“The world today is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for dear earth itself underfoot” (Henry Beston).
IT IS A COMPLICATED WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE, AND IT’S GETTING MORE COMPLICATED ALL THE TIME. Science combines simple ingredients into artificial substances and technologies of increasing complexity, and society presents us with extremely involved circumstances rather than simple scenarios. No wonder we find ourselves, as Beston suggests, “sick . . . for lack of elemental things.” In an intricate world, we long for the deep-down comfort of basics.
That’s what the “elements” of a thing are: its basics, the blocks out of which it is built. If we say something is “composite,” that means it’s “composed” of different parts. Elements, then, are the fundamental, irreducible parts that go together to make up a composite entity.
Now think with me for a moment. Almost every “thing” we deal with is composite rather than simple. These days, most of the chemical substances and mechanical gadgets we encounter are made up of many elements — but the same thing has to be said about the ideas and objectives and activities we’re concerned with from day to day. Simplicity in anything is rare in the modern world. And that being true, it helps us to see, as much as possible, the elements of everything.
For one thing, we understand things better when we can identify their elements and see how the elements relate to one another. When we gain a little insight into how things are “put together,” we can do a better job of working with them in positive and productive ways.
But paying attention to elements helps us in another way also. Many of our problems are the result of imbalances. In other words, the elements of a thing are competing rather than working together. The more complicated our problems, the more we need to break them down into their parts — and then see how these can be balanced in a better way. So how good are you with the “elements” of life? I hope you’re good with them . . . and getting better all the time.
“Harmony means that the relationship between all the elements is balanced, is good” (Karlheinz Stockhausen).