Tuesday, September 12, 2006 by niebuhrian
I know I said earlier that I wished to give up on balance, to let go of its safe confines and stretch out into a world that needs more than people who can only balance themselves precariously between two relatively distinct points. Work and family, serious and playful, depressed or hopeful, we often set up false dichotomies that lend themselves to the idealization of one particular way of being and also a sense of failure when we cannot achieve relative satisfaction in either domain.
Jim, a reader and commenter here, is retired from his "profession" but now works in an educational setting with kids with special needs. Why (My answer is based on my own thoughts and nothing that Jim has reported to me other than what I have read on his blog, I would expect him to correct anything I have to say about him)? He has worked most of his life and conventional wisdom says that the balanced approach to his life would be one of leisure and "retirement." Therefore, is Jim out of balance? Is he upsetting the apple cart with his approach to life? My sense is Jim has found something meaningful in his life that provides stimulation to the person he is and is becoming. Jim, in my own words, lives harmoniously with his circumstances.
Harmony is my substitute for balance. Where balance seeks a middle ground between two points, harmony seeks to embrace both points as valid and seeks to complement the multiple ways that life unfolds before our eyes. Harmony performs, plays, creates and builds on our lives. It can enrich an otherwise bland performance by altering the experience and the one who does the experiencing. To be in harmony with one's surroundings is to awaken oneself to the world of the moment, rather than looking forward to a different point in time where one must attempt to even out experiences and allay guilt.
I really have nothing against those who strive for balance. Balance can even be a way of living harmoniously with one's life. However, the more I think about harmony, the more I think it can offer an alternative to the pop culture mindset that has embraced balance and shunned grasping for the meaning in the moment. Balance works because we are a rational people. It can even be said to be Biblical, sort of. The greatest commandment is a three-way balancing act, God, self, others. Then again, how can we balance three separate things? There are no three-way teeter totters on the playground.
Maybe the greatest commandment is best enacted as a harmonious part of a life engaged in the moments of our lives. Harmony says that we do not have to sell all we have and give everything to the poor. However, a harmonious life might seek simplicity, might seek to honor God, self and others with the gifts of their life. It might seek to hear the stories of those who hurt and share their own stories of hurt and hope. I have often heard it said that the earth sings of the creation of God. If this is so, shouldn't we take the time to a hum a few bars back to the Creator?