In essence, life is not an either/or experience. More and more we are finding it to be a bit of both/and. With both aspects — pleasure and pain, optimism and pessimism, confidence and uncertainty — to digest and manage, we are challenged to do so in a balanced way.
. . . you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you
have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance
between hope and despair. In the end, it’s all a question of balance. Rohinton Mistry, 1995
In his novel, A Fine Balance, Mistry’s four main characters grapple to maintain this delicate balance under the weight of dire circumstances — poverty, abuse, violence and prejudice. One character, seemingly the least directly impacted by these circumstances, nonetheless falls into despair and commits suicide. The message the story leaves with us is that tipping the scale — favouring despair over hope or hope over despair — results in an imbalance with its own dire consequences.
Those of us who choose only to acknowledge pleasure, optimism and confidence are seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Our over-sensitivity to life’s darker aspects may steer us into denial, repression and avoidance. Those insensitive to the positive aspects of life, and only able to see pain, pessimism and uncertainty, may become overwhelmed, withdrawn and hopeless. In either case, this excessiveness often leads to depression and anxiety — two leading causes of mental illness.
All things fall and are built again, and those that build them again are gay. W. B. Yeats
Implied in Yeats’ quote is the truth that all things are temporary and in the rebuilding of what was once there comes the opportunity to learn a better, kinder way. Wisdom — the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgment — is not possible without experiencing all aspects of living — light as well as dark. It is wisdom that evolves our consciousness and our humanity so we are able to accept what emerges in our lives without judgment or expectation.
The practice of non-judgment or compassion requires that we accept whatever is presented to us without a negative or positive interpretation. The essence of living a fine balance is standing still long enough within what ‘is’ until we recognize there are no negative and positive events. Rather, there are only judgments fabricated from our past experiences and belief systems. These, too, are only temporary and subject to falling. The message in our life story may be that it is time to release those judgments and belief systems and allow wisdom to enter.
What judgments or belief systems are you ready to release in your search for balance?