21 December 2008


Someone asked me recently where I was at this point in my life and the word equilibrium came to mind. Not the same as contentment, although surely in the same hemisphere. A state of equanimity. What a chemist might define as stasis: a state of stability. A state of balance created by forces of opposition of equal strength so as to neutralize each other in the middle. Also known as equality of effect. Is this perhaps the true meaning of middle age? No longer the moment by moment changeability of childhood. Neither the anticipation or expectation, or anxiety, of youth. None of the angst of young love or the intensity of motherhood, nor the fearsome grind of career development, the nurturing of a marriage. This is a time of presence of mind. In fact, presence of being, true presence, without always looking back for comfort or looking forward in quest of all things meant to be. Will the more peaceful course of the future in fact compensate for the more difficult past. Steady as you go, but not an end-point. One never knows what’s ahead and one of the great joys of living in the moment is being open to the unexpected.

Four years ago I visited Laguna Beach for the winter, never imagining I might soon take up residence. In fact, if you had ever asked me if I might someday live in Southern California, I would have denied the possibility. Another aspect of equilibrium is knowing never to say never. I know that for certain now. Thus, personal equilibrium is not so much stasis as a state of calm, a state of readiness, without expectation. This is not to say that I don't [way too often] ponder what might be next or where I might explore, but I do enjoy a sense of personal contentment that I never experienced or expected.

Knowing oneself, accepting oneself and others, accepting one’s destiny without disappointment, rather willingness, this is the essence of equilibrium. An excellent place to be, in the context of a very dynamic and difficult world. News all around is bad. We – the global we – are in a terrible place, and I for one expect much worse and of much longer duration. This is not pessimism, quite the contrary. Crisis is an opportunity. The word comes from the Greek word, krisis, meaning to separate. In English, it is defined as a critical situation, a turning point. It’s antonym is peace or calm. The Chinese write the word crisis with two characters – danger and what some have interpreted as opportunity and others outcome. Either way, a sense of necessitated new direction. Perhaps America will see this economic crisis as an opportunity to reconsider our ways. Capitalism contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction, said Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto, and certainly there is evidence of this these days in the intensity of poverty, even in this rich country, in combination with rising unemployment, home foreclosures, business closings, and, above all, a lack of confidence in our future, and in those who have been entrusted with that future. There is little we can rely on and a state of disequilibrium is anathema for most Americans. All the more reason to take this moment to restructure the way we do business and the way we live.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said that the speed of change is directly proportionate to the speed of communication. In today’s world, communications are in real time, thus the pace of change is constant, omnipresent. In fact, change may be the only thing we can count on. Such dynamism is traumatic to both person and planet. A perpetual state of psychic chaos. So it would behoove us all to step slowly and carefully, and move into the future with a different view. A real global attitude adjustment. And while we will all surely suffer in some way – few will escape this economic debacle – we have an opportunity to emerge perhaps saner. Perhaps closer to global peace of mind. Economic, sociological, environmental equilibrium. Wouldn’t that be something! Happy new year.