The Centre Can(not) Hold

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

—William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

We are not at the point of Yeats’ blood-dimmed tide. The world is simply getting along too well for the ceremony of innocence to be drowned. This too shall pass.

We are habitual creatures. When we find a measure of balance we tend to stick to it. We shower each morning, go to work at the same time each day, pee on the lemon tree once a week to keep it healthy — whatever it is that we do. The rhythm is our friend. It creates equilibrium.

In essence however, nature knows of no fixed equilibrium, no true balance. All is moving towards or away from equilibrium. When we are walking in a forest that feels right and true, we are actually walking through an ecosystem that is in constant flux. It is not a closed system (in fact there is no such thing as a truly closed system in our universe, although in science we study so called “closed systems” — such as what is going on in a test-tube).

Like nature, we ourselves are open systems. As we interact with the world we are immersed in countless feedback loops with information and energy exchanging back and forth. Our centre, the golden middle path, is a point of virtual equilibrium where the balance of forces are such that we create an expression of harmony.

But, alas, outside forces push and pull at us to challenge our steady state. Some have small effects where we are able to carry on as normal. Small perturbations like missing a breakfast or the lemon tree dying from too much nitrogen are usually taken in our stride. Other forces are wildly chaotic. It’s these big changes that knock us off kilter and goad us to gather ourselves and rise to meet the challenge. To deal with the manifested adversity. The centre cannot hold. We are forced to move to a new equilibrium, a new order, a strange new balance that can be threatening, distressing or even disastrous.

So you may ask: How can a new balance be threatening? Simply because of the unsettling nature of the unknown — your mind and body are adjusting to the new equilibrium and that can take time.

As an aside: This is exactly how nature works. In a land based ecosystem it’s called succession. A forest fire sweeps through annihilating everything in its path and out from the chaos is born a new order. The new forest that emerges will not be the same as the old forest. Forever changed.

We live our lives in constant flux. When was the last time you remember ever feeling completely balanced for more than a week? If you are up in the Hindu Kush meditating, then, maybe right now; but if you live in this dimension? We have to be realistic about this dopamine driven world we live in. If you find yourself stressed or putting yourself down about your inability to handle things, then step back, take a deep breath and realise it’s entirely natural — you are finding a new equilibrium. It will work out. Give it time. Don’t rush.

The centre cannot hold but the new centre you create will.

As we adapt to this new environment, this new set of circumstances, the challenge is to rise up to the occasion. And rather than fight against it we see it as a completely natural state of affairs. An opportunity to discover something new about ourselves. An opportunity to become stronger. An opportunity to analyse our life direction. An opportunity to get creative.

An organism is attacking us seeking its own equilibrium. It is changing us and we will now have to evolve with this novel virus. It will be here to stay in our new harmony. Adapt and find your new centre.

Browse James Wild products at Quiet Earth

1 reply

  1. I found your essay helpful at this time as I try to recenter and reground myself. I feel very frail spiritually and emotionally. Thank you for healing words.

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