NANCY G. SHAPIRO

FINDING CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHANGE

In Search of Equilibrium

August 27, 2015

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A friend wrote a few weeks ago saying she couldn't sense any equilibrium coming her way. I wrote back that maybe right now life felt more like dancing the flamenco on the deck of a ship in a storm. She agreed wholeheartedly.

 

As I glimpse news stories, overhear snatches of conversation, and reel about in my everyday existence, there appears to be a more intense than usual pairing of contradictions going on — Trump and Sanders vying for the presidential nomination of their respective parties, several months of heavy rains and then weeks of devastating heat, a friend or family member suddenly ill as another friend or family member gives birth.
 


When I looked up equilibrium on etymonline.com, equilibrium was followed by the definition of balance, which was followed by stability and last though not at all least was the entry for poise. Certain original definitions rang truer for me than others.
 
Equilibrium, from the Latin aequilibris offered up "equal, level, horizontal, evenly balanced." Balance, from the 1570s, is defined as “be equal with.” Stability has this meaning: In the physical sense, "state of being difficult to overthrow, power of remaining upright." And then there is Poise: from the Latin pensare come the definitions "to weigh carefully, weigh out, counter-balance," and from 1932, the passive sense of "to be ready" (to do something).
 
From what I see and hear and am experiencing, equilibrium at this moment in time is more about being ready to shift and adapt during difficult, unknowable times. It is anything but passive. Sometimes that may mean going horizontal. Though it feels like being upright is what’s being called upon from each of us. Each minute of each day we are all transforming into poised human beings compelled to seek a temporarily stable form of balance until the next tilt of experience makes us switch to another dance, gracefully and courageously willing.
 
My friend used the word “elusive” when speaking of equilibrium, a butterfly of a word. I wonder if its true meaning lies not in the finding of it, and instead the soul of equilibrium waits shimmering within the very search for it.

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