“Strife is the father of all.”
“The way up is the way down.” Heraclitus
“The ultimate purpose of psychotherapy…. is learning gradually and with much effort to accept our own limits and to carry the weight of our suffering on our own shoulders for the rest of our lives.” Aldo Carotenuto, psychoanalyst
What are we to make of these sentiments? Don’t most of us seek out happiness, pleasure, sanity, wellness, peace, light and life? We try to avoid sadness, suffering, craziness, illness, conflict, shadow and death. Don’t we talk about trying to live a balanced life believing this to be the intended outcome of a spiritual path?
To wish to be rid of troubles in favor of consistently enjoying balance is to deny the realities of existence. Ongoing wellness without illness is an absurdity. Equilibrium without ever being thrown off kilter is an impossibility. To attempt to be rid of imbalance, uncertainty, ambiguity, strife, upset, dissonance, or discord is to deny half of human reality. This results in our leading lives of partiality instead of wholeness.
It makes as much sense as keeping the North Pole and eliminating the South Pole, keeping our fronts while removing our backs, or preserving the mountains while eradicating the valleys. These are not possible and any attempt to do so will fail as it destroys the entire system of which these polarities are integral properties.
Happiness is not a reward for a good life nor is suffering the return on a poorly lived life. Pain and pleasure are simply features of the human landscape.
Our problems and pathologies are not to be resolved any more than the goal of life is to be had in the end of the journey. The journey itself is the meaning of life. This very moment in which we are immersed is its own significance. Our psychopathologies are gifts of the planetary gods to be worked, simmered, fermented, and massaged in ways that enrich our beings. This embracing of our difficulties is the way of soul making for John Keats and James Hillman.
“There is a time for everything,…
a time to weep and a time to laugh,…
a time to mourn and a time to dance,…
a time to tear and a time to mend,…
a time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes
“So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.” Tao Te Ching #29
From a Taoist perspective the universe is processual; a word meaning always flowing, always dynamic, always impermanent. This means that movement is really movement toward stillness, and stillness is stillness turning toward movement. This reflects the solstices. Homeostasis or balance is inherently unstable moving toward disequilibrium marking the dynamism of the equinoxes. Balance is always precarious; not quite one terminus of the polarity yet not quite the other either.
So let us champion off centeredness, eccentricity, and weirdness, stand on behalf of flaws, failures, and shortcomings, and affirm those times when we are thrown off balance as the deep treasures they truly are for us.