By RUFUS G.W. SANDERS, Register columnist
This is now February and I have not officially adopted a new year's resolution. Like so many others, I, too, am forced to take a look at the past year and reluctantly attempt an honest assessment of my foibles and successes. Then I try to make the New Year better.
Usually my resolves are directed toward better health and stopping behaviors that are self-defeating. But because I tend to take extreme measures, at least in the first month of the New Year, the resolution usually becomes unobtainable from the start. And after about a month or so, my resolution goes the way of all the resolutions that have been made in the past. They become nothing but figments of my imagination and attempts at the improbable, cornered somewhere in my memory,adding to the frustration, angst, and pain of my ongoing mundane state of mediocrity and regularity.
While that might not be all that bad given that it's probably human normalcy, it does very little for my need for self-inspiration, or the enhancement of my ego, which can be oh so fragile on any given day.
So this year I decided to spend January just thinking seriously and pragmatically about a resolution before actually making one. I decided to now resolve myself this year to searching for balance and I hope this column will inspire others to do the same. I was moved by a series of articles in the most recent Harvard Divinity Bulletin which talks about the search for balance. Of course the concept is nothing new. Being a therapist in another part of my life, I spend hours upon end trying to convince and direct others toward such a goal. But I think after years of presenting this information in an academic format there comes a time when it must be made personal and real. I decided that for me that time has come.
After the poetic stuff flowed from my veins like most of the other useless stuff constantly dripping off us, I realized that this time I must be a little more disciplined, directed and focused. If life lived from the center is indeed a life of unhurried peace and personal power that brings serenity, we must pursue and overtake this.
I know it sounds like "touchy-feely-preachy" stuff, but the more we look at this balance thing, we realize it's really not. It might be the way life should to be lived. At my age I have come to realize that we spend much of our earthly pilgrimage trying to be relevant, as opposed to seeking our true identity, which becomes so much more meaningful than our relevancy or our popularity.
The famed Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe talks about being fascinated by the middle ground: it is "neither the origin of things nor the last things; it is aware of a future to head into and a past to fall back on; it is the home of doubt and indecision, of suspension of disbelief, or make-believe, of playfulness, of the unpredictable, of irony."
The idea of a center is actually a soothing thought. It does violence in the most peaceful of ways to the cult of extremes. The extremes consist of deep entrenched beliefs, thoughts, philosophies - usually socially constructed in the first place, but psychologically, emotionally and socially disruptive, divisive, destructive, debilitating and damaging. Achebe takes his concepts of the middle ground from the African Igbo people who, like other African people, see life as something that is " not singularity but duality," cyclical, not linear. It must be lived from the core.
From that core, one finds a true and valid presence that includes and allows for the equality and respect and the presence of others. It stimulates toleration, compromise, mutuality and the universality of mankind. Centering of self embraces more balance and calls for harmony as well as an ongoing assessment of who we are and where we are at any given time.
It calls for new considerations at all time and it seeks for a unity of diversity, which in turn results in greater relationships -- religious, racial and cultural.
What might be able to happen is that histories, peoples and beliefs might intermingle, forming close human bonds while maintaining individual identity, dignity and integrity.
Because we must know by now that the fate of our own lives depends on how we measure the humanity of others.
I am convinced if we can work with this resolution for the entire year our insides will change, which in turn will change our outside.
The Igbo concept of the middle ground goes on to say, "There's no inside without an outside."