Like most young children, I liked playground equipment – that is most playground equipment. I didn’t like seesaws. My brother, who is older and was therefore bigger, would always con me into joining him on the seesaw only sit on his end and keep me trapped, legs dangling uselessly and hands gripping in terror, high in the air. Then, when I had been suitably intimidated, he would jump off and allow me to fall to the earth, invariably crying as a result.
It wasn’t fair. I knew that we were supposed to balance that long beam so it was even, but we never did. Over time I came to think of maintaining balance in life as very important, but I also had learned that life is not fair. Accepting its unfairness was an important lesson. Being prepared to pick myself up after disappointment or after my brother jumped off the seesaw was an essential life principal.
Fast forward about fourteen or fifteen years. I was a freshman in college. Like all colleges, Princeton had a physical education requirement. I ended up in a boxing class. Our coach, Joe Brown, was a delight of a man. He had been a professional boxer, and he saw boxing as less about fighting and more about dance, rhythm, and balance – especially balance. I wasn’t very good at the sport. I hated hitting others almost as much as I hated getting hit. But the idea of balancing myself struck home. We would take our stance, and Joe would push against us. If somebody wasn’t properly balanced, if his weight wasn’t properly distributed and set low, down he would go in an embarrassing heap.
Quickly I appreciated the lesson of balancing myself, of tucking in, of setting my feet and getting low. I thought of that balance as self-organization. If we aren’t prepared and organized, we are not ready to deal with life.
Joe taught me other lessons about balance as well. In addition to boxing, he taught sculpting. While I didn’t sculpt, I liked him well enough to occasionally hang out in his studio. He always had music playing – usually classical Spanish guitar. It wasn’t simply a love of music but also a keen awareness of the need for aesthetic sensory input. There was also decent wine to drink, the earthy smell of the material, and the sensuous tactile experience of working the clay. And there were wonderful discussions an unending flow of topics.
The balance of sensations, including intellect and emotion, helps us to live fully. I call that the balance of life.
Besides sculpting, Joe designed playground equipment – not the static equipment of my youth but interactive climbing apparatuses. When one child moved, it would change the equipment for all the other children who were on it. This meant that the child had to be aware of the social matrix in which he or she was playing.
Social balance is important if one is to find fulfillment. If we are not balanced in terms of the significant others in our lives, we will find ourselves very lonely.
These four balancing lessons are integral to my artistic endeavors. My creative milieu is words; I’m a writer – mostly novels but poetry and short stories as well. Every day I sit down at my computer and type away. It would be easy to lose perspective and focus, to become wrapped up in my work, unable to accept the inevitable rejection letter, digging my way deeper and deeper into a maze of my own mind. It is so very easy to lose balance. That is why I like to review these four lessons, to think about their application to my life.
Periodically I ask myself four questions:
1) Am a ready to deal with disappointment? If the story doesn’t work or the rejection letter comes, can I get on with my work?
2) Have I got my life organized so I won’t be caught off guard? Have I taken care of what has to be done?
3) Am I getting good quality input to keep my mind and body in tune? Have I planned ways to fill my personal space with the quality sensations, information, and nurturance that will allow me to be productive?
4) Have I thought about the social world in which I am pursuing my art? Have I taken proper steps to meet the needs of those who are important to me and have I made my needs clear to them?
I no longer play on seesaws or climb on jungle gyms. I’m long since out of college and well past the age when I could box even if I wanted. However, the life lessons about balance still hold true.
Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil
Ken’s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications. He is the proud papa of five novels and two short print books. His most recent books are “Broody New Englander” and “Times to Try the Soul of Man.”
To find Ken’s books visit http://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-Weene/e/B002M3EMWU