Perfectly Off Balance


Small sailboat provides balance

When something is off balance, you notice right away: too much coriander in the curry, the picture hanging over the fireplace is crooked, or the volume in the left speaker is too low. You adjust and like fixing a wobbly table, you mentally stack sugar packets under a leg to set things right.

We learned to balance our seesaws, bicycles and check books but sometimes balance doesn’t have to mean equal. Look at the photograph and use your finger to cover the sailboat in the upper left corner. Without that tiny speck of white, the much more massive plants and flowers look off balance.

On a recent trip to the British Virgin Islands, I heard a surf instructor tell his student: “balance is not always gained by standing in the middle of the board.” Shortly later, someone handed me a Zen card with the words:

“The center is not always the point of balance”

And all of a sudden a lot of things made sense. Achieving balance does not require equal, opposite or symmetrical forces. Leverage can be used to balance the small with the large. Sometimes one cute habanero pepper can balance an entire pot of gumbo or a holiday weekend can balance a five day work week.

Equilibrium spans many disciplines but for art – shapes, colors and lines are arranged to produce a whole that is harmonious and pleasing. Talking about balance got Henri Matisse in big trouble when he said: “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” The critics banished him for creating “decorations” instead of serious artwork. Who would want some of those decorations now?

Sometimes we just have to step away from the middle to find our true balance. What do you think?



  1. Mmm… I suppose that’s true, David. But in the world of the emotions, for instance, sometimes finding the right degree of balance and knowing where to place it, can be very difficult.
    Val recently posted..An embarrassing momentMy Profile

  2. Glad to hear from you Val, I think you were reading my mind or had some kind of access to the paragraph I decided to cut from my post. It went something like this:

    Many people think as Carl Jung did that “The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” But does the sadness have to equal the happiness? can a drop of rain help us to truly understand wet or do we have to dive into the creek?

    Balancing emotions is certainly tricky, sometimes even a small speck of happiness, like a child laughing can wash away all kinds of negative feelings. The key seems to be to notice and put weight on the good parts.

    you have so many ideas that go into so many interesting directions on your last few posts, I’m still thinking of a response – in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the royal splicing – Cheers!

  3. Thanks David – and I think you should have included the part you cut from your post.

    Today I woke feeling pretty crappy as I have done the last few days and I sat down and started to do a Mrs Icy post and then trashed it. Went into the dining room and we (my husband and I) had a late breakfast and I got confused about dates and he mentioned the number of Bank Holidays coming up (these are always public holidays and we get no mail on those days, so it’s frustrating!) and said that of course then there’ll be the royal wedding and that’ll be another holiday… and I suddenly remembered the experience I’d had last time and thought “Yes! That’s it!” and shot off to do my post. The videos were an afterthought but a good one, because re-watching them started lifting my mood. So – not a great huge change, nothing spectacular, just a change in direction. I do feel somewhat better now still, though still have a bit of a dip into the ‘down’ rather than the ‘up’ of the see saw.
    Val recently posted..An embarrassing momentMy Profile

  4. I did my first vlog on being centered… Let me note that I have done the sum total of 2 vlogs now. It’s definitely a push for me! AND I have to think of something to say that’s fairly coherent without a lot of “ums.” Blogging I can hide behind the page and take as long and erase as much as I like! Maybe I’ll like vlogging better if I learn to edit! Provocative post. Thanks!

  5. Balance is a nice concept, but few can handle it. That’s why we do bungee jumping, drive at 100m/h, smoke, get drunk, and a lot of other risky or destructive things. I believe it’s in our blood, the risk, the new, the conquest, setting new limits. A balanced life would be just boring.
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  6. Balancing things in life is the most difficult task in ones life. Moreover, balance doesn’t mean that we need to always stand at the middle of everything, any aspect of our lives. For example, I don’t really need to stop working or to work as a part-timer just for me to achieve my dream vacation. I just need to find time in my schedule where I can do this.
    Maria Pavel recently posted..Cost of CNA TrainingMy Profile

  7. Success-minded people are vulnerable to leading imbalanced lives. And after reading your wonderful article about BALANCE, I can’t agree more David. I believe that a healthy lifestyle should never take a back seat to a crushing workload.