A Missing Element to Balance

Obviously, balance is important. We have no problem conceiving of the need for rest-work balance, or social time and solitude, or nutritious and non-nutritious foods.

Yet when I picture balance I tend to picture a static scale like this.

Photo by Piret Ilver on Unsplash

Sometimes this is an accurate image, but when we think about our lives, it falls short because it fails to consider time and motion.

We like the idea of arriving, of setting things up the right way and leaving them alone. But life moves. You can never dial in the right balance of a thing once and for all and leave it alone.

Life balance is more like walking than it is adding weight to a static scale. When you walk, some of your weight is on your right foot, then most of your weight, then all of it. And then it’s time to balance. What was needed one second ago is the opposite of what is needed now. One second ago it was all about the right foot, but now it’s all about the left.

If you get tired of balancing and decide to plant both feet at the same time, you’ll simply stop moving.

I’ve often been discouraged at my constant need to rebalance, but maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe the day I “arrive” is the day I stop moving forward.

Andromeda

Adam Evans, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve talked about the Andromeda Galaxy recently, but I will do so again with no apologies because I’m on a kick.

A fact I didn’t know until this year is that, apart from the Milky Way, there are 7 other galaxies visible to the naked eye in our night sky in the right conditions.

Here’s what the Andromeda Galaxy might look like with the naked eye in a very dark place.

ESO/B. Tafreshi, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

My eyes have seen many things. A man urinating on the sidewalk in Chicago; a burnt piece of toast; a toenail under a church pew. I feel I’ve been robbed to not know until just now that I could use those same eyes to see a galaxy of a trillion stars hovering in the midnight like an accidental paint smear.

Check out this image the Hubble telescope captured.

This image, captured with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31. This is a cropped version of the full image and has 1.5 billion pixels. You would need more than 600 HD television screens to display the whole image. It is the biggest Hubble image ever released and shows over 100 million stars and thousands of star clusters embedded in a section of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disc stretching across over 40 000 light-years. This image is too large to be easily displayed at full resolution and is best appreciated using the zoom tool.

Zoom around on the full resolution here (better on a computer).

Someone made a video on YouTube panning around the image, and watching it will threaten to crush your soul.

Comments under the video I appreciate:

Imagine someone in Andromeda is watching “Gigapixels of Milkyway [4K]”

Then I remind myself that the distance between any 2 of those points of lights needs to be measured in LIGHT YEARS!

I don’t know which is more terrifying to grasp: (1) the number of stars or (2) the volume empty space surrounding them.

There’s probably some huge galactic war we have no clue about

In 2021, NASA will be launching Hubble telescope’s big brother, James Webb Space Telescope. What will it reveal?

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What does this mean for us? Why does it make my soul tremble with awe? Some see the image and wonder how people could ever doubt God’s existence. Others look and wonder why God would make so much just to impress a tiny species on a nearly invisible speck of dust called earth and then remain hidden (or allow that impression) when they suffer.

Whatever the truth is, it’s absolutely spellbinding.

Over It and Still Creating

I sometimes wonder what great creators later thought about their works.

Once I had a dream where I met John Steinbeck in an American diner in the 50s. When I looked around the room I almost missed him because he was waiting tables. Starstruck, I approached him and told him how much his work meant to me, how much I admired it, and how great it was in general. He looked past me and shrugged, then someone from the kitchen called his name and he put out his cigarette and went to get the tray.

Larry McMurtry, author of 45+ novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove, said the following about the book later:

I haven’t held Lonesome Dove in my hands or read it in years. I just don’t think much about my books, particularly not ones that go back 25 years.

(Source)

In another interview with NPR, he said the following:

If you don’t want to be realistic about your work, fine. If you think that such and such a book is the War & Peace of our time, fine and dandy. Nobody’s going to stop you from thinking that. I don’t happen to think that way. I think I’ve written some pretty good books. But I don’t think I’ve written a great book.

(Bold mine.)

It would be altogether unsurprising to me to learn that most of the art that has moved us the most came to mean almost nothing to those who made it in the end. For one thing, self doubt is too pervasive for it to not be a factor for some. For another, if what the creator makes is good enough, it will require every fiber of their energy and persistence to see it through to the end, and by the time they’re done with it they may wish they’d never even conceived of it. Lonesome Dove is 365,000+ words long.

While I wouldn’t dare compare myself to the two authors mentioned above, as a video creator for over 12 years now, I know keenly the feeling of always being compelled to create and always looking back on what I’ve made with indifference. It’s strange.

The Old Wall Stud

At a shoot this week I recorded someone sawing through an old stud in a house built probably more than 50 years ago. The wood was brittle and grey with age. When it fell to the ground I walked over to it as a joke and picked it up. “Thank you, dear stud,” I said as a joke, “you have served us well.”

Then I couldn’t help but wonder how long it had been there in that house, quietly doing its part to hold it together. When you stop to consider what is the nature of even the simplest things, it’s often more than your mind is ready for. I wondered out loud, “When was the seed planted for this wood?” The girl who sawed through it paused with a far off look in her eyes and simply said, “Wow.”

The truth is, I interacted with that wood during one phase of its journey, and there’s no way of knowing how close to the end of it we are. I’ll never touch that piece of wood again. And what will happen to it? Maybe it will be collected and repurposed into a side table and sold on Etsy. Maybe it will be burned in a campfire in a few years while a child roasts a s’more on its flame. Maybe it will be buried and rot into the earth. The possible outcomes are infinite. What is certain is that it will change.

Everything is in transition, is on a journey. Not everything that seems like the end really is.

The Final 10%

I’ll never forget spring break of my senior year of high school. A few friends and I convinced our parents to let us drive from the panhandle of Texas to LA for spring break. Our plan was to find a spot on the beach and rough it for 2 nights.

I had never driven to California. We drove through the night, and when we crossed the border at dawn I thought we were minutes away from the beach. Over every hill I expected to see sand, and for mile after mile I sat on the edge of my seat waiting. We would overtake a hill and see nothing but more hills in the distance. It was like climbing that first ascent on a roller coaster only to find an endless succession of more climbs at the top.

It was a full 4.5 hours before we saw the Pacific.

The last part of any journey is usually what feels the longest. Most of your energy is required for the final 10%.