Thinking about the nature of risk for a Staff Retreat this week. I’m comfortable with the risk of leaving my comfort zone—the overused “thinking outside the box”. And I’m comfortable with the risk of taking personal responsibility—challenging myself and other team members to focus on change and make it happen.
I’m not so comfortable with the risk of achieving and maintaining balance in my life. I appreciate the concept of balance, of striving for both inner peace and outward tranquility. Nigel Marsh talked about work-life balance at TEDxSydney last May. No earth-shaking insights, but I think he sums it up nicely. Visualize your best day, then figure out how to live it.
Recently I read the Tao of Pooh for the first time. I’m a big fan of Pooh, altho I identify more with Owl. Pooh just, well, gets along. Benjamin Hoff relates through allegory A.A. Milne’s characters and their world to the eastern belief system of Taoism in this brief book, and it’s companion The Te of Piglet. Wikipedia summarizes:
Winnie-the-Pooh himself, for example, personifies the principles of wei wu wei, the Taoist concept of “effortless doing,” and pu, the concept of being open to but unburdened by experience. In contrast, characters like Owl and Rabbit over-complicate problems, often over-thinking to the point of confusion, and Eeyore pessimistically complains and frets about existence, unable to just be. Hoff regards Pooh’s simpleminded nature, unsophisticated worldview and instinctive problem-solving methods as conveniently representative of the Taoist philosophical foundation.
I read this book with great excitement. It just feels right, in the balance of yin and yang, and emphasis on compassion, moderation, and humility.
My unease, I suppose, is in a sneaking suspicion that balance is just not the way of this world. Balance too often becomes stasis, and the only system that maintains stasis permanently is death.
The general ideas of Chaos Theory and Complex Systems have been oversimplified by many others (Jurassic Park) so I will spare you. The “big idea” is the natural state of systems is constant evolution and change. Newton may have determined that a body at rest remains at rest, but as noted above, the only time there is an absence of force working on said body is when that body is 6 feet under the ground.
If you are standing still, you are really moving backwards, because the rest of the world is moving ahead without you.
Let’s go back to Pooh again for a moment. One reason so many of us are so resistant to change is that stasis feels comfortable. It’s easier to deal with the familiar. But Pooh, you’ll remember, isn’t stuck in the familiar. His stories take place all over the 100-acre wood, here and there visiting his friends and getting into (and out of) all sorts of adventures. The Tao of Pooh is not a stoic “balanced” place, but a path through the woods of life—a journey along “the way” of life. It’s not the balance of the situation, but in the experience of the ever-changing situation.
How, then, does one achieve “balance” in that kind of Universe, the ever-changing way of life? I guess that’s the question we’re here in this life to ask.