Monday, May 16, 2011

The elusive happy medium...

I've always thought that if I were ever to write a book, I would call it The Elusive Happy Medium. Pretty self explanatory. And in my experience, almost a truism that finding that medium (which is purportedly "happy") is inevitably a wild goose chase. I'm not, first of all, convinced that the medium - the middle ground - is particularly "happy". I tend quite naturally to be a pretty middle of the road kind of person - always weighing the arguments and evidence on both sides of an issue - and I have to say that that can be immensely satisfying, but it can also be immensely frustrating.

It might be more fitting to call it the "sober medium" or the "subdued medium". It's certainly not a place of innate passion. It's not a place for risk takers, pioneers or those that like to push the envelope. No, the middle is safe, predictable, cautious, biased toward the status quo. It's warm, tepid, neither hot nor cold. I suppose these things might make some people HAPPY, but as much as I appreciate the importance of those who inhabit this place, I aspire to be the kind of person who thrives on more colour; more excitement; more danger. So I find myself in a paradox (certainly not the first time!). I simultaneously long for stability and instability. Passion and predictability. Excitement and routine. I long for more of the same at the same time that I long for change.

Maybe this is the fulcrum of the pendulum. The pendulum swings back and forth, always pivoting around the middle but never resting there. I wonder if this is even a principle of life as we know it in the physical realm as well as in culture.

As I look out my front window at the Bay of Fundy, I'm very conscious of the extremes of nature. We've had rain for days. The tv news channels are covering the floods along the routes of the Assiniboine and Mississippi Rivers. And yet I just returned from Kenya a month and a half ago and am haunted by the effects of persistent drought in areas of sub saharan Africa. When it comes to rain, the medium between drought and flood would be a happy place, I think! And if we look at cultures and the history of their development, we can usually track a pretty erratic route as excesses in one direction are corrected by excesses in the opposite direction.

On the other hand, there are religious extremists. Surely that's not a model to emulate, but yet neither is it desirable to practice our faith dispassionately, soberly.

What if this whole tendency to think in terms of dichotomies is the problem? What if the reality is that we don't have to choose between extremes but rather that life is more of a kaleidoscope - ever shifting, perpetual, colourful motion - that bids us let go of the impulse to control events, circumstances and possibilities. That bids us to simply enter into the mysteries of life. For me it's not a natural thing. I like to know what to expect.

I like to have confidence that there is a plan and that things "make sense". It's hard for me to let go of those things. Faith in a god who so often seems capricious, is not natural. It requires us to look past the reality that is before us and to trust in a reality that is beyond us. It's not predictable and it's not safe - or maybe it is safe - if, in fact, God is good and to be trusted. But that only is a possibility if this world - with its floods and droughts - it's extremes of all kinds - is not the final story. If what we see is NOT what we get.

The elusive happy medium? I don't know. For now it's all I can do to hold on tight to the pendulum as it swings back and forth!

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