Balance   Leave a comment


Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

                                            Albert Einstein

Sgt. Charles Daniels watched the tightrope walker, Phillipe Petit, on the suspended cable between the twin towers and later had this to say; “I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’—because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’—approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire. And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle…He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again. Unbelievable really…Everybody was spellbound in the watching of it.”

What great balance Mr. Petit exhibited on that remarkable day in 1974. Does genius, whether that is physical, emotional, musical, mathematical, or any of the multiple types of intelligences, require a life out of normal balance?  Not many would consider Petit’s life and work the usual. His greatest feat, among many, was the high-wire walk at the World Trade Center, but the “artistic crime of the century” was a six-year plan that took several trips to New York from Petit’s home in France, and much illegal sneaking into the building to complete his dream. Petit also became adept at equestrianism, fencing, carpentry, rock-climbing and the art of bullfighting.

Years ago when I worked in a school as a para-educator one of my co-workers was a lovely young woman with small children who sometimes shared break time with me. Her unawareness of world affairs often shocked me. While I considered her the proverbial ostrich with her head in the sand, at the same time I heard about a past acquaintance that was living in an East Coast city, teaching yoga, writing about yoga, and residing in a housing structure where she had a room and shared kitchen duties with other tenants. This person had no TV and avoided news and dedicated her time to her peaceful life and work. I admired her and it dawned on me one day that these two women were approaching their lives in similar ways, but I felt critical of one for not knowing about her own country’s issues and events and I admired the other woman who chose her lifestyle for a different reason.  It caused me to consider my unbalanced judgments.

How does one balance the seriousness of  living and at the same time enjoy the only life one has? Can there be a creative balance? Can one live a life of conscience, compassion, and still find joy and beauty amongst the pain and fear of today’s headlines of disasters, violence, and corruption? The answer seems to be about balance.

Balance in daily life is tricky enough.  We all know how the best laid plans of doing the things we want or need such as exercising, eating balanced meals, spending the right amount of time with others, balancing our spiritual, emotional, recreational needs are easily thrown out of balance. But what if balance is over rated?  Without some kind of unbalanced drive would we have the artists and heroes that push themselves beyond balance? Practicing piano hours and hours a day for years? Pollack throwing paint? Picasso painting Guernica? Gandhi?  Ballerinas? Marathon runners?  Movie directors who shock our senses? Writers who lock themselves away for weeks on end to write their novel? Those who trek to mountaintops and fast for visions that change their lives? Would we see the extremes that humans are capable of without those who push their lives in ways that seem out of balance to others?  All those great rock and roll musicians? Many died from drug overdoses. Would they do it the same way again, would they write the same songs?

The great poet, diplomat, and activist, Pablo Neruda writes in his memoirs that he never learned to divide. The truth is that we are not born balanced. Some people are described as well-rounded and that may be a gift or a curse. A gift if one finds pleasure in pursuing various things or a curse if nothing excites a passion that drives one to push themselves past balance at least once in their lives. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.”

We are not created equal and never will be and what a boring place this would be if we were. The most symmetrical face is the loveliest, but we love the child whose ears stick out a bit further than his brothers or the gap between a person’s teeth, the distinctive eyes set wider apart than usual, and the mass of freckles on a 10-year-old face.

It seems that balance comes from within, from the core, and the only one directing the high-wire is the person walking that line. We know when our gut feels out of balance, when our vision is wavy, and when our equilibrium throws us off. That might be when life is too smooth for some and they need to throw in a few flips, while the person beside them keeps his/her wire  flat and grounded just where he/she feels the safest and most balanced.

Perhaps the perfect balance is between waking and dreams. Just before falling asleep or just when waking.

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Posted March 19, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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