What is it indeed that gives us the feeling of elegance in a solution...? It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.
Henri Poincaré in Mathematical Maxims and Minims
A stream flows. Each molecule seemingly connected yet separate at the same time. Hundreds even thousands of variables affect the way it moves. A life could be looked at in a similar way. The threads of humanity and the chaos of the world work with and against one another in a human brain. Sometimes I wish I could quiet my brain and focus on a single thing, a single strand; I struggle. The complexity is beautiful and all consuming. What are the forces that influence the flow of the world in relation to the individual?
In the context of my own life I’ve began to formulate what keeps me afloat in this world, and what does not. The list is by no means complete, nor will it ever be. Many of my own factors conflict with one another, and sitting comfortably in the tensions in between is the place I need to find. It is recognition of this unfinishdness that will allow me to continue to grow, to love, to hurt, to give, and to be taken from.
Being Uncomfortable: Pushing oneself physically and mentally past perceived boundaries is the first vital tool I’ve stumbled upon in the search. Intentionally putting yourself in situations where you question if you can physically make it, but then summon something greater mentally and keep pushing on, is one of the best things for personal development that humans can do. It is healthy to test our limits, and it is good to not always be comfortable. Inseparable from this though is good judgment in the ability to know when a situation is really dangerous vs. very uncomfortable. This can only come with time and most of all being able to turn around or come down. These situations offer importance in the search for balance as they are a time when one is not thinking a billion thoughts, but focused on the task at hand. The moments bring clarity, and for me spirituality. It is important to acknowledge that these can’t happen every day and other ways of balance must fill the gaps in the week.
Let me say right off that bat that Relationships make all of the below better and are the overarching theme of it all. I’d also like to note that not all relationships are healthy and if someone is sucking your energy away it is a skill in itself to call them out on it. We don’t have to get along with everyone, and not everyone deserves our time. It is important to give everyone a chance, but let’s be real in saying that some people just aren’t worth working with or befriending.
Now, onto my own personal list, the next few luxuries are what tide me through the week…
Good Food: Eating right is important. Taking time to cook is a great way to slow down. Actually having to prepare the food, and being stoked on what you are eating. If your work is constantly interfering with this, then stop working as much, it is that simple.
Hot drink: Whether you drink coffee or tea, to me this is a vital part of the day. This could be leftover from my days in outdoor education, but there is something about holding a warm cup of something in your hand in the morning that gives the brain a much gentler wake up.
Music: The soundtrack to our lives is such a vital part of my days. Listening to music changes the atmosphere, brings memories back, inspires, and gets me pumped up.
Libation: I’ll be the first to admit I really like beer, and have been getting more and more into good whiskey. Having drinks with good friends is something I would not be willing to give up. At the end of a long day it is nice to unwind with a drink. Albeit not the healthiest, perhaps it is good for the soul.
Support: In the adventure of life and doing meaningful work one must have support. There has to be someone/ many who you can talk to who is/are on a similar page.
Challenge: I believe that our life’s work must not be easy. It would be too easy to fall into a boring cycle if all of the answers were black and white. The human mind has evolved to solve problems, and we must push ourselves in further developing this beautiful function.
Freedom: In seeking balance it is important to find where our freedom and ownership of our work is. When mentoring or coaching others it is just as needed. Allowing ourselves and others enough freedom to make mistakes, have successes, and reflect is so exciting and important.
Guidance: We all need mentors regardless of our age, experience, or position. There are always lessons to be learned, and they don’t always come from where we’d expect. Being open to mentorship from many different types of people can enrich our lives.
Creative outlet: This can be through work, but it is important to have something else outside of that. It could be writing, photography, art, music, anything that stimulates diverse parts of the brain. Expressing ourselves through different mediums is good for the soul, but is not something that many develop properly. Recently, two days ago, I bit the bullet and bought a new camera. Photography has always been a passion of mine, and I’ve been without a camera for about six months. I realize it is a privilege that I can afford to have such a hobby, but creative outlets can often cost nothing.
Now for the last two which sit in direct tension with one another but are both needed in achieving balance…
Simplicity: Living life without too much junk. It is important to do some deep introspection to realize what you actually need. As a middle class white male, I have a lot of stuff I don’t need. I feel that if I were to slim it down to what actually keeps me balanced, and what is extra, I’d be more appreciative, and respectful of what I have. The question of sitting in simplicity in the chaotic state of the world is a big one. I don’t have the answer to this, and would very much appreciate feedback.
Complexity: Some scientists believe that the world is constantly striving towards becoming more complex. I agree. As cells self organize towards more complex states, we must think about how to embrace this growing complexity. On a much more shallow level one can think about complexity in the everyday workplace. How do we recognize and respect the talents and stories of the individual, then step back and look at the bigger picture of how people can work together towards a common goal. It is similar to how an artist would take so many different strokes to achieve a beautifully complex painting that at the same time could sit in elegant simplicity. I constantly strive to figure out how to lead, guide, and be led in these processes with humanity. How to work together towards big goals that sit poised to topple our world is a question we must address.
So why did I start all of this with the metaphor of the stream? Perhaps because it is 90 degrees in Flagstaff and I so desperately miss the lakes and rivers of the Northwest. But also it could be because anyone who sits by the side of a stream and watches the flow of the water can see what I’m saying about something simultaneously being simple but complex. How can we work together as humans to achieve this beautiful balance? This is what I try to work towards in myself, and in those who I work with. There is hope; it is in us, in the children, and in not burning ourselves out.