A Critical Difference …

Balance and Harmony

I guess we do often talk about balance and harmony as somewhat interchangeable …


One force is in equal relationship to another force.  When power is in balance, neither side can dominate the other, and therefore living in relatively peaceful connection is best. 

When our lives are in balance, we usually mean that no one part dominates, except in very temporary and acceptable terms.  Our physical, emotional, psychological, financial, and professional segments are roughly equal, so none could say we are a slave to any one part.

This is usually considered a pretty good place to be …  Balance feels peaceful and positive, which it is …


Harmony, at least in Hugo’s eyes, conveys something more than mere equivalency.  When harmony prevails in our lives, things are in active synchronization with each other.   One part feeds and nurtures another part.  You could not sing the same song without the active engagement of all aspects of your life.

Harmony implies action and sense of movement, which in turn creates a feeling of moving forward, or progress.  While Balance might be viewed easily as a static sense of self, Harmony at the very least should invoke a sense of gentle connecting with others.

Harmony also evokes a sense of connection, with the parts of ourselves and with others.  This moves beyond peaceful co-existence in several ways.  You spend your time on several fronts, but overlying threads connect the action, and not separate one activity from the other.  

You begin to connect the dots …

Balance is co-existence, while Harmony is transcendence

How much of your life is simply balanced right now?

What would you need to change to bring yourself more into Harmony?

How much effort would you need to exert to do this?

Caveat:  None of this matters if your life is not even in balance … if so, first concentrate on creating a more balanced lifestyle, then return to this question.

Wondering aloud about the perceived and real presence of balance versus harmony in my lifestyle in the Heartland ….


“Wall Heroes” …


Wall Heroes - Wikipedia

I used to hang my heroes on my wall …

 When I was young, I proudly displayed pictures of various actors and famous people, first on my bedroom wall at home and later on various dorm room walls.   Being a Boomer, the list included such luminaries as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Milton Berle, although not all at the same time and definitely not for the same reasons.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped posting pictures of those I admired and instead opted for pretty models, exciting products, mystical sayings, and esoteric art.  I wonder why …


A group in our church is reading and discussing America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America by Jim Wallis , a fascinating but often difficult to read review of our country’s history of racial injustice from colonial times to right now.  I recommend it to anyone who is willing to struggle with complex challenges in our society and who is interested in building a society which more closely lives up to our country’s stated ideals.

In chapter six, Wallis mentions several people, including Clarence Jordon and William Stringfellow, who conducted bold experiments in creating truly multi-cultural communities.  Wallis uses the term “Wall Heroes” to tell us that portraits of these folks who he considers personal heroes and inspiration hang on the wall of his office to provide daily reminders and inspiration about what can be done when one dares to do it.  


Of course, thinking about this immediately lead me to consider what I mean when I use the term “hero”.

At the risk of going against the current trends, while I think many people should be honored and rewarded for the work they do, such as serving in the military, providing emergency response, or just being a policeman or fireman, without calling each of them heroes.  For example, I served in the military as did many others, but in no way qualify as a hero.

Heroes, at least in my mind, are individuals who have made a large contribution to something positive, often while experiencing great sacrifice or risk for doing so.

Heroes are individuals for the most part, to my thinking.  While the hero influences and motivates others to act with or support something, the hero usually goes first and alone, leading the way and setting the example for others.

One notable exception to this is like that represented by Band of Brothers, the book and television series about a highly trained and accomplished military unit during World War 11.  In the interviews with the actual people portrayed in the film, one of the actors cites one of the veterans:

Richard D. Winters: [real life interview with Winters where he quotes Mike Ranney on how Ranney answered a question his grandson once asked him] I treasure my remark to my grandson who asked, Grandpa, were you a hero in the war? Grandpa said, No… but I served in a company of heroes“. (via IMDB)

I highly recommend viewing the excellent film to anyone who wants to more completely understand what some soldiers experienced during this conflict.  


