I never ever use the word exquisite, but this morning while standing on my head I thought, “How exquisite this moment of perfect balance feels”.
I went on to consider other facets of life such as working, eating, speaking, and shopping. In all cases, balance is possible, but is often only partial and so seldom exquisite. Why so rare? It is such a wonderful sensation!
Impartiality and balance share similar qualities, so chapter 16 offers us a hint at why balance and impartiality are rare to experience.
Balance and impartiality come about when we lean neither one way nor the other. Need (desire) and fear (worry) undermine this exquisite middle path constantly, albeit, naturally. Nature’s evolution has no interest in fostering impartiality and balance. I regard this as Nature’s primary hoodwink. As chapter 65 points out, Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them. The reason why the people are difficult to govern is that they are too clever. In the end, what is more “of old” than Mother Nature?
Our need to survive and the fear of perceived threats always keep us leaning one way or the other. Need pulls us toward what is favorable and fear pushes us away from what is not. Such instincts bias us from birth and play themselves out until death. Chapter 32’s counsel, One ought to know that it is time to stop. Knowing when to stop one can be free from danger hints at how to realize exquisite balance in all aspects of life, from eating and speaking, to yoga, to… you name it! The best solution I’ve found is to be aware, 24/7, that this tug-of-war is always going on. Chapter 37 then shows me my next step, And if I cease to desire and remain still, The empire will be at peace of its own accord… And voilà, the exquisite balance I treasure appears.
Of course, there in lies the problem of balance and impartiality. You have to experience balance to realize its exquisite nature. However, balance requires us to calm desire down and remain rather still, which seems only possible to the degree we yearn for that exquisite experience. Alas, it can be a ‘Catch 22’ (i.e., the circumstance that denies a solution). Our yearnings get in our way; Nature’s bio-hoodwink keeps us chasing after our pots of gold at the end of our rainbow (1). The illusion we feel is that once we get the gold, balance and peace will be ours. Of course, the gold vanishes the moment we claim it, and off we go chasing after the next pot of gold.
To be fair, the illusions that drive need are essential to survival, and so the most balanced goal one can entertain is to maintain a balance between the inevitable illusions necessary for survival, and a degree of impartiality essential for sanity. In short, aim for imperfect perfection. 😉
(1) This may account for the singular value of activities carried out over a lifetime practice. For me this has mainly been Yoga, Shakuhachi, and Tai Chi. They all embody the principle of ‘short term pain, long term pleasure’, and as the decades roll by, I witness more and more of the ‘long-term pleasure’ side. Alas, following the ‘short term pain, long term pleasure’ side, rather than the ‘short term pleasure, long term pain’ side of life is difficult. Pleasure is one of life’s prime motivating forces, and so the ‘short term pleasure’ side tips the scales more than we’d wish. It doesn’t help that civilization goes out of its way to make ‘short-term pleasure’ as easy as possible to indulge in.