The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Balance and Reality Maps

The balance I speak of is SIMPLE to attain, but not EASY.  First, a clarification: NO ONE reading this blog (including its writer) is gonna marry   Halle Berry with a NASA-level brain.  That would require a combination of Denzel and Steven Hawking.  So what can we expect from life?  And what levels of achievement am I talking about?

A career that we find satisfying, making enough money to support the lifestyle we have chosen.
A stable, loving relationship with a partner we admire and lust after, who is also a friend and helpmate.
A body which we would find desirable if we were the opposite sex.  One which has the energy and aliveness to support us in our dreams.

For the vast majority of people, these are not only an accurate representation of what they want—it is achievable.  There are those who genuinely don’t want a relationship, or money…but then, they don’t complain about these things, do they?

But we take emotional damage as we pass through life, and it corrupts our values and beliefs, and we store massive pain in our bodies that makes it difficult to deal with ourselves honestly on a continuing basis.  Success in these three arenas is the result of hard, honest work over years and decades.  Of maintaining our passion.  Of developing the ability to forgive ourselves and others.  Of loving ourselves enough to accept a healthy discipline.  Of disabusing ourselves of the notion that our bodies disobey the laws of physics (you’d be shocked how many people seem to believe this!).  Of understanding that we attract what we are: if you don’t like the level of the men or women attracted to you, you have some serious work and healing to do.  That there is no intrinsic satisfaction in a given level of success, or a given job—it is up to us to find that satisfaction.  I have never said that someone has to be a millionaire.  I HAVE said that our level of financial output and input must balance, and we should find satisfaction in our lives on the level of career.

That means that a schoolteacher or maintenance man can find great happiness in life, and would ABSOLUTELY meet my standards if they felt centered and at peace and as if they were expressing themselves healthfully.  Anyone who thinks I’m saying something different is viewing my words through a distorting filter—and should ask themselves what else in life they are distorting.
Do you know why it seems that the world’s troubles are easily solved, if only there weren’t so many idiots?  Because we agree with our own thoughts.  And then we surround ourselves with friends who agree with us.  And then we find pundits who agree with us.  And WOW!  It’s all so simple.  And the fact that Harvard economics Phd’s can’t balance the budget, and lifelong ethics philosophers can’t agree how we should live, and panels of generals and Intelligence analysts can’t win wars without loss and waste seems…well, it seems that they must be STUPID!

But when I meet people who ARE balanced in those three arenas, they tend not to be so dogmatic. They seem to grasp the actual difficulty of embracing life in its wholeness.  It is easy to solve life’s problems in your head.  But if you can’t solve the basic puzzle of healthy  body, healthy career, healthy relationship…I say that you are probably SMART enough to do it, but that your values, beliefs and reality map are skewed.  Yep, that’s exactly what I’m saying. And if you can't   solve the basic puzzle in your own back-yard, on what basis do you  assume you are smarter than the people wrestling with 300 million people's problems?

Any worm will move away from pain and toward pleasure.  It’s not a matter of intelligence.  If you haven’t navigated this maze of pleasure-pain in these three arenas, it should tell you something very important: human life is messy.  Reality is messy.  Answers are not easy.  Life didn’t come with an instruction manual.  If you think the answers are easy, then get out there and fix the world, folks.  But fix yourself first.

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