May 4, 2015: The Ping Pong Exercise

~by Louis Templeman

Today I learned an exercise designed to help me combat certain emotional stressors such as disappointment, sorrow, self-pity, bitter doubt against my God who is supposed to be my healer and, of course, the hegemony of despair.

A professor designed this exercise to demonstrate problem solving to his students. He placed before the class a large glass bottle with a long neck that could, just barely accommodate a ping pong ball. He gave each student a ping pong ball and had them fill up the bottle with balls. Once full he told them to devise a way to quickly and efficiently remove the ping pong balls from the bottle. They came up with a variety of ways but none proved quick or efficient. Then, once the class exhausted their ideas, the professor took a pitcher of water and began to fill up the bottle. One by one the balls floated to the top and bounced out of the bottle.

I did not even come close to guessing this fitting and smooth answer. What a wonderful/beneficial/practical metaphor to apply to the human mind. I personalized it right away.

The jug, of course, would be me. The ping pong balls would represent my wrong thinking, bad feelings and sins. The water would naturally stand for the Holy Spirit. It is a recognized spiritual principle that “Come Holy Spirit,” is our most dependable prayer.

How do I find practical application for this power of the Holy Spirit to flush me clean? One is prayer which I do daily, especially the rosary. Daily scripture reading is another. Since I am retired I can do that in the mornings. I also try to do some spiritual reading – some devotional book or biography of a saintly person. I am reading Dorothy Day and a bio of Oscar Romero right now. Finding quiet time just to be grateful for life.

To these private efforts I add regular mass and confession. I also have scheduled time for fellowship with friends. It is easier to be filled with and strengthened in God’s Holy Spirit with others. Regular fellowship is very healthy. This will keep me from turning inward, isolating myself and becoming morose.

I have to admit that the negative drag is always there like a Star Trek tractor beam. So I choose to lay out this path for myself. I will see how it goes. I expect God’s grace to make my ping pong balls float out of my heart.


Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

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