Balance: A Counter-Argument

When I was in high school, I traveled to Switzerland with some close friends. One of my friends (Tom) was there to visit his girlfriend, and me and the other guy (James) were there to tag along. It was my first visit out of the country, and being in the Not USA had the effect of jolting me out of my comfort zone. While I was there on what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, I found myself thinking deeply about life. Travel has a way of giving you tingles of awareness in both body and mind, and these tingles have the effect of pointing out things you had missed while you were slogging through the drudgery of your predictable life. I was feeling the tingles.

James must have been too, because we had a lot of talks – real talks – during that trip while Tom was off deserting us. Reflecting on it all now, I don’t think I’ve ever been closer to another male friend than I was to James during that trip…that’s a weird thought…but also beside the point. The point is balance. You see, of all the real talks James and I had, one in particular sticks out. We stayed awake until probably 4am talking about what the key to life was. You know, the sort of grandiose, naive, wildly ambitious things that teenagers talk about. And during the whole talk, we kept coming back to balance. One of us would offer up X as being a good quality and possible key to the riddle, and the other would note that if you had too much of X, you’d end up reversing all the positive effects that X yielded and find yourself alone and depressed while watching entire seasons of bad sitcoms on Netflix. No matter what was good, we came to conclusion that too much of it was bad. You needed to find the right balance.

I latched onto that idea, and I’ve been a firm believer in it ever since. Balance is good. By definition, it’s right. But I’m starting to realize that this doesn’t mean it’s the key to life. In fact, the key to life might actually lie in getting yourself out of balance. Gasp!

By definition, balance is right. It’s a condition in which things are in “correct proportions.” But that’s a little too easy, isn’t it? That’s like, if we were given a really super hard math problem, just writing “Let x = the answer to this problem. Therefore, answer = x.” And then drawing a big bold box around that “answer = x” part and patting yourself on the back for your immense cleverness. Balance might be the answer to the super hard math problem that is life, but that doesn’t mean it’s very helpful in solving the problem. We can’t just say to ourselves: “So balance is what I’m looking for, huh?… deep breath Ok, I’m balanced!” We can’t just declare ourselves at the end state…we have to do some work to get there.

And I think the key tool to help us get there is actually forcing ourselves out of balance and maintaining a self-awareness that will guide us to that sweet spot over time. This makes so much sense when we analyze it logically. It seems so obvious that you can’t know that you’ve gone too far until you actually go too far and feel that little tightening in your stomach. Once you’re there, you start moving in the opposite direction until you feel that tightening again…and you continue to oscillate back and forth until you’ve achieved…ta da…balance!

Note: This is the exact method that Rachel and Lindsay were applying in the cover photo. Take notes.

It’s so obvious, but the problem is that we don’t actually apply this in our lives. We humans are such suckers for inertia that if we even so much as take one tiny step in any direction we feel as though we’ve just split the atom and give ourselves a cheeseburger and a beer to celebrate. For one reason or another, we’ve all found ourselves dramatically out of balance in one or more areas of our lives. When we are able to admit to this imbalance (a feat itself), we take one baby step towards balance and sit down exhausted, with a self-congratulatory smile. We see this as a victory because, hey, at least we’re closer than we were before, right? There are a lot of reasons for this buried in human psychology, but I think this pattern of behavior is pretty obvious so I’m not going to go into those reasons here. The key takeaway is that, when we start from a point of imbalance and seek imbalance, our nature is to fall short. In order to achieve balance, we must seek the opposite imbalance of our current state. Doing so, we have a fighting chance to pass by that beautiful balance point and get that wonderful tightening in our stomach that tells us that we stumbled upon something great and all we have to do is back it up a little…

That’s it. Those are my rambling thoughts for the evening. I could write more, but The Little Mermaid is on right now and Under the Sea is starting! I’m going to go sing along.

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