know myself. This laser analogy really seems to fit though. I can move it around, but when it’s focused on something, everything else seems to stay in the dark. My writing’s going really well, and my day job starts to slide into mediocrity. I’m knocking it out of the park on pro bono work, and my personal relationships suffer. Five marathons completed somehow translates into drinking too much.

You’ve got to keep it moving around. You leave the laser aimed at one thing too long, everything else decays. Even worse, whatever the laser is pointed at eventually starts to burn.

Meanwhile, all these flashlights out there, man. They seem to have everything under control. Not exactly distinguishing themselves in every arena, perhaps. Nothing’s at risk of catching fire though.

I’m sure the flashlight people have their complaints. We all do. Everyone struggles. Still sounds easier, to a laser guy over here anyway.

Can a laser become more like a flashlight, or vice versa? To stick with the metaphor, no amount of tinkering is going to have that old Maglite beneath your sink cutting diamonds. Neither is any laser pointer ever going to illuminate the room when the lights flicker out during a thunderstorm. Maybe we’re all one way or the other, trapped within ourselves, as the people we are destined to remain.

I clearly don’t believe balance is something you can simply choose if you want it. Wouldn’t everyone make that choice if they could? And nothing is more natural than wanting something you can’t have.

We can still be better at the application of whatever we’ve got, I suppose. In other words, don’t shine a laser down the drain thinking it will help you see what’s causing the clog in there, and don’t try to shoot down a drone with a flashlight beam. Figure out how to use the right tool for the right job.

Think about it. Likening your life to different types of light might strike you as dumb. But who knows? Gave me something to focus the laser on for a few hours, at least.

Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt-Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a wide variety of publications, and made it both his business and his pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless solely his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the credit anyway. He can be reached at