Heroes are not all of one type, nor do they all operate in one environment.   We assign different virtues to heroes in the context in which they are found:  military, political, social, community.  In one place, we look for personal bravery, while in another, restraint and mercy might be more heroic in our eyes.

The montage I chose to illustrate this little post shows five individuals who came readily to mind as I thought about who I might hang on my wall now:

Fred Rogers (upper left):  He gave me a model for being a man that was distinctly different from anything else I was getting, one which included gentleness, inclusion, acceptance, and kindness.

Viktor Frankl (upper right):  He created a theory of human behavior which continues to quietly impact our thinking, so much so that he continues to show up regularly on lists of highly influential authors and people in the business world, as well as psychology.

Abraham Lincoln (center):  Simply one of the most impactful and important presidents of our history, who showed both courage and compassion during one of our most difficult times as a struggling young nation.

George Washington (lower right):  The first in a long line of national chief executives who helped create our country and shape our national heritage.  Being the first president of a brand new country meant going through truly uncharted waters.

Martin Luther King (lower left):  Perhaps the most courageous person on the wall, who dared to confront racially-based hatred at great personal risk and to do so with passion, but a firm non-violent approach during the tumultuous Civil Rights era.


These candidates for my wall were chosen quickly and I continue to ponder whether I should add some lesser-known but equally impactful folks.  I notice several things as I consider my wall:

I have NO women on my wall … (this really hit home as an example of implicit bias)

Most of my heroes are from earlier periods of history and all are dead now …

My social sciences background is showing … no business or cultural leaders on the list

Little controversy would probably exist around any of my “safe” choices …

Maybe I need to consider further and think more deeply about what a hero might look and sound like, within varying contexts in our society and our world.

Some heroes are not well-known or historical names or appreciated fully in their own lives.   Many heroes are not members of the social or cultural majority in their environment.  Heroism may look, feel, and sound very different at one time versus another. 



Revising my list of heroes as I continue to ponder all this in the Heartland ….


Images:  All from Wikipedia

Only A Phrase …

Only a Phrase - Gratisography.com

Don’t you wonder what phrase the author is referring to?   I do …

It seems a timely quote, what with our quadrennial collective social punishment (AKA the presidential political campaign) bleeding into our consciousness from every angle.  

Two requirements here for any possible candidates as “The Phrase”:

First, the phrase has to be popular enough to be repeated and passed from one person to another.

Second, the phrase has to be not quite accepted or believed.

Here are some of my candidates, with commentary:

“Everything will be OK in the end.”

“They will pay for what they did.”

“Work hard, play fair, and you will receive a fair reward.”

“Everyone respects a nice guy.”

A glance at the daily headlines will support the idea that these beliefs are not necessarily true.  We strongly want happy endings, because they serve our sense of justice and fair play, and are just more enjoyable to envision.

Justice does not always visit in a tangible way … life has no guarantees that what you do will decide what you gain or experience.  It’s too complex for that.  

Now you WILL increase your chances of positive outcomes when you are upright, honest, and hard-working, but this is far from a sure thing.

This is why HOW you respond to adversity is important …

The unstated part of these beliefs is that “nice” will equate to “fairness”, “reward”, “achievement”, and so on, but of course,  it ain’t necessarily so.  

Nice guys are sometimes admired, but often passed over for positions of leadership and responsibility, in both corporate and political environments, on the public stage, and in groups. 

Personally, I would rather be a nice guy, but this comes with the recognition that doing so does not guarantee anything else.

… and before you condemn me as a bloody pessimist, let me know that reality, while not always pleasant, is always where we live, not in comfortable but untrue beliefs.  At least, that’s what I believe.

That said, I prefer to choose optimism on a daily basis, but I do not expect complete, total, or immediate justice … I may never see what another person experiences as a result of their actions or in spite of them.

What phrases do you think of as passing from mouth to mouth, but not being really “swallowed”?

Wondering what else I have passed along without really believing it in the Heartland ….


