An Odd Balance- Look, See, Pray

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

We like symmetry and balance in life- you could say it defines beauty. Very beautiful/handsome people often have very symmetrical faces; even though standards of beauty vary between cultures, we tend to agree on that principle.

Is this flower beautiful? Five similar petals, each with a stripe of magenta. It has a lovely fragrance, but you can’t see that! For complete symmetry, surely it should have six petals?

Yet composing a photograph often works better with odd numbers. Two flowers seems too static. Three or five get a stronger response from the human eye and mind. (Try it yourself next time you take some photos, see if you prefer the more “dynamic” balance of odd numbers!)

An odd balance, then. We love symmetry of shape and number in design, but we also love the “odd balance” of the threes, fives, sevens.

Then, of course, there is the sheer variety of beauty in so many different species, and even within a species. For example, compare the stripe patterns in zebras- all zebras, all uniquely patterned. Amazing.

Thomas Merton, a Christian thinker and writer, withdrew into a monastic life in order to pray, write, and become mature in his faith. Many, many people have found help in Merton’s insights.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity

but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”

– Thomas Merton

We often work on the basis of “more is better.” So “IT” makes me happy? I’ll have more, more in quantity, more intense feelings/experience, more that “tastes good”, more that I possess (or that possesses me?)

Merton worked at solitude, silence, and prayer. He found that balance and order, rhythm and harmony, led to true happiness. Whether we define happiness as contentment or joy, we seek to be happy, to be fulfilled, to find love and peace. A life that has true balance and rhythm combines “rest” and “work” fruitfully.

Probably most of us would find monastic life difficult. Both solitary and community life presents deep challenges. Yet persisting in the attempt to find “our” best order and harmony can lead to deep satisfaction.

Matthew 11:28-30 (Message)  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

These are the words of Jesus: the teaching that Christ gave about life-balance, about fulfilment, about valid purpose, about survival in our deepest inner being, our mental and spiritual balance. It is MORE than happiness… it is an odd balance, that goes against most human wisdom and advice. I find it hugely inspiring and attractive- much like Jesus Himself. What do you think? What sort of balance is in your heart… how could it get better?


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