The concept of balance has been on my mind and heart a lot lately, especially in looking at it as opposed to the problem of perfectionism.
When I was getting ready to head off to college, I first came in contact with C.S. Lewis' essay on Reading Old Books.This essay changed my life in many ways and my way of looking at the world forever. This quote, especially: "Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes." This is an idea really worth stewing on, because a first read might give you the wrong idea. It might be tempting to think that the mistakes he's talking about are the ones "the other guy" is making out there and that we as Christians and Catholics are nobly fighting. But I don't think that's what he means. It's harder in some ways to accept the fact that we are deeply affected by the ideas of our own era, even when we think we are diametrically opposed to everything in our modern culture.
He is saying that there are certain kinds of wrong thinking that tend to prevail in a certain era, no matter what side of the pew or political aisle you fall on. And he proposes that the solution is to read books from other eras - not as having ideas more perfect than our own, but as opportunities to broaden our perspective and our thinking. To compare and contrast and come out with perhaps just a little more wisdom than we could get from only looking at our contemporaries.
He explains in the same essay: "The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them." (emphasis mine)
So I've spent a bit of time contemplating what sort of thinking in myself AND out in the world might be problematic, especially through his method (and I already do love history). And one that keeps coming up over and over again is the idea of balance.
I'd like to illustrate a few different places/ways this concept has come up for me lately.
1. Affluence - Even for many (including me!) in our country who certainly wouldn't be described as wealthy, our culture is one in which we overflow with luxury and are deeply affected by a very consumerist society.
Right now, this is illustrated for me by a recent trip to a new Meijer store that just opened in our neck of the woods. I will admit to being very happy to this addition to our shopping choices, especially as an alternative to both Target and Walmart. It's a very nice store with full grocery and big box store options - in many ways more thorough and more varied than our local Target and Walmart. That's not an entirely bad thing. The prices are good and we can find a lot of our needs and wants all in one place.
The thing that stopped me in my tracks was really a silly thing. I was walking through the Sporting Goods department on my way to the garden center and I came across a large section of rolls of athletic tape, all identical except for their huge array of colors.
Note (12/28/2021): I never finished writing this blog post but thought there was enough to go ahead and publish it anyway.