Balance vs. Agility: Leading On The Edge
Conventional wellbeing experts put a lot of weight behind the idea of ‘achieving perfect balance’ physically and mentally. But on closer inspection this seems to be a fundamentally flawed – and, in fact, profoundly dangerous – interpretation of the scientific,…
Conventional wellbeing experts put a lot of weight behind the idea of ‘achieving perfect balance’ physically and mentally. But on closer inspection this seems to be a fundamentally flawed – and, in fact, profoundly dangerous – interpretation of the scientific, philosophical and psychological evidence which suggests something to the contrary: that dynamic ‘almost-balance’ is the way towards true creative potential.
Intrinsic to the idea of evolution is a subtle but consistent driving force towards ever more complexity, more development and more creative expression (through mutation, adaptation and selection). It is the same with the physical expansion of the known Universe, which is (as far as we can tell) moving relentlessly towards greater expansion and variation at all times. This is confirmed in the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
Both the biological and physical sciences tell us, therefore, that nature – by definition – is never in complete balance.
This can be quite quite challenging to many on the path of inner harmony. But it is not just the sciences that support the idea that a (perhaps futile) attempt to be constantly in balance leads to stagnation, and the loss of opportunities for creativity and excitement.
In Islam (and in particular its Sufi path) there are many Names for God, each describes a layer of ‘his’ essential nature, what I would call the nature of the Universe. It is written that through God’s Goodness and Mercy the world was created, when he breathed into the creative potential of the cosmos to manifest life.
The Prophet said that ‘Verily My Mercy Precedeth my Wrath. – that mercy, goodness or what we might call the Creative Force comes before his wrath, justice or Limiting Force. It seems the Universe is almost exactly in balance but the scales are ever-so-slightly tipped in the favour of creation. Which is why we are sitting here today.
Interestingly, it is this non-equilibrium that is the hallmark of life itself. All living entities are ‘autopoietic’, meaning they are ‘self-creating’. This refers to the unique ability of a living organism to continually repair and maintain itself, ultimately, of course, reproducing itself. It does this by being purposefully out of equilibrium, decoupling itself from balance with its environment so that it can use energy and raw materials from that environment to create and sustain its own life.
A.H. Almaas (a brilliant synthesizer of psychology and Sufism) talks about this autopoietic faculty at work within the illuminated, enlightened mind. This kind of mind is in the process of constantly recreating its consciousness, expanding it, using the ‘raw materials’ of our environment. As we do so we dissolve any residual, concrete ego structures (for example; our old beliefs, ideas, identity, fears, traumas etc.). If we don’t allow this creative destruction to occur, we stagnate:
“Hence egoic life constitutes an attempt to turn the soul into a machine, a closed and isolated system… the second law of thermodynamics will impel a rigidly structured soul towards greater entropy [disorder]”.
If we don’t grow – if we aren’t open to inner expansion – the forces of nature will propel us instead towards greater mental disorder, and emotional disintegration. “This accounts for the continual suffering of egoic life, and its hopeless and incessant attempts at balancing itself.”
Perhaps the point is not to balance statically, but to be dynamically in motion , leaning out over the edge of our surfboard to catch every last bit of momentum and creative potential the sea of life has to offer.