Balancing a boulder with no spoon

The thing about balance is that it shifts from one minute to the next

I’m excited to explore this month’s theme of equilibrium…

My geekish inner self is very excited at the brief’s mention of The Matrix. I’ve considered Agent Smith’s held belief that humanity is akin to a virus for 24 years. Well, off and on. Now, which lens of attaining equilibrium should I peer through. What will be interesting and useful to you? Creativity? Agency life? Striking a balance between the needs of clients and their audience? Commercial needs against the quality of output? Boring! Health and well-being, of course! The ultimate balancing act! Writing from my own experience I must be able to give something valuable. But no.

Whatever the subject or the angle the concept of equilibrium keeps derailing me. Each piece I write sounds like I’m a very grumpy nihilist chewing on a wasp. I’ve arrived at a frustrating fork in the road. There is something wrong with the concept of balance or with my understanding of it.

Balance is biased

With a stable surface and a steady hand, it is generally within our power to balance physical objects. We can also strike a different kind of physical balance using scales. You can find balance in the physical world.

But finding balance or attaining equilibrium in any other regard is subjective. Even when it’s objective. My view of what a balanced life looks like will differ from yours. Coca-Cola’s view of a balanced business will be different to Coco-the-Clown’s. Your boss’s view of work-life balance will be different to your grandparent’s. And one country’s view of an ecologically balanced way forward will differ to others.

The bigger the ‘thing’ the harder it is to balance. And if one group of humans believe they can balance a ‘thing’ another group will contest that belief. Even if it’s objectively true. We’re biased when it comes to balance. It’s human nature.

It seems that attaining balance in anything is a futile pursuit. But it’s accepted by society as something we do, something we must strive for. Balance and equilibrium is something that’s within our control, right? Wrong.

I kept imagining a Buddhist monk meditating. Finding their mental balance in the world. Finding equilibrium. This irritated me, do they have it wrong? Then it struck me, they don’t find anything. They observe it. We can’t find balance. We can’t achieve equilibrium. We can only accept them. I was so caught up in trying to figure out how to achieve balance that I completely missed the truth.

Everything will ultimately balance itself. Even the big stuff.

The only thing you can do is be open to it and accept it when it does. We all understand the cliché of someone attempting to spin plates on bendy poles. It’s entertaining to watch someone do this, but why would you choose to live your life like this?

There have been moments where I’ve attempted to balance things like plates that are destined to fall. They always end up crashing to the floor, so I pick up the pieces and start again. But plates weren’t designed to balance on poles, so why bother?

What we can do is make better decisions based on what is coming into balance before us. A boulder on a ledge above your head has become unbalanced due to an oblivious albatross perched upon it. The boulder is about to redress the balance. You can either jump around flapping your arms and shouting at the buffoon of a bird. Or you can reach up and attempt to balance the boulder yourself. Or you can cheerfully step out of harm’s way while accepting the reality of the situation.

One of these choices sees you go about the rest of your day, two of them render you quite a bit shorter than you were before. 

A balanced conclusion

If things don’t feel balanced to you it’s more than likely you’re trying to balance something that can’t be balanced. Or in other words, you’re forcing a boulder to stay on a ledge when it doesn’t want to be there anymore. Does this mean we should all give in, becoming a planet of nihilists and fatalists? 

Not at all. The beautiful thing about balance is that it shifts from one minute to the next. Many factors influence balance. What is balanced for you today may not be tomorrow. Although we cannot find or control equilibrium, we can observe and understand it. And then we can play with the factors that influence it. Maybe even tilt them in our favour.

If you’re handed a plate and someone tells you it should be spinning at the end of a bendy pole. Take that plate, pop a delicious piece of cake on it, grab a spork, smile, and walk away.

Featured image: Samira M. va / Unsplash

Paul Pilbeam

Co-Founder of Mixed up makes better™ where the mundane become marvellous. The forgettable, fabulous. The best, better. We’re communications specialists. Branding and advertising experts. A creative studio. This makes us sound like a jack-of-all-trades. There’s some truth to that, but we do all these things because we specialise in one. Making communication better. More meaningful. More beautiful. Less wasteful. We believe in creative thinking as a way to get things done. Solve problems. Build dreams. Inspire thousands. The principles of communication apply to everything. Regardless of industry, subject, or objective. The elements of creative thinking are limitless. The more mixed up, the better.

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