Balance (3.17.2019)

The Spring Equinox is the time when daylight and darkness are balanced, right on the edge between winter and spring. It is a good time of year to think about other kinds of balance in our lives.

There are at least three ways I can think of to maintain balance. I can demonstrate the first one with a magic trick. I need a few volunteers. Pick a card. These are cards with ideas about kindness. Pick any card. Now hold your finger straight up in the air. Put your card on the tip of your finger and try to balance it. I have been practicing a little bit and I can’t do it every time, but I’m going to try to balance it now.

If I am able to succeed at balancing a card on the tip of my finger, my success has a lot to do with a secret ingredient: lip balm. Petroleum jelly can work, too. You put a little bit of something sticky, invisible, quiet, and easy to wipe off on your finger. The lip balm becomes a kind of glue. The secret to this kind of balance is being stuck.

Being stuck is a fine way to maintain balance if you are a mountain or a sculpture or a building. Sometimes there are things we need to keep safe, or to keep track of, and it’s better if we try to make sure the thing just doesn’t move. What works for things doesn’t always work for people. People fidget and wiggle. People grow. People like to explore. We might stick ourselves to a spot temporarily, such as with a seatbelt or a safety harness. After awhile, though, people need to move. Being stuck like glue is usually better for things that are not alive. Things that are alive need to be able to change.

I can demonstrate the second way of maintaining balance with the help of a friend. I would like a volunteer who is about as tall as I am and who is steady on their feet while standing. Come and stand next to me.

Stand next to me, we’ll both face the congregation. I’ll put my hand on your shoulder, you put your hand on my shoulder. I’m going to lift one foot off the ground. You can do the same if you want, or you can stand there on both feet. We’re going to keep each other balanced. I’m going to lift my foot off the ground. I can balance on one foot by myself, but the longer I try to stay balanced, the more likely I am to need help. At this stage in my life, I probably wouldn’t fall without a friend, but having a friend here helps me to be more confident and to try a kind of balancing that I wouldn’t try if I didn’t have someone I trust beside me. Let’s give our volunteer(s) a hand.

The kind of balance I just demonstrated is balance in a group or a system. People and solar systems and ecosystems find balance through relationship. Stars and planets affect one another with their gravity as they stay balanced in their orbits, even as they move through space at high speeds. Habitats are balanced as things grow, are eaten, decompose, and nourish new life growing again. In the story, Demeter and Persephone found a solution for the balance of the world, springtime and harvest, death and rebirth, being a family of people near each other and being a family far away from each other. In a community, people find balance in their lives as we support one another, lifting one another up with hope in good times and bad times.

A third kind of balance is the kind where something is in motion all the time, but you might not be able to see it. I find that when I’m on a bicycle, it’s easier to stay balanced if I’m in motion. Maybe you have noticed that when you are on a balance beam, it helps to hold out your arms, which gives your body a clue about your center of gravity. You might move your arms a bit while you make corrections.

If I stand straight up in mountain pose, then lift up one leg and bring my foot to the inside of my other leg, I can maybe reach my hands up in the air. This is tree pose. If I’m lucky, I can hold this for a little while. It may look like I’m standing still, but my muscles are making tiny little movements, little corrections to keep me balanced. If you would like to join me while you are sitting down, just join me on the reaching up part, you are welcome to do that.

A long time ago (in 1904), a Universalist minister and professor named L. B. Fisher said, “Universalists are often asked to tell where they stand. The only true answer to give to this question is that we do not stand at all, we move.” I love this quote. We’re going to talk about it more in two weeks.

Universalists and Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists sometimes find balance by being in motion. We know we can’t ever be perfect, and the Spirit of Life doesn’t need us to be perfect, but we always want to try to move closer to making good choices and creating a world of justice and kindness. We find balance by trying to learn new things and make progress on important goals and–this part is important–talking to each other so that we can travel together and make room for everyone who wants to be part of the movement.  

In your life, I hope you are finding the kind of balance that lives and moves and gives and receives support among others. So be it. Blessed be. Amen.

One of our volunteers who balances vocation and life and service to the church with poise and skill is Emily Tien, our Board Member of the Week. I invite Emily up to the podium.