Friday, June 21, 2013

A Balancing Act

Thanks to the convenience of the Internet and those ingratiating applications known as "Aps," you no longer need to be too concerned about keeping a running balance on your checking account. You can check in on a regular basis to see the state of your balance.  Thus the term precarious may hover, depending on your prudence or impulsiveness, reminding you in yet other ways how vital a concept of balance is to story.

A comfortable balance works better in banking terms than story terms, in the former reflecting a stasis and comfort,in the latter sending a warning that the story is about to become overdrawn, lacking in assets.

Running balance sounds better in financial terms than dramatic ones.  A running balance is a daily reckoning.  Individuals you know who keep them appear confident to the point where you suspect that unlike you, they never get warning notices from their bank.  You also suspect them of knowing secret ways to get cats to veterinarians.

Balance conveys stability, an ability to cope with gravity, the poise to proceed without the merest hint of a stumble.  Admirable in many circumstances, but not in most fiction, unless, of course, the author's intent is to set the balanced character off kilter.  Many stories begin with what academicians call destabilizing events.  Used with proper finesse, the destabilizing event can cause mirth by supplying a banana peel for a rigid, pompous character to chance upon, then literally fall victim to its slipperiness.

Most of your friends appear to strike a balance between their work posture and their other posture, other relating to anything where individualism and whim have free rein as opposed to more conventional and formal aspects of work.  You're pleased to have found the possibility for keeping formal structures at a limit, the need for a greater balance no longer concerning you so much as, for example, when you reported to a publisher who expected rational decisions of you while at the same time having as a favored expression, "I have a gut feeling--"  His expression had nothing to do with digestive disorder.

In your reading and composition, you are drawn to off-balance circumstances and characters.  You do not need to look too far about you in the real world to find stasis.  You do wince whenever you hear yourself responding to a How's it going type of question with a same-old, same-old kind of response.  You do so because same-old, same-old is a stasis.  Story can emerge from it, but requires a push.

You like to think you can find the sorts of books and stories to read and dramas to watch where the push is already in place.  Hamlet, studying for exams at Wittenburg, had no idea that the push was already in place, but his father's ghost surely did.  " I am thy father's spirit, doomed for a certain term to walk the night/ And for the day confined to fast in fires, Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt off."  Okay, chalk up a destabilizing event.  And down the food chain we go until much of the dramatis personae are dead.

Balanced persons do not attract you, in life or fiction. as much as those with the occasional totter or stumble.  You in fact begin to suspect yourself should you find your running balance is not teetering close to risk.  At one time in your life, from about your senior year in high school until your junior year at the university, you made some effort to gamble on such things as the relative speed of horses, of the outcome of various card games, and even of the potentials to be had from tossing about two small squares on which were incised anywhere from one to six dots.Won a few, lost some.  Quit because of the accompanying boredom, which led you to take irrational risks merely to keep from being bored.  These were the wrong imbalances.

Better risks were the growing knowledge that examination times were strong incentives for you to discover short stories that wished to be written, resulting in you having at least a manuscript that mattered to you, the risk being you had not read or absorbed enough connective links between the assigned readings.  But often, you had both to show for your efforts, thus farewell to horses, card games, dice, and even high-stakes Scrabble.

On any number of occasions, you've consulted chiropractors, hopeful of having a balance restored.  In recent months, you've taken to visiting an old acquaintance who is a splendid physical therapist, seeking both enlightened exercise proscriptions and manipulations relative to having had replacement surgery on both hips.  This kind of balance is not boring, it is freedom from mechanical imbalances.

On occasions, you are hired to inject imbalances to stories that are, by their very nature, too balanced, too graceful in terms of gravitational and frictional pulls.  Unlike backs and legs, story thrives on imbalance, appears even to congratulate itself as its characters, in search of a dream or goal or some form of discovery, appear to seek out unconventional methods as you once did in the face of an unusual auto-immune system disorder wherein one internist advised you that you appeared to be allergic to yourself.  Several alternative medicine consultations down the road, you found yourself in the office of a practitioner of Chinese herbal remedy where you learned, through her interpreter that she had matriculated from a conventional medical school only to remain impatient with potentials for healing.  There were, you heard from her interpreter, more direct ways of bringing a disrupted body into proper balance, but first, the doctor requests the honor of seeing you protrude your tongue.  The interpreter also told you the estimable doctor was well aware of the possible significance of one extending his tongue in this country, but you would be doing her an honor to extend your tongue as far as you were able.

When  you did so, the doctor shook her hear.  There followed a long trail of the verbal equivalent of Mandarin ideograms to the point where you got the impression the doctor and her translator were arguing.  "What,"  you asked, "was the doctor's diagnosis?"

"Bad,"  the translator said.

"That's all?  Bad?"

"Very bad,"  the translator said.  "Very not balanced.  Very not balance at all."

You were ultimately diagnosed and cured by the least likely of doctors, a dermatologist.  Being back in balance taught your auto-immune system a thing or two.  You like to think that on reflection and a measure of stubbornness, you kept that balance while giving yourself over to the greater sense of living in the shadow world of dramatic imbalance.

You've had your share of stumbles and imbalances, your various running balances of temper, patience, finances, understanding, and education describing ups, downs, and destabilization, adding up to a balancing act of sorts in which you are well motivated to look for, then take the least paved, poorest graded road, and if one such road is not apparent to you, why then, make it.

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