Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hard And Soft

Finding The Balance

As I see it, the key to having real and deep firmness in your being is to have real and deep softness as well; and the key to having real and deep softness in your being is to have real and deep firmness. One without the other isn't very real and isn't very deep.

Firmness and softness are inter-related in that one without the other tends to be superficial and not very substantial. For example bullies tend to be superficially tough, but not nearly as tough as people who also can be soft. And hippies tend to be superficially soft, but not nearly as soft as people who can also be firm.

It's another way of talking about Yin and Yang, which according to traditional Chinese thought, don't really exist in any healthy way without each other. The Tao Te Tching says: Know the Yang but keep to the Yin. That first part is what so many hippies and New Agers would rather avoid...

Another example: “Beating swords into plowshares” is powerful, because you know the sword but decide not to use it. Never knowing swords in the first place and then beating them into plowshares is weaker, because you are being "peaceful" but you have no choice.

This interrelatedness of opposites can be applied to many of the seeming contradictions in human nature.

I think trying to deny, banish, or "transcend" one half of the many splits in ourselves is a recipe for trouble. Firm/Soft, Civilized/Animal, Violent/Peaceful, Competitive/Cooperative, Loving/Lustful, Greedy/Generous, Self-Interested/Altruistic, One/Separate...these are all hard-wired and valuable aspects of human nature. For me, balance is the key to life, not purification. And the key to balance is to first accept these dual aspects of our nature.

But that won’t do away with being out of balance. I don't think we can banish being out of balance from our lives. Balance can't be clung to or it ceases to be. You have to accept imbalance in order to have balance, which is actually a verb not a noun. It is always in motion, always a vibration between lost and found and lost and found and lost and found.

And so, sometimes I have the key and sometimes I am keyless. Sometimes I feel balanced and sometimes I don’t. I do my best to accept that and try not to cling to either state. Sometimes a little purification is not a bad thing. The need to attempt purification is human too.

But what seems so wasteful, selfish, and pointless to me is people's life long strivings to overcome, eliminate, deny, or "transcend" things that are built into our natures as human beings. This seems futile to me and the cause of so much violence and suffering in the world, turning people against their own bodies and selves, fueling murderous insecurity, and countless "holy" wars.

As I see it, true balance means true acceptance of who we are and living in the dynamic tension between our opposite qualities. I see this as an endless work in progress. I may never reach any kind of permanent state of balance but orienting in that direction seems like the best route to peace, joy, kindness, and the life I'm interested in living. Hard and soft, not hard or soft.

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