Image:  Gratisography.com

Not Much of a View …

Desolation - gratisography

Our choices have consequences … but you already knew that, didn’t you?

The “Straight and Narrow”, at least in my mind, usually refers to traditions like telling the truth, following the rules, living to society’s expectations, and generally being a model citizen.  You follow the law, act appropriately, and do what is expected of you.

You do not risk or engage in behavior which is not approved by society, or at least the majority of the society.

Some feel that this is not very appealing, since it at least implicitly seems to require sacrifice of more dashing behavior …

To say nothing of the sometimes rather lonesome aspects of walking your talk without much, if any, company.

We trade adventure and risk for other things … things like consistency and reliability.  We know where we stand and what we will do.

In the short term, following the “straight and narrow” sounds rather boring or even unappealing.

In the long term, it makes good sense in many ways.

Some might say “Why play it safe, if you are not going to enjoy the trip as much?“.  Well, that’s a good point, but taken to any extreme, it ends with statements like “Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse” and the like.

On the other hand, those who risk, who dare, and who do not follow society’s expectations, are the ones who often move us forward as a society.

How do you react to the pressure to stay within the “straight and narrow”?

How do you decide when to NOT play by the rules?

Which approach is generally more supportive of others?

Why do you think this matters?

Wondering if anyone will respond to this one in the Heartland ….


Image:  Gratisography.com


It’s All Relative …

Yin and Yang metalAll definitions of words, like everything else, are relative.  Definition is to a major degree dependent upon your partisan position.  Your leader is always flexible, he has pride in the dignity of his cause, he is unflinching, sincere, an ingenious tactician fighting the good fight.  To the opposition he is unprincipled and will go whichever way the wind blows, his arrogance is masked by a fake humility, he is dogmatically stubborn, a hypocrite, unscrupulous and unethical, and he will do anything to win; he is leading the forces of evil.  To one side he is a demigod, to the other a demagogue.

Saul Alinsky,  Rules For Radicals:  A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals

This is a most erudite statement about our human tendency to see the same traits and interpret the same words or thoughts differently, dependent on who is exhibiting said behavior or words.

An idea from someone we admire sounds more palatable than when an enemy or someone from a group we dislike or fear voices that same idea. 


Too bad … this very human trait gets squarely in the way of our thinking critically and effectively about the message, because we focus our attention on our relationship to the messenger, and not on the value or merits of the message.

This is deadly at any time and doubly so now …. We need to step up our game at discerning valid and effective stances, and not allow our perception of the person who delivers the message to distract us. 


All this, of course, assumes basic trust in the messenger.  If we do not trust the messenger, we will not listen to them, but if we do, we might take all they say as true.   Trust can be our powerful way to decide who we listen to and a powerful block to hearing what we need to hear.   

Trust, by itself, is simply a feeling about someone or something else, and trust conveys no objective truth one way or the other.   Sometimes though, it’s all we have to go on …


Halo and Horns - Dreamstime.comI have no easy resolution to offer here.   The tendency to rate things based on our relationship with the messenger is as old as humanity and does not break easily.

It’s called the “Halo and Horns” effect.

One thing I do know:  Awareness is the beginning of positive change here, as it is in almost all change.  

If we first honestly and deeply consider our perception of a person and how that perception might influence us to hear them more negatively or more positively, we are on the way to more effective critical thinking.

Being free to simply agree with our heroes and ignore or rail against our enemies is no longer as easy as it once was …

Trying to sift through all the hoopla, platitudes, and innuendos swirling around important issues in the Heartland …


REFERENCE:  Halo and Horns Effect (Wikipedia)

INSPIRATION:  Quote originally shared by Steve Layman, who toils prolifically at Anderson Layman’s Blog.  Not only has Steve introduced me to a range of other worthy bloggers, his daily stream of fascinating and eclectic thoughts, images, and links brings continual mental exercise to my brain and joy to my heart. 



Image:  Morguefile.com