5/20: 5 different perspectives on balance
We gave 5 of our finest writers exactly 2 hours and 0 minutes to write anything they wanted. They decided to write on balance. This is how it turned out.
1. Balance is overrated
Balance is what sustains life. Between the paths of pleasure and pain, if you steer down one path perpetually you will eventually reach a limit; there’s only so much pain a person can take, and only so much cocaine, before they kick the bucket one way or another. Every tradition, every philosophy, every self-help book, every motivational YouTube video, and every life coach out there will talk about balance in one form or another. And it’s not that I’m saying it’s not true to some extent, I just find it overrated.
Balance is essentially an endless series of personal trade-offs. You compromise one aspect of your life to work on another; you party less so you can study more, you train your favourite sport less so you can work more, and so it goes. But why this religious obsession with balance? I had a classmate who dropped out of school to train full time in muay thai, no education, just training. I know an Australian guy who quit his city job, went to the mountains to build a house with no prior building experience, no job, just building. My friend is now a worldwide muay thai flyweight champion living the best life he could, and the Aussie has now build a successful backpackers’ retreat. They willfully chose an imbalanced life and they have never been happier, despite what everyone told them.
Balance means the opposite of passion. Being truly passionate about something means a complete imbalance in your life. You sometimes forget to eat, you give up on sleep, you limit your social life, clear your schedule of other things, and you passionately work on whatever it is that lights the fire inside of you. Balance-followers frown upon that, but who is anyone to tell someone else how to live their lives? How to find happiness? A philosophy is true only as much as it applies to you, because when it comes to how to live your life that’s what ‘truth’ really is.
Why should we strive for balance at the expense of happiness? Why do we look down on people who choose imbalance, who give up their job, on reading books, who drop out of school, those who don’t have an interest in art? Why not find what you’re good at and makes you happy, and master the shit out of it? Why be a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, when you can be a happy, fulfilled, master of few? Why reject hedonism? Why balance the highs with the lows? The highs are what make the life worth living, and they may be transient, they may be discursive, but if you ask me, they’re what we live for. Which asshole came up with the concept of balance trying to mess up our lives?
2. A brief history of balance
Balance was invented in 1947 by Benjamin Andrew Lance. Lance was a well known British butcher born and bred in East-London and he came up with the idea while riding his bicycle in the park. Naturally, he had no clue what he found. It was not until much later that he actually saw the use of balance.
In the sixties he adopted balance (by accident, let’s not forget that) in his life and saw what it did for him. His life changed forever. He was hesitant in prescribing it though. And if he did prescribe it, he was precise about the way of using it. “If you are going to have balance, have balance in nature. It’s the best way.”
Lance started a movement. He gathered a massive amount of followers and changed their lives for the better too. Until the seventies hit. The seventies were a turning point. Vietnam was just over and the love, peace and happiness era was fading out. It was over. It never really revived either. Lance was found dead two days later. Cocaine.
3. Balance is bliss
Before reading this part stand up and read it like that.
Balance is dope. Have you ever stood up straight and not fallen over? That’s tight as fuck. Upright posture makes us amazing. We can even grab shit like that. What do you think makes us the freshest wankers in the animal kingdom? Hands man. Hands are so practical it’s not even funny. We can use intricate machinery, throw spears, gut an animal or wank off just like that. That’s the shit your hands do. And that’s why balancing is the OG power move. Take a moment to appreciate that. Notice your connection to the earth your standing on, feel your toes digging into the ground and bring to your mind the place on this earth, how you are right there, right where you are. Be aware of that balance that keeps you upright. Balancing is omnipresent. For having only two limbs we hug the floor remarkably seldom. Imagine a chair with only two legs, try to sit on that hoe and you fall over faster than you can swear. To reiterate, balance is pretty awesome. And everyone has an intuitive understanding of this skill. Standing upright is what makes us so much cooler than other animals.
What I am trying to say here is that balance is crucial to life. In finding balance life becomes easier to bear, more fun to experience and all-around awesome. Think about drinking. As in alcohol. That’s pretty fun every now and then, but drinking every day? That’s gonna fuck you up in the long-run. Imagine a thing we think of as positive: training. That’s a good thing to do, stay fit, stay healthy, live longer and shit like that. But now imagine training every day. Does not sound too bad either if it’s just table tennis but think about gymnastics for example. My mum used to do that 20+ hours a week and while she became pretty damn good, these days she can't even bend her knee properly because it is wrecked from the intensity of gymnastics. Everything done in excess is gonna fuck you up one way or another. Moderation is key, moderation is sustainable. Keep your desires in check and you will live through more of them. Moderation is key, contentment is good, balance is bliss.
4. An interdisciplinary perspective on balance
“One of the keenest pleasures in life to succumb to one’s vices”
Our society has placed an incredible amount of faith in the values and outcomes of balance. From the inventors of the wheel in central Europe to the pioneers of tea in China, balance has been integrated into religious and social doctrines. If religion is nothing but guidelines on how to live your life, then balance is its preamble. Interestingly enough, even though our ancestors spoke and wrote so much about keeping things even, they were hardly ever able to fucking do it. The Mesopotamians wanted too much land and collapsed into nothing, the Chinese were never able to develop a stable succession system that distributed power between the emperor, his posse and the people.
So, what can our troubled past teach us about our inclination towards balance? It’s simple, we hate it. Humans still classify themselves as animals, which is good because for all of our cognitive and social leaps over the past few millennia, the worst quagmires we have witnessed are the results of the carnal desires of greed, hunger, power, dominance, lust and self-preservation that have led us astray from our otherwise aesthetic paths. These manifest themselves in what we perceive as complex conflicts. The Holocaust was about dominance, the financial crisis of ‘08 out of greed, and the immigration crises resulted from self-preservation. It’s useless to deny that there are complex socio-economic factors that might impede or catalyse these crises, but the initial spark is created by an emotion born from a primal instinct. You might have heard about it, it’s called the fight or flight response. A little part of your brain shaped like an almond takes care of that.
If you didn’t get any of that, basically what I’m trying to say is that we could be great at everything if we wanted to, but our monkey brains are too stupid for us to constantly put our wants aside and care about the greater good for more than a few seconds. If that sounds like a pissed off edgy rant, it’s because it is. We have become the societal equivalent of influencers lighting bonfires and running into suicide forests for validation (yes, that did happen. No, I don’t know how we got here). Putting the transient over the permanent. So what the fuck are you supposed to do with this information? Nothing really. I’m not here to tell you that we are doomed, or that we can overcome our idiocy and hope to revive our planet and cultures through putting our differences aside and seeing the greater good.
“But wait”, you scream at me from a passing bus. “Can’t we just set an unrealistic standard for ourself that we will constantly fail and end up getting either depressed or vehemently obsessed by?”. For someone with so much eloquence, you’re really not that sharp. Anyway, a few hundred words in and you’re probably wondering what the point of all of this is.
There was supposed to be a fifth perspective. This particular author actually suggested to write on balance and then went on to produce exactly nothing.