Looking for Balance

I think a lot about balance these days. Not just the physical kind, though I pay close attention to that when doing Tai Chi. (I have discovered that I have a habit of shifting most of my weight into my right hip and side, and unless I pay attention and shift back, I will be off-balance when I do the one-legged stances.)

But balance is a necessary feature of all aspects of life. For example, we gathered a contingent of family members for the eclipse and the night before we had a meal together with ten of us. We gathered around the table, ate lots of food, drank lots of wine, and had great conversations until past almost all our bedtimes. We ranged in age from 16 to 90.

It was wonderful and made me so aware of the fact that human beings are a social species and need to spend time together in such groups.

But we also need a lot of one-on-one time and time alone. And the people we need to spend time with vary – family, close friends, people we want to know better, people we need to work with, lovers. The exact mix of groups, friends, and time alone for each person is a little different. Some always need a group around; some need most of their time alone.

We also planned this gathering of family – blended families, in fact – so that even if the eclipse was a bust due to weather, it would be balanced with good times with each other. Our eclipse viewing was around fast-moving clouds, so we didn’t always see the sun disappearing, but I particularly enjoyed the fast sunset and sunrise that surrounded us before and after totality.

"Sunset" as the eclipse reached totality.

Finding ways of balance that keep us happy, that’s important.

Happiness is a major goal of mine. Enough terrible things happen in most people’s lives that we do not need to go out of the way to make ourselves suffer. Painful things will happen to us all – there were at least three fairly recent deaths haunting the people gathered around that table, just as an example.

We can be happy even though we will also go through times of mourning. We can be happy even if the system needs changing and the political situation is a chaotic mess.

We should definitely work to balance the hard times of our lives with happiness.

There are many parts of our lives that require balance.

Despite the old saw that people become more conservative with age, I become more radical each year. I am more careful about what I do and take fewer risks, but I have reached the point where I lack all patience with little workarounds and so-called reforms when addressing the major inequities of the current system.

We’re in late-stage capitalism now, driven to extremes by what got labeled “neolberalism” – the “give all the money to the rich and fuck everybody else” policies set in place by the likes of Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

This absurd economic system – which preaches austerity for most people whenever the rich don’t think they’re making enough money – is going to disappear, even though we all have trouble imagining a world without it. We need to replace it with a system of economics that is built on making sure everyone in the world has enough and that we live sustainably within the bounds of our planet.

We have the tools and resources to do those things without causing discomfort, if we put the right infrastructures in place. The only people who will “suffer” are those who have so much more than their fair share already. (We must take away the excessive wealth and power of the billionaires and others who hold far too much of both.)

That change will not happen overnight.

So I find myself in another place of balance: How do my partner and I make sure we have the resources to care for ourselves as we age – because the systems are unlikely to change enough in what remains of our lifetimes to be able to count on, say, a good government-provided assisted living situation or home health care should we need it – and still put some of my money and effort into laying the groundwork for the change that I hope comes after me.

How much should I be a ruthless capitalist with my investments and how much should I decide to invest in change that will pay off long after I’m gone? Should I make things easier for others at my own expense or should I hoard as much money as possible, just in case?

It’s a tricky balance. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. But it enters into every decision I make.

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