Wednesday, 28 November 2012
The Balance part III (conclusion)
I think what I was trying to get at the other day is that people seem to need a way of feeling in balance; at home, in a profound sense. They want to feel linked to the rest of the world about them, and not just to human society; they want to feel a sense of unity with The Way Things Are.
Aspects of physical and biological science can help us do that via reason. For example, the characteristics we share with other living creatures, the way the seasons work on us, or the wonders and mysteries revealed by astronomy. Such insights can lead to a fuller identification with the rest of the universe - e.g. some of the things Einstein wrote in later life. Sometimes such insights are labelled "spiritual," a complex and conflicted term these days perhaps.
Before scientific methodology and rational analysis, people found this harmony in ways that might not stack up rationally, but I think they can still have a symbolic beauty for us, and even, for some of us, a functional utility.
Astrology is, I think, not rationally supportable (which is a polite way of saying that at the literal level, I don't believe a word of it!) However, sensible, bright people follow it, including a lovely colleague of mine. It's unwise to think that people who believe irrational things are foolish; patently not so.
We should look at the purpose, function and symbolic eloquence of such systems as astrology, even if we don't accept them ourselves. I believe they help some people who are looking for a sense of balance and belonging, unity with the universe. Edmund, the wicked bastard in "King Lear," says in effect "It's nonsense. I'd be lecherous and uncouth whatever stars reigned over my conception and nativity." He was a modern man in his day.
I don't know enough about other cultures to generalise, but there is one well-known symbol of balance, the ancient Chinese Yin-Yang. Like many profound things, it is beautifully simple.
Thus saieth Wikipedia, helpfully I think:
In Chinese philosophy, the concept of Yin-Yang, which is often referred to in the West as "yin and yang," literally meaning "shadow and light," is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn in relation to each other.
Everything has yin and yang aspects, opposite dualities that are ultimately interdependent, different ways of seeing and understanding an inexpressible unity. The symbol may have become a cliché, but the mode of thought is fascinating, and I think productive. To risk stating the bleedin' obvious, you can't have light without dark, music without silence - life without death. These dualities are not opposed, they make up the one, even if we see first yin and then yang.
The Balance. Ever changing within us and without us. If you veer away from death, deny it in your life, you drain your life of meaning and intensity. If you are incapacitated by your (natural) fear of death, you darken your life.
The Balance is there all the time, you can't will it within yourself. You can't say "I will be mindful today," or "I will stop worrying about the end of my life."
Meditation is one way to let The Balance emerge. But enough from me, on the way. You know what's coming next:
"The Way that can be named is not the perfect Way."