A Balanced Life Has Change and Instability Built In [en]

[fr] Quelques réflexions sur l'équilibre de vie -- et le fait que celui-ci est en fait un perpétuel déséquilibre, qui doit pouvoir absorber le changement.

I want a balanced life.

When I stop and think about what I want in life, that’s the best answer I can come up with: I want a balanced life.

I’m not an extremist. I want time for work and time for play, futility and depth, travel and stability, arts and science, me and others, and space for my wide variety of interests.

Many years ago, one of my philosophy courses made me suddenly understand that imbalance is what makes life alive. The very chemical reactions which form the basis of life are oscillating reactions, which go back and forth around equilibrium, permanently out of balance, but stable enough to allow us to live and breathe long years.

There is a risk of getting caught up in words, here. Stable, balance, unstable, imbalance.

During my physics classes in high school (what we call “Gymnase”), I learned that there was stable and unstable equilibrium. An object is in stable equilibrium if it is hanging from somewhere. If you make it move, it will come back to its equilibrium point. Unstable equilibrium, on the other hand, is when the centre of gravity is above the support base. Push it over, and it may fall and never come back to where it was. It’s unstable.

This struck me as counter-intuitive. When I first read about the two terms, I thought it would be the other way around. A lamp hanging from the ceiling seemed less stable than a table on the kitchen floor. There was a slight discomfort in the realization that what I considered most stable was in fact labeled by physics as “unstable”.

Me sitting on the couch: that’s unstable equilibrium. I feel pretty stable, though.

Walking: a body which is losing its balance every step of the way.

I’ve written more than a handful of articles that have to do with my quest for balance or related topics. Here are a few I dug up, but you can probably find more if you hunt around:

So for balance, you have to factor in instability. A balanced life is not a rigid regimen of balanced components. A balanced life is elastic, ever-moving, a harmonious danse of spare parts. A chaotic system, probably.

Balance, probably, is an ability to manage change. Interesting idea, for someone with a slight adjustment disorder.

A balanced life is a life that can absorb external elements without being turned upside down. This reminds me of something that’s sometimes said of Indian culture: it’s inclusive, it absorbs rather than rejecting.

So, my balanced life needs resilience. And it will never be really in balance — forever trying to reach it.

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