When on a tight rope, yes.
When lying on the beach, it comes naturally without any effort.
And it means something else entirely, if anything at all, when swimming.
But my first thought is actually politics.
As part of it’s remit, the BBC is required to provide a balanced account of political issues. It normally manages this, but via some bizarre methodologies. The strictures about ensuring that all party leaders are interviewed in the same spot on consecutive days, or the 92 rules agreed for the leader’s debates. It’s all negotiated structure, which doesn’t necessarily mean balance so much as structure. Of course the two go hand in hand.
I’m thinking of the difficulty of balancing structures in the World of Goo.
Somewhat unbelievably, there’s a journalistic ethical imperative to provide equality of reporting. What this actually leads to, because it makes better story, is an over-representation of extremist nonsense.
I’m thinking right now about climate change denial and creationism, but I could just as easily be talking about the BNP on question time.
It seems that the interests of balance sometimes drive things to extremes. This is the problem with narrative imperative being the real driving force of journalism. A fascinating point was made in a guardian article yesterday, that basically, Nick Clegg was presented as having won the first debate partly because it made the best story ‘New boy outshines old politcos’ or something similar. This may shoot him in the foot in the long run, as that narrative doesn’t hold out for the next two debates so easily.
The news needs a new angle, a new story every day. This is pretty much the opposite of balance, it’s about constant disruption. Conflict is king.
And of course, in politics, the move towards balance has actually just led towards a dense inescapable mass of power in the rightward bit of the middle ground. The nature of our system has led to a rush into the middle, and little visible way out of this. There is no balance there any more, just stasis, which looks similar but involves no effort, and strangles. It also means that anything out the ordinary looks extreme. Which can appeal to the disaffected.
I wonder if it is the same disaffection that drives me to the Left that drives others to the BNP and the far right.
My views probably seem as unintuitive to them as theirs do to mine. Maybe there’s something to learn there. Which is a kind of balance.
But I refuse to move in that direction myself. It’s important to me to stand for something. Particularly when the centreground is so entrenched.
So sometimes extremism is necessary. Disruption to balance is the only way to move forward.
There’s something there to be reflected to the rest of life.
Remember to shake things up every now and then. That’s a much better way forward. Sometimes the only way.
And perhaps counter-intuitively, it might be the better way to be balanced.
Illustration by Maria.