Michael Taylor – Figure with Box Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.”
- The Balance Of Life.
What do we mean by ‘a balanced life?’ There may be many interpretations of this phrase; I will focus on the balancing of opposites in our lives, and coping with the contradictions and paradoxes that we inevitably meet.
In addition, I will explore the notion of impermanence, which in itself involves a kind of balancing. This is related to being able to integrate our knowledge of our own time-limited lives, with an enjoyment and appreciation of the years we do have on earth.
“There is nothing permanent except change.”
If we experience sadness at losses in the world, we could also balance this with thoughts about how fortunate we are to be alive and existing at all.
“Balance”, Paul du Toit, 2001. Wikimedia Commons.
“Life consists of two sides … light and dark. Joy and sorrow. Without a balance, one cannot fully experience a full and well-rounded life.”
The quotation above refers to the fact that life is about balancing opposites, managing the inconsistencies and changes that constantly make our lives interesting and colourful…. and, at times, difficult.
Picasso. Woman’s Head With Two Profiles. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Allegory of Joy and Melancholy. 1628. Abraham Janssens. Wikimedia Commons.
“I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no Melancholy.”
Paradoxes are seemingly contradictory statements, or images, where both sides of the contradiction can be true.
“Do what you will, this world’s a fiction and is made up of contradiction.”
Paradoxes teach us that there are no absolutes, that reality and truth are complex issues, that contrary views can both contain the truth, that nothing is as it seems.
These are valuable lessons that can only guide us on our path through life.
Unless we consider and balance the apparently contradictory, different ways of thinking about the world, we will never see the whole picture in life.
If we do not accept life’s ambiguities, we will always have a partial and unbalanced take on the world inside and around us.
“The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
Russell M. Nelson
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
If we are able to understand and accept paradoxes, they will help us to develop flexible and balanced Ways Of Thinking.
“What if you rested in between contradicting energies? What if you practiced holding contradictory views at the same time with no fantasy of them ever being resolved?”
Being able to keep two opposing views in mind simultaneously, without feeling that we have to come down on one side or another, gives us the ability to reflect, to weigh and balance opposites, to discover contradictory truths that may both have value.
This is so much better than having a thoughtlessly rigid and superficial mindset, one which immediately takes sides without weighing the real evidence, one which cannot accommodate two opposing truths at the same time. This is a very ‘unbalanced’ way of seeing the world.
By adopting a more open and receptive way of thinking, we can keep our minds, and our opinions, adaptable and flexible.
- The Concept Of Impermanence.
“It all goes away. Eventually, everything goes away.”
Claude Monet. Luncheon on the Grass (1865-6).Wikimedia Commons.
“Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic.”
W. H. Auden
These words may seem morose, but they can, in fact, be highly meaningful in terms of urging us to
enjoy the present moment.
For those of us who drift through life or hold onto an unreal and narcissistic fantasy of living forever, developing an awareness that life is finite can be life-changing.
It may mean that we begin to take steps to create a more meaningful and fulfilling life. It can inspire us to become more directional and hopeful of a better future.
Understanding the impermanence of life can bring us joy, mastery, choice and control.
If we can fill our lives with experiences that satisfy and absorb us, then we will be moving in the direction of accepting our own impermanence and valuing the time that we do have on earth.
“All created things are impermanent. Strive on with diligence.”
“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.”
Celebrating The Joyful, In Spite Of The Impermanence Of Life.
The Joy Of Life. Matisse. Wikimedia Commons.
“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”
W. Somerset Maugham
‘Taking delight’ in joy, whilst it is there, is one of the great pleasures of life. Allowing ourselves to feel happy, grateful, joyous, is a wonderful and uplifting, sometimes quite intoxicating, experience.
“I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine tonight.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Whilst we cannot fool ourselves when we are happy, that sadness does not exist, we can, temporarily, allow ourselves to become lost in our joyousness.
“Nothing wonderful lasted forever. Joy was as fleeting as a shooting star that crossed the evening sky, ready to blink out at any moment.”Nicholas Sparks
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