BY: T. Franklin Murphy | June 2018
Harmony of the Center
We making choices daily for our health,security, and connections. Life constantly beckons us to act. Often one action may serve one need while neglecting or damaging another need. We must find balance, somewhere in the golden middle.
A precise equation for living doesn’t exist. The peak experience dwells in the misty land of ideals. So, we do our best, relish what we have, and piece together moments that bless the present without destroying the future. Our skills, knowledge and luck combine to create the reality of living. The exact combination of healthy connections, purpose, security, and comforts vary between people; each person able to squeeze enjoyment from their unique constellation of experience.
Different species of plants have different ideal conditions, requiring different nutrients and environmental exposures for the plant to achieve its ultimate potential. Humans are more complex. We develop and sustain health in relationships, spirituality, physically and mentally—each realm with its own requirements and demands. Effective living balances time and resources to contribute to the many facets of a healthy, enjoyable life. To experience a rich and well-lived life we must constantly balance and adjust to the dynamic conditions, seeking the nutrients and support from our surroundings.
Experience is full of conflicting demands. Just as a healthy diet requires balancing proteins, fats and carbohydrates, the other aspects of living also demand a balance. Too much attention in one direction knocks us off kilter, depriving other necessities of sufficient care. We drift to the right and must be reminded to move to the left. We step too far to the left and must be corrected to make a few steps to the right. We should walk down the middle way, with the beauty of symmetry, proportion and harmony; not fighting the simple drifts to the right or left, but gently redirecting towards the more balanced center.
Healthy living includes the enjoyment of peace, but growth demands occasional voyages into novelty, disrupting the comfort of familiarity. We are told to enjoy the present, but too much focus on the present distracts from future enjoyments. We must live harmoniously with others, but also courageously respect ourselves. We must discover Aristotle’s golden middle in many domains of living.
The complexity challenges effective living. Because of the absence of a clearly defined path, most rigid dogma is misguided. Choices get lost in the complex sets of rights and wrongs, shoulds and shouldn’ts. Somewhere in the growing rules of living, we lose our humanity.
"Experience is full of conflicting demands. Just as a healthy diet requires balancing proteins, fats and carbohydrates, the other aspects of living also demand a balance."
These rigid rules are not new to humanity. They litter the historic religious texts of our predecessors. We marvel at the exactness prescribed in the old testament of the Bible as the exactness prescribed to keeping the sabbath day holy, defining the number of steps allowed (counting steps existed long before Fitbits). We still seek to escape the cognitive challenges of balance in our modern day. We are constantly pelted with five things we must do for happiness, three things necessary for an effective diet, and six money moves you must make now. The artificial intelligence of search engines zeros in on content providing the exactness, moving them higher in search engines because people want it and are more likely to click on these titles. We want to know the exact number of steps we can take before a spiritual violation occurs—or diet is ruined; or happiness destroyed.
In complexity we must grovel through the myriad of actions constantly balancing, moving from radical adherence and chaotic wandering. Instead of strict dictates of ‘don’t judge,’ we must determine harmful and helpful judging; instead of honoring our own desires, we must smoothly integrate both respect for society norm and selfish endeavors. Instead of avoiding all guilt, we must balance when guilt motivates change and when it pounds us into frozen depression.
Hard, unbreakable rules create divisions. We are experiencing this again in the politics of our great nation. Hate, disconnection and bias evolves from the ashes of differences. Instead of embracing the complicated understanding of a need of blending both liberal and conservative ideals, we prefer a world of ‘my way or you are stupid.’ We want a world of no guilt, no anger, and no judgments. Our desires are amiss. The universe isn’t defined by some idealistic jibber-jabber. A healthy life demands some judgments, some guilt, some sorrow and even some mindlessness. We must create this balance.
We must continually adjust and tamper with life—balancing and re-balancing. We must avoid too much structure but also must keep unfettered chaos in check. Keeping balance draws upon mental energies, demanding attention where we prefer to be automatic. Allowing pressures of the moment, automatic responses, and un-giving dogma to direct our lives has a heavy cost, narrowing perspectives, limiting experience, leading to the abandoning of promising endeavors outside of prescribed patterns.
Paradoxically, over-structured lives, confined by strict dogma, become chaotic when the truths we hold painfully come in conflict with the stark realities of complexity. The success promised fail to materialize, the magical recovery stalls, and our relationships crumble. Limiting behaviors to a precise equation neglects complementary actions, missing the blessing of balance, depriving us of fullness.