“[Imagination] reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
WHAT IMAGE COMES TO YOUR MIND WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD “BALANCE”? I always see a pair of scales, an apparatus containing two pans or trays in which opposing elements are placed. The scales are “balanced” when the element on one side weighs the same as that on the other side. That’s how balance works in physics.
Today, however, let’s think of balance metaphorically. Is it not a fact that the principles and practices in our lives have to be balanced? And is it not also a fact that this is hard to do? To take but one example, it is a challenge to balance “responsibility” with “rest.” The person who is passionate about the value of work but never takes time for replenishment is “out of balance” (and is an accident waiting to happen).
The times in which we live make it especially hard to maintain balance. As life becomes more complex, the demands on our time can crush us under their weight. And as the enticing activities in our culture multiply, we find it hard to say no to anything we want to do. The result is that we spend our lives running from one excessive, imbalanced situation to another, always promising that we’ll get things back into balance “as soon as the rush is over.” But the rush never ends.
The only answer, of course, is to learn the practice busy people dislike most of all: sacrifice. We can’t “do it all” any more than we can “have it all.” Some choices have to be made, and some things have to be let go of. But frankly, there is something else we’ll have to learn: wisdom. Even when we’re willing to make serious sacrifices, it takes a wise person to know exactly where the ax should fall.
In the matter of balance, there is an irony, however. You might think that if you have to cut any of your activities for the sake of balance, then you’re going to “accomplish” less in terms of your total output. But this is an illusion. Consider all the people you know. Who are those who have the most expansive potential for good deeds and good works? Be honest now. Aren’t they poised? Aren’t they balanced?
“ ‘Holy leisure’ refers to a sense of balance in the life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, an ability to pace ourselves” (Richard J. Foster).