The Role Of Balance
Balance is one of the primary- almost axiomatic- concepts of the Taoist philosophy as the philosophy of the Tao has a basic respect for the natural balance inherit in all things. In the realm of nature, for example, you wouldn’t volitionally opt to upset this balance; rather, you would try to adapt yourself to its flow. In other words, you should always try to go along with it and avoid, say, the kind of mistake made in the 1950’s by the World Health Organization (WHO). In its attempt to eliminate malaria in northern Borneo, WHO employed the pesticide dieldrin on the local mosquito population, which was known to carry the disease. At first, the people at WHO believed they had solved the problem, since the use of the chemical had significantly diminished the abundance of mosquitos (and even flies and cockroaches) and, along with them, the incidence of malaria. But then a strange thing happened: the roofs of the villages’ huts began to collapse on top of them and a typhoid epidemic broke out.
The reason was that local lizards began eating the insects that were laden with the dieldrin. The lizards, full of the toxic chemical, were eaten by the cats of the village, and that effectively wiped out the cat population. With the cats gone, the local rat population skyrocketed, and they ran unchecked throughout the villages, carrying with them typhus-infested fleas. The roofs then began collapsing because the dieldrin, in addition to killing the mosquitos, cockroaches, and flies, also killed the wasps that ordinarily would have consumed the caterpillars that, left unchecked, were not eating the villagers’ thatched roofs. Through such an interference with the balance of nature, the WHO, for a time, found itself in some difficulty.
The philosophy of balance, or rather the respect for balance, is perhaps best illustrated by squeezing a rubber ball. However or wherever you squeeze it, the ball will yield, but it never loses its balance. It’s the safest form in the world, completely contained and never off center. To be completely contained, never susceptible to being put off center or phased by anything, is what is aimed at in the philosophy…
Similarly, those of us who wish to cultivate a stress-free existence have to be possessed of this same sense of balance, never being put off center no matter how hard we seem to get squeezed. We have to learn how to flow with life in the same way that the ball responds to the movements of the water, that the leaf travels with the wind, and that the martial artist cultivates a state of harmony between himself and his opponent. When we can accomplish this, we need never again be snared by conflict- of any kind.
Excerpt From: Little, John (1996). The Warrior Within: the philosophies of Bruce Lee. United States: Mcgraw-Hill